Posted: October 26th, 2009 | Author: admin | Filed under: devotionals | Tags: C. Wright Mills, PopTech, social innovation fellows, usefulness | No Comments »
During the publicity jag for the How to Be Useful hardcover, an interviewer, reaching into her mail bag, proposed that usefulness wasn’t something serious people aspired to. “What if I don’t want to be useful?” she asked. It was an excellent question, and deserved a more thoughtful answer than the one I gave. (A terse “Better hope you have a trust fund.”)
At its most basic level, wanting to be useful involves changing one’s orientation so that one’s primary question in any endeavor is, simply, how can I help? The few people I’ve spoken to who curl up their lips at the idea see how can I be useful here? as a denial of self. But other people with a more evolved understanding of usefulness, just know that more interesting things happen to them when they try to be useful.
PopTech, where I had the privilege of spending this weekend, was liberally studded with these kinds of people. They had looked around, observed what needs doing, and are attempting to find meaningful solutions. I rather like that some of them have commercial reasons as well for aspiring to usefulness — that being of service, or fulfilling a social need, can translate to piles of money is a theme woven into self-help books and American literature ever since Benjamin Franklin. The moral as discussed in business books tend to boil down to this: If you’re not useful, you won’t make money. If you’d like to make more money, be more useful.
That’s not as crass as it sounds. “Merit makes its way in the world by renting itself out in some marketplace or other, by being of use,” the sociologist C. Wright Mills wrote in 1956’s The Power Elite, before going on to make the point I tried to get at with my trust fund quip: Only the exceedingly wealthy can spurn being useful. The rest of us can’t afford to; we need to get paid.
Now it’s abundantly clear, with plastics finding their way into the stomachs of baby albatrosses and a whole host of worrying developments, that we, collectively, privileged or not, can’t afford to spurn being useful. Complacency is expensive. The U.S. unemployment rate rose to 9.7 percent in September. I really hope these people succeed. I hope they get the chance to employ scads of people. And soon.
Posted: October 13th, 2009 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
The image that “graced” the top has vanished! This site will be ugly and pinkish until Wordpress support returns from vacation.
Posted: October 10th, 2009 | Author: admin | Filed under: devotionals | No Comments »
“People always like what they don’t know anything about.”
—Preston Sturges, Sullivan’s Travels
Posted: October 7th, 2009 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Federal Trade Commission, monetizing your shampoo preferences, oh well, personal branding, Personality Driven Recommendations, Smart Water | No Comments »
Last winter, on a lark and a press pass, I attended a one-evening course called “Personal Branding Redefined” at 92Y Tribeca in Lower Manhattan. The idea behind this panel, which was sponsored by mediabistro, was that Web 2.0 had enabled new, super narcissistic business models. You could monetize oversharing by selling ads on your blog. If you were cute enough, blogger and professional oversharer Julia Allison hinted, any number of companies would be pleased to offer you shiny dresses and hair products and tech gadgets with the (wink, wink) expectation that you’d blog about them—a not unreasonable expectation if your blog was essentially a running log of your daily activities.
These would not be advertisements but “Personality Driven Recommendations.” They’d be more effective, she argued, than, say, slapping up a billboard with Jennifer Aniston trying to untangle a bottle of Smart Water from her hair on it. If you followed a few dictums (such as “Just Keep Going. And going. And going.”) as you made yourself the star of your own online show, you’d be on the endorsement gravy train in no time. You could monetize who you were. You’d be a fool or a coward not to try.
Anyhow, as a dissenter put it that night, you’d never get any serious investors because “personal brands don’t scale.” I was never convinced, not least because advertisers have generally demanded a few…assurances…in exchange for promotional dollars and freebies. Also people don’t have time to read your “lifecast” and keep lists of what you’re wearing and smelling to take with them on their next visit to Bloomingdales. Never mind the fact that many people read blogs with different motivations than the person(s) who plunked down on the couch in 1994 to watch a 30-minute sitcom. People generally enjoyed whatever TV they watched. It is possible to despise a blog and yet check it compulsively. Enjoyment just isn’t the word for what’s happening. I’ve difficulty fathoming the cognitive somersaults that would be required for you to follow through on a hated blog’s recommendations with actual cash. And eventually advertisers—even “advertisers”—want to see measurable results.
Anyhow. None of that matters now! On Monday the Federal Trade Commission announced they were amending the rules, last updated in 1980, and now any and all product endorsers, be they bloggers or celebrities, have to be explicit about whether they’re receiving compensation.
Posted: October 2nd, 2009 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: CBC, Henry Mintzberg, management theory | No Comments »
“I think good leaders are tremendously candid. I think they’re honest and open, and they’d rather their people know things, even if their competitors are going to find out, than have people running around with rumors in the hall…. People who are insecure play everything close to the hilt, use knowledge as a basis for power and all that.”
