Thursday, July 31, 2014

Brand Leadership Is Not A Compliance Exercise

So yesterday a question came up about brand guidelines. Does anyone have examples, and if so can they share.
There are about a million examples. But they don't necessarily help you build a brand.

The critical first step, and what most organizations can't really cope with, is to think. Just stop, reflect, stop checking the iPhone for a minute, and make decisions that not everyone is going to like.

These are the questions that need to be asked. They are leadership questions, because where the ship is headed decides what color you paint the ship with and what you name it:
  • What are we good at? To the point where we are better than anybody else? 
  • What are we passionate about and why? 
  • Can we narrow that down to a very fine point? 
  • Can we make it distinct from anybody "comparable?"
  • Why is our offering relevant to the public?
  • Is it so important that they're willing to pay?
  • Are we a group of decent human beings, with values that support the rest of what we do?
Branding is surgery. At a very minimum, you cut out the cancer so the rest of the organism can live:
  • Are we ready to stop doing certain things and start doing others?
  • How about promoting people we aren't comfortable with, and letting others go who we are?
  • Are we willing to hire people with technical expertise we can't understand?
  • Are we willing to put different people in charge?
  • Will we confront and control toxic behaviors among the staff?
As a consultant I always wanted to do this stuff, and so did everybody else in the group.

But the customers always wanted guidelines, and pretty templates and graphics and fonts.

It is a lot easier after all to frame a poster with an asinine ad inside of it, than to really drill down and unearth the discomforts that pretty pictures paper over.

* All opinions my own.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Everything Good Is A "Bad Idea"

Love is improbable and often fails. But we seek it out anyway. Over and over again.

Children are love of a different kind; you invest with no serious hope of return. Rather, you do it for the giving.

Careers for passion are low-paying, insecure and can leave you working at two jobs instead of one. But enough of us choose that route because it feels right.

Many people give their lives and limbs for a cause.

Why are we so "irrational?" Economic theory would posit that self-aggrandizement makes more sense.

Because life is just too painful to bear when we death-walk through it, a bunch of fancy zombies in business suits.

The only thing that matters is alive. The only thing that makes alive is inconvenient meaning. 

Everything else - not worth getting up out of bed.

The "zombie" life is so incredibly unappealing. Even when you give it your all, nobody wants to be there.

The meaningful life is inconvenient. It's also real and feels good. It's where normal people want to be. And they spend their time and money where the meaning is at.

As consumers and as employees.

* All opinions my own.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Personal Branding As A Moral Enterprise

When I started out as a brand consultant one of the most important mantras I heard was "Your brand is your promise." (The other was, "You have a brand whether you like it or not.")

In the commercial world, branding is clearly an activity undertaken for financial gain. Companies portray an image, hope to pay less for the image than what you take away from it, and pocket the difference between the two.

Personal branding is different. It is commonly thought of as your professional image, e.g. that you make yourself seem competent, confident - the kind of person someone would want to hire for their work skills.

That is part of it. But there's also a personal integrity part, and that part is much more important. If your apple is rotten at the core then nobody wants to do business with you.

All of us say that we are moral people. But our actions speak to whether we deliver. The consistency (or lack thereof) determines our brand.

If you look at personal branding as a moral enterprise, the terrain regarding brand-building becomes extraordinarily complex, sensitive and challenging. Not because most adults require guidance - most of us can tell right from wrong. But because we know that saying and doing are two completely different things.

So I think of branding as a spiritual thing. It is not easy or convenient. It may even be a career-limiting move. But it does feel good to be the kind of person you'd want to have working for you, if you had to check their references.

* All opinions my own.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Inspiration of the Day: "Joel Osteen #528 - Hit the Delete Button" (Video, full-length)

More than one devoutly religious Jewish person has told me they think Joel Osteen is a holy person who says the word of G-d. I'll be honest - his sermons often make me cry. It is as if G-d is literally speaking through him.

No matter who you are or what your faith, the motivational concepts he shares are universal.

This sermon is a particularly good one, especially if you literally use the computer a lot. In it Osteen talks about literally hitting the "delete" key whenever anyone tells you something that could limit your life's potential.

Turn it off! Turn it off!

Jewish people believe that thoughts follow deeds, hence we are commanded to do positive things whether we believe they make sense or not. Osteen says the reverse, "Our lives follow our thoughts."

Both are true. I know this much is true. When someone tries to block that light that G-d is shining on you, step out of their shadow and erase the memory completely from your mind.

You are blessed and it's a blessed day. Live in truth, live your conscience and live in the victory that comes from serving the One Above, in the way your soul tells you to be accurate.


* All opinions my own.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Brand Leadership: Focus, Focus, Focus - Then Focus Some More

"Without focus, it is impossible to build a brand." - Al Ries

The other day on LinkedIn, Al Ries shared the simple statement above.

Ries, along with David Aaker, David Ogilvy and Walter Landor is one of the "founding fathers" of modern branding. What sets him apart is how accessible and common-sense his writing is. It seemed to me he wouldn't waste words. So it was striking that after so many years he found such a seemingly obvious statement worth repeating.

It struck me to ask Ries and others, what makes brands lose focus? I wanted to hear what others had to say, not only as a semi-academic but also because I've got one particular brand - Israel - on the brain.

Thirty years ago everybody had a certain basic respect for the Jewish homeland. Its image was captured in Raid on Entebbe (1977), a true story on an elite group of commandos who saved a plane full of Jews taken hostage in Uganda.

Israel's brand as portrayed in the movie was highly focused: Jewish survival.

It was personified by the Israeli soldier. He (it's a gendered persona) had five key personality clusters, or characteristics:

  • Patriotic, passionate, dedicated - a believer in the cause
  • Strong, brave, courageous - walked through the fear, did not run away from it
  • Nimble, adaptable, ingenious - could handle any situation, including being outgunned
  • Self-sacrificing for the team - not just humble but willing to die
  • Skilled, smart, quick to learn - intelligent and capable
The distinguishing factor of Israel can be captured in the post-Holocaust slogan: "Never again." 

We will not be as sheep to the slaughter anymore.

The head of the Israeli special assault team in that movie, Yoni Netanyahu, was also the only Israeli soldier killed in the operation. He was lionized as a hero - but today his younger brother, Benjamin Netanyahu, the country's current Prime Minister, is widely reviled in the media.

It seems to me that Israel as a nation-brand has severely lost its focus. 

In his answer to my question, Ries said that the #1 reason brands lose focus is that they seek to expand. That made a lot of sense to me.

