Shag one sheep……

So you get asked to give a keynote to an organization, that’s wonderful, what is the first thing you do? Well you research the organization so that you understand the audience and can tune your presentation.

And when you do that, you note that the president of the organization used to be a grand wizard of the Klu Klux Klan.

So you write your presentation, and you go to the event, and it’s hard not to notice the type of people on the stage with and in the audience.

So you give your presentation, shake a few hands and get on with your life.

It’s possible that you are “that” oblivious of your surroundings, and did not notice the shaven heads, angular tattoos and general tone of the conversations, but it’s hard to generally ignore a large number of bigots, I know I try regularly.

The old “oh I didn’t realize they were racists” line, just isn’t going to cut it.

Why not go for the “represent all constituents” play, and that will work if there happens to be a few less white keynotes in your history. If not you’re just a racist (and that is not a good thing for a GOP whip btw)

If may have just been one white supremacist keynote, but as they say in Australia “shag just one sheep, and you’ll be known as a sheep shagger for life”

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Selfish Bastards behind the Wheel

I find it incredible how selfish bad drivers can be. Maybe it’s not selfish, maybe it’s just pure stupidity.

Four Wheel drive cars often come with high ground clearance. The reason for this is to allow these vehicles to go over really difficult terrain. If you are driving up the side of a mountain, across a river or through snow or ice, these things are very helpful. But High ground clearance does come with a price, and that is stability. If your vehicle is high it’s not good for going fast, it’s that simple. If you are high off the ground then your vehicle has a higher center of gravity. This means it can fall over if you drive too fast. It also means that if you have to break hard, it can be very difficult to control.

This is basic physics and there is no way around it. It doesn’t matter how large the engine of the vehicle, power doesn’t compensate for stability. Stability control and anti-lock braking help a bit, but they are not designed to counter the effect of being brainless.
But it seems assholes who purchase SUV’s, trucks and any four wheel drive high vehicles have no appreciation for this. They drive badly in pretty much every possible situation.

Too close to the car in front, too fast for the conditions, and without any understanding of the danger they cause.
When the car in front of you has to brake, all you see is the red lights come on, you have no idea if they are braking hard or lightly until it is too late. So these fuckwits who drive badly are constantly slamming on their brakes and wobbling as they try to gain control of their unstable vehicles, causing the lanes either side to react, causing large numbers of accidents.

When I see a pickup truck or an SUV driving badly, I assume instantly that the driver is a brainless asshole, and keep well out of their way. In this way I’ve seen many of them have stupid accidents, and cause others to crash, from a distance.

Just this last weekend, I was commenting to my wife about the aggressive driving of an SUV in the next lane, and I slowed down to keep out of his way. He was driving inches behind another car, and they were both going considerably faster that the speed limit or the road conditions allowed for. As we were watching the car in front touched his brake causing the SUV driver to react by slamming on his brakes. The front if his vehicle swerved violently into the left lane and the driver responded by swerving right. Cars to either side were missed by inches and they all had to brake and swerve to avoid being hit. In this case no impact happened, but the prick in the SUV could have easily caused a big accident and maybe even avoided being impacted directly.

There is no excuse for this ignorant, stupid, selfish behavior, and yet it happens every day.

The car companies actually seem to encourage this kind of stupidity by advertising their vehicles as being exciting race cars. I’m amazed at the lack of legal action against them.

I’m not sure if owning an SUV makes you an asshole, or if it’s just attractive to those who are already assholes.

I used to own a 4×4 and loved it, and I don’t remember being a prick when driving it? But maybe others remember it differently?

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Visiting Family and In-Laws During the Holidays

It’s that magical time of year when many of us drive to visit our families for the holidays. Some of us get to visit multiple families, namely our own kin and our in-laws during these wonderful days.

We endure traffic, snow and rain, mountain roads, and having to wear “itchy church clothes” so we can get to our destinations and look our best as we say our “Hello and Merry Christmas!” and peruse the cookie table at each relative’s home.

