05/17/2010 02:03 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Relatively Tiny Tony

Here's the quote by Tony "Relatively Tiny" Hayward, the CEO of BP about the mess it has made of the Gulf of Mexico from a story on May 13th in the Guardian that's getting cited all over the interwebs"

"The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume."

We can assume that Tony Hayward's testicles are tiny in relation to his total body volume, and we can also assume that the pain he'd feel were Stuart Broad to whack them with a cricket bat would be felt beyond his tiny testicular region. Millions of gallons of toxic goo pouring into the Gulf of Mexico, an Exxon Valdez every four days, is BP whacking the Gulf in the 'nads with a cricket bat. The pain will ripple far beyond the region of the incident. The fact that Dr. Tony Hayward, the CEO of the company responsible for the spill, is calling the hurt relatively tiny, means one thing: he and BP are doing the whacking.

There is an anecdote many readers of this post will have come across during the accumulation of the relatively tiny body of knowledge one compiles in one's relatively tiny time on the planet.

Sometime in the last century, a second-grade teacher in Arizona asked the children in her class to draw a picture of themselves at home. The Navajo children in the class drew relatively tiny children alongside tiny homes set against a gigantic panorama of nature, with huge trees, many animals, mountains and big skies. The rest of the children in the class, by contrast, drew themselves as the dominant presence in their home lives, the stars of a never-ending TV show playing in their heads.

When our self-image dominates the frame, a disaster like the BP spill is naturally going to be relatively tiny relative to the rest of our drawing. We, our self interests and our stuff, eat up all the space, and there's only marginal room for anything or anyone else. We become relative giants in tiny universes of our own making, well-stuffed worms in cocoons with no dreams or intentions of ever becoming butterflies.

When, on the other hand, we see life as interconnected and ultimately interdependent, we are tiny in the frame and the universe is vast. We see ourselves as living within the context of the environment, not as dominating or marginalizing it. In this way of seeing the world, there's plenty of room for a spill like the one in the Gulf to stain everything around us. The spill is not tiny in relation to the ecosystem of the Gulf or to the millions of people who partake of its bounty. It is a relatively huge thing.

Tony Hayward's mind-boggling-but-not-surprising claim that his company has created a "tiny" problem is an attempt to fill the frame with BP's point of view and marginalize the spill. It is last century's second-grade behavior. It is a statement by someone asleep in the world, a man behaving like a fat worm in a cocoon he has no intention of ever leaving.

<em>Mike Bonifer is the co-founder and CEO of GameChangers, a business learning company.