Israel started out as a program with a very limited scope: Establish a state in the historical Jewish homeland that would enable this tiny nation to survive. Everyone was on board with that.

Over time, the same internecine hatreds that have always torn the Jews apart also had their impact on Israel. Religious infighting and political disputation abound, to the point where some Israelis even question the basic right of Israel to self-defense. Its tourism campaigns talk about the beaches. It boasts of high-tech industry and has adopted so many Western ways. 

But all of this gets away from what's core or essential to the brand: Its Jewishness, its celebration of Jewish diversity in the context of a struggle for survival.

Unless and until Israel gets back to its brand roots, I fear its brand will continue to suffer.

* All opinions my own.

5 Key Points About Government Branding Now

* Originally posted by me on DigitalGov, July 25, 2014

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking (in my own capacity) before the Council for Inspectors General for Integrity and Efficiency Public Affairs Officers (CIGIE-PAO) task force about branding.

The invitation came by way of a colleague I greatly respect. Bridget Serchak is currently Chief of Public Affairs for the Department of Defense Inspector General and the group’s co-founder. She explained to me that the purpose of the CIGIE PAO is “to try to raise awareness of the role and function of IGs across government so that all federal employees in particular, but also our Hill constituencies and good government groups understand what IGs do and don’t do.”

I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to say to a bunch of inspectors general representatives about branding. Frankly I was a bit worried they would think that branding was essentially useless propaganda and that it didn’t belong in government at all. But they were very kind and we had a great conversation around some of the issues that government communicators face right now, and how branding can potentially help.

Some highlights from the talk are now on YouTube (see playlist). Here is a brief summary, in priority order:
  • Branding is a legitimate government activity. When I started working in government, branding was not well-understood. Even the simpler and more basic idea that communication should be engaging was largely minimized if not ignored altogether. Over the past decade people have come to understand that branding is not only necessary for government but critical. You have to put money in the “trust bank” first, establishing a positive and distinct reputation for trustworthiness and a particular set of values. This is not the same thing as doing your job and explaining your mission—it is something more.
  • Most people do not have a clear understanding of branding is, even if they’re experts. Put in simple terms, your brand is your image. It is not only what you say, but rather the result of an ongoing interplay, or dynamic, between your output and the response you get from the public. The government says something, people react, and the public makes up its mind. Then the cycle begins again, over and over because the brand is always evolving. The distinction between government branding and branding in the private sector is that government branding always comes down to trust, whereas private sector branding is essentially about making a profit. (The latter is not a bad thing, it’s just a distinction. We talked about the concept that your brand is not your mission but rather the reputational qualities that set you apart. One person joked that the brand of the FBI must therefore be “seriousness.” This is not very far from the truth: If you are the FBI you want people to take you seriously when you show up at the door. It was interesting that the building where I spoke, the HHS OIG, also housed the VOA and there were posters depicting VOA employees and their unique qualities near the cafeteria. Somebody at the VOA’s communications shop or agency really gets it.
  • Narrowing down your audience is critical if you’re going to be successful. If brand is an interplay between what I say, how you respond and what the public then thinks, understanding the “you” becomes a key aspect of building the brand. This is what confuses a lot of people: They equate the people who are passionately engaged with the brand with those who form an opinion later on, normally based on experts, journalists, bloggers, and other people who respond to the agency’s official communications. (One way to think of it is that influencers are an “Audience” with a big “A,” versus the general public would be an “audience” with a small “a.”) After some discussion, the group identified four major audiences, including agency employees, who ideally need to cooperate in order for the IG to do its job well; members of the public who are particularly interested in the agency’s mission; Congress; and of course the general public, not just nationally but internationally. Another point that came up, in the context of Congress in particular, was the issue of money—that your audience is going to be tied to those who control the purse strings. This is not a bad thing, but rather a reality that must be considered: Your job is to tell the story accurately and well in a way that would set you over and above a competitor who purports to do exactly the same thing.
  • Most agencies neglect the most important focus of branding activity: the employee. One attendee commented that the head of the agency has a major impact on its brand. There was general agreement that when agency leadership changes, not only does the brand change by default but sometimes the leader intentionally does away with the signature efforts of the previous executive. Thinking about the effect of the human being on the agency’s brand image, we also had general consensus that agencies tend to ignore the critical importance of their employees in shaping the way the public thinks of them. Every time someone deals with a federal employee, they reflect on the experience and form an image of the brand; or they tell somebody else about it, discussion ensues and a decision is made about what kind of place the agency is.
  • In contrast to the private sector, agencies tend to be far too preoccupied with internal politics and not preoccupied enough with what the public is saying about them. If failing to invest in employees-as-brand-builders is one critical mistake agencies make when it comes to their image, ignoring external feedback is another. In the private sector, we frequently see that companies are highly concerned about even something so seemingly insignificant as a negative Tweet. Yet in the government, over the past decade my impression has been that there is much more emphasis placed on internal squabbling and politics than on staying in touch with what the public is experiencing and saying to us. It was perhaps fitting that Sarah Kaczmarek, Digital Communications Manager at the GAO, spoke before I did because she gave a talk on metrics that would enable any agency to objectively review how their public affairs efforts are faring and then to fine-tune what they do in response.
Overall it was a beautiful day in Washington, D.C., and I really appreciated the opportunity to get to know the CIGIE PAO task force. They’re a great group and I hope they share the lessons they are learning with the larger federal and professional communications community.

Dannielle Blumenthal is the Director of Digital Engagement for the Office of Innovation at The National Archives. All opinions in this piece were her own and don’t reflect the views of her agency.

Friday, July 25, 2014

How The Jew-Haters Won The War

Disclaimer: The following is a fictional allegory meant to humanize the impossible dilemma that Israel finds itself in. I find it necessary to write this because, unfortunately, the level of Israel- and Jew-hating rhetoric has escalated to such a point that worldwide demonstrators are now saying things like "Kill the Jews." I must speak up against this dangerous spike in anti-Semitism and call it what it really is.  

So please do not read this and say I'm in favor of illegal gun use or vigilante justice - I am not. Like you, I hate violence and bloodshed, though I do support the Constitutional right to bear arms and understand the importance of being able to defend yourself when necessary. And of course, like everyone else I recognize that every country, organization and person is capable of making mistakes - including Israel. I just don't believe the country should pay with its life for doing so, nor do I think that anybody has a good answer to the situation she finds herself in right now.

- Dannielle Blumenthal
Imagine you're a single mother living in a dangerous part of Chicago. 

You've moved back to your childhood home, where your family is. You've fled your ex-boyfriend, who used to beat you up, but when you left he said he'd come for you and kill you one of these days. 

