Saturday, May 31, 2008
Wally Bock on a story of wine and ambition.
The trailer for Nicholas Nickleby.
44 mpg: The discontinued Geo Metro is making a comeback.
You go to learn about the Middle Ages and encounter "Waste Studies."
Theodore Dalrumple on assimilating immigrants in Britain.
"[T]he American media produce a product of very poor quality," he lectured. "Its information is not reliable, it has too much chrome and glitz, its doors rattle, it breaks down almost immediately, and it's sold without warranty. It's flashy but it's basically junk."
As we pass his prediction's 15-year anniversary, I've got to declare advantage Crichton. Rot afflicts the newspaper industry, which is shedding staff, circulation, and revenues. It's gotten so bad in newspaperville that some people want Google to buy the Times and run it as a charity! Evening news viewership continues to evaporate, and while the mass media aren't going extinct tomorrow, Crichton's original observations about the media future now ring more true than false. Ask any journalist.
The planner has thought ahead and has carefully allotted specific amounts of time for various tasks and, of course, all has been prioritized. Lists have been made. If a chart is not nearby rest assured one is in the planner's mind.
The improviser, governed by a general idea of what needs to be done, barely nods to the plan and moves about like a gnat, working on this and then flying to that for just a while, and then over to something near the end of the planner's construct.
It drives the planner nuts in much the same way that the improviser would be frustrated if forced to adopt a methodical approach.
If progress is to be made and bloodshed avoided, both need to recognize their styles and acknowledge the advantages and downsides of each. Focusing on dulling the points of greatest irritation is crucial. For example, improvisers should be more sensitive to the disruption caused by their freeflow approach and planners should accept that addressing certain items out of sequence can have benefits. It won't be easy, but such accommodation is workable.
By the way, planners and improvisers often marry one another. It's a rule of life.
Friday, May 30, 2008
[Clockwork Orange is one of those books/movies you never forget.]
The manipulation, in turn, can cause a loss of trust. Employees eventually catch on to the game and those who may of been in the know in the first place will wisely wonder, "If the boss plays games with my colleague, what is being done with me?"
The loss of trust, of course, is far worse than an unpleasant meeting.
Manipulators don't admit to their practices. They justify them by asserting that it is less disruptive to avoid confrontation, the employee would be unreasonable or there is no time to sort out the roots of the problem. What's worse is that sometimes the strategy works. There are moments when the clever deflection or avoidance of an issue does defuse a situation or matters resolve themselves. Occasionally, problems walk away.
The core danger of manipulation, however, is what it does to the manipulator. Bobbing and weaving can easily become a habit. Granted, managers who are as slippery as an eel may be otherwise competent.
You just won't want to turn your back on them.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Every writer – well, every comedy writer – has made this mistake. You're at work, and you're laughing with your colleagues, about something – usually what we call a "room run" – a joke that originates entirely in the writers' room, one that's usually so objectionable, so foul, so indefensibly cruel and wrong and ugly, that the entire room is paralyzed by laughter.
Evil, dirty laughter.
But it's funny. Hilarious, actually, to you. So when you get home to your wife or husband or boyfriend or girlfriend, you know, you want to share your day. Share the little moments of joy you experienced.
Why do New Yorkers seem rude?
It is said that New Yorkers are rude, but I think what people mean by that is that New Yorkers are more familiar. The man who waits on you in the delicatessen is likely to call you sweetheart. (Feminists have gotten used to this.) People on the bus will say, "I have the same handbag as you. How much did you pay?" If they don't like the way you are treating your children, they will tell you. And should you try to cut in front of somebody in the grocery store checkout line, you will be swiftly corrected. My mother, who lives in California, doesn't like to be kept waiting, so when she goes into the bank, she says to the people in the line, "Oh, I have just one little thing to ask the teller. Do you mind?" Then she scoots to the front of the line, takes the next teller and transacts her business, which is typically no briefer than anyone else's. People let her do this because she is an old lady. In New York, she wouldn't get away with it for a second.
While New Yorkers don't mind correcting you, they also want to help you. In the subway or on the sidewalk, when someone asks a passerby for directions, other people, overhearing, may hover nearby, disappointed that they were not the ones asked, and waiting to see if maybe they can get a word in. New Yorkers like to be experts. Actually, all people like to be experts, but most of them satisfy this need with friends and children and employees. New Yorkers, once again, tend to behave with strangers the way they do with people they know.
[HT: Arts & Letters Daily ]
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Here’s another inscrutable provision. “An employer . . . shall not be considered in violation of [GINA] based on the use, acquisition, or disclosure of medical information that is not genetic information about a manifested disease, disorder, or pathological condition of an employee or member, including a manifested disease, disorder, or pathological condition that has or may have a genetic basis.” It’s not genetic information, although it has a genetic basis? I don’t know exactly what this means, but I’m sure a court somewhere will.
