Toss the Bad Apples, Save the Strategy

My daughter had a school assignment where she had to write conflict. The ending was not working. I said, "Where's the struggle? That's what the audience wants to see."

In a healthy organizational culture, people struggle every day toward a clearly envisioned result.

In an unhealthy culture, nobody knows what the destination is. 

Because every sign points to somewhere else.

Photo source here.

Faulty strategy is not usually the problem. Our desks are littered with analyses, most of them sound.

The root of the problem is toxic people, who get in the way of a real struggle to move things forward. Generally these fall into three categories:

* Fearful. Scared of making a mistake, scared of looking bad, scared of other people who are scared, their philosophy can be summarized as "Better to be silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt." They always need to put on a good front.

* Power-hungry. These people want to be in charge, and they think that if they talk about problems it makes them look weak. Weakness is not acceptable in their world. They don't talk about issues unless it somehow helps them to get to the next level - i.e. they're all too willing to get someone else into trouble if it moves them up the ladder. They operate in secrecy.

* Lone Rangers. These people don't trust that anybody else understands what needs to get done, or they believe that others tend to be incompetent. They would much rather go it alone, and if they admit problems to you, then they know you're going to mess up their stuff. So they pursue what they think is right, but in a manner that's closed off to the world.

All of these people may have good reasons for acting as they do. But the problem is that we don't work in a vaccuum. Other people don't believe what you say, they watch what you do. And when they see the group pursuing an agenda that seems scattered, isolated, confused or uncoordinated, they ultimately are left to figure out what to do on their own.

No great strategy can survive leaders who act like cowboys, who seek power for power's sake, who live their lives hiding under the bed. Strategy requires leadership based on trust:
  • The constant flow of communication, before, during and after a crisis.
  • Honest, meaningful communication.
  • Timely admission of mistakes.
  • Use of mistakes as a learning opportunity.
  • Use of oneself as an example.
If you want to know why a strategy is going badly, look for the bad apples who are spoiling the bunch. It is usually their behavior, not a lack of intellectual analysis, that's getting in the way.

* All opinions my own.

Chirpy Communications & The Orwellian Enterprise

One time, in a foul mood, I yelled at my daughter as we were getting in the car after grocery shopping.

And then, when I had calmed down, I was prepared to forget the whole thing. Except I couldn't cook up any "spin" for dinner.

She had put on her iPhone and taped me ranting. 

Now, let's say my daughter was an employee of mine, and I had to figure out what to do about it from a corporate communications point of view. Not able to ignore it, I might come up with a snooze-worthy version for the newsletter that reads something like this:

"Complex and sensitive subjects are no barrier to parent-child closeness in the Blumenthal home."

Or I could get more daring, more first-person and say,

"We had a slight generational conflict in the car." 

Yawn, yawn, yawn.

Let's say my daughter were to suggest actually playing the viral video, over and over on the TV monitors in the lobby near the front hall.

There I'd be, in the parking lot, all haggard from an hour of shopping in a maze of aisles. Fed up, and a little bit cranky. At the slightest provocation, yelling,

"Blah blah blah blah blah." (Insert whatever parents say when they're ranting for no good reason.)

Staff would pass by that monitor and go,

"Wow, I can't believe it. Blumenthal. Isn't she an executive or something? Goodness gracious."

Knowing that, what should I do? Me, the corporate parent?

Let's be honest. I, like 99% of executives, would never see it as any sort of opportunity - I might even think that video could be used as blackmail!

Even though it could be helpful to talk about how to handle conflict in a better way, and to use myself as an example.

No matter what it says in the cool articles in Fast Company, most executives are not gonna get onstage in hoodies and brag about yelling. Communications are supposed to make us look good, not bad - right? ("Why give them ammo?")

Thus the majority model of corporate communication remains "chirpy." Like a bird, it sings a beautiful song, but there's little of any meaning behind the melody.

Phony talk accompanies the Orwellian mindset in which not only are people supposed to go along with the mold, they're supposed to change their thinking so that they actually believe what they're reading has meaning.

