Some Background

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National and Global, United States

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Enligthened Economics: Not So Rational

In a very interesting September 2 New York Times Magazine article, Nobel Prize winner and liberal economist Paul Krugman discussed the development of economic thought over the past 230 years and how the current financial crisis has thrown economic theory into disarray. Krugman makes a case that almost all economists, whether they be conservative or liberal, financial or macroeconomic, missed the current economic crisis. Despite their impressive-looking mathematical formulas and hundreds of years of history, economists, in general, failed to predict the size and timing of our current worldwide maelstrom, and, worse yet, were generally blind to the idea that a catastrophe of this size could even happen in this day and age.

Krugman says economists, "Will have to acknowledge the importance of irrational and often unpredictable behavior, face up to the often idiosyncratic imperfections of markets and accept that an elegant economic 'theory of everything' is a long way off." In short, he says we have to "live with messiness."

From a practical standpoint, it reiterates the importance of knowing that the financial markets are not perfectly rational and that they do not always behave in the way that econometric models predict. One could argue that changes in the financial markets are simply a reflection of the sentiments, fears, dreams, and hopes of us - the market participants. The markets are not separate from us - they are us!

Since we are human, the markets may behave in a way that reflects human behavior and that can get quite messy. Some of us are rational beings while others are not so much enlightened as opposed to emotional, subjective, and irrational.

“There is nothing so disastrous as a rational investment policy in an irrational world”
John Maynard Keynes

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

In this lifetime, you don't have to prove nothin' to nobody except yourself. Really?

The headline is a quote from "Rudy", the movie about a single soul who played one play for Notre Dame University football. "Rudy, Rudy, Rudy"...they would scream from the stands. Today, it rather seems to be about RUDE RUDE RUDE. I wish it were Rudy. It ain't. Slammed doors, things stolen off desks, a dearth of thank-yous, cell phones going off in the middle of meetings, messy restrooms and cubicle mates who screech. That ubiquitous e-mail or job application that seems never to get a response. The phone call that never gets returned. I call that rude to a point of being unprofessional.

The workplace is more full of rudeness than ever before. Unprofessional behavior in business and in social life. I just read where a man wants to be deported from the United States. Yes, deported. He can't take it any longer. Wow-ie. Hope he's not going to France!

When I'm in the middle of meeting with someone to discuss a project and some jerk picks up the phone to talk to someone...anyone. And I'm standing there waiting, I have a problem. When I post on Craigslist and someone talks to me like they already own 'it'. I gotta a problem with that. Or when I phone the IRS, and get a person on the phone, who thinks I'm not from the same planet. I gotta a problem with not returning a phone call or e-mail. I gotta a problem with selfish opportunists. I have a probem with Rude.

But the worst offender might be just around the corner. No, your corner. It might actually be you. It might be me. Sometimes they call themselves "free spirits". I don't think so. I meet a lot of those types. Self-indulgent and selfish.
Quiting a job or getting fired from one, via voice mail or texting. Now, that is class. And rude. I received a fax once from a client on Christmas Eve who did just that.

"Incivility has diminished morale, reduced efficiency and loyalty and, let's not forget the bottom line, profits," Giovinella Gonthier, president of Chicago-based Civility Associates, said. "It's a big problem, and it's permeated the business and personal world, as well"

Not holding a door open for other people; not greeting or acknowledging greetings from people in the hallway; people who don't wait for others to leave an elevator before entering themselves; and people who leave public restrooms in complete shambles. That's rude.

In the last 15 or 20 years, the corporate world has spent millions of dollars on training people to work with machines and software, but humanware skills have been totally neglected. People can work effectively with machines but not with each other.

It is protocol of behavior in business and personal life. It's not the BMW. The latte. It's not your hair-stylist. It's nothing but you. Rudeness abounds. I see it everyday. And it abounds with the exact people who take the stand that "they don't have to prove nothin' to nobody". Nice. Sensitive.

People are late for appointments, deceptive, cluttering up other people's physical and personal space, leaving on cell phones, and speaking too loudly. The demogods of demagoguery. The denizens of the stupid.

New South Wales, Australia, considered a law that would require politicians to pass a breath test before voting on legislation. Recently, one apparently inebriated state lawmaker pushed a female colleague during a debate, and another was seen dancing in his underwear at an office party, shortly after helping to craft the state budget.

In my opinion people are rude because they can be. We let them. Remember this also from Rudy, the movie:
"No one, and I mean no one, comes into our house and pushes us around."

Time to stand up.

Healthier People in a Bad Economy?

