Archives: August 2004

How Things Change

I was listening to Steely Dan on my iPod today, and heard a familiar line in a new way:

“Rikki don’t lose that number, you don’t want to call nobody else. Send it off in a letter to yourself.”

In 1974, sending a letter to yourself seemed a very odd and obscure thing to do. But how many of us today send ourselves voicemails or emails? We all do!

I’ve even noticed different styles people use when leaving themselves messages. I’ll admit to a quick, curt, no-frills monotone on reminder voicemails I leave to myself (“Call Larry, get dog food”), while other people (like my wife!) are much more polite to themselves, saying “hi” and “bye” and using warm vocal inflections.

Which style are you?

New to Our Blogroll: Lawrence Lessig

I’m in ecstasy from discovering (courtesy Halley Suitt/Halley’sComment) Lawrence Lessig’s blog. (Lessig authored The Future of Ideas and Free Culture among other things.) We proudly add it to our blogroll! Today (29 August), for example, it includes incredible commentary by jurist Richard Posner. If the state of the world, electronic and otherwise, interests you—this is a place to hang out.

Revisiting My “Respect” Blog of 08.19

This could be a “comment,” but I want to put the issue “at the top” again. “Respect” said that women were the empathy freaks, and we guys aren’t—and that the Excellence in Empathy bit yields greater Sales Effectiveness. Several of you remind me that empathy is not the “exclusive domain” of women. I agree! My problem is, after eight years of study, that I am frighteningly aware of differences. I’d like to think I’ve got a pretty damn good “empathy quotient”—and I think my record as a public speaker attests to that. On the other hand, my observation says I can’t hold a candle to most women on this and a dozen dozen important like issues. I’m decently trained in statistics, and well aware of the key idea called “central tendencies.” That is to say, there are many, many empathetic guys—and there are many, many un-empathetic women. But on the whole, women score much better than we do on that empathy scale—which, in the case of the 08.19 blog, is essential to sales success.

One of our colleagues asserts that I’m a “total moron” … “pathetic” … “anti-male” … “politically correct.” Generally there’s not much value to replying to such remarks, but I do want to say a few things:

First, I’m obviously NOT politically correct—or there would be a woman running for President this November!

Second, I am not “anti-male”—but I readily admit to being “pro-female.” And I am unabashedly “pro-market”—and developing products and marketing effectively to women is … THE BIGGEST PROFIT MAXIMIZING OPPORTUNITY IN BUSINESS TODAY.

And then there’s just plain uncontestable & uncomfortable stuff like this …

Fact: 8 of 500 Fortune 500 CEOs are women; a stupid waste of talent, or not? And, from Closing the Leadership Gap, the book by Marie C. Wilson: “Internationally, the United States ranked 60th in women’s political leadership, behind Sierra Leone and tied with Andorra.”

Fact: Alas, men are responsible for over 90 percent of domestic violence and 90 percent of non-domestic violent crimes and 90 percent of international violence—that does not make me especially proud of my gender. Likewise, the famous Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, which invented the wildly successful concept of “micro-lending” (tiny loans to start businesses), grants about 90 percent of its loans to women (women use the money as intended, to improve their family’s lot; while men tend to often as not drink up the proceeds)—and that does not make me terribly proud of my gender.

As to the “pathetic total moron” charge—IYAMWHATEVERIYAM.

Sunday Reading

For those snobs who got PARADE magazine with their Sunday papers—and discarded it—go to your Recycle Bin and dig it out! The cover story is titled, “Why We Believe He Is The Most Important Coach In America.” Joe Ehrmann is The Man. He coaches at Gilman School in Baltimore. (He played pro ball—13 years as a defensive lineman—mostly for the Baltimore Colts.) Some of his rules (“To Be A Better Man”): “Recognize the ‘three lies of false masculinity': Athletic ability, sexual conquest and economic success are not the best measurements of manhood.” “Allow yourself to love and be loved: Build and value relationships.” “Accept responsibility, lead courageously and enact justice on behalf of others: Practice the concepts of empathy, inclusion and integrity.” And so on. And on. Incidentally, his team finished three of the last six seasons undefeated, and in 2002 was Maryland’s No. 1 (and No. 14 in the nation). (Full disclosure: 45 years ago I played lacrosse against Gilman; and the BALTIMORE Colts were my favorite football team.)