The organizational dynamic works something like this:
  • Designated "shamers" - people with power - keep people in line, formally and informally. They use nice techniques (happy, pretty, glossy brochures) and not-nice techniques (marginalizing, punishing, even firing) to spray "fumes" at those who threaten to mess up the narrative.
  • Some people understand the lack of transparency, and some of those people may speak up, but most get tired of resisting the system after awhile and stop trying. They tune out. (They see the bland corporate newsletter but they don't even see it anymore.)
  • Leaders see that "most people are just fine" and are fearful of "upsetting the applecart" even if they sense that communication is not all that helpful or compelling. 
  • The combination of leader reticence and popular tiredness changes the collective consciousness. People consciously manage their dress, demeanor, etc. so as to fit in and subconsciously manage their thinking. They know that in a toxic culture, where honest conflict cannot be aired, to betray even a hint of disagreement is a mark of disloyalty, so they curl up into a ball.
  • The result is a culture of robots, and we wonder why "nobody is engaged" or "why there are no good new ideas around here."

Occasionally we hear about a mistake of the "hot mic" - when a leader says what they really think. I don't mind those mistakes so much. I actually prefer them to the rehearsed appearances that most leaders do.
When it comes to communications, I think most people agree. Give people more of the real deal and less of the phony grin. Chances are, they'll love you for it. Because everybody appreciates a leader who opens minds, rather than closing doors.
* All opinions my own.

Dylan Farrow's Suffering Will Help Bring Darkness To Light, L.A. Times

I was dismayed to read Robin Abcarian's article about Dylan Farrow's public accusations against Woody Allen.

She blames New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof for the public resurrection of the charges, which -- it should be emphasized -- never were proven in court.

However it should also be emphasized that sexual predators of 7-year-olds rarely get prosecuted.

Also that child victims overwhelmingly keep quiet rather than "make this stuff up."

Finally that it is implausible at best to believe a mother can "coach" a nearly 30 year old to spend a lifetime being traumatized.

Sadly, victims are disbelieved until they are believed, while alleged perpetrators enjoy the opposite privilege.

It is not surprising that a writer at the LA Times -- situated as it is in the home of fantasy, exploitation and image -- regrets the indelicate nature of all these allegations and counter-allegations.

After all they spoil the illusion that is Woody Allen. The one Diane Keaton tried so hard to maintain at the Golden Globes.

Woody Allen the filmmaker has given the world a rare and precious gift. (Even though one could psychoanalyze his portrayal of women in film...the feminists who are too neurotic to love, the underage girls who are overly mature, the evil ex-wife who must suffer.)

But Woody Allen the person has left some real human wreckage in his path. Whether or not the accusation of sexual abuse is true (and there are those who make intelligent arguments against it) he clearly way violated appropriate adult-child sexual bounds (though he didn't think so) by marrying his adoptive daughter, Soon-Yi.

We were not at the house that day with Dylan, in the attic.

But too many children unfortunately are, and in the age of rampant human trafficking, continue to be.

I believe Dylan Farrow 100 percent. And I urge other survivors, past and present, to come forward.

More importantly I urge their families and friends: If you see something, say something to somebody immediately.

No child should ever have to sleep in their parent's bed.

* All opinions my own. Photo by me.

Linking Brand To Business: USAID's New Mission Statement

It was great for me to hear that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) had finally come out with its new mission statement and core values. It's a project I helped launch and worked intensely on throughout the research phase last year.

Here's the mission, which is almost lyrical. Truly, it is so simple and beautiful and accurate:

Source: USAID website

At Devex, Michael Igoe analyzes the mission statement and its implications fairly accurately. He revisits what he calls the old statement:
“On behalf of the American people, USAID is helping to accelerate human progress around the world by reducing poverty, advancing democracy, empowering women, building market economies, promoting security, responding to crises, and improving the quality of life through investments in health, agriculture, and education.”
As I recall there were several old statements, none of them recognized as the "real" old one. That is why, when we renovated the website, the mission statement was an issue. Nobody was sure what to put there. 

I do know that one was the worst of them. We referred to it as "#2," i.e. #2 out of 3 when we went around the room talking about possibilities. I remember that I wrote something up early on and we used it as a baseline. 

That project was delightful for me, because it was branding, organizational development, management, leadership and business all rolled into one real-life seminar. There could not have been a better way to learn on the job.