The kids lay in their beds at night and you're shivering with fear; you can't buy enough deadbolts to make you feel safe.

One night you come home and he's standing right there outside your door. With ten of his friends, and moving boxes. They're moving in next door, all of them. They're the apartments right next to yours.

He's smiling.

You think about going to the police. But your boyfriend is pretty good friends with someone on the force. In fact, his brother is a policeman himself. He hangs out with the guys at night and shoots pool.

Maybe you could go to Legal Aid, since there isn't a lawyer who would take your case. You're broke, for one thing. And for another - what has your boyfriend done to you? 

Nothing...that you can prove.

One day you see a guy with a truck parked at the side of an alley. The back doors are hanging open. "Hey lady," he says. "Get yourself some protection, for only a hundred dollars."

Your heart is pounding in fear thinking either way you are dead. You think about your children and how they would be orphaned after he kills you. How your ex will likely get custody, then turn on them once he's gotten rid of you.

And you pick up the smooth, heavy black gun and put it in your purse, hoping never to use it. It stays in your kitchen drawer, unless you're going to work and then you've got it always within reach.

Not three months later your boyfriend jumps you in that same alley where you bought the gun in the first place. He says, "let's talk," and then one of his buddies lunges forward and starts to twist your arm behind you.

You know where all of this is headed - body and soul destroyed. Nobody is coming out there to save your life.

You pull the gun out, aim and shoot.

At the trial, your ex-boyfriend has a really good lawyer. Because he's friends with all kinds of people, including people with money, and they know what to say and how to say it just to land you in the slammer.

"She's an animal, your Honor, I swear it!" your ex-boyfriend says. "I was minding my business and she just jumped up and attacked me."

"But, but..." you try to say. 

"Pipe down," says the judge.

"Keep quiet," says your lawyer, someone from the court. "You're in enough trouble already. After all, you are the one who pulled the trigger."

"She's abusive," your ex-boyfriend says, "and that gun right there only proves it. She tried to jump me, she already stole my kids and my money, and thank goodness you were there to help."

You're sitting there, mute and helpless. Everything you say really does amount to dirt.

"Wait, your Honor, I'll show you," your ex-boyfriend says. And he produces a picture of you, bloody and tearing out your hair as if you were a madwoman.

Isn't that.... you think. Wasn't I....

And then you remember. Those were pictures he took of you when you got drunk one night, when you were still together and on vacation. He's somehow doctored them, and you didn't save any pictures and can't make any case to the contrary.

* * * 

It's 10 years later and you're out of jail. Your kids are grown up and they barely know you. 

There's that dead feeling in your head, behind your eyes, and meanwhile your ex-boyfriend has gone on and married another lady. 

Has two new kids besides.

Everybody loves and respects him. But you're written up in the newspaper. 

You're that crazy lady that attacked some guy in the alley. You're an oppressor, a colonizer and a bully who only wanted 500 square feet of safety within which to raise her trembling kids. 

* All opinions my own.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Debt of Honor Owed The Arab Peoples

Last night I read an excellent article on Al Jazeera America about the unfortunate phenomenon of rape in America's high schools. Through one victim's story it showed vividly the lifelong trauma of being first, violated and second, punished by a system which sweeps the problem under the rug, ignoring Federal law to enable the attacker and bury the attacked.
I thought about how inspired I have always been by Muslim values and how unfortunate it is that the situation in Israel seems to polarize people by faith.

Way back when in 2003 I began to cover my hair in a traditional Jewish way. I was not inspired by my own faith. No I had seen a Muslim woman praying quietly and devoutly on the Metro in D.C., and I thought to myself, I want to be as spiritual as her.

The idea of "inner jihad" also makes so much sense to me. That the essence of strength is to stop yourself from doing bad things. Not to fight the rest of the world. There's a similar concept in Judaism, in Hebrew: "Azehu gibor? Hakovesh et yitzro," or "Who is strong? He who conquers his own evil inclination."

Notice that the Hebrew wording is in the male, not the female. Gender in religious language is a whole other topic in and of itself. But it is not unimportant.

The Arab nations are very much identified with the religion Islam. But Islam came much later on, after their forefather Yishmael (Ishmael) was born.

I thought about the issue of honor among Arabs and why it is so important. Reflected that there is a debt of honor owed to them by the Jewish people. On a conversation I had with my daughter regarding the Biblical story of Ishmael.

The Bible tells it straightforwardly: Abraham had a son with Sarah's servant, Hagar. The logic was that Sarah was infertile; Hagar was an available womb.

We're not supposed to look back and judge Biblical figures according to the logic of our day, but that seems like a negative experience at best, if you look at it from Hagar's perspective. She was an object owned, a thing to be taken, she had no choice in the matter. Sarah (and of course Abraham) dictated even the most intimate of experiences.

Then Ishmael is born, and things seem OK for awhile...until Sarah conceives and has Yitzchak (Isaac). Now what are she and Abraham supposed to do? Hagar and Ishmael are very inconvenient.

That sounds horrible to say and do you know what? It is horrible. It is shameful and painful and wrong from where I sit. But the Torah (Bible) doesn't shade the story this way or that - it is what it is.

So Hagar is exiled with Ishmael, a single mother and her child. What are they supposed to do? How will they live?

Regardless of any other factor involved, Hagar's honor was violated, and Ishmael was immediately tasked with the burden of recovering it.

Right there is the conflict over Israel.

It is 100% a spiritual conflict, a spiritual debt, and although we humans can't necessarily "see" what the problem is, it is possible to put two and two together.

Any solution to the problems taking place in the Middle East right now have to begin with repairing the debt that is owed...making peace on a spiritual level...ensuring that all parties have not just subsistence but the honor they are due.

Jews and Arabs are not enemies because of what happened to Hagar and Ishmael, any more than Jews and Germans are enemies because of the Holocaust.

Regarding the former, G-d determined what the Jewish lineage would be, and told the Jewish people to conquer and inherit the land of Israel in a very specific way and with very specific distinctions as to who should do this and who should not.

Similarly, G-d determined that a Holocaust would take place and chose the person who would try to carry out the "Final Solution."

At the same time, Jews are responsible for making right what we can in this world - Tikkun Olam ("repairing the world.") One way to do that is to honor and respect all people, specifically and especially people who have been harmed because of our actions, even inadvertently and even before we were born.

This means more than just words. It means working to make the Arab peoples spiritually, emotionally, and materially whole, and not just focusing on ourselves.

