Showing posts from March, 2016

Branding is for Bubblebrains

Have you heard about this new term of art in branding? "Brandcuffs." It sounds like some sort of adult toy. I had to look this up. Turns out that "brandcuffs" are a restrictive style guide, so strict they don't allow any wiggle room when it comes to conveying the brand. The point of course is to make sure that the communicators you pay to convey said brand don't f- it up. The implication is that your communicators are stupid. I have long been sort of annoyed-slash-frustrated at the tendency of companies to think about their most important function - communication - as a lowest-common-denominator thing. It's almost as if they literally think that typing is the same thing as writing. That knowing how Twitter worksis the same thing as knowing what to tweet.  Or, worse, that talking to the customer - by email, on the telephone or on instant chat - is the same thing as getting them engaged.  It's not. (We all know this, right?) The business genius Peter…

Notes on Today's Speech By Dr. Tal Becker

Dr. Tal Becker, a prominent thinker and adviser to Israel, gave today's speech in synagogue (B'nai Israel, Rockville, MD). 
Overall my takeaway was: good that we are talking about a positive message and identity for Israel rather than a victim-y one. Bad that there was no mention of G-d in this message.
But many good points:
1. Israel's need for a "sovereign state of mind": There is a difference between having a state, and thinking like one. Elements of a sovereign state of mind:
a. Overcoming the synagogue mentality:  When it comes to synagogue, each individual member tends to want the shul to "conform to their specific requirements." Israel needs to get away from that tribal mindset. Talked about growing up in Australia and going to the shul specifically established by the Auschwitz survivors, and then there was a breakaway shul from that.
b. Commonality: Israel often feels like "what's left over" after each "tribe" has tried to pul…

Grateful To Be Alive

I was so moved by something this missionary said on TV.
CNN interviewed him about what it was like to survive the terrorist attacks that took place in Brussels this week.
I can imagine that if I were G-d-forbid wrapped in head-to-toe bandages for any reason - especially after a monstrous, horrific terrorist attack - I would be very, very angry and depressed.
Squirming with claustrophobia, too. Eating myself alive.
But all I heard from the missionary was: "I am just so grateful to G-d." 
And he meant it. I could tell.
It is amazing how some people have so much faith.
Even when logic says that they should feel hopeless.
I feel very small next to a spiritual giant like this. 
___________ All opinions my own. Photo by me.

How to Get Organized

Sometimes it helps to have these common-sense reminders handy:1. Wake up an hour early. Stick to a schedule while you're at it. You'll sleep better too. 2. Get your priorities in order - one day, when you're relaxed. You should know the top 5 by heart. 3. Make a list of to-dos every morning. 4. Plan ahead - actually put things on the calendar. 5. Don't confuse busywork with important work - eliminate wasted time from your life. 6. Do one thing at a time & concentrate. 7. Make time for helpful people. Let them talk. Listen. Then help them back. 8. Avoid toxic people. This takes a different kind of resolve and a measure of self-esteem. 9. Make healthy food in bulk and carry it with you. Save time and money and think straight. 10. Exercise before you go to work. It gets you focused and makes you feel good all day. ____ All opinions my own. Photo by me.

5 Telltale Signs of a Challenged Corporate Culture

Think of corporate culture as the human spine. If it's well-formed and agile, it supports the body well over time; if it's bent out of shape inside, the body winds up in enormous and constant pain. Unfortunately, when an organization is misaligned, the pain is felt not only companywide but also by its individual employees. So no matter what your role in your own organization, here are 5 things to look for to assess its level of health. If something is out of whack, it pays to prepare yourself in advance for managing the symptoms that will inevitably come up: Decision-making:  A framework of principles, informed by a constant stream of data, is a healthy way to plot a course of action. It is not healthy to delay decisions interminably or to use arbitrary, gut-based, person-based, situational "I just feel like it" reasoning.Empowerment: Define the job accurately, hire people who can do the job and who play well with others, and then let them do their job. If you're…