Success Factors

At the time I wanted to write down all the things we were doing, because I could feel that they would one day be a case study. Now that it's done, I will share briefly the elements that I believe made it work:
  • Head of the agency was 100% behind it as a business objective - i.e. it wasn't just fluffy words. It was clear that having a focused, simple, clear reason for being would help people commit and recommit to the job and would help when it came to allocating resources. It would also serve as an ongoing rallying point for leadership, a central and aligning theme.
  • It was spearheaded by a seasoned, about-to-retire executive who was respected throughout the Agency. Being about to retire, he posed no threat to anyone. Being extremely experienced, he had street cred -- not some overpaid outside consultant who would be perceived as being out to make a quick buck. Low-key, diplomatic, an asker of questions - who wrote down and remembered what people said in response. An incredible recall of that information. Friends in the Agency, everywhere.
  • A deliberate qualitative methodology that seemed spontaneous, but was repeated over and over again. It was really the executive's approach, and he refined it but also stuck with the formula - giving people pre-reading, inviting them with a distinctive email font (blue comic sans), having them comment on simple documents while they were there, dividing the session into short digestible highly interactive bits. Keeping the group small.
  • There was a sense of urgency about it. USAID is a small agency, with many different kinds of people who work there, multiple generations, and many different sub-missions. It was critical to get matters in hand and get everybody singing from the same song sheet. Or even to know what song they were singing.
  • Total empowerment of me and very clear role definition for my part in the project. I know what I do well, and that is to quietly use technology to bust open the walls. I didn't try to mouth off about branding theory or facilitate the discussion because those are not my strong points. Rather, I took out my computer and typed exactly what the people in the focus groups said and transplanted those words to Google docs parked on a simple but wide-open (internally) collaboration site. Without this executive's support, I would never have been able to get away with this kind of a plan.
  • Quiet grassroots operation, not a big microphone. We didn't make a big thing of sending daily updates announcing this focus group and that. We started with one, and then another, and then another. We posted one set of transcripts, asked for comments, posted the next. An email was sent back and forth. Shhh.
  • Total honesty was asked for and accepted. To get to a mission statement and core values set that means something you have to talk about people's honest feelings. Honesty often means negativity, frustration, even anger. People invest their whole lives in one Agency. They give up other careers. They want it all to mean something. That honesty was respected as far as I could tell. (Who knows, maybe someone got beat up when they got back to the office and their boss saw what was on the collaboration site...I don't know. But it didn't seem like it.)
  • The presence of Google Apps, with Sites and Docs included. The setup was very simple. It made it easy to collaborate in a way that was seamless and user-friendly.
  • A fairly brand-savvy crowd. It wasn't really necessary to educate people about what a mission statement and core values were or why they were important. They walked in knowing, like mini-consultants themselves, and there had already been previous branding, mission statement and core values efforts in the Agency.
Of course a statement is just a statement and words on paper can mean nothing if your actions contradict them. 

Business Alignment

So, as the Devex article points out, USAID is doing more to align its actual programming against its stated mission and prioritize - looking for activities that produce results in the most-needed areas and focusing on those. 

Specifically, the Agency is using an Administrator's Leadership Council to guide decision making. Branding professionals will recognize this as a classic Brand Council, which is really a business management council, although Agency folks tend to think of the word "brand" as strictly meaning a logo.

The ALC is supported in its decision-making by an "open-access, internal database to catalogue all of USAID’s various initiatives in a way that tracks their respective contributions to a common set of extreme poverty-related goals to help determine where funding can be most effective."

Core Values

I don't want to neglect these. They were deliberately chosen as words, followed by bullets that elaborate as to what they mean (the below is copied verbatim except I added numbers):

