Saturday, July 30, 2011

Some Unsolicited PR Advice For Any Politician Involved In The Debt Crisis Now


1. Go away from the cameras until you make a deal.

2. Make a deal.

3. If you must go on camera, appear with your sleeves rolled up, with a roomful of colleagues, from both sides of the aisle. Sweating. Have papers stacked in front of you. Or get to a podium with this mixed group and speechify together.

4. Make a deal.

5. Take the pledge: A deal by Sunday talkshow time or donate a year's worth of salary to pay down the national debt.

6. Make a deal.

7. Get in a recording studio with a whole buncha diverse colleagues and re-record "We Are The World." Sell on iTunes to pay down the debt.

8. Make a deal.

9. Tweet that some of the smartest, nicest people around are (people from the other side). No more messages beginning "No way in hell..."

10. Make a deal.

"Can't we all just get along?" Maybe not. But we sure as hell better look like we can, or the whole D.C's gonna be in trouble.

Have a good day, & good luck!


Image source here

Angry About The Debt Crisis? Blame Yourself.


"I am Generation X and nothing can shock me." 

Yeah, right.

Every time I turn on the TV and see that we're still stuck in "debt crisis" mode, with the clock ticking away on August 2nd, I get shockable again.

How did we get to this ridiculous place? I thought we had a lot of people in charge of the money stuff. Why are we seeing this constant fighting, finger-pointing, bravado talk when failure to reach compromise means we all go down the tank?

It is so very fashionable to fan the flames with...yet more blame!

Here is a radical suggestion: Let's solve the crisis ourselves. 

Deepak Chopra suggests, "You have the ability to solve problems and resolve conflict not simply by thinking creatively but by becoming creativity itself."

We, each individually and together, must become creativity itself in order to face and overcome this crisis. Only when we accept responsibility for the situation and take it on ourselves to fix it, even in the smallest way, then and only then will G-d step in and lift us out of the darkness.

My religious training emphasized the connection between spiritual and physical. The world is created and sustained on the spiritual plane - only the outcomes are seen here in the physical.

Following on that, when we behave in a spiritually sick way - being hateful to others - we experience the result of that action. Hate leads to the experience of being hated. Connecting with others becomes impossible and nothing can progress. Voila! The debt crisis.

Conversely, we can experience healing and reward: "When we rectify our ability to acknowledge and thank G-d for everything that we have, to relate to (G-d) above logic and reason, and submission, we will then be healed from the illness of exile and will be able to experience our return to health and redemption."

Are you hateful to other people? Stop it.

Are you helpful when asked? Start being helpful.

Do you look for ways to solve other people's problems? Do it.

Are you organizing into groups aimed at helping people survive physically, emotionally, spiritually the crisis we are in and the even worse crisis that may be coming? Start now.

It doesn't matter how we got here except that we have got to stop blaming other parties for the situation. Blame is just another word for hatred.

I think we should forget about party labels too, while we're at it. When you're in as deep of a hole as we're in right now, what really is the difference? A sinking boat sinks all parties.

Fortunately we are still living in abundance, and there are so many resources that each of us has at our disposal. Let us put all of our energy into healing ourselves, each other, our planet right now, and stop carping on the mistakes that came before.

If our leaders are hateful to each other, it's because we've told them to be through our votes and through our rhetoric as private citizens. Let's reverse the dynamic and "be creativity ourselves," showing them that love is the way out of this crisis, not hate.

In the end the leaders will copy the followers, and we will have what all of us wanted all along - some solutions. (And then they can take credit for it, which is fine!)

Have a good day everyone, and good luck!


Image source here.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Coming Flight Of The Managers


What are we going to do when all the managers get tossed from the coop because Gary Hamel said we don’t need them?

Yesterday in a Harvard Business Review webinar sponsored by Dell, he talked about his research on W.L. Gore, where managers are nonexistent. To Hamel, Gore is the company of the future.

Gore doesn’t need managers, says Hamel. Employees are motivated to perform on their own because at the end of the year a panel of 20 people rates them on how much value they’ve contributed to the company that year.

The underlying assumption is that managers are there to make the workers work. If workers are self-disciplined, then who needs managers?

In fact, Hamel believes, managers actually get in the way. They’re so busy imposing rules that employees can’t navigate the maze they’ve created and do their work efficiently.

Hamel’s justification for eliminating the manager and replacing that person with a self-disciplined worker is impressive. Workers innovate. And companies have to change radically, innovating all the time and at every level, to compete. Because their technology is easy to copy.

Hamel gave the example of Apple going into mobile phones. The technology was out there; they took it; turned the product into an Apple-branded device (simple, pleasing to the eye) – and succeeded.

Though as a non-manager I sympathize with Hamel’s research conclusions – we all want to do what we want and without a lot of bureaucracy – I think he is throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Managers are important. The problem is that good managers are lacking. This is partly because some people are jerks, but partly because companies don’t know what they want from the role. Worse, the don’t value the true financial benefit managers offer.

In the age of the self-motivated employee, the role of the manager is indeed no longer to discipline. Rather, they are needed in the same way that smart kids still need parents to be there for them. Parents, and in particular, historically, mothers, provide a safe place for vulnerable young people to handle unpleasant emotions effectively.

Unfortunately, a natural capacity for caring for others is not financially recognized or rewarded in the workplace. Throughout history this ability has been taken for granted as “female,” “instinctive,” “unskilled,” and so on. It’s been exploited because of women’s dependency on men for protection.

It is no wonder that as soon as women got the chance, they fled “Revolutionary Road” in search of equal treatment in the workplace. Of course when they did so, they left a gaping void at home (though a lot of kids were probably also relieved that their resentful mothers would now stop bothering them.)

It’s pretty much the same at work. People who have caring jobs, or who care for others on the job, get absolutely no credit for it. Because it’s hard to find the “ROI” on emotional intelligence.

Of course there is enormous “ROI” in emotional and group intelligence: At a bare minimum, a good manager prevents otherwise sane employees from killing each other. At a maximum they enable teams to perform at peak capacity and protect them from the irrational demands of leadership. During times of extreme and abrupt social change, we need them more than ever!

If we want to adapt management for innovation 2.0 or 3.0 or whatever we’re calling it now, for Heaven’s sake don’t toss out the managers! Instead, refine the job description, educate accordingly, and compensate highly, in accordance with the value they facilitate.

In this country we don’t let minors raise themselves. In the same way, it is stupid to say that employees who are producing lots of code all night are necessarily incredibly productive. I don’t care what kind of genius you are - it is not normal to sleep in your office in a sleeping bag.

Emotions matter. Conflicts arise. If you don’t have anyone to help you out with that, you’re just wringing out your people for the money. As soon as the economy picks up they will pick up too, and leave.

Managers today are actually organizational development specialists. Let’s recruit those and pay them in accordance with the value they deliver.

Vineet Nayar, the author of Employees First, Customers Second, is right that it the frontline employee is your value creator. But at the same time, even a blind person can see that without solid parenting – provided by a female or a male - no human being and no workplace can function effectively.