Our trip this year takes us to northern Connecticut, then to the Poconos, and then finally back to NYC. 4 days, 3 destinations and unlimited possibilities for family fun, awkward moments, sibling drama and in-law shenanigans. The stories of our family’s most colorful “Christmas Past” moments are retold often and remain cringeworthy and/or funny no matter many times they’re told.

What awaits us this year? Of course we don’t know yet, but as I mapped this year’s journey on Google maps I noticed that the plotted points felt strangely familiar. Not the towns, but their relationship to each other. After consulting some world maps and charts for patterns, it hit me like a bolt of lightning from a freak storm. Take a look and you tell me if I should be afraid.

The TriangleO

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We are the Police

I’m very thankful for the jobs that the emergency services perform. The police especially have an incredibly difficult role to play in society. They walk a very important and delicate balancing act. And they do it incredibly well, “nearly” all the time.

The city I call home (New York City) has an amazing police force of professionals who keep this city safe and moving and generally do it with a smile and swagger.

Every now and again one of their number is accused of acting poorly or gets in trouble in any number of ways, and every other member of the police force is there for them, giving them 100% unquestionable support. That is the level of brotherhood and loyalty that gets people to want to do a very tough job. I don’t for one second resent this behavior, and in fact support it 100%.

Is it right that every policeman gets behind a comrade in trouble? It’s not just right it’s critical. Without this why would anyone want to stay in a tough, often poorly paid job.

How do you police those who police is always going to be a complex issue! Whoever polices the police must in turn be policed and those people must in turn be policed, and you can end up with a situation that is impossible, where an infinite number of people must work for policing organizations. So instead we use a system of having a specific department who police the police from within the police, and it “generally” works well, actually it’s the best of all possible tried and considered options. But that does not make it perfect.

Clearly the police force does not want rouge elements who do bad things, but when they do happen, externally is should be expected that they offer total support for every single officer, while inside their ranks fixing the issue. I can imagine that in times past this would have included broken limbs, but clearly that is not a modern acceptable response.

Maybe what exists is not always enough, but as soon as you allow any other group to influence the way this works, what can happen can be much worse.

The crazy asshole who shot two officers in their car this week and then killed himself was clearly an evil nutcase. I cannot imagine what made this lunatic act the way he did, and absolutely no good can come of it.

The poor men who were killed and their families have suffered a terrible act, but being part of the brotherhood of police, those who died will be honored and those who survived will always have support. There can be no exceptions to the support officers give each other, its total and an incredibly admirable thing.

What I do know is that I have no idea what the right long-term answer should be, and I’m not sure anyone else does either. But I do know that the police must be safe and that anyone who dies either at the hands of the police or at the hands of anyone else should be investigated openly and fairly.

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The Interview: How Much Should It Matter?

I’m frustrated and getting (or is it going), mad about “the interview” and what led up to it. No, I’m not mad about the movie (but we’ll get to that later).

Resumes (or LinkedIn profiles) along with personal connections are the key factors in getting to the interview phase for many “knowledge worker” jobs today. Essentially, whether you know someone there or whether you had a virtually identical job elsewhere determines if you get on the short list to be interviewed. A 3rd related screening factor is how close your current compensation is to the budgeted number. If you’re 10% too high or low, you must be over or under-qualified. Aptitude for the day-to-day activities of the role at this company and specific relevant skill sets typically aren’t factored in.

If you “pass” this gate then the all-important interview occurs and the candidate explains the resume in more detail and gets to use salesmanship to puff up achievements and explain away gaps and other questionable entries. If it is a sales job. you may also get some form of a “Sell me this pencil!” exercise as well. Are those really the best we can do?

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How the candidate dresses, their height and weight, and how they are groomed and speak are also at least subliminally factored in by the interviewers. Yeah, those factors make a huge difference when there’s a deadline, right?

How much of all of that resume and interview stuff is relevant to doing the actual job? From my experience, very little to none.

What matters more? Well, the ability to run and efficiently participate in a meeting for one. Another would be the ability to make a decision and rally others around that decision to drive the project or initiative quickly to success. Yet another would be deeply understanding the target audience.