The recession may be hurting your bank account, said Karen Kaplan in the Los Angeles Times, but it’s probably not hurting your health. On the contrary, a new study from University of Michigan researchers found a strong “link between a bad economy and good health.”
Yes, that's right. In poor economic times, people tend to eat healthier foods. At least, that's what the pundits are saying. So as the GDP shrinks, you live longer...with less. Thus, if we continue with long term recession, the obvious comes into play. Will obese people get skinny? Less pizza, fewer beers. More salads?

Oh, and that 'bread line' is great, if that's all you got to eat. Right? And you can't even afford a pack of cigerettes. The beer prices went through the roof, and all you can afford is cheap red wine. Wine is good for you, right? Since you're not working, you sleep longer, which is also good for you. Less stress, because you don't have to deal with office politics. No deadlines, no pressure. Just you and your dog. What a wonderful world.

This recession is bringing more people together since there is a common bond. They are all healthier. Obesity is under control. Salads and wine are in. Beer and pizza are out. You can't smoke.  You are home with your family much more, because you don't have the cash to go out. Common bonding!

Living longer....with less. As Johnny Carson once said: “I know a man who gave up smoking, drinking, sex, and rich food. He was healthy right up to the day he killed himself.”

Saturday, September 26, 2009

So Long to the Gatekeepers

You may recall that every creative work, whether it was music, movies, art, poetry, a newspaper article, had to be approved. Approved by whom you ask? Gatekeepers have always been a haven for 'approval'. Bad people never got through. They also saved us from those with agenda's different from their own. They said NO alot.

Gatekeepers retained the organization. They processed, screened and exited people. Only a few 'got through'. In the government, these bureaucrats made certain no one circumvented.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Something Strange in the Netherland of "Searching for Work"..

You would think that all of these 'executive' websites, like Execunet and Ladders would be overwhelmed with applicants willing to pay these people $30. per month for these so-called executive jobs. Fact is, they are suffering too, just like those dregs: CareerBuilder and Monster. And they should. It's mostly misguided hope, wrapped in eliquent dreams.

Twitter Damages Your Memory...

Micro-blogging service Twitter could have a harmful effect on your memory, says one scientist.

According to Dr Tracy Alloway from Stirling University, who will be speaking on the subject at the British Science Festival this week, Twitter "produces a stream of information every second with no opportunity to process or manipulate that information".

I agree. In fact, I'm not certain that most 'twitters' have a memory to worry about.

Process? Manipulate? You got me.

The stream of information that I read, would infer that the harm on memory is complete long before you begin to 'twitt'.

First Your Car, Then Your Cheeseburger...Now What?

"First they came for your car," said Conn Carroll in The Heritage Foundation's The Foundry blog. "Then for your cheeseburger. Now those crazy environmentalists want to control how you wipe." So stock up on the soft stuff, America.

"There is a battle for America's behinds," said David A. Fahrenthold in The Washington Post. Environmental groups say plush toilet paper is "a menace" and a "dark-comedy" example of American excess.

Well, here comes the 'tree theory' again. Chopping down too many trees, to make toilet paper. How about all those trees to build houses? Why not make homes out of cement or even straw bale hay? I don't know the numbers, but taking a stand on 'toilet paper' resonants with someone's myopic view of the world. A 'behind the scenes look' if you will.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What the 'hey' is Happening to Management Consultancies?

Across the board, it appears that most, if not all, management consulting firms, are taking a significant 'hit' into the economic doldrums. The big firms are getting hurt the most. They have significant monthly overhead, and clients just are not making the financial commitment that they once did. It appears to be mostly focused on the public sector consultancies, since the 'beltway bandits' with the federal cash flowing like water, seemed to be weathering the storm.

Here's an example from public records of MCG consultants based in London. This is probably typical:

Being cute and fluffy doesn’t give you any special rights

"Poor Yang Yang and Kou Kou and Lun Lun," said Britain's The Independent. BBC wildlife expert Chris Packham told Radio Times magazine Monday that we spend a fortune trying to save the giant panda, largely because it's cute, but the money would be better invested helping other species. He said the panda has "gone down an evolutionary cul-de-sac" and "I reckon we should pull the plug."

So too the American corporation as we know it. An 'evolutionary cul-de-sac'. The money too, would be better invested in helping other 'species' like the independent small business firm. And in today's economy, many of those are in trouble.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

AGEISM: It's A Killer.

Age discrimination is an issue today. It wasn't for me 'yesterday'. Today it is. No particular reason outside of the fact that we all age. Ageism. I hate that term. Nevertheless, it's out there, in all its inexcusable, ugly forms. It's not blatant mind you. It's subtle. It's suspect.