For more information on Hamel’s work to promote Management 2.0 visit I’ve visited the site; it’s good; this mention is voluntary and not suggested or sponsored.


Image source here

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Real Love Is Tough & Ugly


I am a huge Anne Bancroft fan and was surprised this weekend that I had never seen her performance in The Miracle Worker (1962). This of course is the famous story of Anne Sullivan Macy (known as "Annie Sullivan," who in the late nineteenth century helped Helen Keller, a deaf and blind girl, learn to communicate.


It's sort of about Helen Keller, true, but the most fascinating part is the character of her educator. A human being of incomparable will who seems tough and mean but is truly full of selfless love for the child.


The breakfast scene is horribly painful to watch. And yet I am transfixed by it. I can watch it again and again.


I love that Annie was completely unselfish.


I love that Annie didn't give a damn about getting an award for her work.


I love that Annie physically threw herself into the task.


I love that Annie didn't know what she was doing, but let the child be her guide.


I love that Annie didn't care about how she looked.


I love that Annie knew how to get tough without getting angry.


I love how Annie saw through the girl's behavior to the light inside her soul. 


But most of all, I love how Annie believed that Helen could learn and join humanity, even when the rest of the world was negative about the child. Even when they let her run wild out of pity and hopelessness. They had labeled Helen an animal and so that was what she became.


Annie proves that there is nothing new under the sun. She embodies the management philosophy of the future. In particular, she epitomizes what has to happen right now in order for large bureaucracies to adapt effectively for the future.


Unfortunately in 2011 we are obsessed with everything being camera-ready and "nice." It has to look good for the cameras every single second or we don't want to get our hands dirty with it. We would rather be pessimistic and be proven right - keep the trains moving on time even if they're going nowhere - rather than put up our hands and yell "Stop! Nobody's got the map!"


If Annie Sullivan were a CEO today she would get in the trenches and find out what's going on. She would relentlessly inquire at all levels of the organization where the pain points are and why we aren't being profitable. She would go into business, government, educational institutions, hospitals and she would ask why there is so much inefficiency when we have some of the most innovative workers out there.


And then she would kick some ass.


America today needs a "Supernanny" like Annie Sullivan. We need some tough love. It's time to get rid of the misplaced compassion, stop living down to our worst fears about ourselves, and start demanding more of ourselves and our organizations.


We are not as incapable as we fear we are - we do have the possibility to get better - but it is going to take hard work and it is time to change.


Let's get out there and work together and be the change that we seek. Anything else is unforgivable, especially when there is so much at stake.


Have a good evening everyone, and good luck!


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Empty Words & Hidden Agendas


I watched Jeffrey Toobin analyze on CNN the disgusting, abhorrent attack on Nafissatou Diallo, an economically disadvantaged hotel maid of color, by a powerful, rich Caucasian who to her had all the power in the world.

Toobin absolutely no trouble mouthing the pros and cons of the accuser’s case in the coldest of legal-strategy terms. It was almost as though he were a sports analyst predicting who would win a major football game. “...may be a smart move on the part of her legal team, considering…”

In my mind I contrasted these cold, uncaring words with the straightforward words the victim used to tell her story:

Excerpt from interview with ABC News' Robin Roberts:

DIALLO: I was watching the news and then they say he's going to be the next president of France. Then I say, oh, my God. And I was crying. I said they're going to kill me. I said they're going to kill me. I'm going to die.

ROBERTS: Why did you think that, Nafi?

DIALLO: Because I know if I was in my country, a powerful man like that, they're going to kill me before someone knows what happened to me.

Read the interview with Newsweek. Put yourself in her shoes. Feel the terror she must have felt. Finally a decent job but cause any trouble and you're gone.

The Jewish Bible tells us to be especially kind to the immigrant, to the stranger in one’s land, because the Jewish people know exactly what it feels like.

It’s sort of laughable to me that people try to undermine the victim’s credibility by saying she was somehow trying to play the situation for money. Like, how would that work exactly? She was so happy to have a hotel floor all to herself rather than have to run up and down the stairs, and being suddenly assaulted by an old man was…a bonus she could use to buy a gold watch?

Whatever happened to her in the past, whatever lies she has told either to survive or because she is a psychopath, I believe her. The courts should try the case, I believe. But it looks damn clear to me that Diallo is telling the truth. And that DSK was a perpetrator who tried to run, failed, and now is lying.

The U.S. has a unique legal system, where accuser and accused get to duke it out in the world of rhetoric. In a way this is good – let the best case win – but in a way it is terrible. We have become immune to trusting our simple common sense. Everything people say is just “one side of the story,” a side they are most likely playing for a buck.

It is difficult in a climate like this to get to the truth of anything. It’s like “Fight Club” except we’re always debating.

Marketing culture has, unfortunately, made matters worse. We make up some words out of whole cloth; mangle the meaning of others; distort what we know to be true; turn wrong into right; and document it all with reams and reams of paper. Kindly assembled by the legal team, which has the “terms and conditions of use” carefully on file.

It is a sad fact that young women not even of teenage years have been completely thrown into a sexualized arena, one created specifically by the lies marketing culture has created. Everyone's making money from these girls: The makers of clothing, cosmetics, phones, music, movies, social media. The men young and old who are only too happy to exploit them. And their so-called "friends," already exploited, hate to see them remain innocent. Are only too eager to lie and manipulate them into adulthood before they can even drive a car.

I read such a case in the newspaper on Sunday. It paralleled the movie “Thirteen,” where an American girl’s best friend drags her down and out until her childhood and innocence are completely gone and unrecognizable. UK’s The Daily Mail reports of a 12 year-old whose girlfriend tells a bunch of 19-year-old boys they are both 16; delivers friend to boys; and she is of course attacked. The boys are initially convicted of the crime, but the conviction is overturned, because the appeals judge determines that the 12-year-old somehow consented.

We want to know why are kids are so spiritually lost, so unhappy. We want to know why the “underclasses” are smoldering with resentment. We can’t put our finger on precisely what has gone wrong. But we are perpetuating the problem every single day. By closing our eyes to reality, and preferring instead to let the “system” – legal, marketing, education, what have you – run its course. Lie its way to more profit and more pain.

Over the weekend a stranger tried to abduct two little girls. The perpetrator wasn’t who you might think. In fact it was a woman, young and sweet-seeming. She rolled the window down and said, “I have an infant in the car…and I give people rides sometimes. Do you want to get in?”

Lacking in cynicism, insufficiently cold, fully kind and emotional and receptive, the kids listened for a minute.

And then their instincts took over and they ran. Fortunately.

We have become a society with the wrong kind of compassion. We are cold to the daily attacks that take place against the powerless, ignoring their pleas for help and stepping over them when they eventually lie homeless, and then stinking and dead, in the streets.

At the same time we are fully attuned to our childrens’ every whim and desire, especially the tormented desire to be “popular” when what they really want is to be loved and paid attention to at home. Today the word “popular” is a code for having passed through a terrible kind of hazing, the kind that gets left on cellphones and passed from kid to kid with a laugh. Hazing that begins and ends with lies.

We are so busy talking and texting and shopping and running that we have lost touch with our ability to listen. To really think critically about the things we read and see and listen to and yes, feel.