“I get very, very, very uncomfortable when a chief executive announces layoffs and the stock goes up the next day. Because what do stock market analysts really know or the buyers of stocks really know? How can they distinguish between a very subtle, clever chief executive who has carefully sliced out 3,000 jobs that were redundant from someone who’s making a dramatic gesture for the stock market? How do they distinguish that in a day? Have they been so deeply inside [x] that they knew that this move was absolutely perfect? Or is this just automatically, getting rid of 3,000 people, this is good? And maybe it is good in the sense that, in the short term, it will make money for them, in which case the stock market reacts short-term. I don’t know. There’s so many factors at play here. The whole thing leaves me very uncomfortable. And then when the chief executive follows up all this by saying, ‘And there may be more layoffs, in effect, saying to the entire staff, ‘Stay on your toes, don’t relax for one second, because you may be next.’ Well, how do you build up belief in an organization, long-term commitment, feeling for an organization under those conditions?”
“So in a sense, the manager of the machine-like organization has a certain beneficial control, but basically is being carried along the equivalent of the [cross-country ski] trail by what somebody has called the ‘industry recipe.’ You’re doing everything according to how you’re supposed to do it, and you’re dependent on what everyone else has done. And if any parameters change, you’re stuck, not having a clue how to deal with it. A lot of management is like that. They do the same thing for years and years and years, and suddenly something happens. And nobody knows what to do, because they haven’t thought in any real sense for years.”
“I’m on a personal campaign for what I call freedom from expression. Everybody talks about freedom of expression. I want to have freedom from expression. I don’t want to be bombarded with advertisements in a public place. I have the right not to see an advertisement when I walk down the street. I have the right not to have to listen to CNN when I’m sitting in an airport lounge…. But we’re being inundated with advertising, and we’re being inundated with corporate values. At some point, I say, listen, as a citizen, I have the right not to be exposed to this. If I turn on a commercial television station, sure, I expect to see the ads because that’s what’s paying for the programs. But in other cases, I don’t want to have to put up with that. So there’s got to be some kind of balance between the power or organizations to control our lives and to interfere with our functioning and the need for corporations to serve us…. We’ve commercialized almost everything in sight, and it just reaches a limit. It’s reaching a limit certainly with regard to the environment, or maybe we’re well past it. And there’s a limit in terms of how we function–the balance between my right as an individual to be free to do what I want to do and the corporation’s right to try and exploit me as some vehicle for shareholder value.”
(c) 1999, The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Posted: October 2nd, 2009 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: combat training, conference room tables, Emma Jacobs, Financial Times, FT, Navy Seals, Slough, The Office | 3 Comments »
Rather grim story in today’s FT. The setting is Slough, best-known as the backdrop for the BBC’s The Office:
Five women and 70 men clad in jeans and T-shirts are throwing each other on to the floor of a stark white room whose windows look out on to corrugated roofs and electricity pylons. After 10 minutes, Tim Larkin, a broad-shouldered man dressed entirely in black and with a Celtic tattoo on one arm, steps to the front, stops the proceedings and demands the room’s attention so he can demonstrate the next move: how to gouge a man’s eye out.
Mr. Larkin is a former “military intelligence instructor” who’s taught Navy Seals. Now he gives seminars in incapacitating violent attackers to business people who travel a lot for work and are nervous about safety. “I have a martial arts background but felt it wasn’t going to help me in violent situations. I wanted to make sure I could protect myself,” seminar participant Krista Waddell explains. She lives in Las Vegas but travels regularly to London and Australia. A lot of companies focus on kidnappings or carjackings, chimed in Tareq Sholi. “No one prepares you for what to do if someone gets into your hotel room late at night.”
Other seminar attendees appreciated how combat training, because it helped them, per the FT reporter, “assess whether situations could result in violence,” had given them skills they could also use in bars, or around the office. Says Andreas, a tall South African real estate developer:
“In meetings, if someone is overly aggressive I don’t feel intimidated. My reaction to someone slamming their hand on a meeting-room table would be patience rather than confrontation. If someone behaved like that to me now I’d probably re-schedule the meeting for another time.”
Interesting how knowing that one COULD, technically, knock the lights out of someone seems to slacken the desire to actually do so. Then again I wonder if meeting attendance wouldn’t go up, and people use their time more wisely, if they thought a slugfest might erupt any minute.
Posted: October 1st, 2009 | Author: admin | Filed under: "progress", in the mail, nothing to do with the book | Tags: spam comment poetry | 1 Comment »
We must have lunch together.
I love you.
My company produces electronic equipment.
I’ll have another lager, please.
Have you got a bigger one?
Let’s look at your throat.
Does anything hurt ache?
Where are you going?
I hope that I did not hurt you.
I really like your blog and i respect your work. I’ll be a frequent visitor.
Posted: October 1st, 2009 | Author: admin | Filed under: "progress", in the mail, nothing to do with the book | Tags: spam comment poetry | No Comments »
Ya tender a grin in my face.
Where can I get a bus to the museum?
What would you propose then?
I don’t feel like going there.
It’s out of the question.
Can you recommend a good disco?
My name is Liz.
I’ll just check your weight.
I am not feeling very well.