* All opinions my own.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

10 Real Conditions For Peace In Israel

1. State Endorsement of One G-d: You can live in Israel and be an atheist, but as religion is integral to the state there should be a basic official support for faith in the Divine. If this exists, I truly don't know about it so maybe Israel should talk about it more.

2. Honor the Sacred: Israel can't impose the beliefs of one form of Judaism on everyone. But there are certain things that should be inviolable. Certain symbols (like the Torah), the definition of who a Jew is - these have to be worked out at a reasonable religious level. It cannot always be a "free for all" nor a nation where the ultra-Orthodox have a stranglehold on official expressions of faith.

3. Religious Integrity: Israel is a Jewish nation - a nation where Jews must be able to live freely as Jews. That is the basic precondition of its existence. There cannot be the false message that everyone is exactly equal. They're not and can never be, even as there should be equal protection under the law.

4. Rule of Law: Everybody, Jewish and not Jewish, is entitled to the same objective fair treatment under a system of law and not personal preference. That should be basic and corruption has to be rooted out wherever and whenever it exists. Israel in particular has got to make itself an example of this.

5. Expulsion of Terrorists: Free speech is one thing but advocating for the destruction of the State is another. So is holding weapons. People who want to destroy Israel should routinely be expelled.

6. Financial Justice: One of the most common anti-Semitic stereotypes is that Jews are money criminals. Therefore Israel has to be extraordinarily careful to carry out financial justice. Where these kinds of crimes occur they have to be followed by actual reparations. In such a small country, there should also be a well-organized system for providing the basic needs of life to all - food, water, housing, and medical care.

7. Education: A very good grounding in critical thinking instills basic understanding of history, of the complexity of multiple cultures living side by side. In such a complicated state education is critical to mutual understanding.

8. Honesty: On both sides there needs to be a straightforward dialogue about what the issues are and how there will be collaboration to resolve them. There should be absolute intolerance for propaganda, the deliberate manipulation of words and images to achieve political aims.

9. Universal Recognition of Israel's Right to Exist: The hidden message behind a lot of anti-Israel criticism is that Israel should somehow "lay down its arms" because the refugees are helpless. And this includes criticism that comes from within. The problem is that Israel going defenseless means its immediate destruction. Any solution has to start with the recognition that Israel is a legitimate state, and proceeding from there.

10. Global Support: Palestinians are refugees for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that they're being used as a collective battering ram to hurl at Israel as a propaganda tool. The world is complicit in this situation and is responsible for helping to resolve it fairly.

* All opinions my own. 

How Israel Has To Fight The Brand War Now

Israel is at war, and a lot of people seem to want the country to simply lay down its arms and drop dead. These people say Israel is somehow just a bad, illegitimate, criminal country:

  • Global media like The Independent (UK) writes that Israel can't "get away with murder" anymore in the social media age. 
  • Mainstream American media like USA Today adds that the country plans to openly subsidizes propaganda, just like China.
  • Jewish-sounding organizations like "Jewish Voice For Peace" show bloody pictures of Palestinian children on Twitter, writing statuses like "Though Israel pounds their homes to rubble, their spirit remains unscathed."
  • Social media is alive with hateful comments such as those on Whisper, calling for Israel to be "nuked."
  • All of the above are magnified by a seemingly endless series of comments, photos and links to each other.

I am Jewish. I believe that Israel is being targeted, should defend herself and has an inherent right to exist.

At the same time, like everybody else, I feel for the Palestinians and do not have an answer to their plight. I do know this: This war is an incredibly tragic one, but it is also one that terrorists have provoked and want to maintain until Israel is destroyed. And they are fighting on every front, including with incendiary propaganda.

Israel could fight back on the PR side, but doesn't seem to be doing a very good job of it. I think it is culturally averse to doing this job, and finds it somehow below its dignity; or even perhaps untruthful by nature. I think also the nation may be overconfident in relying on its version of things, e.g. the obvious fact that Hamas is a ruthless and determined enemy.

Another factor, looking at it from the outside, may relate to a kind of organizational dynamics. That is, because Israel is trying so hard to avoid civilian casualties (e.g. "it's not our fault"), it somehow underestimates the gravity with which people view the Palestinians' plight.

Whatever the reason for Israel's failure on this front, it's setting the country back. No matter what happens on the battlefield, human sympathy matters. And Hamas is using the people not only as human shields but inflating the body count to pump the public's tears. It's working.

Here are 10 ideas that Israel may want to consider, therefore:
  1. Stop apologizing. Israel has a tendency to apologize, negotiate publicly, try to prove that it is merciful and good, and so on. Why? The enemy is a bunch of killers. Treat them as such.
  2. Take control of the story. Israel needs to stop reacting to what others say about it, and start telling the narrative that it wants and needs to tell. Why is it that non-Jewish academics, journalists and activists seem so comfortable doing this for us, but so many Jews not only are uncomfortable backing Israel, but tend to join anti-Israel protests?
  3. Focus on the essential truth. Palestinians are victims - of terrorists, not Israelis, who keep trying to make peace treaty after peace treaty. It is well known that Palestinians who cooperate with Israel are viewed as disloyal and face incredible brutality from within. Israel needs to focus on and tell that story and not allow anyone to portray this as an Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is a civilian-terrorist conflict.
  4. Stop going it alone. Israelis tend to avoid asking for help or portraying themselves as part of a network of linked allies. We live in a networked world though, where people are not trusted unless they can portray the ability to get along with others. Israel's allies speak as much or more for it, as Israel itself.
  5. Celebrate Jewish nationhood. Israel is famously tolerant and diverse. But there is also a place for celebrating the reason that the State was established, e.g. that Jews should have a national homeland. Israel could do so much more to be proud of its reason for existence, publicly.
  6. Focus on archetypes as much as facts. Israel needs to get much more in touch with American thinking and pop culture, which is subtle, more emotional and focused on externals. And then include facts and figures as supporting information. Israelis right now tend to talk a lot about facts and figures and shy away from show business. Unfortunately a certain amount of showmanship is unavoidable. 
  7. Don't oversell. In the non-insane social media world, people have a natural understanding for the territorial integrity of Israel as a nation and also a belief that it should be preserved as a Jewish state. There is no reason to argue the obvious - when you do that what happens is that you create doubt in the minds of your supporters.
  8. Get unified. There is an old cliche, "two Jews, three synagogues," and the tendency to debate and disagree is extremely valid for Israelis and Jews in general. Unfortunately, so is the tendency to hate oneself simply because one is Jewish (internalized anti-Semitism.) If the Jewish people cannot agree on the notion that Israel is a legitimate state, and that the problem is terrorism, how can we expect the rest of the world to?
  9. Don't compete for victimhood. No two brands can operate in the same space. The Palestinians, for better or for worse, own the status of "victim." Portraying images of kidnapped yeshiva students or slain Israeli soldiers does not provoke sympathy but rather the opposite, rage that the "oppressor" seems to value its own lives over the quantitatively higher number of lives lost on the other side.
  10. Stop the glitz. Instead of branding campaigns aimed at portraying Israel a certain way - e.g. as a high-tech center or a tourist destination - open the doors to the world and let the media, social media, movie and TV cameras in. The aim is to dislodge the terrorist narrative, which has it that Israelis are an evil cartoon character. In reality, the state is complex, full of good and bad and fascinating and frankly the utterly confusing. Social media would show the impossibility, in many ways, of trying to secure a tiny state while also humanely fighting an enemy full of trained dedicated killers who are also held hostage to the cause by their communities.
* All opinions my own. 
** This article may be reprinted with attribution.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Finding Strength Inside The Furnace