Am I crusading against the legal system or due process? Hell no.

Telling people to ground kids till they turn 18? Of course not.

Saying that only girls are attacked and not boys? That is silly.

I am arguing that with all our seeming sophistication and fast-moving pace, we have lost touch with a critical survival factor: simple thinking - connected to simple morality and common sense.

We have a duty to look after adults who are vulnerable to exploitation – yes we do. And an equal responsibility to protect our children from themselves. To do so requires looking past the legalistic, cold analyses and staring manipulative marketing right in the eye. In a society that often seems to have gone crazy, the most important thing we can do is think – and feel – for ourselves.

Did I tie the point all together? I hope so. It seemed important to share these thoughts even if the edges are a little ragged.

Have a good rest of the day everyone, and good luck.


Image source here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

10 Personal Branding Tips for Gender Balance (Personal Observation)

The following is based on my own personal observation, and I know that
everyone is different. If you think this doesn't apply to you,
obviously you can ignore it or comment. I hope that it is helpful.

For women--

1. Remember that work is inherently competitive - don't take it personally.

2. Develop a comfort level with authority - assertive, not passive or

3. If you define yourself strongly as a "relationship person," engage
in linear decision-making sometimes.

4. Demonstrate physical confidence: Walk fast and tall; shake hands
firmly; look people in the eye.

5. Dress more formally than you think you have to, and not overly
"girly." The message should be: I'm smart and focused on my work.

For men--

1. Look beyond the visual cues and listen for the things that are not said.

2. Seek to influence and inspire rather than to "lead."

3. Convert enemies into friends, or neutral parties, rather than go

4. Develop a high level of comfort with weakness to avoid being
blindsided by problems caused by denial.

5. Even if you know the answer, ask for advice anyway.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bureaucracy's Drive To Survive Keeps The Debt Crisis Alive

It's pretty obvious to me, looking at the collapse of the debt talks, that something is deeply wrong with our society.

It's like everybody knows this, everybody wants to do something about it, but nobody can seem to figure out exactly what to do.

Interestingly, if you ask people on the individual level to describe the status quo, what's wrong, and how to fix it - you will usually get a pretty intelligent response.

But when you assemble those individuals together and ask them to run large social institutions as a group - more often than not they fail. Doesn't matter if we're talking business, government, education, healthcare, correctional facilities, you name it. The reality is that groups tend toward dysfunction. Because it is a law of groups that they develop a collective consciousness that literally turns the system into a separate, distinct entity. One that perpetuates its own survival - even at the cost of its members.

On a micro level, you see this very often with parents and children. The parents are there to nurture the child's development. You would think that this automatically makes for happiness. But instead, the typical Thanksgiving table is a petri dish of personal misery.

Take it a step beyond - go bigger. Think about the implications of this statement: The very bureaucracies that are supposed to be most efficient at running society, end up adding to the social burden. Creating more problems than they solve.

Again, this is not unique to any bureaucracy but common because we are programmed for survival. The large institution perpetuates its own existence, even at the expense of the mission it is supposed to serve. So if a particular individual within the large institution has, let's say, a way to get the mission done faster, better, cheaper and with half the personnel and budget - the institution will of course resist this. What the group wants is more: more budget, more power, more reason to exist. Not less, not fewer, not the equivalent of the group's death.

The connection with the debt ceiling and other current social problems is obvious. The problem is not what it seems on the surface. We are defining it incorrectly. America is a smart country. We can get this fixed and fix it quickly. We've faced crises before and we can do it again.

The problem, unfortunately, is that correcting the economy is going to mean the death blow - or at least critical injury - to some big social institutions. Perhaps, even, we will end up rejecting the axiom that only large, complex groups with massive funding are capable of administering a particular social function.

In other words, what is at stake on all sides of the aisle is survival. Are the parties to this traffic accident willing to impale themselves on the sword for the sake of doing what needs doing? Are they willing to tell the highly coordinated, massively funded groups to whom they owe their existence: "Back off. We are doing what needs to be done." (?)


Would you?

I wrote a column the other day about horrible bosses (the movie and the reality) and somebody commented that a friend had done some pretty nasty things, firing and all that, because he saw it as part of the job. He felt he had no choice but to survive. So he became a person he didn't want to be. As a part of the system that paid his bills, his own individual ethics, beliefs, values were subordinate to the paycheck.

Every time I've seen a big problem get solved - an individual did it. Or a very small, tightly coordinated group, working closely together. These forces detoxify the system that created the problem by doing an end-run around its dysfunctional logic. They blast through the walls. They just don't care about anything but GETTING IT DONE.

An example of someone who gets it - and was punished for her excellence in furthering the mission - is Michelle Rhee, the former Chancellor of the D.C. Public Schools. Rhee dared to insist that the schools actually perform the mission for which they are being paid by the public: Teach children. And every single thing she did left me applauding.

Why don't we have more people like Michelle Rhee running our social institutions? People who think straight and simple and clear, who do what has to be done, who don't quibble and waffle and blame the other person for their screwups.

The answer is not, as one may think, the ego of the leaders themselves. Although we could have the discussion of whether leaders are inherently narcissistic egotists whose personalities are designed for the deflection of all blame and the seeking of all spotlight.

Rather, the problem is that big institutions reward constipated thinking. While incrementalism can be a good thing - enabling correction of mistakes before they are rolled out on such a large scale that they become disasters - and enabling a massive system to absorb the change - it is also not suitable when the problem being faced requires a radical adjustment.

We are in that kind of situation right now.

Unless this country radically changes direction - detoxifying our thinking about the problems themselves and the range of options available to solve them - we are going to keep lumbering along until someone chops us off at the knees and we fall.

I am a Jewish-American, and my family was brutalized during the Holocaust. My grandparents had to run. And eventually my parents settled here, together. Giving me a beautiful life, for which I am extremely grateful. I work for the government, which to me is an incredible honor, and has sensitized me tremendously to the urgent need to take care of each other; the pressure for institutional survival; and the diversity of the groups that share our nation. I also teach students from many different countries. All of us are grateful to be citizens here.

This is all the more reason that I am worried about our collective future. I try to think aloud in the hope that some of this can be used as part of the solution to our problems. Railing for or against Big Government or Big Business or what have you does not help anything. Constructive action does.

Long way of saying, I want to look around and think, as the song says, "the future's so bright I've got to wear shades." But the way things are going, I see extremism on all sides, potentially devolving into chaos and "every man (woman) for himself" type thinking.

I often wish we could remember where good fortune comes from - not really our efforts. We are only asked to try. The One above sustained the Jewish people in the desert with only a mythical food for sustenance. G-d can do anything. It's when we sink to the lowest common denominator that we are smitten with punishment.

So let us get up, support each other, and make our society better. Forget the hatred and division and start working together. It's not about "group vs. group" but keeping humanity intact - as one.

Have a good weekend everyone, and good luck!


Image source here

Friday, July 22, 2011

Your Brand Is Failing. Here's Why.

Like a lot of other people, I spend a lot of time thinking about branding and I admire when organizations do it well.