1. Passion for Mission
  • We come to work to foster sustainable development and advance human dignity globally.
  • We each contribute uniquely in advancing our mission, whether by working in different sectors or by supporting global operations and management.
2. Excellence
  • We strive for efficiency, effectiveness, and meaningful results across our work.
  • We aspire to lead international and US Government efforts to advance the economic, political, social, and environmental well-being of the world’s most vulnerable people.
  • We continually seek to improve our operations and increase our impact.
  • We take pride in our work and our accomplishments.
3. Integrity
  • We are honest and transparent, accountable for our efforts, and maintain a consistently high moral standard.
  • We are ethical in all that we do.
  • We are fair with colleagues, partners, and those we serve, building relationships of trust.
4. Respect
  • We demonstrate respect for one another, our partners, and the people we serve in communities around the world.
  • We recognize and acknowledge the strength that comes from diversity.
  • We value all people equally and treat others as we would like to be treated.
  • We consistently demonstrate professionalism and respect in our communications and in our behavior.
5. Empowerment
  • We elevate all voices striving for global economic, environmental, and social progress.
  • We seek to ensure that all voices are heard.
  • We strive to strengthen the voices of the marginalized and vulnerable.
  • We value every team member and seek to ensure everyone can fulfill their potential.
6. Inclusion
  • We value our differences and draw strength from diversity.
  • We support programs that engage people across societies and benefit whole communities and countries.
  • We value every member of our team, learn from their experience, and foster their active engagement.
  • We advance equality, foster equal opportunity and address inequality within our Agency and in our work.
7. Commitment to Learning
  • We seek to improve ourselves and our work continually through reflection and evaluation.
  • We design and assess programs with an eye towards constant improvement.
  • We recognize that professional development is fundamental to team satisfaction and success.
Branding Is A Business Activity

USAID offers a case study on how to approach branding initiatives: See them as management activities that begin with employees and end with data.
  • Engage employees in focusing the brand
  • Distill that into mission and values
  • Funnel that up to a leadership team that administers the affairs of the organization
  • Establish a database that can be used by the leadership team as a basis for objective decision making. It helps answer the question: Given the things that are most important to us to do -- and given all the activities we're engaging in and their return on investment -- which should we continue to fund?
Communication is very serious - not something to be manipulated or treated as insignificant. While no person and no Agency is perfect, everyone can learn from the example USAID is setting about the connection between identity, communication, collaboration, decision-making, and an orientation towards results.

And I can honestly say that from what I observed during my time there, everything in the mission and core values reflects genuine reality as well as the Agency's intentions and aspirations. 

* All opinions my own.

That's What Feds Are For

Most people think of the federal government as a nameless faceless bureaucracy, and it often can be.

But federal employees are not the same as the buildings they work in.

Feds as a rule are very motivated to help. A few years ago a family member up North told me about someone who helped her son get his passport on time to he could make his trip overseas. 

The employee went above and beyond just explaining - the person literally took him through the process.

It is routine for my staff to spend hours researching a single inquiry from the public. It's not just because it's their job. It's because they actually care, maybe too much.

Federal workers have made our family celebrations happier, and our more painful times more bearable. They have generously welcomed us into their homes, and offered advice and a professional support network that people outside mostly never get to see.

They have even helped me heat up blocks of frozen kugels on a moment's notice. 

I remember serving on the annual charity drive with federal friends, and how one person spent her entire weekend prepping at work for a Monday bake sale - and took the entire family with her.

There are so many stories I could share. But that is not really the point.

Before you judge the federal worker, get to know what they really do, and talk to those who have interacted with them.

* All opinions my own. Photo by Roy Blumenthal (no relation) via Wikimedia/Flickr. 

A Sad Day As "Jewish Community Watch" Goes Dark

Today I learned that the Jewish Community Watch website went down supposedly due to a "lack of funding."

This is probably bogus, as the commenters on the page noted. A website costs almost nothing to maintain. There was speculation about legal action.

According to CrownHeightsInfo, which reported the story, a source within the JCW organization says that even if monies were raised, the site would probably not reopen.

JCW provoked anger among some, for obvious reasons. But it also performed a critical social service, of raising awareness of the problem of child molestation. Awareness breeds vigilance.

The website still contains a link to an email address where people can reach out for more information.

Here is a link to the Facebook page, which currently has 7,121 likes.

Let's support survivors of abuse. 

Let's fight to put all pedophiles in jail and keep them away from those who too often can neither speak nor protect themselves.

* All opinions my own.

The Curse Of The Special Ones

some text

One of my favorite characters on Saturday Night Live was Dana Carvey as "Church Lady."

Every sketch was a little diatribe about sin and a guest who would no doubt go to Hell.

The point of the character of course was to point out that it was Church Lady who was warped. No matter what, you were a sinner.

But if you look at her character another way, from the perspective of 2014, she becomes interesting in another way.

Everybody today seems to think they're special. Even if they're really not.

I am tempted to blame Barney. Remember his famous song, "Everyone Is Special?" It's one of those songs that got burned into my brain from endless repetition.