Offering No. 2 comes courtesy the New York Times Book Review. Conservative Judge Richard Posner writes “The 9/11 Report: A Dissent.” Read it! I have put off blogging the 9/11 report, because I had so much to say. Now Judge Posner has said it—better than I could have. Much of the debate over Recommendations swirls, as it should, over issues of centralization (of intelligence activities) versus decentralization. Posner points out the problem with centralized solutions aimed, essentially, at fixing yesterday’s problem: “It is almost impossible to take effective action to prevent something that hasn’t occurred previously.” It’s true in business when Dell or Wal*Mart offers an entirely new business model—and true in this chaotic (key word!) struggle against decentralized terrorist networks. As to the Commission, Posner is clear: “[The Commission] believes in centralizing intelligence, and people who prefer centralized, pyramidal governance structures to diversity and competition deprecate dissent.” Read on! Please! Incidentally, you can fetch this, free for one week (you must register) at nytimes.com. (Also, see my blog immediately below, titled “Only One Big Issue.”)

Only One Big Issue

As I’ve said in a couple of recent blogs, I’m living in the period 1787-1800 these days. Among other things, it reminds me of the eternal struggle between Centralization and Decentralization. The contentious 1800 election was between the Federalists’ “elite” (centralist) philosophy of governing and the Republicans’ (no relation to the current party by the same name—quite the contrary) “populist” (decentralized) philosophy. The debate still rages—Big Government v. Small Government, Elitist v. Populist. I am a Libertarian by philosophical bent (though not party registration): Small government populism is my bag. Same in business, where I’ve championed Radical Decentralization for three decades.

Problem: In truth, you need both! In Child Rearing (the uneasy mix of rules and freedom—is there anything else?); in government; in business. Centralist hierarchies ensure consistency—a virtue of the First Order. (Think TQM!) Decentralist approaches spawn adaptability and innovation—a virtue of the First Order. (Entrepreneurialism of the Silicon Valley flavor.) Alas, the answer is not some mindless plea for “balance.” In fact, there is always virulent, irresolvable tension—e.g., the Finance and Manufacturing and Logistics Barons versus the R&D and New Products and Marketing Barons. In fact, successful institutions tend to wobble back and forth over the years between too little centralization and excessive centralization. (One CEO’s legacy is “tightening things up,” the next stood for “innovation.” Both are eventually fired for overdoing it!) Nonetheless, I have a Big & Longstanding Problem: There is an almost inevitable institutional drift toward Centralization & Complex Processes & Hierarchy … at the expense of Innovation & Adaptation; the “cost” is often the Death Penalty.

Consider these two succinct statements of the problem that I dug out of past works of mine:

“People think the President has to be the main organizer. No, the President is the main dis-organizer. Everybody ‘manages’ quite well; whenever anything goes wrong, they take immediate action to make sure nothing’ll go wrong again. The problem is, nothing new will ever happen, either.”—Harry Quadracci, founder, Quad/Graphics (from Liberation Management)

“The IBM 360 is one of the grand product success stories in American business history, yet its development was sloppy. Along the way, Chairman Thomas Watson, Sr., asked then vice-president Frank Cary to ‘design a system to ensure us against a repeat of this kind of problem.’ Cary did what he was told. Years later, when he became IBM’s chairman, one of his first acts was to get rid of the laborious product-development structure that he had created for Watson. ‘Mr. Watson was right,’ he conceded. ‘It [the product development structure] will prevent a repeat of the 360 development turmoil. Unfortunately, it will also ensure that we don’t ever invent another product with the impact of the 360.'”—In Search of Excellence

In this brief discourse, or even in one that was ten times longer, I cannot and will not offer any definitive solutions. There are none … except to be ever attentive to the debate and to beware the ICD/Inexorable Centralist Drift! (Addendum: This idea is as critical to your career path and the leadership of a 6-person project team as it is to the structure of national intelligence assets.)