However, at the same time I notice that much discussion around brands and branding remains at the kindergarten level. For example, we're still asking "what is a brand?" And we can't agree on the answer! Even among professionals! For example, a recent discussion among brand-ers on LinkedIn, where we were asked to define the word, yielded almost 500 (!) comments.

And we have other conversations of a similar nature. My favorites are "what is branding vs. marketing?" and "what is brand vs. reputation?"

You can say what you want about marketers - that we're lying, greedy bastards - and I'll give you that some of us are. You can also say that we're stupid. Also, sometimes, granted. But there is enough mental firepower at work in the profession that it makes no sense that we cannot even define our basic terms of art. Every scientist knows "what is an atom?" and every psychologist knows "what is emotion?" and every historian knows "what is history?" Yet we still go round and round.

Which should tell you that on some level we still don't know what we're talking about. Although it is true that well-branded products and services enjoy a price premium, the alchemists who create them haven't been able to systematize the formula. There are many useful attempts - no need to list all the books here, but they are easily findable on Amazon - but the profession remains relatively backward still.

The reality is, the most successful brands did not start out with the intention of building great brands per se. Rather, they were trying to achieve something else. A HUMANISTIC mission. They were trying to do something important TO PEOPLE and they built organizations completely centered on the achievement of that goal:

* Google is about helping people find information.

* Apple is about making life simpler in a complicated world.

* Starbucks is about helping people escape the pressures of home and work.

* Amazon is about making the customer feel safe to buy whatever they want, online.

* Nike is about celebrating high achievers.

We eagerly invite these brands into our lives because they speak to us as people. We give them money and they give us something back that we feel is worthwhile. It is a win-win.

However, most organizations are not at the level of Google, Apple, Starbucks, Amazon and Nike.

So how do we get there? I propose that the marketing function needs to shift radically in three fundamental ways that align with the secret ingredient to brand success: MAKING PEOPLE HAPPY.

1. Audience-based structure: Right now professional communications is functionally siloed: PR, advertising, marcom, media relations, exhibit media, multimedia, social media, etc. Instead, divide communicators into groups based on audience segments. If it's about relationships, set yourself up to build relationships, with the right people, working as a team. Every segment gets a specialized group reaching it across all communication vehicles. Integration, integration, integration.

2. Education and training: We focus narrowly on mechanical skills rather than higher-level and relational thinking. We need psychologists, organizational development specialists, sociologists, and critical thinkers in marketing - not only MBAs and code writers. And the education should be broadly based, with input from many sources and many disciplines. That is what produces people who think holistically.

3. Values: We take it for granted that success means "I win you lose." Instead we ought to insist that the employee and the customer are left with more than what they started with, as a result of dealing with us. Not just because we'll make more money that way and for a longer period of time. But because we understand that there is a higher power who ultimately decides what happens. If you don't like the concept of G-d, try karma.

The last point here, one worth pulling out because it unfortunately doesn't get said enough, is that one's employees have to be well taken care of because they are the #1 source of brand value in any organization. Without employees you have only machines. And even machines need people to run them and make decisions about how they are used.

Looking at this list it seems very simple...but in practice it would be a very huge shift. I wonder if we are ready. I hope that we will at least think about it.

Have a good day, and good luck!


Image source here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Horrible Bosses" and the Fallacy of Productivity


I have to tell you that the trailer for this movie does not do it justice.

The entire theater was laughing so hard I think you could have heard us in the street.

All of the actors were good but the "bosses" themselves - Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, and Jennifer Aniston - really took the cake. They were perfect caricatures of the power-hungry, irrational, harassing boss who lives to drive their workers crazy.

Which is why the whole lot of us at the matinee were in stitches.

One has to ask: 

If everybody recognizes the grain of truth in the narrative, why do we put up with abusive bosses at all?

The answer, I think, lies in two other stories.

I once had a friend who told me her boss was abusive. Seriously bad. The kind that leaves you shaking in your boots with fear.

The friend told another friend about the situation. Both of them were in the same workplace.

Listener responded, "Oh, I know ___. He does get a lot done though."

My friend was completely dumbfounded. It was as though the listener was saying, I'm sorry for your situation, but it has nothing to do with the abuser's level of competence.

Another story.

When I was a kid there was a teacher who was a creep. There was something wrong with him. Everybody knew it.

There were people who complained about it. But nobody in the administration of the school would listen. Because to all appearances, the teacher was doing their job.

Until one day, a wiseguy in the class rigged a bucket of cold water just over the classroom door.

Creepy teacher opened the door, walked in, bucket dumped a lot of cold water on their head.

Teacher turned around fuming. 

Teacher found the culprit easily by the look on his face.

Teacher proceeded to smash face of culprit right across said face. Right in front of my eyes.

Only then was the teacher fired.

Analysis of above:

Our society remains mired in a worship of money and power.

We therefore justify the behavior of abusive rich and powerful people by telling ourselves that it is people like that who foster productivity.

What we don't see - I don't know why we don't see this - is that the era of money is over. We have enough money.

What we lack is creativity. We lack the ability to innovate our way out of the messes that we are in. And the reason we lack that creativity is because we are forever squelching the quiet but brilliant voices that could help us to overcome.

Another story.

Last night on "America's Got Talent" Piers Morgan dressed down one of the acts pretty sadistically.

It was a cowboy act and it involved a horse. On stage.

I don't understand why you would put a horse on stage in front of people and expect it to do anything, but apparently the horse had done well several times before and this was Round 3.

Last night the horse wouldn't cooperate.

Piers was ruthless in his criticism of the entertainers.

The entertainers, for their part, took responsibility for the act not working. "You're right," the guy said, "It didn't work."

Piers wouldn't stop, asking basically, "So why did you waste our time?"

The entertainer explained.

But none of it was good enough for Piers. Who later justified his cruelty - his outright sadism - by saying that it was Round 3, there was a lot of money involved now, and so the judges had a right to be "crotchety."


There is no justification for abusing people, ever.

It doesn't make them more productive or productive in the first place.

And the people who act abusive are known to everybody else. Increasingly, we aren't going to tolerate it. And the system will self-regulate, for the sake of survival, to promote gentle, constructive, creative people to the point where they can lead us forward.

Until then, I think, it's a good thing to talk, raise our consciousness, and think about this issue collectively.

Because a nation of traumatized people is at a definite disadvantage when it comes to any kind of survival - economic, emotional, spiritual. 

There is a German saying to the effect that G-d sees everything. 

Whether we know it or not, the blessings come from Above, and they can be taken away just the same way.

Whether you believe in G-d or not...think about it.

Have a good day, everyone - and good luck!


Image source here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Social media is a culture—not a technology

If you ever have a few minutes to spare, find a job description for “social media” or “new media” and see the required qualifications. 


Universally they call for someone with technical skills.


Never – not once – are social skills, emotional intelligence, or personal qualities ever mentioned.


Think about it: From a job description point of view you can be a so-called “social media expert” but have absolutely no personal integrity, no commitment to transparency, and no belief in the importance of collaboration or information-sharing.




