Sunday, January 30, 2011
It is true that many businesses are run by tyrants whom we would never want to have as patriarch of a family, but it is also true that many families are run by tyrants whom you would never want as a boss. On the flip side, it is a reality that there are both families and organizations run by people of integrity. In both cases, the lessons of one are easily transferrable to the other. The lessons a father learns from raising his children apply to leading a team of people, and vice versa.
The reason this is true is that all people respond the same to basic principles, regardless of gimmicks, that's why they are basic principles. Helping people identify these and pattern a life-habits after them is the very essence of the Liberal Arts, and why the study and discussion of them is such an important lost practice. Today's management/positional leadership culture is all about the gimmicks and strategies of getting people to do what you want, how you want it, when you want it. However, people want respect, they want to feel appreciated for their contributions, they want the freedom to pursue things they feel are important, and they need the time and space to do it in.
This runs perfectly counter to the dictatorship paradigm most management schools teach, and so media creators developed "solutions" in the form of endless gimmicks, tricks, bribes, and work-arounds. Endless patches to the human psyche by way of propaganda have brought us to the place in time where we believe that tyranny is the path to success in business, while avoiding relationships at home, is the path to success. We actually believe that one organization is different from another. The adage "people are like snowflakes" is true enough, but organizations are all the same. If you can't treat your son or daughter the way you treat your employees without repercussions, chances are you aren't really escaping those problems at work either.
Hence, portable lessons. Because of our complex culture, many of us work in organizations where it is difficult to perceive the total impact of our actions. Short of restructuring the organization tomorrow to allow more interaction between levels in a massive hierarchy, the solution to this problem is to simply look to areas where the impact of human relations is more apparent, then port those lessons to the workplace to give you a better handle on developing your influence and likability. Short of having a solid relationship, turn to the classic books.
These portable lessons are few and timeless. There is something to be said for the techniques of your industry or organization (even if its a family), but without a deep understanding of connecting principles which lead to integrity, you're doomed to make the same mistake in every single relationship you have in life—and that's a waste.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
It's a classic case of quantity over quality. Proliferation tends to get more attention because it is so visible by its very nature. However, every individual or organization has a limited capacity for creation. To be extraordinarily prolific in words is to be extraordinarily deficient in content.
"It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." -Macbeth, William Shakespeare
Shakespeare saw the same thing in his day. As I understand it, plays at that time suffered from the overuse of "special effects" and battle scenes which were meant to captivate audiences but were merely gimmicks, adding little to the story. Today's movies, television, books, and music all suffer from the overuse of time-consuming, value-deficient, "filler" content which represents an attempt to expand mediocre (or good, but brief) ideas into saleable media products, based upon what has worked in the past. In their rush for market share, executives kill the golden goose.
The context of the quote also suggests Shakespeare understood the parallel between people's labor for success and the quality of the fruits of that labor. The character, Macbeth, had just learned of his wife's death, and is articulating (not "proliferating") how brief life is. Basically, this quote encapsulates the moral of the play. Macbeth realizes that his untimely rush for power and prestige ultimately became is undoing, whereas he was destined for success even if he had not rushed it.
Most people don't even attempt to be a success, much less go too far. However, those that do push for greatness, often tend to swing the pendulum too far in the opposite direction. Aside from the well-publicized tendency of driven people to cause direct harm to others, a more insidious and pervasive tendency exists. In a push for success, many people undermine the integrity of their projects simply by cutting corners and "padding" sparse content, rather than waiting until their idea reservoir is legitimately full.
The more solid the foundation—the significance part of the project—the more likely people are to discuss what you're doing with others. The more discussion, the more likely you'll get viral spread. Filling up space with long-windedness may be the quick way to get some attention, but if you have to work at keeping your audience, you'll never get a break.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Every time something disastrous happens, someone steps in to offer a solution. Unfortunately, the solutions that look the easiest, fastest, or cheapest to us have an enormous long-term price tag—one that always stipulates a loss of freedom. Just as America went from being the most free nation on Earth to a bureaucratic nightmare, so the Internet will likely succumb to the forces of controlling powers. That will spell the end of freedom in the information age.
The technique of utilizing a disaster like 9/11 to push forward political agenda is not a new concept, but is fundamental to political science. Even before we might have understood what it was, we—collectively as a young race, and individually as young children—developed the ability to get our way by applying pressure to a weak spot. Leadership author, Chris Brady, called this the "creep" in a recent blog article. Sometimes, this technique is necessary, justifiable, and even righteous, but not always. And not just because an individual or elite group perceives a benefit to humanity.
If humanity doesn't "buy it" then it's not right for everyone. The obsession with centralized solutions is founded on the belief that one person can't make a difference. The thing is, this observation is accurate, just not completely true. One person can't make a difference, but one person can share his vision with two or three others and inspire them to share the vision each with two or three others. The difference between this and centralized solutions is that the direct approach allows for the vision to be adapted to each group or individual. It both encourages understanding of individual situations, and allows for this information to be shared communally to increase understanding in the whole organization.