Yet I’ve never heard of anyone even trying to gauge a candidate’s ability to do those things. The amount of time wasted because of people hired without those skills and aptitudes is staggering. Does LinkedIn even try to highlight those? Do interviewers “test” for them? They damn well should because I’m hopping mad at all the time wasted and momentum lost today.

As with the Sony Pictures fiasco involving “the interview” of the leader of North Korea, yes, it can be difficult to know what will be the result, post-interview, for all parties involved. I’ll bet you’ve all got a favorite “bad result” interview story; I sure do.

My advice is this:
To the hirers, really think about what you want things to be like a few weeks and months from now and do your candidate screening work with that top of mind. What will matter on the job day-to-day and especially when things get stressed or “weird” at your firm? Which candidates seem most likely to shine then should be the thought. Consider de-emphasizing the job title match and ignoring their current compensation because they may be underpaid or under-titled right now (or want to get out of a higher paying job that may have been an anomaly or one they despise).

To the candidates, include references to skills and expertise in the above referenced scenarios and areas and if you do get interviewed, find a way to bring them into the discussion and explain why they are important.

If after all that the result is still bad, well, you went the extra mile (and you can always blame North Korea).

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Fat Totalitarian Evil Communist with a Bad Hairdo – Pure Comic Genius

It’s true there are very few places in the world that have unfettered free speech. In Europe if you say something horrible about someone there is a chance of a libel lawsuits.

In fact there are only a couple of very specific places in the UK where you are allowed to say anything without fear of government control or private prosecution. One is an obscure corner of a public square in London (speakers corner) and the other one is the member of parliaments chamber in the House of Commons. Quite possibly it’s okay to say whatever you want in the house of lords as well, either by an unwritten constitutional rule, but more likely because no one really cares what those people say.

Anyway that’s the UK, in the USA things are a bit different, the concept of free speech is absolute. You can say what you want about anyone or anything, anytime you like with no fear of government intervention. Of course this isn’t really true, as in the US the real power is whoever has most money, so you can say whatever you want as long as the richest people agree with what you are saying or have no interest in what you are saying.

And yet the US is still the freest speaking place in the world. There are no shortage of pictures of the president with a Hitler mustache, or radio hosts, TV pundits and writers who spend their days saying the most ridiculous things you can imagine.

If you believed everything that was said in America then half the population must be crazed communist/socialist/radicalized hippies and the other half are bible thumping, climate change deniers living in underground bunkers with tin hats and machine guns.

Obviously this is crazy, no more that 70 percent of the country is like that.

Any yet America is still fantastic! There is a place for almost anything, and most if it comes with Cheese.

Of course not everywhere in the world likes free speech. North Korea seems to most definitely not like free speech. And they most definitely don’t like their leader being used as a story line, especially when he ends up being targeted for killing by a couple of comic characters.

They were so upset they used their smartest cyber-fighters to attack the studio that made the movie, basically giving away what was possibly their best weapon in the event of a truly serious reason to fight.

If only it was so easy to persuade Russia to expose its cyber weapons. Make a joke about Putin’s Mom and maybe he’ll have the nuclear subs surface, of activate a couple of sleeper agents to moon the white house… it’s worth a try.

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Experiences with Carly Fiorina

Many years ago I worked at Hewlett Packard. I had the pleasures of meeting every single one of their CEO’s from Bill and Dave all the way through to
Carly Fiorina. They were all amazing individuals with very different personalities, skills and attitudes.

While I never had the chance to play chess with any of them; If I had I would have expected to lose quickly and dramatically against all of them… except Ms. Fiorina. I don’t think Chess is her game.

Let me explain.

When you play chess there are several things you need.
1. You need to understand the moves, how each piece moves and the objective of the game (to capture the other player’s king).

2. You need to be able to develop a strategy to allow you to capture your opponents king without them capturing your king.

3. You need to be able to think ahead, recognizing how the other player will act in response to your move and how to react to the moves they are making.

I suspect Ms. Fiorina would be excellent at steps 1 and 2, but have no idea how to do step 3.

My experience in watching her was that she was exceptional at building a strategy to achieve a goal, but absolutely terrible at making sure that all the people who worked for her followed her lead and did what was required to deliver the goal.