Imagine if somebody were to put an ad on “” seeking a husband or a wife with “qualifications” like these:


·      Must be good-looking.

·      Must have high-paying job or be rich.

·      Must have spacious home in fancy neighborhood

·      Must be able to produce children.


…and so on.


Wouldn’t that be ridiculous?


A relationship ad, we expect, will mention things like caring, compassion, personal interests, religious beliefs, and so on. The things that are eternal. The things that matter.


Only superficial people ask for superficial things. And those people don’t belong in committed relationships. Because anything can happen, anytime, anywhere. And the “corporate culture” of a marriage is to be able to adapt to those realities and move on.


The same thing holds true for social media. It is called “social” for a reason. The use of interactive communication tools implies a culture in which communication skills are prized. A new way of doing things. A break with the past. An openness to feedback and a belief that transparency is better than hiding things.


So if you advertise for social media pros but don’t ask for these skills, favoring instead temporary tools like Blogger or Twitter or Facebook – tools that will no doubt be surpassed or evolved or changed utterly and rapidly over the next few years – what are you really asking for?


I will tell you. You have asked for an administrative assistant whose primary qualification is knowledge of Microsoft Word—rather than deference, discretion, and dedication.


The biggest insult an organization can commit in dipping its toes into social media is to cut and paste its press releases into the window box used for composing a blog.


The biggest achievement is changing the way we do business.


The next time you consider who you want to run your social media function, ask if it is really social media you want to do at all—and then hire accordingly.

Monday, July 18, 2011

10 Ways To Get More From 24 Hours

I read so many of these kinds of articles and they're all great. Throwing my two cents in:

1. Make TV a reward for exercise. TV has a way of totally numbing your brain. Exercise is mind-numbingly boring without TV. They go together and you need both. Combine.

2. Sleep. Or you won't be able to concentrate.

3. Work in bursts. Focus your mind intensely on one task at a time, do it for a short time, then do something else. As opposed to not working on it all day long.

4. Overschedule. Ask more of yourself. You will find that you get more done in general, even if you fail to do it all.

5. Write down your tasks. Go through the list once a day. Mark things "open," "hold," or "closed." Your goal is to have almost nothing in the "open" column by the end of the day.

6. Buy healthy food that is prepackaged. Let's be honest, there is usually no time to cook. But don't eat crappy food either. Giant has a healthier food section and it's worth paying a little extra.

7. Terminate going-nowhere conversations. Just end them. Imagine you are getting paid by the hour for your time. Wait a minute - you are!

8. Get to the point quickly regarding tasks. Keep the emotionally intelligent, chat-about-irrelevant-stuff to the edges of the conversation. Once the work is dealt with you can talk.

9. Cut down on the email. Life isn't a court case. Pick up the phone or stop by. Email is usually misinterpreted anyway.

10. Relax. It stimulates your brain to come up with new ideas. You lose steam if you are always "on task."

Hope these are helpful and as always, please share your ideas too.

Good luck!

The "Hive Mind" + 9 Other Ways Social Media Has Changed Us For Good


The other day my kid came back from a camping trip and said it was fun, but "a little too much" and she needed a break.

The problem was that her friends apparently don't believe in the concept of alone time.

I knew this was going to happen because we are basically a quiet, creative bunch and her friends tend to be Libras who want to interact nonstop. So the strategy was to just say, 

"I need to take a little space" 

...and then take it without apologies.

Didn't work. As she put it,

"If you don't have friends all around you every minute, you're considered a loser."

So apparently it's not just a Libra thing. Kids nowadays are connected ALL THE TIME.

We watched a show on ABC Family last night called "Cyberbullies," which was about online bullying but in the larger context that kids are so constantly with their friends, online and off, that it is actually odd-seeming when they are alone. 

I was thinking about "alone time" this weekend as I took a break from the frequent (perhaps constant) blogging, tweeting, Quora-ing, LinkedIn-ing, and GovLooping I do. I had literally three different projects to take care of and there was no way that a blog was going to fit in with all the responsibilities going on.

It was a little odd to be off the grid, but also a little nice. I wasn't used to it.

I realized that in becoming so engaged with social media, I had joined the Borg (from "Star Trek") or perhaps "The Matrix." That in a way, part of me lives in a virtual world - and I feel odd when I don't visit there on a regular basis.

Believe it or not, I even missed the comments on my Facebook vs. Google+ blog. (My favorites: "Anyone with a Ph.D. is an idiot" and "Can you believe this drivel?" Classic!) It was nice to know that somebody gave enough of a damn to take time out of their busy schedule and read my stuff. 

Another interesting moment occurred when I had lunch with my friends last Friday and we blah blahed about work and stuff. During the conversation I mentioned that I had blogged my bad feedback at work and it was a whole hullaballoo afterward with debates among the family as to whether I had completely lost my brains or was completely in control, a master of spin (neither believe me...just ordinary.) Just a couple of days later I read another blog by someone related to me where she talked about dating and a really bad encounter with an ex. I realized, reading that (she is much younger than me), that my blogs are actually TAME compared to what the next generation is writing.

So here are the 10 ways social media has changed us, in my view. (Also, and this has nothing to do with anything, "Horrible Bosses" is a great movie and you really have to see it.)

Here goes:

1. As a society we are mentally connected with one another despite not knowing each other or having permanent social ties. We process information collectively like an amorphous "hive" - crowdsourcing even when we don't think about it.

2. Individualism is acceptable today, but only if it is packaged, productized, and brought back to the collective to be consumed in some way. "Going off on your own" without sharing what you learn is not seen as normal.

3. Emotional intelligence is vastly more important than technical skill and people who can't share their feelings appropriately are suspect.

4. Direct, honest, frank comments are to be expected, but it is socially unacceptable to be rude or stalker-ish...the system corrects itself.

5. Plain talk is credible and jargon gets you booted out of the conversation before you even get to the second sentence.

6. We are willing to trust and "friend" anybody, but if that person shows ill intentions or bad motives, we remove them from the conversation quickly, again to keep the system somewhat "pure."

7. People are expected today to be empowered and resourceful, but also to work in groups to achieve big goals - the individual change agent is more likely to be seen as a dictator than a visionary.

8. It is almost inexcusable to fail to participate in the conversation in some way - doesn't have to be a blog, can be Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter or something else, but you have to bring something unique to the table and share it. Or you're seen as somehow hiding something.

9. We are becoming an information society where it is expected that you will give away information at no charge. Thus the profit opportunity is to be the trusted source of analysis of that information - a knower of things who understands what they mean - who only shares this analysis with some people.

10. We are rapidly becoming a society beyond money, although we don't see it yet. It is about giving of ourselves to others for the greater good, not taking from others to advance oneself. There are people pioneering the art of giving, the results of whose work we don't really see on a massive scale yet. But if we can just hold on and reinforce their efforts, there will be a time when we regulate ourselves to remove social disorder and ensure that everyone has what they need to survive.

It is an amazing time we live in that is for sure. But being essentially an introvert, I still think we do need alone time regularly. We can't absorb ourselves completely into the collective, for then we will lose our freedom and distinctiveness. And given the crazy world we live in nowadays, it's more important than ever to be able to think for yourself.