I never understood how Jews retained faith after the Holocaust. 

My thinking was: Why would you believe in a G-d that abandons you?

I have made my peace with religion: I know that I don't know what I don't know. 

I accept that bad things come from G-d, who makes us aware when we are off the path. That the Holocaust had to do with that, - and I will never really understand or "know" more than that.

And now the world is exploding in anti-Semitism, again. What do we do? Run and hide? Apologize to the world for existing?

No way. No way, not today, no how. We've had enough of bowing and scraping.

My Facebook feed alone is alive with emotion: anger and fear over anti-Semitism. Sadness at the loss of life. Rage at the injustice of it all, not just events but how Israel and Jews are portrayed. A dogged hope for the life and the State of Israel.

The kids absorb all this. My daughter said today, I won't be hateful. Because if I hate them like they hate us, then they've won.

I don't want to be hateful, either. So far so good on that - I actually feel sorrow for all the victims of this tragedy and only a cold eyes fury at its perpetrators, the terrorists.

But I think about how the Holocaust seems to be starting all over again - just look at France - and there are so many people just egging it on, and I get furious.

Something else is happening as well. It's like a slow-moving tectonic plate. I am becoming unwilling to live my life in fear - it is just too great a burden.

This isn't the same as being an arrogant asshole, mind you. Been there, done that way too much and I regret being such a fool.

It has to do with losing the self-hatred, the shame, the fear that comes from being born into a post-Holocaust family. With a mentality of worrying all the time about whether people will look at you and see someone who was part of that group - you know, that group - starved, tortured, raped and beaten, and very efficiently too.

It is also about absorbing the fact that all of us are subject to the Divine. And only the Creator - that's it. (My personal belief - I totally respect that many others see things differently.)

From that perspective I am aware of the importance of simply doing what is right, without excessive analysis and deliberation. 

I see increasingly that life is about living with moral clarity. The knowledge that there is a right and a wrong. The belief that you were given a conscience solely to be guided by G-d.

* All opinions my own.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Defending Israel On A Sunday

Daily life and its challenges often take us away from the things that matter most in life. Like G-d, family and friends.

Similarly, the quest to be seen as important can make us focus overly much on career and status symbols.

One of my old friends from high school captured this well the other day on Facebook when she shared a status that said something like, it's not what you do but who you are.

This morning two men were talking loudly in Starbucks about Israel and her obvious right to self-defense, a right which isn't obvious to everybody. Israel-haters are thinly veiled anti-Semites who want to see Israel - and the Jewish people by extension - dead.

The men in Starbucks were Christian. I know this because one also talked about his denomination of the faith and how it had become less anti-Semitic over time. There are others who are not Jewish nor even believers in religion who stand up for Israel relentlessly. 

My daughter said to me, why is it that the non-Jews are standing up for Israel and we are not even standing up for ourselves? 

I think she meant "not enough." 

I think she meant about Jews who protest the Gaza invasion even as it is a last ditch effort at self defense, at territorial integrity.

Her words made me ashamed that I spend relatively so much time focused on me, me, me, and not enough time supporting the causes that are not only worthy but critical.

So this is a post, unfortunately occasional, where I do want to stand up and say that Israel is without question a legitimate state by any standard and should defend herself to the fullest.

* All opinions my own.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Video Clips from Branding in Government Talk, July 17, 2014

Yesterday I gave a talk on branding in government at the July 2014 Council of Inspectors General for Integrity and Efficiency Public and Media Communications Council meeting in Washington, DC. Here's a link to the playlist with some clips from the talk. As always, all opinions are my own.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

How James Heller Became President

He is not a real President of course. But as I watched the "24" season finale I learned much about what makes a person the kind of leader people would give their lives for.

Heller is not a technical expert. He's not a military guy. He isn't aggressive. In fact he's losing his mind to Alzheimer's. But he has the people's loyalty anyway. Here's why:

1) He delegates.

Heller does not pretend to know Jack Bauer's tradecraft (the ins and outs of being a one-man SWAT team). He isn't military. He doesn't know computers. He trusts people to do their jobs.

2) He doesn't play favorites.

His chief of staff was married to his daughter. But when he confessed to an unforgivable crime, Heller had him arrested for treason.

3) He knows when to cede power.

When Bauer does well he gives him unlimited authority, to the point where he allows Jack to overrule him at one point - it doesn't matter if Heller is the president, Jack knows what to do and must be listened to.

4) He makes difficult decisions in a timely manner.

On the show China mistakenly believes that America has attacked it. He begs China not to retaliate. But he doesn't dilly-dally over a response, emphasizing that if China does do that, "We will fight."

5) He collaborates genuinely.

Heller works with the Prime Minister of England to catch the terrorists, giving him full access to America's intelligence even when this makes the military nervous.

6) He has his priorities in order.

Heller knows that he is going to be shamed when the Alzheimer's takes over. But that is not his main concern. He focuses on taking care of his country and his daughter.

7) He is concerned without being controlling.

He asks his daughter how her marriage is going in a way that suggests he knows something is wrong. But he doesn't push her to talk about it if she doesn't want to.

8) He is engaged.

In every scene, Heller is in the situation room, in front of the monitor, asking questions. He may not know everything but he shows that it's important enough for him to try.

9) He shows the appropriate range of emotion - in front of his staff.

When Heller is surprised that the terrorist Chang is alive and not dead, he shows the surprise and doesn't pretend that he knew it already. When his chief of staff forges his signature to get Jack killed, he shows anger. And when he gets the news of his daughter's death, he stumbles and faints in agony.