5:27 A.M., 29 August

Ahhh …. 5:27A.M., Sunday, 29 August. First Canadian Geese, flying South, landed on the Farm Pond outside our bedroom window in Vermont. The Summer has been too short! Now the 9-month Winter begins!

Badvertising: Miller Lite

The legend is that the Chicago Cubs are cursed, and can’t win a championship. This legend was reinforced last year when fan interference prevented the Cubs from winning the National League title and going to the World Series.

We Cub fans get pretty depressed about the Cubs’ inability to win, and don’t like talk of curses. So, explain the thinking behind this: Miller Lite has a billboard over a building right across the street from Wrigley Field’s right field fence, visible from virtually all seats in the park, with the headline: CURSE QUENCHER

Cub fans I’ve talked to think this ad is really stupid. Is Miller saying they have the power to make the Cubs win? As one fan put it to me, “Who are they to talk about ending the so-called curse, when they have their name (Miller Park) on the stadium of the Cubs’ rivals, the Milwaukee Brewers, only 1 1/2 hours away up Interstate 94.”

Who was asleep at the meeting when the ad agency got approval for this one?

Yesssssss!!!!!!

“It’s a Woman’s World in Athens”—AOL Headline/Noon/27August/Topic: U.S.A. Women in the 2004 Olympics

This Just In …

Windbook.gifJust picked up what looks to be a great (mind-stretching) book. More later, but for now I’ll tell you it’s The Power of Impossible Thinking, by Yoram (Jerry) Wind, and Colin Crook, both of the Wharton School, and Robert Gunther. Cover tag line: “If You Can Think Impossible Thoughts, You Can Do Impossible Things.” That doesn’t translate into goopy self-help jelly—rather, the ideas here are, in the main, byproducts of the “hard” neurosciences. Consider this zinger from the prologue:

“Researchers asked subjects to count the number of times ballplayers with white shirts pitched a ball back and forth in a video. Most subjects were so thoroughly engaged in watching white shirts that they failed to notice a black gorilla that wandered across the scene and paused in the middle to beat his chest. They had their noses so buried in their work that they didn’t even see the gorilla.

“What gorillas are moving through your field of vision while you are so hard at work that you fail to see them? Will some of these 800-pound gorillas ultimately disrupt your game?”

Nice! (As I said, more later.)

Name That Year

“Murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will all be openly taught and practiced. The air will be rent with the cries of distress, the soil will be soaked with blood, and the nation black with crimes. … [There is] scarcely a possibility that we shall escape a Civil War.”

What is it? Bush or Kerry gone mad? One of Election 2004’s out-of-control 527 groups? Try, instead, John Adams v. Thomas Jefferson in Campaign 1800. Adams was the Federalist President who succeeded Federalist George Washington in 1796; his Vice President, Jefferson, the Republican challenger. (As most know, Federalists were more or less the progenitors of today’s Republican party—representing the elite. Republicans, circa 1800, were progenitors of today’s Democrats—representing the masses.) The brutal language above was an autumn 1800 Federalist (Adamsonian) attack on Jefferson. Federalists feared the masses taking over—and introducing unacceptable disorder into society. Republicans believed the Federalists had turned into no more than a thinly disguised Monarchist party, intent on suppressing the masses.

Dunnbook.gif

And you thought 2004 was rough!

Source: Susan Dunn, Jefferson’s Second Revolution: The Election Crisis of 1800 and the Triumph of Republicanism