Someone is wandering in a sunny forest and some insignificant gnome comes along. He asks for some token of humane treatment. The hero has to be paying attention to recognize the gnome and kindly respond. When the hero does, it doesn't take a lot to make gnomes happy.
Some people don't care about the gnomes. We can assume that gnomes possess nothing of value. No beauty to draw us to them. The gnome likely doesn't have any special knowledge or abilities. The gnome is other. The gnome is small. And probably useless. These are the assumptions many of us make every day about real people.
You see where this is going right? In another version of the story, the gnome is a mouse. A lion catches the mouse. The mouse begs for its life. The lion allows it to go free. The mouse says, "one day, I'll do something for you in return." The lion laughs, "What could you do to help me? I'm the king of the jungle." Yet later the lion finds himself in a trap all wrapped up in a net. The mouse comes along and has no trouble chewing through the ropes. The strong lion is free because of the weak gnome.
I've seen billion dollar companies ignore the gnomes to various extents. And it always costs them in ways that they are not calculating. Former Harvard psychology professor Dr. Jordan Peterson says that what stands in for most people's morality is fear and inertia. People can lie to themselves, believe those lies and pretty soon they're living in a fantasy world. Is it possible to be strategic within a dream?
So for me, I love noticing gnomes in the corner. So many times going over and saying hello reveals interesting, beautiful people. Not every designer is a gnome for real though many are. And there are gnomes worth meeting everywhere.
Let me close with a real world example of this fairy tale. It's from a real life genius of a gnome. There's a guy who owns a restaurant. When people apply for work come to be interviewed, he has them wait for the interviewer while he pretends to be a regular employee. He serves them tea. During the interview, he just watches their body language from a distance. He notices if there's a discrepancy between how the 'boss' is treated compared to the 'bum.'
That's the basis he uses to hire or reject the applicant. If you use that in a design firm context, let me know how it goes! For account people particularly it seems like it might be useful. And if it's ever used on us, I hope you and I, dear reader, remember the gnomes.