You probably will never be directly confronted with the issue. But they will figure it out...and you will just not get called.

Watching out for "WhiteWater"

People who tend to survive catastrophes accept what’s happening quicker than others and therefore take action faster, according to author Amanda Ripley in “The Unthinkable.” The same is true for 'next career' success. The race goes to those who can calmly say, “OK, what’s next?”

Change is inevitable. Organizational consultant Peter Vail calls the world’s increasing interdependence and complexity “permanent whitewater.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

About B.R.A.N.D ing

Kevin Randall in the latest edition of Fast Company said it pretty well, when talking about corporate and personal Branding:


Your brand positioning must be credible both with your customers and employees.


You and your colleagues need to be close enough to your customers to develop products and services that truly meet their needs. Southwest Air


While your brand strategy should be relevant for today and specific markets, it also needs to be flexible, broad and viable over the long haul. General Electric

N--Numerically based

How you arrive at the brand strategy as well as measure your business' alignment with it and marketing effectiveness must be based on objective data and customer and market inputs versus gut.


One of the toughest challenges is to create a brand strategy that is unique. Apple Computer

On a personal level, it's not much different. You need to be believable, relevant, adaptable, quantitative, and unique. That should be our brand strategy....and the consultant in all of us.

Management Consultant? Then Speak UP!

Have you ever had to get up and speak in front of your audience? As a consultant, that's a tough one. You need to be expert at the topic, and you need to get positive results.

To get results from speaking, consultants have to do something that isn't natural for them: they have to take a stand. They have to put a stake in the ground and stand for something. And that's not a powerpoint presentation. It's you. Generalists are reluctant to do that because they don't want to drive away business. However, in this world taking a stand is a great way to avoid business you don't want, and garner the business you do.

The stake in the ground is your uniqueness, your unparalleled expertise, because that stance can be applied to a variety of topics. For example, a speaker whose message is that success is about results, not process, would weave that message into every speaking topic.

Too many consultants who speak do not differentiate themselves. And because they don't, the audience does not accept them as a resource. It's fine to speak about change, for example, but you must have something to say about change that is unique and drives your expertise on the subject.

In Fast Company magazine, you can see this in action. Their "gurus" do one of three things with conventional wisdom: they disagree with it, twist it, or go beyond it.

And if you, as a consultant, can go beyond the conventional wisdom; go beyond what is expected; go beyond the ordinary... you become the expert at non-conventional thinking. And that's why you get hired.

"When one door closes another door opens; but, we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, we do not see the ones which open for us."

-- Alexander Graham Bell

Think about it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Trouble in River City: Watching local evening news on Television

Do you watch local TV evening news? I don't. I used to.

Actually, we probably don't even need it anymore, since we have many more sources for information gathering. We also tend to form our own opinions these days, not someone else's. Just how many weather forecasts do I have to watch? How many fires, stabbings, robberies, etal. It's the same each night. Only the names change. I'm kinda happy that the US auto companies went 'bellyup'. No more local car dealer commercials, of someone sitting on a bull, trying to sell me a Dodge truck. Instead, we get your local 'accident lawyers', and commercials attempting to sell me medications that eliminate some of my physical dysfunctionality. I don't need either, thank you.

Donald Barnhouse, an old local news guy in Philadelphia sumed it up pretty well:

"This is not an information medium", he said. "This is not an entertainment medium. This is a selling medium"

Today's news is built on the Music Man model - scare 'em (You got trouble in River City), and maybe they'll buy something.

And then you've got to sit through the other 'newscast': Entertainment Tonight.

"And that's no bull"!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Party Line...

I don't know about you, but if you were like me growing up, you had what was called a 'party line'. Basically, a telephone line that was connected to up four other homes. My phone number was SUnset 9-7852. I'll never forget it. You could listen in to other homes conversations, or just wait for your turn to get the dial tone. We didn't worry about wire tapes, or the IRS or FBI or Homeland Security. If you wanted to listen to our conversations, well, have a good time. We did however, take each other's privacy seriously. If someone was on the party line, we'd simply say 'hello' and hang up. It was all  pretty simple.

Corporate Governance: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs...

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs "may be the funniest animated film of the year," said Roger Moore in the Orlando Sentinel. Produced by Sony Pictures Animation and based on the popular children's book about a man who invents a machine that causes clouds to rain food.

