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Case 159


Venerable Jinyu, the Abbess Over All Clans And Concerns, was always present when novices were given their performance reviews—for these reviews would determine who would advance in the Temple hierarchy, and how they would serve. Each novice was made to wait alone in a conference room for the senior abbots to enter, so the Abbess always left a pile of wooden building blocks in the room for the novices to amuse themselves with.

Jinyu’s abbot-apprentice noticed that when the Abbess entered the room, she would immediately glance at the pile and write something in her notebook. He resolved to learn her algorithm.

On the following day, fourteen novices were interviewed.

Seven novices did not touch the pile at all. The abbot-apprentice noticed that for each of these, Jinyu wrote: No Promotion.

Four novices had drawn blocks from the pile to build simple, sturdy little structures: a pagoda with a stepped roof; a domed hut amid triangular pine trees; an ox-cart; a reclining man. For each, Jinyu wrote: Developer.

One novice arranged all the blocks neatly and compactly, by shape and size. Jinyu wrote: Configuration Manager.

Another novice laid the blocks out tangram-style to make a beautiful mosaic of a swan. Jinyu wrote: Web Designer.

The day’s final novice had used all the blocks to construct an elaborate tower, the very picture of elegance and proportion. The senior abbots gasped when they entered the room, yet Jinyu wrote nothing in her book. Her apprentice wrote a small note in his own book and quietly slid it in front of Jinyu. His note read: Architect?

Jinyu did not respond.

When the novice had answered all questions and was dismissed, Jinyu walked over to the tower and breathed gently on it. The blocks swayed, tipped, and clattered to the table.

Jinyu took out her notebook and wrote: Sales.