Have a good day everyone - and good luck!


I couldn't resist that photo - it's Monday for cripes' sake! Image source here.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Marketing Is Not An Ego Massage


Marketing is not an easy profession. It is actually pretty freaking hard.

The job of a marketer is to persuade people that they need something. Or someone. And then sell it to them.

How easy is it to...

Get a 4-year-old to eat carrots?

Get into Harvard?

Get a job?

Get married?

Get someone elected?

Get someone to literally buy whatever it is that you sell?

All of these things involve marketing. And if they were so easy, we would all be rich, happy and retired.

Yet the most popular misconception about marketing - after the belief that we are all a bunch of liars - is the idea that it is "all about the message." 

Meaning that if you can only find the exact right thing to say, your audience will believe you.

As if people are so stupid.

Believing that marketing is "messaging" is really just a form of ego massage.

"I am wonderful, here are the reasons, now I've succeeded in marketing to you."

A better way to think of marketing is like listening actively and then responding.

"How are you? Tell me about it."

And then when the customer has told you, and told you, and told validate what they've said.

"I hear that. You feel ---. You want ---. Let me see what I can do about that."

And then you do it.

While it is true that people often can't articulate what they want, it is also true that they don't want you to "message" them.

Marketing is listening. It is ego-free.

If you do it properly, the audience pays you to listen.

If you do it the wrong way, you are talking and talking and their minds are a million miles away.

Think about it, and good luck!


Photo source here

"Giveaways" Build Buzz - "Discounts" Look Desperate


There is a 7-Eleven near D.C. that accommodates about 12 parked cars. 

The other day there were maybe 25 vying for spots, in the middle of the day. 

This wasn't the A.M.'s commuting rush when people fight for the last sugarfree Red Bull or gratefully scoop up the last "taquito roller."

We had absolutely no reason to be there.

Except for one thing: The Good Witch of the Convenience Store had waved her magic wand and today was Free Slurpee Day.

My kid, nauseous from a long bus ride home, reminded me. "I need something icy," she uttered sweatily. "They're giving away free Slurpees at 7-Eleven. Can we go?"

We pull up to the parking lot and the scene is unbelievable. It's like a state fair. People streaming in and out as happy as can be.

Inside, the Slurpee line is snaking from the machines, around the lottery counter, around the fruit and sandwich shelves, and even out the door.

What are they waiting for? A FOUR OUNCE cup of sugar water. A mini-portion.

And they are thrilled!

That day, by strategically using a little generosity, 7-Eleven made some happy memories for a lot of people in the community. 

And that is why a giveaway builds buzz.

Just like it does in Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts and every other establishment that tries it.

So why don't discounts work the same way?

The short answer is that discounts look desperate. And they ruin the brand.

Macy's is an excellent example of taking a venerable, respected brand with a deep heritage - decades of loyal followership - and trashing it on the altar of constant sales.

(Al Ries calls this "discountitis.")

Every five minutes, it seems that Macy's got a commercial on TV telling you to "shop early" and "save big."

Go into Macy's and the discount signs are prominently displayed, "40% off" this and "75% off" that.

I used to look at the Macy's star and think, wow, that is a classy logo.

Now I look at the star and think, wow, is that a degraded brand.

There is a Target around the corner with the same brand colors.

I am starting to think that their discount-designer merchandise is exactly the same as the Macy's merch, which used to be pretty high up on the scale.

On a broader level, it has to do with displaying strength versus displaying weakness. Nobody wants a ticket on a sinking ship no matter how pretty the view from the upper deck:

* Wal-Mart, though it isn't known for its giveaways, is an incredibly successful brand because it starts with the "lowest price" offer and sticks to it. The customer walks out and feels victorious for having made the trip. (Although commodity brand strategies are extremely dangerous...I wouldn't want to be them.)

* K-Mart, which gives me the impression of being forever one step away from bankruptcy, is an incredibly shamed one because nobody wants to remember that they are wearing a top from the last-ditch-$1 discount rack.

If you want to make people feel good about your business without detracting from the value of your goods or services, give a small amount away once in awhile. It makes you seem generous. Part of the community. A friend.

If you want to seem like a company flailing while it drowns in quicksand, offer deep discounts.

Financially a giveaway and a discount may cost you the same thing.

But in the long-term, you can only enhance your brand by offering customers a sample. While you will most certainly destroy it by giving away the store.

Good luck!


Photo source here

Monday, July 11, 2011

10 Signs It's Time To Slow Down (Personal Reflection)

Yesterday I did a crazy thing. I actually went for a walk with a friend. And I only checked my smartphone 3 times.

The whole thing was totally inefficient. We didn't really walk anywhere because she had her kid. And the kid kept wanting to get out of the stroller and do things like pet dogs and get big heavy rocks from the creek bed. Which my friend then had to put in the stroller basket. Making it weight about five thousand pounds.

We laughed at the bikers who complained that the stroller was getting in their way. They are so neurotic, we said. Ha ha ha. 

And then I realized that I am the biker, usually. Always rushing. Time to take a break, at least once in a blue moon.

You don't need to be a genius to know that rushing can get you into a lot of trouble. 

We think that going fast saves us time. It does - in the short term.

Long-term it leads to headaches. Not in order of priority, some examples:

1. Death or disfigurement from a car accident

2. Painful struggle with a troubled child suffering from substance abuse, social trouble, too-early sexual behavior, etc.

3. Getting fired or alienating someone at work due to making a careless mistake that insults someone; writing a harsh email; or speaking rudely

4. Computer crash due to a virus obtained by carelessly clicking on a link; theft of personal data

5. Waste of one's creativity by doing everything else except the thing that one is uniquely talented to do (write, paint, make music, etc.)

6. Choosing sides on an issue incorrectly due to jumping to conclusions; misjudging a person based on first impression

7. Wasted money due to rushed purchases - clothes that don't look good, don't fit, etc.

8. Weight gain and illness from eating junky, processed convenience food, not exercising, etc.

9. Supporting the wrong side of a social or political issue, or misjudging due to jumping to conclusions

10. Being elderly, unwell and sad because you've rushed through life and missed out on all the stuff that mattered.

The most important thing of all of course is losing touch with one's spiritual side...our purpose in life. What gives it all meaning in the first place.

I wrote this blog to give myself some advice; hope it is helpful to you too.

Hope everyone has a nice day, a slower day, a peaceful one.

Good luck :-)


Photo credit: Me

10 Signs It's Time To Slow Down (Personal Reflection)


Yesterday I did a crazy thing. I actually went for a walk with a friend. And I only checked my smartphone 3 times.

The whole thing was totally inefficient. We didn't really walk anywhere because she had her kid. And the kid kept wanting to get out of the stroller and do things like pet dogs and get big heavy rocks from the creek bed. Which my friend then had to put in the stroller basket. Making it weight about five thousand pounds.

We laughed at the bikers who complained that the stroller was getting in their way. They are so neurotic, we said. Ha ha ha. 

And then I realized that I am the biker, usually. Always rushing. Time to take a break, at least once in a blue moon.