"You Are Special" was an educational theory even if they didn't call it one. At school and at camp, everybody had to get a certificate for something, no matter what.

I remember wondering how they came up with the titles. Like:

"Best Punctuality."

"Most Motivated."

"For Surpassing All Of Her Own Expectations."

In contrast, if you look at the films of the Generation X generation, you can see that the message was a bit different. 

Our generation did not have our hands held. Not because our parents didn't care, but because most of the time, nobody was home. (Your experience may differ.)

The 80's movie "The Breakfast Club" depicted a bunch of teenagers whose parents were physically or mentally absent, or who lacked the ability or understanding of how a parent is supposed to act.

The Breakfast Club image via What's On Netflix

There are very real social outcomes to mis-calibrated egos:
  • Workplace disengagement:  If you give a kid the "gift" of grandiosity, you can expect that they will see themselves as budding Mark Zuckerbergs very naturally and will expect to be treated accordingly. How much does the turnover cost, the loss of institutional knowledge, the people sitting around promoting themselves instead of the team? What happens at work when the next step up the ladder becomes more important than actually doing the job right?
  • Relationship conflict: "Why should I bother?" What is the cost when people begin relationships with the attitude that they come first - their career shouldn't suffer, that they have to be fulfilled all the time, that they will bail if they're "just not into it" anymore, just like they saw on TV?
The way to get ego and its costs out of the picture is to focus on the task at hand. Logically, impersonally. Keeping yourself out of it.

The former Prime Minister of Israel Golda Meir had that attitude. During her tenure she dealt with the Yom Kippur War, the Munich Massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics, and more. 

Once she was asked to put women under curfew due to occurrences of rape. Here was her logical reply: “But it is the men who are attacking the women. If there is to be a curfew, let the men stay at home.”

Her best quote of all time encapsulates the no-ego attitude: 

"Don't be so humble. You're not that great."

Photo via MotleyNews

* All opinions my own.

Israel Is A Country Of Love, Not Hate

The Israeli Declaration of Independence is a beautiful articulation of the legitimacy of the Jewish state on three grounds: religious, historical, and world agreement.

It was officially signed on Friday, May 14, 1948. 

Read it and you'll see that Israel's founders were not only looking to protect the Jewish people but also to extend freedom of religion to everybody else and in particular citizenship to its Arab inhabitants who wanted to work together peacefully to stand up the State.

But of course it wasn't that easy. So it is probably fitting that they signed it the day before Shabbos (Saturday) - when G-d takes over. Because only G-d can save Israel from the hatred of those who want to destroy it, even under the guise of "peace."