10) He throws himself under the bus rather than others.

Heller goes to a football stadium prepared to get blown up rather than have innocent civilians die in a terrorist attack.

* All opinions my own.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Aren't We Friends?

One of the most unethical things a person can do is pretend to be friends with another person, just to use them, gain unfair advantage, or even stab them in the back.

But it happens all the time - it's accepted - and it's even considered a career skill: "professional networking," "climbing the ladder," "learning how to play the political game."

I am fascinated and repulsed by this behavior. Fascinated because it's a skill, it works and it's tempting to want to know how to do it. Repulsed because it's morally totally wrong.

Of course manipulating people's emotions is not a new tactic.

  • In war it is called the "Trojan Horse" strategy, i.e. we come to your city bearing gifts and then once the gates are open, the arsenal of weapons is unleashed.
  • "Honeypots" are a tried-and-true espionage strategy involving the use of attractive women to elicit intelligence secrets.

People who should know better are gullible - heck I have always been gullible as hell - because they have an inherent need to be loved, accepted, and connected.
  • The need for connection is why people will always rather sit alone on a hard chair in Starbucks all day, when they could just as well sit with "no one" at home, because there are other people around.
  • A classic 1959 study by psychologist Harry Harlow showed that monkeys would rather have a fake cloth "mother" that hugs them, over a bare-wire surrogate that actually gives them milk. Monkeys left isolated for long periods actually mutilated themselves in agony.
  • In 2014, widely published research discussed the finding that people will voluntarily administer themselves electroshock rather than be forced to stop, disconnect themselves from their various brain-immersion devices, and just think.
In particular, they say "misery loves company" and people will always try to occupy a shared experience in whatever situation they find themselves - yes, even when facing death in a concentration camp.

It's hard to admit that you are a gullible person. But not admitting it hurts a lot more. It blinds you to the obvious where a better strategy would be to look at people's motives head-on.

* All opinions my own.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Who's Afraid of Performance Management?

I've been in a couple of federal agencies where performance management was a hot topic and every manager was afraid to touch it for fear of a grievance.

I've been in meetings where the discussion focused on "rooting out the dead wood," and I said, what about recognizing the good wood and I got the look like, come on Dannielle, we all know that poor performance is the problem.

And the opposite, there were those meetings where everybody focused on how bad criticism is by nature, how it hurts morale and how bad employees would feel if they got an actual one in their performance evaluation.

This is not one agency this is at least two, three if you count benignly ignoring poor performance and giving virtually everyone performance awards. It's four if you count the one where I inadvertently found out someone did something really bad, reported it and there was no obvious consequence other than I was outed as something of a troublemaker.

And then there's the private sector where the new fad is "holacracy," as in "hola" to managers not having to manage because peer groups take care of it for them. That's Zappos; let's not forget Whole Foods where the co-CEO lets employees run the stores (as long as the employees earn far less and he keeps making a profit) and also wants to have "sleepovers" so that corporate staff can be more like friends.

I have had lots of bosses in my life. Some have benignly let me do whatever I wanted, and I've flourished. Others have been unfairly harsh. Still others have been rigorous about telling me what I'm doing wrong, and praising me (more rarely) when I get it right. Those are the managers I want to work for - the people I want to please - because I know that when I get an actual good rating it means something.

In the end you've got to look yourself in the mirror and respect what you see in the reflection. As a manager or supervisor you owe it to people to give them real feedback and not set up ways to avoid it. As an employee you deserve to get the truth as your supervisor sees it and not mush. And both parties should be grown up enough to engage in respectful dialogue, celebrating victories while admitting mistakes and avoiding excuses.

* All opinions my own.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Controlling Your Brand In A World Of Brand Anarchy

Here's an overview of the evolution from brand infancy to sophistication:

  • Stage 1 - Mark of authenticity - a thing is what it says it is; trusted products and services
  • Stage 2 - Relevant differentiation - my brand is more relevant than yours
  • Stage 3 - An integrated experience across "touchpoints"
  • Stage 4 - Person = brand; emotional labor is more important than physical labor; and/or you are always self-employed, building your own separate professional image
  • Stage 5 - Social media integrates with branding - the studied effort to appear "authentic"
Underpinning the above are the following three disciplines:

  • Brand architecture - where and how brand names are applied (corporate brand, house of brands, brand endorsement)
  • Brand operationalization - making the brand the center of the business - always asking "how will this affect the brand?"
  • Brand internalization - employees as brand drivers - empowering the staff to act 
The above presupposes that a brand can be owned. Someone intentionally creates a brand - it's "theirs." But it is common knowledge nowadays that the concept of "brand ownership" is squishy at best. This is due to:
  • Copycatters: No sooner do you innovate than they steal your idea and make another one just like it - well, almost.
  • Conversationalists: They bring other people in to opine on your brand, some of whom understand it and some of whom don't, but your ability to control the narrative is lost in the process
  • Curators: They like your brand so much they contribute to it on social media, adding this, subtracting that, until it looks completely different than you meant it to.
  • Hijackers: Commenting here, blogging there, coopting your symbols and photobombing your best intentions, they subvert the original meaning of the brand.
  • Revolutionaries: They remove you from the center of the brand because they don't believe in you, and/or the principle that a brand should have a center (anarchists).
There are two ways to approach this problem. One is not to care, not to define it as a problem - in that case you don't need to read the rest of this post. And you are also not a Brand with a capital "B" because you're not making any effort to shape your image. Rather you are a brand by default.

So think of brand anarchy as a problem, and solve it by thinking of your brand completely differently than any existing definition would have you do so. As follows:
  • Get away from the idea that your brand is a thing. It's not a thing. It's a work in progress.
  • Brands do not progress in a linear fashion - Point A to Point B. (The tendency to update logos is misleading.)
  • Brands do not evolve like dandelion puffs, constellations of stars, or any other idea where there is a network of related items that together constitute a united front. Your brand is not the sum total of what people think it is. There is no such thing - that is impossible. The idea is a lie.
Rather, here is a definition of brand that you can use in the context of controlling your image:

Brand is the outcome of the dynamic between yourself and those who respond to you. 

Put simply -

Branding is war.

Your job is to understand the nature of the conflict, and like a great warrior, decide which forces to use to your advantage, when to confront and when to lie low, who are your allies and who is out to eliminate you. Here are some resources that can help:
There are those who say that there is nothing new under the sun. I prefer to think that there's a lot that's new, and there are also new ways of combining old information to produce better results than we've been able to achieve in the past. 