I saw her tell her management team exactly what she required from them. And then I saw her management team ignore her direction and do whatever they pleased. The results were messy to say the least.

What I didn’t see was her dealing with this direct disobedience. Either she wasn’t aware of it or she decided to ignore their lack of professional respect, either way the outcome was not of the highest quality of leadership.

I’ve read her book, and watched with interest her start into California politics. And by chance a few years ago I caught a speech she gave in Sydney while on a world tour with Bill Clinton. They just happened to have the event in the hotel I was staying in. And I’m hoping she has either learned some dramatic lessons over the past decade or quickly moves out of the Republican potentials for Presidential nomination.

I think that on a chess board she would have no idea how her opponent would react, and would be shocked that her pieces were quickly destroyed and her king captured. If she could purchase additional chess pieces and change the rules, different story, but that’s not how chess is played.

When she joined HP as CEO, I was excited, but within a year I had decided to leave the company I’d been at for a dozen years because what she was doing was just that awful. Many friends and people I respect stayed at HP, but to this day I cannot remember anyone saying a good word about her leadership.

Maybe my experiences with Carly are not the experiences of others, and maybe I just caught her on bad days. But it was a lot of really bad days.

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The “Dewarding” of Ideas & Extra Effort

“Coming up with a great idea or new innovation to help the business/organization is a great thing for all.”

“Driving an under-resourced or otherwise daunting project to on-time success through grit, determination, and superhuman effort is even better.”

The above 2 statements are both correct and at the same time, untrue in most businesses. They are misnomers (if not outright lies) if management speaks them to employees. Think of them as the Shroedinger’s Cats of business behavior. Dead and alive, true and false, at the same time.

Despite all the evidence that encouraging and rewarding those behaviors will drive success, the norm today is to 1) spurn new ideas and innovation (because staying the same is seemingly easier and less risky), and 2) rather than recognize and reward a herculean effort from an individual (with time off or other perks and accolades), to raise the bar and make that level of effort the new minimum standard of effort and/or replicate the project across other areas (effectively giving the person exponentially more work as their “deward”).

Based on these common practices, only new hires (who only do it once btw), and self-motivated, deadline obsessed gluttons for punishment are idea-generators who give extreme effort to ensure daunting projects are on-time and successful.

There are exceptions to this sad reality however, so that’s where we should look now:

-Exception 1 – Most Non-profits: These organizations have an actionable, non greed-based mission statements. Through their training, positive reinforcement motivational practices, and passionate management (including activist Board members), they each typically have an army of extra effort, innovation-generating brand evangelists (whereas most companies have rank and file employees and managers).

IMG_8395.JPGException 2 – Peter Drucker-ian Businesses: These are the rare businesses that live the teachings of history’s greatest expert on management (and marketing for that matter), rather than just hanging his quotes on the wall with a picture of the Harvard rowing team.

Embedding in their company Drucker’s teachings on the role of the Board, mission statements, managing and motivating “knowledge workers,” and truly understanding both your target customer’s problems/needs and “what business you’re in” (from the perspective of the customer) make the first two statements the norm for these exceptional businesses and organizations.

peter-drucker-quote-how-can-we-overcome-the-resistance-to-innovationThink about your organization and how it really acts on a regular basis. Odds are that in real practice, you’re the norm, not an exception.

If you and your management team haven’t read “The Essential Drucker” in the past year, it will be the best 4 hours and $20 you’ve ever invested.

Interesting note, “The Essential Drucker” book has a section on what business can learn from non-profits, so the 2 categories of exception are really closer to 1.

Finally, to quote Larry Wilson on giving extra effort on every project at work to get ahead, “My old man worked hard. All they did was give him more work.”

Yes, that quote was from “Weekend at Bernie’s” but that doesn’t make it less true. Make it not true at your organization and have a REwarding 2015.

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B2B Branding – It’s all about the customer!

So many companies spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about brand names. Often the reasons are childish. Here are some of the most common ones I’ve seen:

1. Our development team spent thousands of hours developing this code and they love to see it have a name so that they can be proud of it.

