Opinion

'BMW design and the sorry slide from quiet confidence to muddled mediocrity'

It's contagious. And when you catch it, it's game over. Suddenly you've no idea what's right and good any more

Are you good at your job? Once upon a time you thought you were. No one likes to believe they’re lousy at the thing that occupies such a thick percentage of the average week. And chances are, you were good. Took pride in your work. Approached each new day with a spring in your step and a twinkle in your eye, thinking, ‘Today I’m going to crack this one.’ Natural aptitude flowed from you and sprinkled everything you did with a little stardust. It inspired others too, dragging the whole team up to your level. A rolling ball of skill and experience, that was you wasn’t it? And your brilliance lifted the people you worked with. A dream team. The A squad. Hit after hit after hit. That was you.

Well, it was you some of the time. I mean, no one’s that good all the time, are they? Not when it’s raining and Wednesday and the bloody kids wouldn’t get their stuff together and you arrived at work in a grumpy funk. No one can do their best work then, can they? Of course not. Maybe that’s why the last project didn’t turn out so well. Maybe you just weren’t in the right mood. It happens. Deep down you’re good at this, but get you on the back foot and next thing you know two years have passed and you never quite found that rhythm.

> BMW 2-series Gran Coupe ready to take on Mercedes-Benz CLA

It’s not your fault. The timing was wrong, perhaps you never felt it in your bones. And don’t get you started on the rest of the team for that one. God, they were no help, were they? Old whatsisname with his stupid ideas that never quite seem right. And her, with the hair, and the shrill, spiny laugh that slices through your nerves as you try to explain that pairing this with that with this is never going to work. Yes, you’re still good, but they were really trying your patience, and that’s why it didn’t work out. Sucked the marrow from the core of your skills. And come on, the idea was bad in the first place. You could tell it was going wrong. Confusion and delusion from those around you and, before you know it, your enthusiasm is evaporating like the puddles on the grey flat roof you can see from your desk.

It happened to the other teams too. You could see it, creeping in like a low mist of muddle and mediocrity. Bouncing walks and tinkling laughter crushed over months and years into a defeated trudge and a tide of sighs. It’s hard to be good at your job when you’re surrounded by all that. This disease, it’s contagious. And when you catch it, it’s game over. Suddenly you’ve no idea what’s right and good any more, flailing about as you start to confuse boldness with things that are simply bad.

It kills you at work, of course. Spending longer and longer in the canteen each day. Once you’d make the dash for food as quickly as you could and fly back upstairs, propelled by puppyish enthusiasm. Sometimes you’d forget to eat altogether, finally realising at 4pm that the knot in your belly wasn’t just excitement at getting the job nailed. That feels like a long time ago now. It’s no better at home, either. Gentle remarks that would once have disappeared harmlessly down the drain after the rest of the pasta sauce are now flash points for fireworks and another night in the spare room.

You’re drinking too much, you know that. And you’re getting fat, aren’t you? What happened to that gym regime? It’s amazing what slides when the effortless assurance of being professionally brilliant is pulled from under you like that f***ing rug you told your wife not to buy. These things didn’t used to bother you but your once-sunny disposition is now more like the flat pale light just before a storm. And all because you know in your heart your work isn’t good. The whole department’s work isn’t good. Being no good has seeped in like poisonous gas and now everyone’s making angry stabs against the awful collective realisation that you’ve replaced quiet confidence with confused crap.

Once you were good. Once the department was good. And when the department was good it made the whole company look good. Not any more. Now you’re too embarrassed to tell people what you do. It’s just too hard. They’ll only ask questions, and they’re questions you don’t want to answer, leading to the question you don’t think you can answer: how did it get like this? You don’t know any more. You don’t know how something once so good could become so bad, and then evolve into the ugly, unstoppable collective consciousness that seems to say, ‘Let’s see if we can make this better by making it even worse.’ The department is a laughing stock. You’re a laughing stock. You used to be good. Yes, you. You were really good. You must have been. You were good at your job. You could be good at your job again. You just need to leave the BMW design department.

> Read some more evo opinions

Recommended

2021 BMW i4 revealed – all-electric 4-series to rival Tesla Model 3
BMW i4 front
BMW

2021 BMW i4 revealed – all-electric 4-series to rival Tesla Model 3

BMW’s next EV takes the form of an electrified 4-series Gran Coupe, topped out with a 530bhp M Performance flagship
17 Mar 2021
BMW M2 Competition vs Toyota GR Supra – the enemy within
BMW M2 Competition vs Toyota GR Supra - static
BMW

BMW M2 Competition vs Toyota GR Supra – the enemy within

The new Toyota Supra has more than a little BMW beneath its skin, so how will it compare with the real deal – the similarly priced BMW M2 Competition?
13 Feb 2021
BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe vs Audi RS7 Sportback – battle of the alt-supersaloon
Audi RS7 vs M8 Comp GC - cornering
BMW

BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe vs Audi RS7 Sportback – battle of the alt-supersaloon

BMW's grandest of M8 Competition Gran Coupes takes on our impressive fast-fleet Audi RS7
16 Jan 2021
2021 BMW iX revealed – the next big leap towards BMW’s BEV future
BMW

2021 BMW iX revealed – the next big leap towards BMW’s BEV future

500bhp all-electric SUV leads the charge for BMW’s EV range expansion
11 Nov 2020

Most Popular

This Brabus Mercedes-AMG E63 S is quicker than a GT Black Series
Brabus Mercedes-AMG E63 S
Mercedes E63 AMG

This Brabus Mercedes-AMG E63 S is quicker than a GT Black Series

Mercedes-AMG’s latest E63 S is one of the fastest saloons on our roads, but Brabus has turned up the wick a little more
6 May 2021
Nissan R34 Skyline GT-R multifunction display – Art of Speed
Nissan R34 GT-R display
Nissan GT-R

Nissan R34 Skyline GT-R multifunction display – Art of Speed

The R34 GT-R came with Nissan’s interpretation of a games console crowning the dashboard. A gimmick? Big time, but entertaining all the same
4 May 2021
819bhp Ferrari 812 Competizione revealed in full – hardcore V12 GT returns
Ferrari 812 Competizione front
Ferrari 812 Superfast

819bhp Ferrari 812 Competizione revealed in full – hardcore V12 GT returns

Ferrari has confirmed its new 812 Superfast special edition is to be called Competizione, and will be joined by the Targa-roofed Competizione A
5 May 2021