Here's the text. I've highlighted some parts of the text that are most meaningful to me.
  • Eretz Israel [Hebrew: The Land of Israel] was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and national identity was formed. Here they achieved independence and created a culture of national and universal significance. Here they wrote and gave the Bible to the world.
  • Exiled from their land, the Jewish people remained faithful to it in all the countries of their dispersion, never ceasing to pray and hope for their return and for the restoration in it of their national freedom.
  • Impelled by this historic association, Jews strove in every successive generation to to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in masses. Pioneers, ma'pilim [Hebrew: immigrants coming to Eretz-Israel in defiance of restrictive legislation] and defenders, they made deserts bloom, revived the Hebrew language, built villages and towns, and created a thriving community controlling its own economy and culture. Loving peace but knowing how to defend itself, they brought the blessing of progress to all inhabitants of the country.
  • In the year 5657 (1897), at the summons of the spiritual father of the Jewish State, Theodore Herzl, the First Zionist Congress convened and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country.
  • This right was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of the 2nd November, 1917, and re-affirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in particular, gave explicit international recognition to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Eretz-Israel and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home.
  • The Nazi holocaust, which engulfed millions of Jews in Europe, was another clear demonstration of the urgency of the re-establishment n Eretz-Israel of the Jewish State, which would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew and confer upon the Jewish people the status of a fully privileged member of the comity of nations.
  • The survivors of the European catastrophe, as well as Jews continued to migrate to Eretz-Israel, undaunted by difficulties, restrictions and dangers, and never ceased to assert their right to a life of dignity, freedom and honest toil in their national homeland.
  • In the Second World War the Jewish community of this country made a full contribution in the struggle of the freedom- and peace- loving nations against the forces of Nazi evil and by the blood of its soldiers and its war effort, gained the right to be reckoned among the peoples who founded the United Nations.
  • On November 29, 1947, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a Resolution calling for the establishment of an independent Jewish State in Eretz-Israel, and called upon the inhabitants of the country to take such steps as may be necessary on their part to put the plan into effect.
  • This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their independent State is irrevocable. This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.
  • Accordingly, we, members of the people's council, representatives of the Jewish community of Eretz-Yisrael and of the Zionist Movement, are here assembled on the day of the termination of the British Mandate over Eretz-Israel and, by virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.
  • We hereby declare that, with effect from the moment of the termination of the Mandate being tonight, the eve of Sabbath, the 6th Iyar, 5708 (15th May, 1948), and until the setting up of the duly elected bodies of the State in accordance with a Constitution, to be drawn up by the Elected Constituent Assembly not later than the first day of October, 1948, the People's Council shall act as a Provisional Council of State, and its executive organ, the People's Administration, shall constitute the Provisional Government of the Jewish State, to be called "Israel".
  • The State of Israel will be open to the immigration of Jews and for the Ingathering of the Exiles from all countries of their dispersion; will promote the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; will be based on the precepts of liberty, justice and peace as invisaged by the prophets of Israel; will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex; will guarantee full freedom of conscience, worship, education and culture; will safeguard the sanctity and inviolability of the shrines and Holy Places of all religions; and will dedicate itself to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
  • The State of Israel is prepared to cooperate with the agencies and representatives of the United Nations in the implementation of the Resolution of the General Assembly of November 29, 1947, and will take steps to bring about the economic union over the whole of Eretz-Israel.
  • We appeal to the United Nations to assist the Jewish people in the building-up of its State and to admit Israel into the family of nations.
  • We appeal - in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months - to the Arab inhabitants of the State if Israel to return to the ways of peace and play their part in the upbuilding of the State, on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its bodies and institutions - provisional or permanent.
  • We extend our hand of peace and unity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.
  • We appeal to the Jewish people throughout the Diaspora to rally round the Jews of Eretz-Israel in the task of immigration and development and to stand by them in the great struggle for the fulfillment of the age-old dream - the redemption of Israel.
  • Placing our trust in the Rock of Israel, we affix our signatures to this proclamation at this session of the provisional council of state, on the soil of the homeland, in the city of Tel-Aviv, on this Sabbath Eve, the 5th day of Iyar, 5708 (14th May, 1948).
* All opinions my own.

Why I No Longer Think Brand First

Today I changed the title of my blog to "On My Mind" and my Twitter handle to @drdannielle. 

No more Think Brand First.

I've been thinking about this change a lot. 

Think Brand First was initially meant as a principle of communication - that before you say or do anything, you should think about its impact on your image. And sure, this concept has its time and place.

But unfortunately it's too easy to let the whole branding thing get out of control as a psychological mode of being. You take yourself too seriously.

When you are always Thinking Brand First, you can forget that you're just human like everybody else, subject to G-d who reigns supreme above all.

I'd like to focus my blog time on some more meaningful things, too. Writing about topics and causes that have a greater meaning in life than packaging design and Super Bowl ad strategy.

So we'll see where the journey takes me, but I wanted you all to know. 

I've decided to be a person instead of a brand.

* All opinions my own.

What, Me, Woody?

Woody Allen photo via, podcast featuring a discussion of Allen's film "Blue Jasmine." 

In the American system of justice, people are considered innocent until they're proven guilty.

But it is also true that child molesters, especially molesters of our youngest children, get away with their crimes the vast majority of the time. A large scale study published by the Department of Justice in 2000 showed that sexual assaults of kids under age 6 are the least likely to result in arrest:

  • In assaults of children under age 6, an offender was arrested only 19% of the time, versus 33% for victims age 6-11 and 32% for those age 12-17.
  • 86% of the victims of sexual assault are female.
  • More than 1 out of 3 sexual assault victims was under age 12.

In 2013, Vanity Fair published an interview with Woody Allen's ex-wife, Mia Farrow, in which reporter Maureen Orth published adopted daughter Dylan Farrow's allegations of sexual molestation, allegations that Allen has always denied.