Think this doesn't happen? Au contraire! This is what was done in every example of prosperity throughout history. The fact that we feel this is impossible is a creep in media content toward that propagated image. Big media is supported by big-everything-else, and nothing big wants to feel threatened by something little. So they naturally censor—perhaps without even understanding what they're doing—any nugget of an idea that feels like a threat to their interests. The result is a flock of sheep that think they can't solve their own problems—and can't because they haven't learned how.
The Internet is wild and revolutionary. Just look at Wikipedia. User created, user supported, and free to the general public. Nothing that revolutionary has happened since the printing press! But we all know it's under fire for just that reason. The carefully laid structure of a bureaucratic society is being exposed to those who care to engage in the conversation at all. So the weapon of mass media tends to discourage personal exploration.
Even more so, it tends to discourage personal growth. When people become independent thinkers and independent operators, they create change—natural, and therefore, uncontrollable change. That is terrifying to anyone who has a stake in the here-and-now because it might mean the vacation is over. No one can stop change any more than one could stop a speeding locomotive with his bare hands, so in trying to tame the wild beast, they rip up the tracks and undermine the whole thing.
As companies—which shall remain nameless—grow larger and more influential on the internet, they will use the power they gain to stack the deck in their favor. The solution is not to regulate them, because that only transfers the power from one big organization to a bigger one. It also tempts wealthy private businesses with the option to hire lobbyists who can further the company's cause by manipulating the legal system.
The internet still leaves the power in the hands of the people. Let's be bold enough to come together and keep it free. What we need is to prevent companies from growing large without our approval. An internet company can easily generate $1 billion with the help of its customers, but if we don't like something they're doing, we need to lift a different company to that level. It's possible.
Monday, January 10, 2011
In this way, it is one of the chief "weapons" used in philosophical debate among today's media. I don't agree with everything Ayn Rand says, but I appreciate her willingness to own an empty, derogatory term. To be sure, selfishness—and all things linked to its roots—is an inseparable part of the human experience. In itself, it is neither good nor bad, but a fact to be taken under consideration. Interestingly, it does not follow the set rules that either side wants to believe it does.
The so-called "Right Wing" believes in the motivational power found in selfishness. They understand that it is an irrevocable fact of humankind, which is better to work with than against. However, they often ignore its weaknesses in favor of its strengths. On the other hand, the "Left" sees selfishness as public enemy number one. They wish it could be bred out, regulated into obsolescence, or forced into submission. They believe in altruism and that a perfect society is one where people serve the whole.
Both these perspectives are accurate, but each only half-true. It is true that many people in many cases actively pursue their own selfish interests, and that rewarding productive behavior encourages productive behavior. Many, but not all. It is also true to say that a society of individuals who each sacrifices his self-interest for the good of the whole would prosper long term. The problem is that, in reality, no one is a purist. One might be a purist for a period of time (or even a lifetime) but this is a rare happenstance and will never be the rule.
As a drive, selfishness always falls short of what would cause society to prosper. Despite what many believe, most people reach an equilibrium at work. They get to the point in life where money satisfies enough desires that taking on more effort is not worth it. People don't run all the way to millionaire just for the money—they do it because they have a vision, something pulling on their hearts. They see a change to help others (altruism) and they chase it, and indeed, that is the only way one gets to be nouveau riche.
But as for the heart, charity has to be something special. When a government program, special interest group, or other similar organization distributes funds to people, it isn't charity—it's entitlement. Most people don't feel compelled to give back to these organizations, they just want more support. It's one of the stranger sides of selfishness. When people are given money for being something they had no control over, they generally don't appreciate it as a gift. To ignore this fact, and to build an organization upon status distribution is to create slaves to your organization.
Seek to understand selfishness, and moreover, how it is manifested in each individual you meet. Work with it, rather than against it, but never assume it is a mechanical push-button, because it will let you down at a critical moment.
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
To create and develop a composition is an invisible enterprise. That is, it is often done by one person or a small group of like-minded individuals behind closed doors. It can be created in its entirety and unveiled all at once, or it can be exposed in stages. Either way, the finished product speaks for itself.
At least, this is the ideal. However, the nature of the discovery-creation-unveiling process gives it the weakness of permanence. Once it is written, it is written in stone. It can be updated, recalled, or added to, but the thing still exists in the minds of the audience—and great first impressions are critical.
This is where marketers come in. Once a thing exists, it is the job of these people to perform the task of finding a home for the thing. They can overcome bad first impressions with the strength of their character and proper promoting of the hidden gems within a misunderstood product.
Their proper role is to find a home for the thing, not to reinvent the thing.
This is often the folly of the performer. Because the fate of the product depends upon their ability to relate it to their audience, marketers often think that the product's real form is irrelevant. They fancy themselves creators, and use words and stories to make a product out to be more than it really is.
But a product—even a fictional story or a piece of fine art—is what it is, and not what a skilled performer can make you believe it is. Any marketing materials that are created must be dependent upon the original creation. If not, then they are devoid of value. Every time a performer "gets away with it" he's really only building himself a house of cards, and it doesn't take long before the edifice collapses under its own weight—often without a clear connection to this root cause.
If you want to tell stories, GREAT! Create stories, and hone your craft. If you're trying to sell a product, I'd recommend selling the product, not some trumped-up fiction about the product.