RIP, Andy Grove

Best known as the CEO of Intel, Andy Grove was a Holocaust survivor who went through hell:
"By the time I was twenty, I had lived through a Hungarian Fascist dictatorship, German military occupation, the Nazis' "Final Solution," the siege of Budapest by the Soviet Red Army, a period of chaotic democracy in the years immediately after the war, a variety of repressive Communist regimes, and a popular uprising that was put down at gunpoint. . . [where] many young people were killed; countless others were interned."
Unsurprisingly his motto was "only the paranoid survive," he wrote a book by the same name and his management style reflected this ethos. 
As a survivor of brutal anti-Semitism as well as the fiercely competitive high-tech market, Grove knew that innovation could not survive a corporate culture of playing pattycake, brownnosing, or other dysfunctional games. 
Rather, success is the result of leveraging productive conflict between people with diffe…

It's Better Not To Think

Awhile back Allen Adamson wrote a book called Brand Simple which really lays out neatly why brands are so appealing: They prevent us from having to do the difficult work of thinking.  In a world where our brains are constantly being pummeled with stimuli, helping us to think a little less reduces our stress level. The job of a good brand, says Adamson, is to create a mental shortcut. We don't want to think - we reach for our "favorite," automatically. (It's the favorite they've taught you to want.) Yesterday we went to Ikea. This store is a prime example of mental overstimulation. Every single thing in Ikea looked good. Every single thing was affordably priced. All the individual things. All the combinations. All the variations. The mirrors, the storage bins, the fake plants, the Audrey Hepburn posters, all of it, all of it, all of it, all of it. I grabbed two of those yellow bags and followed the crowds, gulping up the excitement. Not less than fifteen minutes …

Why I Support Trump (Response To A Leftist Friend)

Let's agree that class, sex/gender, race/culture/ethnicity make the world unfair. 
Let's also agree that the privileged classes routinely exploit the weaker ones. What is the best way to stop this from happening? 
It is tempting to follow the people who cater to victimization thinking. 
But the problem always is that they don't respect you - you're just fodder for their own ambition - because their version of a "solution" is another class system that THEY control. 
In this system, all information must be controlled and filtered to reflect their narrative. Because the truth - that people easily become oppressors and that no two snowflakes are alike - is dangerous to them.
I study dysfunctional organizations and bottom line, every organization is dysfunctional. What makes them change is expoure to the light.
I think we have arrived at a time in history when ideology is not useful anymore, if it ever was. We can only look at problems one at a time, using common sense,…

what the world looks like at 6 a.m. to a bum

You get off the train and there are people already on the street who have never gotten off of it.
You see bright lights ahead of you, a path. You are going to work.
The people who live on the street...the ones you call "bums" when nobody else is around. The ones who scare you with their filth and smell and desperation...the homeless ones...

You don't know what they see. 
You care, but then again not really. 
You're on your way to work, and it's 6 a.m. 
You're busy. ___
All opinions my own. Photos by me.

Bring Back The American Dream

This country was built on three dreams, all of them related to freedom: * I can worship G-d as I please, or not worship at all
* I can become rich beyond my wildest dreams
* I can be myself regardless of what other people think Unfortunately our history is full of the bad things we did to struggle for those dreams. Also unfortunately our history is full of people who want to take these freedoms away and install some form of dictatorship in its place (using nice words of course). The task we have before us in 2016 is to stop thinking and talking about all the unfortunate things and move forward. We need to be positive. We need to unite around these freedoms once again and formulate a plan for getting there. Stop complaining and start working to solve the problems. But - let's use the analogy of the human body here. You have to realize that America is bleeding. Most people are actually poor. They do not have adequate shelter, food, healthcare, or education. They do not have good job …

Comparing The Effectiveness Of 3 Metro Ads

The D.C. Metro is running this ad campaign designed to boost recruitment. The tagline is: "Admiration. It's part of the job."
I completely hate these ads.
In this example from the series, we see a "Metro employee" displaying a crayon drawing of himself that a little girl has apparently done and given to him.
I think it's fairly safe to say that this ad strains credulity. There are no little girls drawing pictures of Metro employees.
If you want to hold up a mirror to what these hardworking people actually do, show them calling out repetitive train station names without missing a beat; apologizing for delays courteously; dealing with rude customers and overpacked trains; and handling safety situations and other crises.
The reality of the job is not only more interesting and engaging than the silly fantasy portrayed in the ad, but also has the advantage of being true.