Grab your plates! In the land of Chewandswallow, meals - rather than rain or snow - fall from the sky. But something goes awry: the food falling from the sky gets larger and larger, causing the residents to make an escape before being squashed by giant pancakes or rolls. Will they cope with the natural disaster or be forced to make a run for it?

Friday, September 18, 2009

So You Think I'm Stupid

I've just begun to notice how politicans, sports personalities, and pop culture idols think. Here's the sample:

Social Media: A Commonality of Avatars

Dr Seuss wrote:"From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere."

My take is pretty straightforward. This is social media, not business media. I think we 'talk' to people who are just like ourselves, are in the same space, and have the same objectives. A certain common bonding. We 'chase our tails'. We pat each other on the back. We give ourselves 'high fives'. Psychologically, that's probably good. Makes each of us feel better, in the knowledge that someone is actually listening and responding to our rants. It's scalable as they say.

Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, etal, actually take us away from reality at times, and place us in a world where we can digitally enhance our image or persona. And in so doing, we kinda deify ourselves. I can go three days, for instance, without actually speaking to anyone. Three days without human interaction. Although when I am on a social media site, I actually believe that I am talking and interacting. I'm a digitized personality. My fingers talk to you on my keyboard. For all you know, that might not even be me out there in cyberspace.

I think, more importantly, that social media is just that. It's not 'business media'. It's 'me too'idness'. We 'talk' to other digital characters who think just like we do. A commonality of avatars call it.

I'm on Linkedin. That's it for the most part. Linkedin is not for finding 'more work'. It's for interacting with people that have similar issues. I find it helps me rationalize my thoughts. My gestalt. My world view. Nothing more. I thought it would be, but it just is not. If you think it is more, that's poppycock.

I tried Twitter and Facebook. On Twitter, I was doing 'chicken crossed the road jokes', and Facebook was an egocentric, 'here I bout you' demigodary of ones self. Who, aside from ourselves, actually gives a hoot. It's the deity in us that drives us in these spaces. Attempting to give us special status, established by ourselves. We all want to think of ourselves as an Ernest Hemingway or Albert Einstein, when in fact we are simply PeeWee Herman, attempting a come-back. A return to the stage.

Still, is this world of individual isolation, it is good to know that I can reach out in this space, and 'talk' to just about anyone who will listen. On the other hand, if I could actually find a neighbor and sit and talk over a cup of coffee, I would. But I can' I won't.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Radical Honesty Defined

BRAD BLANTON, Founder of a movement called Radical Honesty, states that it is important to live without lies.

Radical Honesty is based on a simple premise: that everyone would be happier if we just stopped lying, if we just told the truth, all the time. That would be radical in itself. He says we should toss out all the filters between our brains and our mouths. If you think it, say it. To him, it’s the only path to true relationships, the only way to break through today's soul-deadening alienation.

However, deceit makes our world go round. Without lies, marriages would crumble, workers would be fired, egos would be shattered, governments would collapse.

Perhaps there’s something to it.

The "No Jerks Rule"

We’ve got a no jerks rule here. Jerk bosses and cultures drive good people out of many organizations. If we find out we’ve got a bad egg, we want them out as quickly as possible. Few human resource managers or executives take action to avoid hiring jerks. We don't.

We have a few simple rules:
"No politics, no parochialism, no silos, no games, no cynicism, no arrogance". Bring any one of these attitudes to the table, and you are gone.

Let Me Repeat That: Redundant!

You have all heard the one about "A politician with an air bag in his car". That's one definition of 'redundant'. Others have to do with the business world.

One way to cut the clutter in our writing is to eliminate repetitious expressions. Because we so often see and hear redundancies (such as "free gifts" and "foreign imports"), they can be easy to overlook. Therefore, when editing our work, we should be on the lookout for needless repetition and be ready to eliminate expressions that add nothing to what has already been said.

So too, in the business world. I am confounded by the use of terminology. Redundancy in computer networking is good. It's a 'back up'. Sometimes the term is negative, as when you get 'laid off' from a job because your work has become redundant. That's a term used today to tell you that 'your services are no longer needed'.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My Dance Partner...My daughter.

Written by Tiernan McKay

My sister and I could count on it like clockwork. At least once a week, after we had brushed our teeth and climbed into bed, the record player downstairs would begin to hum. The music would be faint, but just loud enough to lure us out from under our warm covers. The two of us would tip-toe to the stairs and gingerly climb down the first three steps. Perched on our lookout point, we peered down to the main floor to see our mom and dad dancing slowly in the living room. As we sat there and stared at our parents, our house flooded with a sense of comfort and safety, as if completely impervious to the world's chaos just on the other side of our front door. Most of the time, we sat on those stairs for just one song. When it ended, without saying a word, we tip-toed back up three steps and climbed back into bed. Sigh. All was right with the world.