For the first time, today, February 1, 2014, Dylan Farrow spoke in the first person about what she says happened to her at Allen's hands in 1992. Dylan says she was only 7 years old when her adoptive father, Woody Allen, sexually assaulted her:
"When I was seven years old, Woody Allen took me by the hand and led me into a dim, closet-like attic on the second floor of our house. He told me to lay on my stomach and play with my brother’s electric train set. Then he sexually assaulted me."
According to the Department of Justice study of juvenile victims of sexual assault, 70% of attacks happen at a residence.

Attackers are known to the victim the vast majority of the time. Nearly 6 out of 10 molestations are carried out by acquaintances, and 3 out of 10 by members of the family. 

Orth described the specific nature of the alleged assault in Vanity Fair - digital rape:
"In August 1992, after disappearing with Allen in Mia’s Connecticut country house and reappearing without underpants, Dylan told her mother that Allen had stuck his finger up her vagina and kissed her all over in the attic." - Maureen Orth, "Momma Mia," Vanity Fair, Nov. 2013 
The Department of Justice says that juveniles represent the vast majority of victims of "forcible fondling (84%), forcible sodomy (79%), and sexual assault with an object (75%)." 

During the attack, says Dylan, Allen spoke in a soothing tone about how she would keep quiet, and he would pay her back by putting her in his movies:
"He talked to me while he did it, whispering that I was a good girl, that this was our secret, promising that we’d go to Paris and I’d be a star in his movies." - An Open Letter From Dylan Farrow, The New York Times, February 1, 2014
Does this sound like something a child would make up? Can we really believe that Dylan was brainwashed by her mother, Mia Farrow, Allen's ex-wife, to say these things?
"For as long as I could remember, my father had been doing things to me that I didn’t like....I didn’t like it when he would stick his thumb in my mouth. I didn’t like it when I had to get in bed with him under the sheets when he was in his underwear. I didn’t like it when he would place his head in my naked lap and breathe in and breathe out." - An Open Letter
The concept of a father putting his face, forward, onto a child's lap - atop her genitals - is so strange and horrifying. Maybe she made it up. Maybe the babysitter was lying when she testified that, as Orth reports:
"...on the day of the alleged attic incident, while Mia was out shopping, she had come upon Allen in the TV room, kneeling, face forward, with his head in Dylan’s lap." -"Momma Mia"
Why didn't Dylan tell someone what was going on before the attic incident? Maybe they were playing a game, a version of hide-and-seek.

Does this sound like a game to you?
"I would hide under beds or lock myself in the bathroom to avoid these encounters, but he always found me." - An Open Letter 
Actually, like most victims of child molestation, she didn't know what exactly what was going on. Except that it made her feel very, very bad, and that she shouldn't tell anyone, until she had to:
"I thought this was how fathers doted on their daughters. But what he did to me in the attic felt different. I couldn’t keep the secret anymore." - An Open Letter 
Diane Keaton believes in Woody Allen. There she is, all dolled up at the Golden Globes, accepting a prestigious award on his behalf.  (Allen was nowhere to be seen.)

In her speech Keaton praised the "voices" of the "unforgettable female characters" he's featured. (In other words, Allen's brand would be nothing without the women who spoke on his behalf through art.)
“The feature, for me anyway, that sets Woody’s writing apart are the voices of four decades of unforgettable female characters. 179 of the world’s most captivating actresses have appeared in Woody’s films....They’re the hallmark of Woody’s work."
But what about the voice of Dylan Farrow?

Dylan, whose father allegedly had his hand up her skirt?

Photo via the Daily Mail, reproduced via Fair Use for educational purposes.

Dylan Farrow, whose eyes are haunted. Look at those haunted eyes.

Photo via the New York Times. Fair Use exception for educational purposes.

What about cost that silence has exacted from her soul?

While Allen is famous and celebrated worldwide, Dylan had to change her identity to escape the memories, and him, as is vividly detailed in the New York Times by Nicholas Kristof.

She tells Kristof she's been scared of Allen's brand.
“I’m scared of him, his image. Nobody wants to think this legendary filmmaker is my worst nightmare....when I picture things chasing me or happening—I think it’s him after me. It’s hard to explain how terrifying that is.” 
But one thing does seem certain. The more educated we are about the signs of sexual molestation, the more we report it, and the more aggressively we prosecute it, the less likely it will be that people with lots of power can abuse those with none.

* All opinions my own.

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