Joseph Heller’s book, “Catch 22,” is an absolute classic. But it is my guess that not a lot of people have read it or really remember what it is about, even though the phrase, “Catch 22” is somewhat common.

I read and re-read the book and love it. One of the phrases I attribute to it is one that I use all the time, but my second reading failed to find it. I still believe it is from the book:

“Nothing made sense, and neither did anything else.

I use that a lot when talking about organizational decisions or customer service or Square Wheels in general. There is just no better way to say that…

But Catch 22 is a real classic explanation of the kinds of dilemmas we often face when working in organizations, so I reproduce it here for your enjoyment and understanding. The situation was that Orr thought he was going to die if he flew another mission and it was making him act crazy, seriously crazy:

“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.”

“That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” he observed.

“It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed.

So, if you are concerned for your own safety and if you don’t ask, you are crazy and can get out of that situation. But if you do ask out, then you cannot be crazy because you asked out! Thus, you were in.

Catch 22.

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

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