You don't need to be a genius to know that rushing can get you into a lot of trouble. 

We think that going fast saves us time. It does - in the short term.

Long-term it leads to headaches. Not in order of priority, some examples:

1. Death or disfigurement from a car accident

2. Painful struggle with a troubled child suffering from substance abuse, social trouble, too-early sexual behavior, etc.

3. Getting fired or alienating someone at work due to making a careless mistake that insults someone; writing a harsh email; or speaking rudely

4. Computer crash due to a virus obtained by carelessly clicking on a link; theft of personal data

5. Waste of one's creativity by doing everything else except the thing that one is uniquely talented to do (write, paint, make music, etc.)

6. Choosing sides on an issue incorrectly due to jumping to conclusions; misjudging a person based on first impression

7. Wasted money due to rushed purchases - clothes that don't look good, don't fit, etc.

8. Weight gain and illness from eating junky, processed convenience food, not exercising, etc.

9. Supporting the wrong side of a social or political issue, or misjudging due to jumping to conclusions

10. Being elderly, unwell and sad because you've rushed through life and missed out on all the stuff that mattered.

The most important thing of all of course is losing touch with one's spiritual side...our purpose in life. What gives it all meaning in the first place.

I wrote this blog to give myself some advice; hope it is helpful to you too.

Hope everyone has a nice day, a slower day, a peaceful one.

Good luck :-)


Photo credit: Me

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Why Google+ Is More Dangerous Than Facebook From a Privacy Perspective

In my opinion, Facebook is no more trustworthy than Google when it comes to data privacy. 

The difference is that if you are a typical Google user you've plopped a sea of data onto their servers that makes FB look tame by comparison.

Look at all the data that Google users store on Google's you really want to create a public profile for all the world to see that is linked to the following? 

* Google Docs

* Gmail (imagine all the email sitting in your inbox, sent folder, the trash)

* Checkout (your purchase history if you used a Google shopping cart, linked to your credit card)

* Contacts (usually combine personal and professional)

* Social connections ("direct" and "secondary")

* Phone calls (if you use Google Voice)

* Photos (Picasa web albums)

* Calendar

* Tasks

* Blog, website, site analytics

* Web search history

* Chrome sync (if you use Chrome and sync your passwords)

* Google reader - the stuff you read

* Bookmarks

* Google group membership

* Music

* YouTube (your favorites, your comments)

* Google Buzz

* Google Mobile

Of course we're all going to use Google+.

All I'm saying is, use it smartly.

If you want to de-link your personal data from your public profile, create a dummy account that does not house the kind of data your personal/regular Google account houses. 

Good luck.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

New-Style Govies: Our Time Is Now (The Pac-Man Theory of Leadership)


After nearly 10 years in government I can think of five kinds of people who have helped me learn about leadership:

1. Government employees themselves. Mentors, bosses, colleagues who strive for excellence. Peers who have taken web and social media out of the basement and made them mainstream by working both within their agencies and across them, in interagency efforts. Other government employees who have done the same with internal and external communications of a traditional nature. Employees who raise money for charity. Employees who organize diversity support groups, prayer groups, who listen to you and offer constructive advice. People who take the time to go to Costco and get a huge sheet cake to celebrate someone's birthday. People like that.

2. Bloggers & other contributors to the grassroots Gov 2.0 movement, who may or may not get paid for their efforts but who do care enough to share what works through social media bulletin boards, discussion groups, blogs, Twitter, and in print.

3. Trainers like Edward Tufte, who teaches how to effectively present data in presentations. Angela Sinickas who teaches simply and effectively how to incorporate metrics into communications. Corporate educators like Steve Crescenzo and Shel Holtz, at one time the co-teachers of "Corporate Communicator's Boot Camp," for Ragan Communications, who know what they are talking about and can get the average person to be not only good, but pretty excellent at communicating effectively.

4. Researchers who take success stories and distill them into lessons we can copy - a great example is Bill Eggers and John O'Leary's work in "If We Can Put A Man On The Moon."

5. Business leaders who have taken the time to share their experience in book, video, and seminar form. Most recently, I read a very honest book by Donny Deutsch. I don't care if he wrote it for the money; it taught me a hell of a lot.

From all of these people I learned one simple thing:

Leadership is not a single event in one's life. It is a series of small moments that add up over time. Until there is a tipping point, and the new way is accepted as mainstream.

Leadership is like playing a game of Pac-Man. You are the Pac-Man (or Pac-Woman!)

Gobble up the dots. Get stronger. Then eat the monsters. When you have so much energy that you're supercharged.

Here is a story about such a leader. Who would never ever think of himself that way, guaranteed.

On a Friday afternoon we had a request to do something quickly. From an important source. It was either get it done fast, or worry about it Monday morning when new jobs start to come flowing in. Chaos and confusion could easily ensue.

This thing would normally take at least a day. We had maybe 3 hours.

My colleague and I thus went directly to the basement of the building to find the person who would do this job. Instead of submitting a form upstairs and then waiting for the mysterious process of work-getting-done to unfold.

This person, on a Friday afternoon, with no reward in sight, went out of his way to make it happen.

Introduced himself formally.

Gave us a sample form, already filled out, so we would know what to ask for.

Told us how to ensure maximum quality.

Wished us a nice day.

This person was not a designated leader. He was not agitating for Gov 2.0. I doubt he even would know or care what that was. But he exemplified the future of government. He acted as though he were running a business, we were the customers, and he would do what it took to make our lives easier.

His entire attitude was: "No problem."

It was 3 p.m. by the time we got down there. The job was done in 10 minutes. Expedited by another employee unrelated to the process who stopped what he was doing, got up, and stamped the form so we could get out of there. And also by another one who got up to sign the damn form even though he had no idea what he was signing. (My thank-you: "Good. Now I can go buy that BMW I've been wanting.")

All of these people completely understand what has to happen in government now.

Stop fussing. Get it done. And do it with a big freaking smile on your face.

If you want to be a leader, it is not necessary to wait for some magical event to happen in the future. There is no superhero who is going to gallop to the rescue on a big white horse.

The leader is you. The time is now. The things that need to be done are all around you. Gobble up a dot by solving a problem. Don't stop and don't worry about what happens next.

Everyone can make a difference. You already are a leader in more ways than you know. Step up to the plate.

It doesn't matter how old you are or how many years you have served in government. Change has nothing to do with being fresh out of school. It has to do with how you think, how astute you are, your ability to adjust and accept to a new reality. It has nothing to do with whether someone gave you "permission."

The future is here. We are all collectively making it. In every action and interaction.

Government leaders at every job, every rank, inside and outside the system too--

Wake up. It's a new day. Do you see it?

Your time - our time - is NOW.

Let's seize the day.


Image source here

Friday, July 8, 2011

Ladies: about those flip-flops


Tonight on the train I counted a good number of women, let’s say 10 because I stopped counting at 9 and there were more, wearing these cheap plastic excuses for shoes.


Here are 5 things I hate about them:


1. They are sold in bins.

2. No manicure. Bad manicure. Fading manicure.

3. Black toenail polish looks like fungus. Deep orange is not a color.

4. Gnarly toes, bunions, calluses. “Oh my.”

5. Once you start getting unkempt with the shoes…things can deteriorate pretty badly.


I understand that people want to keep cool. Did I say to wear stockings all the time? Heck no.