Unfortunately branding (like any discipline or realm of scholarship) can be used for good or for evil. I can only hope there are good people reading this blog who use these tools ethically and fight back against the forces of propaganda, dictatorship and yes, terrorism.

* All opinions my own. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Praying To G-d For Mercy On Israel

Screenshot via Began HaEmunah (In The Garden of Faith), Israel
There are times when time stops, and now is one of those times. My homeland Israel is in imminent danger as terrorists pretending to be statesmen play propaganda games very skillfully. 

I am an ignorant, simple soul when it comes to these games. I know only what my faith, my heart and my soul tell me. There are people who want peace, and those people come from every religion. We must not be afraid of the "bad guys," (and that includes women and men), either because they have guns and can hunt us down, or because they hide behind platitudes of political correctness and will call us names for calling them out for who they are.

I stand humbly before G-d and pray for mercy for those in Israel and the U.S.A. who put themselves out on the front lines to fight radical terrorists, get themselves blown up or killed, and "we sleep soundly in our beds at night" as George Orwell once said.

May we see the end of war in our times, no more young men and women off to die for no reason. Instead of military bases and veterans' hospitals let's see this generation and their children build structures of peace. May they find love and happiness, raise beautiful healthy children in contentment, and enjoy the vast and plentiful world that G-d has given to all of us.

* All opinions my own. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Seeking Self-Respect On Social Media

For the second week in a row I don't drive on Shabbos (Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath). Instead we walk and talk, and reflect.

There is an incredible, pervasive sense of peace in my mind. Unlike any other, and I don't feel this during the week.

Out of nowhere my mouth utters, "I just want it to stay like today, all week. But I know that it cannot."

We pass mothers wheeling baby carriages, dads walking little girls in pretty dresses toward the synagogue. Remark that we never stop to look at things, we're so busy driving around all week, and working.

I crane my head up and look right. There is a house with a gigantic satellite dish, and two others clipped to an awning.

The relief of small talk and relaxing conversation.

"What is that?" I say, and we wonder whether this homeowner has some special deal with the NSA.

Then bubbling up as if out of nowhere, the thing that's on my mind, but which I fear to say out loud.

"Shabbos is so peaceful, but I'm not sure I like all this time to think."

A pause, because we both know what's coming next.

"What are you thinking about?"

"I feel like I've lost my way."

We continue talking, and walking. It's about the family, and the times we could have spent together, but how work always takes me away.

"I am sorry."

It's the pressure, I say. There are challenges.

"But you have to stand up or you lose yourself. You're the one who always said that to me."

"It isn't always possible," I say.

And then I tell a painful story from my professional life. The one where, immediately after starting a new job, I said something that my boss did not like and the boss threw a handful of papers at me in front of other people at a meeting.

The blood rushed to my face as I remembered that moment and how I had to bite my tongue to stay employed.

"I wanted to scream, how dare you - but knew I'd lose my job before it even got off the ground."

An insight.

"Very often you can't say anything in real life, but you can post a version of your thoughts online, and you can recover self-respect through the community."

The shame of being mistreated. The attempt to recover our self-respect.

We can't let the haters drag us down or define us.

But it can become a vicious cycle, as well. We can use social media to gain self-respect, to "brand ourselves," and fail to address the real-life issues that we need to.

The final, insightful comment, back to me.

"You have to do the right thing in real life. It's the only thing that matters."

Social media isn't a bad thing. It is in fact a phenomenal way to express yourself, to connect with others and find camaraderie as you struggle with difficult issues and through difficult times.

But it's a dangerous path, and you can end up editing your persona online, too, also to get the benefits you think will accrue through a better "image."

This Sabbath gave me a break from all of that. And I liked being regular, and plain, and honest.

No matter what your religion, taking a break is a really good way to decide if you like the path you're on.

For me, I saw the Jewish saying was true.

"If you take care of the Sabbath, it will take care of you."

* All opinions my own.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Why Social Media Requires Sophisticated Branding

Be careful who you give your social media to.

This week, American Apparel apologized for an "international" employee who put a photo of the Challenger disaster on its Tumblr page July 3 and tagged it "smoke" and "clouds." The truth is, I don't get it at all. What was the point - July 4? What agenda did that advance? How was that supposed to sell clothes, especially after the company is reeling financially and embroiled in scandal due to ex-CEO Dov Charney?

A couple of months ago, in March, Saturday Night Live aired " Meeting Cold Open," spoofing the President's appearance on the very unfiltered web show "Between Two Ferns." The skit emphasized the President's likely embarrassment at having to do such "fluffy stuff, "along with his keen understanding that you must go where they are to make your case.

I can understand why the President would be nervous. Social media requires not only judgment but careful branding expertise.

And you can make mistakes without even trying. This week Esquire published "This Is Your Government On Instagram," which purported to show how feds of the digital engagement variety (one of which I am - full disclaimer, I'm not speaking for my agency here) waste taxpayer dollars on free tools for absolutely no decent reason.

Sure, they were trying to balloon controversy, for example saying that the White House spent "$54.3 million in communications equipment procurement (with no specific line items for social media) in 2014."  If you can't separate out how much the social media cost, why are you presenting the total figure anyway?

But communicators still have to be ready for attacks about what they are doing, on any front, whether it comes from within social media or without.

Joan Rivers has that senior judgment - she is an entertainer, a self-brander, and she has flair. Her "signature" is to make comedic outrageous statements.

She also understands that media, including social media, is fundamentally about going on the offensive to make a case in simple terms.

After People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) protested her wearing fur at a book signing event on July 1, Joan told them off and then did the same to CNN in an interview to promote the same book.

Asked about the PETA incident, Joan got the sense that the interview was turning "negative," told off the host and simply walked outcursing for good measure with the microphone still on.

Of course, most of us don't curse in order to do a good job defending our respective cases. (For some of us it's a conduct violation - seriously.)

Yet to do social media well, you have to understand that it's an aggressive thing, a branding thing, and it's much more than simply issuing a tweet. 

With social media, all of it goes together - the technical skill, the cross-fertilization between tools, the extension from traditional media and print, and most importantly the insight that a branding expert has: Your efforts only have to connect with your audience.

Remember, you aren't going to please all of them - not at all. So you decide who it is you're trying to reach, what's the best way to reach them, and how you're going to do that using social media tools.

And then you get ready for criticism, and have statements gathered to take the offensive just in case.

One culminating example.

The news came out in late June that Facebook did a secret experiment on its own users - messed with people's news feeds for a week in 2012. Some got more-than-average happy stuff; other people got predominantly negative items. Indeed, people were influenced by and tended to post either more positively or more negatively after that.