This second ad from Metro deals with sexual harassment on the train and in contrast to the first i…

Some Parting Thoughts About The NNMI

In the midst of what can best be described as a difficult campaign season, there is a shining light of a government program that few people know about, much less understand. But I was privileged enough to be a part of it, serving as its chief communicator, from November of 2014 until March 2016. (I now work for another federal agency.)  As a communicator within the program, it was not my place to write a posting such as this for public consumption. But now that I have moved on, I do have some suggestions that I would like to share, and to hear others' opinions on.  But first, a little background. The program is the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, or NNMI for short. Its purpose is, essentially, to restore American manufacturing to its "We Can Do It" days of glory and leadership. It is inspired by similar programs in other countries, most notably Germany's Fraunhofer institutes.   The NNMI works by establishing public-private partnerships aimed at condu…

Hope Is Not A Strategy

In a recent post I talked about trying to lose weight. Well, it sucks. Because unfortunately, it turns out you cannot just imagine your way to slimness. If you actually do throw out your scale, eat two avocados at a time, end your night with a pack of Moon Cheese and refuse to do any exercise, you will become an ever-expanding slob. Just like the experts tell you, losing weight involves a check-in with reality. It is indeed about more vegetables and less calories; getting up and moving around regularly; and yes, you do have to weigh yourself at least once a week. I could have been more successful months ago, but first I had to get over all the stuff I wanted to believe instead. The same thing is true about branding. So many times - really, so many times I can't even begin to count them - it's been obvious what needs to happen on the client side, what things they need to do differently.  And so you tell them. But the resistance they kick up, the excuses they make, are unbeliev…

Here to Learn

One time I had to do a presentation about branding. I sat down with my little slide deck and someone yelled out,  "I'm very familiar with all this from my own experience at X company." Keep in mind this is just the beginning of the we are literally only on Slide 1. I mistook the enthusiasm for joy at my undoubtedly brilliant forthcoming oration. Really the person was about to hijack the entire talk, with a parallel narrative about their experience, their framework, their lessons learned and so on. I wasn't in a position to say, "hey there, sit down and shut up" because the person was fairly senior in connection with me. And it wasn't like I was there to do a TED talk. So I sat back and let the senior person do the talking. And fumed, a little bit, but you have to know your place. ...and then about ten years later, I found myself sitting in the senior person's shoes.  Someone else was doing the presentation, someone younger and l…

some reflections on a friday

Not every post has to be full of weighty thoughts. 
Isn't it a relief sometimes, when we give ourselves permission not to think them?
Today is a beautiful almost-spring day here in Washington, D.C.
The flowers are in bloom all over the place.
People are standing around outside.
Bicyclists are running everbody over, as usual.
The hot bar has baked tilapia, and spinach, and avocado salad by the pound.
On a day like today - "TGI Friday" - looking forward to the Sabbath, I appreciate all that is right with the world.
____ All opinions my own. Photo by me. 

What Bad Leaders Have In Common

They seriously think the show cannot go on without them. For example, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer is known for her "tight-fisted," "controlling" management style.

Apple's Steve Jobs was known to be a tyrant.

It's a turnoff. Most people know instinctively that large, top-heavy organizational hierarchies are both costly and wasteful - but it is hard to imagine what could realistically replace them.

In 2011, the renowned management theorist Gary Hamel prompted some serious reflection on the subject with his landmark article in the Harvard Business Review:"First, Let's Fire All The Managers."

By this he was referring to three distinct systemic problems, aside from the fact that top-heavy organizations are more expensive than they're worth. All of these have to do with irrational decision-making: The people with the most power are the most removed from the action.There is a built-in bias to exercise authority just because you can.It is a system that &…