If people were to keep the flip-flops for the beach or even Sundays I could understand. But wearing them to work? What is the deal with that?


It’s not like these flip-flop wearers are impoverished.


They take these beautiful outfits, these carefully done “looks,” and then they trash it with the flips.


What are these workers saying?


I will tell you.


“I don’t really want to be here. My head is at the beach.”


Not the message you want to be sending.


Casual isn’t always bad. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg made a positive brand out of wearing casual, even shleppy T-shirts in that vomit color.


When I see someone who wears a T-shirt and a blazer to work, I get the sense that they are more focused on results than on appearance.


Flip-flop wearers don’t seem to want to be there.


And since the flip-flop-wearers are 100% female, in my experience – I have never once seen a man wear flip-flops to work, nor sandals, for that matter – is it really a good idea to be dressing so casually?


Is sexism really so over that we can act like we don’t care?


So – no matter how hot it gets – no matter how much you want to be in South Beach or Ocean City or wherever – please think twice before you put those flip-flops on your feet.


Especially if you are going to the office.


If you absolutely must wear them, at least get a manicure.

But then everyone is going to look at your feet - and not at your head - which is where your brain is. The thing you want to get credit for at work.

Think about it.


Have a great weekend everyone – and good luck!


Image source here


The case for non-beautiful models


Quickly: Look at these two.

They are the reason I threw out the Land's End catalog that came in the mail today ("Late Summer 2011").

Do high-fashion models actually buy this brand?

They could have saved a lot of money and just paid ordinary folk on the upper East Coast (Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, etc.) to submit their home photos to be in the catalogue. Not that they're not beautiful. But the pretension has got to go.

Just a thought.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

20 Assertions from A Marketing Conversation

Last night marked my return to the classroom. Adjunct assistant professor of marketing. A dream.


I’m going to leave the classroom discussion in the classroom. Let the energy stay there. Trust builds that way.


At the same time, some big ideas were shared, endorsed, chewed over.


Hope these are useful to you. Or that you have a comment, or would like to add to the conversation. What are the basics? What should everybody who wants to know about marketing, know right off the bat?


Here are last night’s 20:


1. We market, without realizing it, all the time.


2. Understand what the term “marketing” means to you upfront. Because if you don’t, you may find yourself talking past the other people in the room.


3. The key distinction to understand is between marketing and branding. (We didn’t talk about selling, but I’m throwing it in here, b/c I should have.) Branding is long-term image insurance, marketing is medium-to-short-term awareness-building, and selling is immediate term shouting designed to move merchandise. Think meat stew versus sautéing versus broiling.


4. Innovation is tough to do mainly because of social pressure. You have to train yourself to suggest things that others would find shocking.


5. Marketers must be ethical and tell the truth, but consumer insights cannot be based on political correctness. Only on what the marketer observes in an objective way.


6. Consider the regulatory environment and the client’s unique situation before suggesting solutions.


7. Exercise your marketing muscle by engaging people in conversation and then guessing what kind of brands they like, products they buy, etc.


8. It is not clear whether personality fundamentally changes over time, but life experiences do shape our thinking because we’ve gone through them.


9. To play defense is to be dead.


10. Emotion sells, but you have to control it so that you remain in touch with the customer and don’t seem like an out-of-control lunatic.


11. Usually it’s the throwaway insights that yield the most fruit.


12. You don’t always want the end user to know about your existence.


13. All publicity is good publicity. Usually.


14. The time to build a brand is way before you have a problem.


15. Rebranding is another way to say “failed brand.”


16.  Ask stupid questions if you don’t know.


17. Refuse the conventional definition of the problem statement if it suits your purposes.


18. Marketing is a helmet that you can put on and take off. It’s important to become aware when you’re doing that, and do it consciously.


19. If nobody is listening then you haven’t accomplished anything. Stop thinking so much about your message and what you want to say. Think more about connecting with the customer.


20. Corporate culture is the most important aspect of the brand and the most neglected.


Finally, when in doubt, refer to Starbucks. I criticize abundantly, but it’s only out of respect. Howard Schultz & Co. more or less wrote the book on how to build an outstanding brand, market it, and sell its individual products successfully.


Have a good evening everyone. Let me know what you think. And good luck.



Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Profiting In A LinkedIn Economy (New Presentation)

A short argument for organizations to take internal communication seriously.

SlideShare version (PPT) here

Scribd version (PDF) here

Sunday, July 3, 2011

5 Natural Supplements for Peace of Mind & Body


A holiday weekend gives you some time to relax, reflect, and take stock...of the collection of natural supplements sitting on one's shelf.

Following are some products I use and find beneficial. If you are interested, I encourage you to read more online, ask your physician if they are safe for you to take, and try out if it is medically safe and might be helpful. 

Personally I have found that doctors rarely will push you to take supplements, but at the same time if they're not dangerous for you, they will tell you that you can try them and see what they do for you. If you do take supplements, make sure you understand what dose you are taking so that you're not overdoing it (toxicity) or underdoing it (no impact). Also make sure that you're not unintentionally taking too much (for example if you take a multivitamin and then B-complex together). 

And if you can, try to get high-quality supplements made from actual foods - more likely available at places like Whole Foods than the dollar store. (Seem expensive? Compare the cost of a nutritional supplement with the cost of getting sick.)

In general I don't like to take artificial nutrients as a substitute for actual food. I've been told, and I think it's true, that the best way to support your health is by eating whole, natural, unprocessed food. (I love the 12-vegetable soup at Au Bon Pain.) At the same time, you can't always eat enough of the good things to help you get the vitamins you need.

Also, nutritional supplements are just one part of a healthy lifestyle - the rest including (of course) things like exercise, relaxation, laughter, learning, and relationships. Spirituality of some kind helps too.

I don't endorse any specific product or vendor; the links are only provided for your convenience. However, I find that you can get most things from Puritan's Pride or (if you want the convenience of online), CVS or a local health food store or Asian market (they have an unbelievably good selection of medicinal teas). I don't often buy at Whole Foods because it's so expensive, but then again their quality seems to be fairly high. 

1. Omega 3-6-9 - benefits galore, not the least of which is good mood

2. Ubiquinol - promotes heart health

3. Turmeric - reduces inflammation

4. Medicinal teas - such as "detox tea," which is what it sounds like and has a zillion variations. Also decaf green tea (various benefits) with Ginkgo (memory booster) - I know they sell this on Amazon

5. Adora chocolate calcium with D3 and magnesium - gotta get that calcium, and do you really want to drink so much milk (I am not a fan of dairy products) - they sell this at Whole Foods and we gobble it up. 

If you are interested in nutrition generally, I highly recommend signing up for Dr. Joseph Mercola's free online newsletter. You may not agree with everything he says, and he does sell products. However, I've never bought anything from this site and I feel that have learned a tremendous amount of information by reading the daily articles.

Enjoy the holiday weekend everyone, and good luck!


Photo source here