Mea Culpa

I was in Cannes this time last week, giving a speech to Adecco‘s top couple of hundred folks. I did not fall in love with Cannes (wretched excess too much, especially in these times). Uncharacteristically, I did “fall in love” with Adecco. (I don’t normally allow myself to go more or less gaga over a client.) First, as Mr. Brand You, I do believe that “temping” (in many many formats) will be the way of the world for many more of us in the future than in the past—including for the Gray Tsunami. Forces at work include: Project-based organizations, especially those that need to integrate a shifting portfolio of skills; a Big Recession hangover that will continue to make companies skittish about adding FTEs and keep them obsessed with flexibility-adaptability; economic performance driven by the development and application of intellectual capital, the development of which tends to agglomerate in temporary ways. Adecco not only “gets this,” but unlike many of its competitors seems truly committed to development of its “temps”—again, the latter plays into the hands of the “forces at work” enumerated above.

After Cannes, I made a six hour drive to Florence to join Susan for six days of “vacation.” I put vacation in quotes, because if the home of the Renaissance doesn’t get you thinking and refresh your mind in at least a quasi-professional way, I don’t know what will. (To be sure, try as one might, one’s thinking may be made a bit sluggish by the Constant Carb Assaults.)

I’m sure a passel of readers with art history degrees (surely we have at least one such reader, eh?) could do justice to the art and cathedrals—but not me. I was on a 6-day “shock & awe” junket, though it was hardly my first visit to Florence. “Shock & Awe”? Yes, it was simply and literally overwhelming; e.g., the magnificent Uffizi gallery, a solid candidate for “world’s best.” (I left it emotionally drained.)

But as the bankers were bashed at home last week, the story in 14th century Florence was also of bankers, in many cases offending sensibilities to the point that they were offed. Florence is home to the Renaissance and home to the de Medici‘s, who dominated the commercial sphere in a way that makes today’s finance gang look lightweight—both in terms of influence and wretched excess. The de Medicis also commissioned much of the art, wonderful indeed, world-changing beyond a shadow of doubt—but, like today, much of it for their exclusive use. (They also more or less bought the Papacy upon occasion.) (NB: In the same vein, one of Bach’s patrons had him imprisoned—another burned some of his music. Ah, the volatile moods of the super-rich!)

“All this” also made me think of globalization, which was also very much alive and very much in good health, save a bloody war here and there and there and here, during the Renaissance-de Medici epoch. Among other things, those thoughts led me to resurrect a marvelous quote from a 2008 article by Peter Jones and Lionel Casson in the Spectator, titled “For Real Globalization, Look at Ancient Rome”:

“There is nothing new about a global world. We were living in one 2,000 years ago. … The Roman in the street ate bread baked with wheat grown in North Africa or Egypt, and fish that had been caught and dried near Gibraltar, He cooked with North African oil in pots and pans of cooper mined in Spain, ate off dishes fired in French kilns, drank wine from Spain or France. … The Roman of wealth dressed in garments of wool from Miletus or linen from Egypt; his wife wore silks from China, adorned herself with diamonds and pearls from India, and made up with cosmetics from South Arabia. … He lived in a house whose walls were covered with colored marble veneer quarried in Asia Minor; his furniture was of Indian ebony or teak inlaid with African ivory.”

The more things change …

But, uh, none of the above is about why this Post is titled “Mea Culpa”!

The “mea culpa” refers to my absorbing “distraction” (attraction) during the trip. Namely, Twitter. First, I like Twitter as a communication tool, though I plead guilty as charged by some in terms of mostly using it as a one-way communication vehicle—no small sin. Second, I find the 140-character limit a magnificent challenge! I am in the “beginner’s mind” mode—and I am definitely learning anew that “practice makes better,” or so I assume and hope. I believe that one can have a full-scale “opinion piece” on a serious topic that occupies 140 characters or less. Hence, I am choosing mostly to use Twitter as a straightforward opinion registry, and am leaving the mega-link practice to many many many others. In short, there are a host of things I really really give a shit about—I’ve been saying my piece in as many settings as possible for over 35 years, and I’m not inclined to stop; as I recently tweeted, my “live stuff” has absorbed about 5 or 6 million miles and about 9,000 flight legs since 1973.

I love our Friends & Family here at, but am a linear focuser more than a multi-tasker, so Twitter-Am-Mostly-Me at the moment.

Tom Peters posted this on January 20, 2010, in General.
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