Personally I do not care. But others were upset about it. They took it as proof that Facebook can't be trusted with privacy. (The Atlantic has great coverage.)

Over the years, Facebook has been no stranger to controversy and much of it has been centered on its seeming disregard for privacy and use of customer data.

But they've also been very consistent over the years. And do you know what? If you're very into privacy, you aren't using Facebook. 

Michael Zimmer published "Mark Zuckerberg's Theory of Privacy" in the Washington Post, based on founder Zuckerberg's public statements. It consists of three "core principles":

1 -- "Information wants to be shared" - sharing information will make the world a better place.

2 -- "Privacy must to be overcome" - people must be convinced to shed their excessive fears about privacy.

3 -- "Control is the new privacy" - the idea is to be a part of the conversation but on the terms that you dictate.

I would argue that most Facebook users are not put off over their one-week study, which made absolutely no difference in anybody's life, because we aren't there for the privacy. We're there for the community, and to unravel ourselves to an extent, explore our identities publicly and make ourselves known.

Therefore, their so-called "blunder" was just fine.

In the end, social media all comes back to sophisticated branding.

* All opinions my own. 

The Mark of a Truthful Person

There is a new documentary coming out called "A People Without A Land." It is about the failed peace process in the Middle East and the possibility of an alternative, one-state solution.

The filmmaker makes it look like Israeli Jews are anti-Arab. I'm not there, but it seems to me like there is a lot of hatred on both sides, that could be cleared up by some solid and articulate leadership.

I think a lot about the State of Israel. I have trouble with the concept that it's a democracy and a Jewish state. It should be either one or the other - a democracy implies equality for all people, and a Jewish state implies theocracy that favors those who are Jewish.

It is uncomfortable for me to say this out loud, although I suspect a lot of people think about it. But there it is. I'd rather live in truth and look in the mirror and be proud of myself, than live a politically correct lie and be approved of by others. This must be a sign that I'm getting old.

I am proud that Jewish tradition emphasizes telling the truth, even when it makes our people look divided. It would be nice if we were all on the same page, all the time - it would be politically easier, for sure. But we're not.

There is a rather lengthy discussion on "Torah on the Web" about whether Jews are commanded to settle in Israel. The rabbis go back and forth but the upshot of it is, we seem to have been required to do so, and to "dispossess" other nations, before we went into exile. The requirement returns with the advent of the messiah, (not Jesus), who will bring the Jews back to Israel and establish a religious government there.

An organization called Jews for Judaism has been established to educate people about what Judaism really says, versus what missionaries would lead folks to believe. I myself was approached by missionaries in DC the other week, and I know how difficult it can be to argue when you don't have all the facts about what your tradition really says.

I am a supporter of Israel as a Jewish state, but I also understand that we are not yet living in the time that Judaism would describe as messianic. It would be a good thing if the rabbis could clearly articulate to us ordinary (not fully Torah knowledgeable folks) what the religious position is on Israel at this time, so that we can avoid unfortunate, ignorant, racist statements by Jewish people about "chosenness" that make it seem like we believe ourselves to be superior to others.

From what I can see, we want to do the right thing, but need some religious leadership.

* All opinion my own.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Via Inc. Magazine: How To Work Less & Be A Better Boss

Ever interested in personal & professional improvement I read two great articles in Inc. One was about saving time, and the other about becoming an "amazing boss." Thought to myself, this is definitely a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup situation, where the two go better together and can be combined. This slide is the result. Go to SlideShare to download it and get the legible view. 


* All opinions my own.

Freedom - for What?

Photo of starving girl via Wikipedia

It's Independence Day in the United States. A time to think about freedom and what we do with the choices that we have.

Jews and Arabs alike mourn the death through despicable killing of innocent teens. 

We are mothers and fathers and these bonds know no nationality.

In the land of my heritage, Israel, three Jewish yeshiva students, Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel, and Eyal Yifrach, are brutally kidnapped, shot and murdered. 

Screenshot via NCSY

Shortly after their bodies are found, an Arab sixteen-year-old, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, suffers the same fate. 

Screenshot of "undated family handout" via AFP via Haaretz

It's not clear yet who is responsible, but there is enough hatred on all sides that the end product is the same - more and more rage.

Photo via Wikipedia

Curiously some people want to foment an ongoing feud over land the size of New Jersey, seemingly forever and ever. It is holy to multiple faiths - we could peacefully coexist there without too much trouble if we wanted. The bigger problem, meanwhile, goes frequently ignored - a poverty problem in the world: 40% of us live below $1.25 per day. 

Screenshot via ThinkProgress

The U.S. government and others are working on the technology to make that poverty go away within our lifetimes. Imagine an endless sea of food, water, shelter, medicine, and housing.

Photo by Georgie R. via Flickr

But hatred gets all the headlines, we're a slave to it. It happens in the most trivial and frivolous settings. The Kardashians for example have all the money in the world - but they too cannot escape the hate.

This week I saw a rerun of the show where Kim and her mom went to Vienna. At a glorious costumed event, out of nowhere a man in "blackface" assaults Kim with racist remarks. A couple of minutes later, the same thing happens. And again, a third time, off-camera.

We have been given so much - natural wealth, brains, the ability to make things that could ensure our collective survival. We have been given power.

Yet we don't understand that the power is a gift, from the Divine - a life-giving force within which we are all peons. 

We insist that we are better than everybody else, try to take what they have, and control their lives and fortunes.

Instead of coexisting.


* All opinions my own.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Everything And The Opposite

People can do what they can do. And so I wonder why we ask them to do everything.

We should let them be, and flop and flounder and flail until they find out what they're good at.

We should hire for attitude and train for technical skill.

Domino's Pizza has a great ad out on TV now. It talks about their various bad ideas, and ends with a little brag about a pretty good one. 

(It's a chicken dish with cheese that kosher folks can't eat and so I will have to trust them.)

Why, in workplace life, do we insist that every venture be an unparalleled success?

That left handed people be ambidextrous, or able to flip to right-handed?

That mistakes are unforgivable and bad?

Why is the subtext of organizational life the irrational expectation that we employ superhumans?

That every person be able to accommodate every whim, every change, every quirk of strategy and workload that the organization sets upon them?

The truth is that great fortune comes from allowing people to breathe, plans to fail, adjustments to be made along the way. 

It's called innovation, and it comes from necessity, not plans and schedules.

Great management is about nurturing people's humanity. And making adjustments along the way.

* All opinions my own.