Perot had it right, “find a snake kill a snake”… 

 

The full quote, as I recall,ended, “don’t convene a committee on snakes”.

There’s a refrain I hear, almost every time there’s an internal delay or glitch in any piece of work my team do with pretty much any corporate customer.

It goes like this…

“It’s not worth trying to get this changed, we all know it’s wrong, but, it’s just too hard to fix”.

If you’re in a business and you are apologising to me as a customer, (or a supplier), for some evidently awful internal process that impacts on your business (and mine) you’re not just part of the problem, you are, for me at least, the problem.

La Fontaine's Fables

Vintage engraving from La Fontaine’s Fables, Illustraed by Gustave Dore. The Countryman and the Serpent

 

Sure it’s tough standing up for what you know is right, sure it’s tough being the one bold person who says what everyone is thinking, sure it’s tough to take on the pedestrian procurement process, the accounting anachronisms, the resourcing rubbish, the shibboleths of sales, the malaise of mediocre marketeers. It does take courage and integrity to challenge the corporate inertia, to take a risk, to fix the big stuff but hey, every other bugger is playing it safe, going with the flow, making no waves, keeping below the parapet.

You know it’s corporate bollocks, you know it needs fixing, if you don’t do it, it won’t ever get done.

Make a difference, make a mark, make a stand. Kill that snake

NB: No real snakes were harmed in the writing of this post.

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Why marketing will be responsible for the death of democracy …

Voters ballot close-up

No, you can’t always get what you want … 

I’ve blathered on for years to anyone who’d listen (and many who wouldn’t) about the value to our democratic process  of  instantaneous communication, the benefits of being able to express our individual opinion rather than have our elected representative express our opinion (as long as it aligns with their own, and their political masters’) current stance.

I’ve been loquacious around my view that it’s extremely rare that I, you, or anyone will actually share a world-view that’s well aligned to whichever mendacious under-achieving power-seeking slimeball appeared less repulsive than their opposition last time we all trooped into a cubicle and (despite this being the 21st Century, “the Digital Age”) placed our stubby pencil cross on a piece of paper.

But, perhaps inevitably, I began to doubt myself. The media, the cognoscenti, the chattering classes were truly surprised by the result of the recent UK referendum on which bunch of untrustworthy political animals should make important decisions for us. And then, our chums in the obese former colony across the sea astounded us all by choosing the more ridiculous of two people for whom the idea of integrity and honesty seem to be irrelevant concepts that don’t apply to them.

And the pollsters, the media, the cognoscenti, the intellectual elite, got it wrong, again!

And I realised where my thinking, (that instant and ubiquitous communication was a good thing for democracy) was going wrong, and would only get worse.

It’s about information.  In order to make informed and inclusive judgements, we need a big-picture view of the world, many opinions, many cultures, broad-brush data, challenge, diversity… and that’s not, increasingly, what our digital world offers.

family-listening-to-radio

When I was a lad there were a few newspapers, the radio, television was in its infancy, there were literally a handful of information sources, sure the papers had editors who chose a broad political line but generally we all worked to a fairly common view of the world, common sources of information, the only filter bubbles being our personal circumstances and prejudices, and they tended to be similar to the other folk in the street.

It’s that filter bubble effect that will hurt us, filters now driven by algorithm. As I read the FT (or, let’s say the Daily Mail for the sake of balance) online, it’s identifying my interests, and presenting the stories relevant to those interests, my news feed is getting increasingly niche.

My Facebook feed is not your Facebook feed, my Twitter feed is not your Twitter feed, I see a different Linked-in than you. Increasingly, as the marketing algorithms identify what I like, I’m likely to get less and less randomness, less surprise, less exposure to other’s views, every interaction with my world of information will become increasingly affirmative that the way I see the world is the way the world is.

We get to see more and more of the stuff that we already agree with, to the exclusion of different opinions.  Is this partly what’s driving intolerance, misunderstanding, prejudice and divide over understanding and caring?

And if that’s true, then our ability to see the world through others eyes, to engage, to understand and empathise with those unlike us will wither and atrophy, division will grow and we genuinely won’t understand why.

Filter bubbles, you get to see what you are used to seeing, or, more and more often, what an algorithm decides is like the things you already like, there’s no value for Amazon in showing you stuff that doesn’t give you that warm comfortable, “oooh I like that” feeling.

Filter bubbles, good for marketeers, bad for a true world-view.  An increasingly narrow set of information delivered uniquely to each of us as the social media algorithms work really hard to make themselves attractive to us, telling us more and more of what we know, delivering diminishing levels of challenge, less randomness, we miss the ambient intelligence of exposure to a whole newspaper, not just the bits we already like.

We’re being spoon-fed our own preferences.

Unhappy Baby Being Fed In High Chair At Meal Time

So, how does anyone get an objective view of the world as we increasingly get an algorithmically-curated information stream designed to make us easy for advertisers to target, not to share, explore or explain how the world might look to a third-generation unemployed chap in Derbyshire or Illinois?

I wish I knew… do you?

Bäuerin Frühstück* as a sales review tool, why not… it works

 

*(Farmers wife breakfast)

Talking last month to a sales director of my acquaintance who raised two issues, not necessarily linked but I thought that the solution might be…

Firstly he found it tricky to get his sales folk together in a social sense, the traditional pub gathering or team dinner didn’t seem to gel with a group of lone hunters, with lives of their own, young families and already working long days.

Secondly he found the regular sales reviews to which he summoned them were transactional, factual, data-driven, defensive.

The team were performing well but he just didn’t feel they were a team, working together and he wasn’t sure how to change that.
I remembered a couple of things, well three, my father-in-law telling me how as a young farmer, after milking, as the sun rose, the farmer, the family, the workers would all gather for a big breakfast, discuss the forthcoming day, share laughs, banter and good food, start the day in a positive way.

I recalled, from a former life, running a series of high level events for senior execs, breakfast-based briefings on critical subjects but the key was that these busy folk turned up, they could enjoy an excellent meal, learn, teach, share and network and still be in the office at start of play, they loved it.

iStock_000018247691_DoubleI remember working for a great consultancy  where one of the founders decided to turn the interminable board meetings into a breakfast event, one of the management team cooking for the others, taking it in turns, it got competitive, it became fun, it engaged everyone, the meetings were better attended, better natured, more constructive.

So I suggested that my chum rebadge his sales reviews as a breakfast meet, schedule them early, restructure them as a way to start the day in a positive way, conversation amongst peers, a round table not a star chamber, an opportunity to help each other, we’re social animals.

He tried it, they liked it, it worked.

He found that decisions and actions got done (or at least started) that day, and that it’s hard to be defensive with a mouthful of bacon.

Go on, try it, get your team to go to work on an egg.