Technology Commercialization

One thing that has always amazed me is the amount of truly exquisite emerging technologies that are out there. From universities to corporate enterprise to private investors, there seems always to be a market for innovation, even in recession. That's good news!

So let's define it:

Monday, September 14, 2009

I am an expert...

Hey, I have an I-pod, I-phone, and an Apple computer. I also have a PC. I know the difference between a HUB and a Router. I know DVB-RCS. I know SOW, RFP, RFQ, SQL. I have lived in London and West/South Africa. I know digital content vs linear content. I know what 'float glass' is. KPI,SMB, CPU, USB?

I know POS systems. I go wireless on a global basis. Do you know what 64-bit computing is? Cloud computing? I know CPM, GRP, TRP, and segmentation analytics. Transponders anyone? Co-location? Percaps? I can create fantastic diagrams and charts in ppt. Visio is my favorite software. For what it's worth, I've had lunch with all three billionaires in the state of Arizona. "The Last Mile" is not a movie.

Why Companies Outsource Their Sales/Business Development Efforts to Firms Like Mine

What is Sales/BusDev Outsourcing
Sales and Business Development Outsourcing is the practice having a 3rd party generating sales for your company, or part of it. Instead of hiring, training and keeping a sales force in house, your company could save money and increase productivity by outsourcing your sales initiative.

Why Outsource Your Sales/BusDev Initiatives?

The Analog Pigeon

Take that, technology, said BBC News. "Broadband promised to unite the world with super-fast data delivery—but in South Africa it seems the Web is still no faster than a humble pigeon." An IT company, Unlimited IT, set up the race between an 11-month-old bird named Winston and the ADSL service of the country's biggest Web firm, Telekom. Winston took two hours to carry a 4GB data stick 60 miles; in the same time, 4 percent of the data had been transferred via ADSL.

Add to that fact, that I was at a convenience store yesterday, and I questioned the amount of the bill. The clerk stated: "thinking is not what my mind does." Oh really.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Marketing Consultant: Uniquely Ubiquitous

Ah! Another oxymoron. The definition of ubiquitous: "Being everywhere at the same time. Constantly encountering". That's simple. Someone or something all around us, never letting go, constantly engaging. That pretty much sums up the role of a consultant. The requirement to be here, there, and everywhere. Now, "unique" means being only one of a kind. Exclusive. Remember that. I love that terminology too!

For that reason I love being ubiquitous. I also love being unique. There's a certain ring to the 'brand'. Even Mr. Ubiquitous will do, thank you.

Monday, September 7, 2009

On Being a Marketing Consultant: “someone brought in from somewhere over there to here, to offer advice.”

The term consultant gets defined much too freely these days, but the core definition of a consultant seems to be “someone brought in from somewhere over there to here, to offer advice.” My group accomplishes ‘contract consulting’ which can last for a year or more.

That being said, here’s what I’ve found:

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Circle Game...50 Marketing Engagements Later...

When you are in the marketing agency space, you are either working and/or looking for work. It’s a habitual circle (I think that's an oxymoron) that never ends. It has become a habit, I need to break.

That’s correct. I’ve had 50+ engagements in my career.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Good News About Clients...

The Good News About Clients...
A friend of mine in Los Angeles sent me a note recently. I thought it was insightful:

The good news about clients, is that you can fire them without getting hurt as bad as getting fired

You know, he's correct. I've never been 'fired' as a management consultant, per se. But I have 'fired' clients for any number of reasons. As a consultant you have to be very careful that a negative client doesn't spill over to your next or former clients. It is a delicate balancing act.

You always want to be on top of your game. Not the client 'on top of you'. And there are plenty out there that will attempt to do just that. So 'be careful out there'. You need to keep your own best interest in mind, while still dealing professionally, with the clients.

Hopefully, that translates to good work within a professional environment, devoid of politics, personal side-bars, and company intrigue. I hope so.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

In Our Dogs We See...Ourselves!

Paraphrased From the book Old Dogs, text by Gene Weingarten and Michael S. Williamson

They can be eccentric, slow afoot, even grouchy. But dogs live out their final days, says The Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten, with a humility and grace we all could learn from.

Some years ago, The Washington Post invited readers to come up with a midlife list of goals for an underachiever. The first-runner-up prize went to: “Win the admiration of my dog.”

Some Thinkers