2. We use a variety of routes to market and we price the same stuff differently depending on how we sell it, so giving everything a different name allows us to keep control.

3. We acquired a company and that was they name they used, and we don’t want to change it, as the employees from that company tell us it will upset people.

4. We named those products after the children of the CEO, he has five children so we needed to use five brand names.

5. We hired a new Chief of Marketing, and they wanted to make their mark.

6. We were bored with our old brand and wanted to shake it up.

Of course these all sound like stupid reasons to create a brand name, but I can asure you these are all real examples.

For consumer products brand names do make sense, they allow a company to build attributes around a product, group of products or category and then provide a reason for consumers to be loyal to that association.

But the same does not hold true for business purchases. Business people tend to follow a very careful purchasing process that starts with the identification of a problem that needs to be solved and the formation of a team to consider the best ways of solving it. This team will include business, technical and financial people who will all consider the ways of solving it from their perspective. Some of this team will be more eloquent that others and will have a greater say in the final decision, but the process strips out emotion and relies of cold hard facts.

Business products are therefore most successful when they are easy to describe technically, financially and at a business level. The cool name plays very little part in it. In fact a cool name gets in the way. If the product is called the “iflapgrabber 2000” no one will know what it is on an invoice, while if it was called “a door handle” it will pass through the process of review much more easily.

If the response to a request for a quote lists “iflabgrabber 2000, iattach-o-top, iattach-o-bot, iportalblock, isecuritizer and iopener” as opposed
to “a door, hinges, a handle, a lock and a key” it’s easy to see which one will create confusion and which one is easy to say yes to.

Brands in business actually can create barriers, making it hard for people to choose a solution, hard to share it and hard to communicate.

Many companies who sell to businesses are learning this lesson and moving away from individual brand names towards simple descriptive names that make their products easier to understand and consume in business.

If you want to sell more to businesses, think like the people you are trying to sell too. Know what problem they want to solve, who they are and how they would like to solve it.

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Why Don’t They Make More Movies Like That?

Upon seeing a TV ad for the film “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks,” which appears
charming and includes numerous stars (albeit older ones) btw, the question raised by
my spouse was, “Why don’t they make more movies like that?

A charming film with award-winning actors
A charming film with award-winning actors

I pondered the question briefly and responded with a line about how maybe the target audience [of spry and not-so-spry oldsters] don’t go to the movies as often as teens and millenials, so that’s why not. It was quick work for me – question answered, mystery solved.

The retort came right back, “That’s all they do down there in Florida is go to the movies! Think about our retired friends… all they talk about are movies they’ve just seen and are going to see tomorrow after breakfast.

Consumers with time with watch
Consumers with time to watch many movies

Hmmmm… I thought. She’s exactly right, there are tons of seniors with time on their hands and these are movies with award-winning folks they remember, shown at a giant scale and volume (to compensate for vision and hearing loss). Castmember Rita Moreno has a Grammy, a Tony, an Emmy, AND a friggin’ Oscar, so this movie (and others like it), have no shortage of award-winning talent so Yes, it makes sense from the demand side to make more of them. Having eliminated “lack of demand” I next did some research and found that the typical budget for these geriatric-casted movies is generally pretty low by Hollywood standards, so that’s not it. High demand for a quality product combined low cost… “Why don’t they make more movies like that?,” I now thought.

I thought about it awhile more, applied all my knowledge and experiences, and was prepared later when she asked the question again – This time I replied, “2 fig newtons in a baggie, that’s why they don’t make more of those movies.”

In response to her puzzled look I went on to explain, “Theaters make their money on tickets and concessions and many seniors choose the 1/2 price matinee showings, also show their AARP card for an additional discount, and then skip the concession stand because they brought 2 fig newtons in a ziplock bag.

This brilliant deduction and statement was followed by a long silence and a stare I’ve seen before. Despite the look I received I was quite content that I had expertly solved this Hollywood mystery and could move on to the next challenge (whatever it may be). Sometimes, it seems, it’s not rewarding to solve life’s mysteries, but someone’s got to do it, right?

Enemy of quality cinema?
Enemy of quality cinema?

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