Those often kindly teachers, however, do have a sense of urgent mission. Even if we put them on truth-serum, the academics who dominate the humanities and social sciences on our campuses today would state that K-12 education essentially has been one long celebration of America and the West, as if our students were intimately familiar with the Federalist Papers and had never heard of slavery or empire. Having convinced themselves that the students whom they inherit have been immersed in American and Western traditions without critical perspective—they do believe that—contemporary academics see themselves as having merely four brief years in which to demystify students, and somehow to get them to look up from their Madison and Hamilton long enough to gaze upon the darker side of American and Western life. In their view, our K-12 students know all about Aristotle, John Milton and Adam Smith, have studied for twelve years how America created bounty and integrated score after score of millions of immigrants, but have never heard of the Great Depression or segregation.
- Some films are famous for being good but upon closer examination, they aren't all that good.
- If a film is dark and brooding, many people will believe it is deep.
- You can analyze the hidden meaning of films until all joy is removed.
- A few films repel within seconds while others improve with time.
- The best films don't tell or show all.
- Even great films have good and not-so-good parts.
- A terrible film can bring you down.
- It is possible to improve your mood by simply recalling certain films.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
The story is told of GK Chesterton delivering proofs, late, to his editor. The office was deserted, with just one person, from the accounts department, to take delivery of the great man's work. When Chesterton produced from his bag not only his corrected pages but a bottle of port and a glass, the terrified clerk confessed he was teetotal. 'Good heavens,' Chesterton squeaked in dismay. 'Give me back my proofs!'
[HT: Michael at 2Blowhards ]
Monday, May 26, 2008
At 7:53 p.m. ET Mission Control received the signal that the craft had survived the tricky descent through the red planet's atmosphere dubbed the seven minutes of terror.
During that time the probe had to slow itself from 12,700 miles (20,438 kilometers) an hour to 5 miles (8 kilometers) an hour before gently setting down on Martian permafrost.
Although friction and a parachute helped reduce its speed, Phoenix was designed to separate from the chute at about 0.6 mile (a kilometer) above Mars, relying on pulsing thrusters to smooth its final descent.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
"WARNING: Indiana Jones is a fictional character. His movies are all set decades ago. He is more physically attractive than 98 percent of humanity. These are all reasons you should not attempt to dress like him."
Your new employer offers you $1,000 if you resign on the spot. An excerpt from the Portfolio article:
The operating assumption is that anyone willing to take the company up on the offer lacks the commitment to the job and conformity to the culture that are necessary for a successful relationship. By Zappos' calculation, that $1,000 is less than the cost of keeping an uninspired call-center employee on the payroll.
Part of the deceptive sense of falling behind reflects the elastic nature of being middle class. According to Pew, 70 percent of households now have two or more cars, and a similar share has satellite or cable TV; 66 percent have high-speed Internet; 42 percent already have flat-panel TVs. Thirty years ago, no one's parents had this inventory. More students go to college and graduate school, so more have debt. Health care is expensive in part because modern medicine can do so much. Someone has to pay. One in 10 households now has a vacation home.
"Progress" keeps draining our pocketbooks. Pew finds that four-fifths of Americans find it hard to maintain middle-class lifestyles; in 1986, two-thirds did. But today's middle-class anxieties transcend the well-advertised "squeeze" on incomes. The deeper source of disquiet, I think, lies elsewhere. Middle-class families value predictability, order and security, and these reassuring qualities have eroded. People worry about rising living expenses; but what really upsets them is the possibility that their incomes or fringe benefits -- pensions, health and disability insurance -- might vanish.
Read the rest of Robert Samuelson on middle class jitters and the loss of entitlement.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Granted, there are some proposals in which such a response might be justified. One does not have to eat the entire egg to know that it is rotten. With most matters, however, the executive's reaction is not only unwise on the basis of substance, but also politically inept.
By announcing instant objection to a proposal that holds many pros and cons, he comes across as just as rash as if he'd said, "That's fantastic." By rushing to judgment, he's just devalued the currency of his opinion.
It was Sam Rayburn, the late and great Speaker of the House of Representatives, who observed, "The three most important words in the world are 'Wait a minute.'"
Friday, May 23, 2008
Unable to resist, I will [once again, to many heavy sighs] add to the adult list of recommendations the Aubrey-Maturin series of novels by Patrick O'Brian. Don't be put off by the "two friends in the Royal Navy" descriptions. This series is far better than most of the classics you were forced to read in school. The books are not for men only - I know some women who are serious O'Brian fans - and although the first volume (Master and Commander) is probably the slowest because it has to set the stage, all of the books are beautifully written and paced. Marvelous stuff. It will transport you to another time with some great companions.
Get it. You have not a moment to lose.
The not-so-positive case is that, at least so far, we're not giving up on books for the same words on screens – we're giving up on words. Pick your data point: A recent National Endowment for the Arts report, "To Read or Not to Read," found that 15- to 24-year-olds spend an average of seven minutes reading on weekdays; people between 35 and 44 spend 12 minutes; and people 65 and older spend close to an hour. [Emphasis added]
Much is at stake. As Mr. Gomez concluded, "what's really important is the culture of ideas and innovation" books represent. But "to expect future generations to be satisfied with printed books is like expecting the BlackBerry users of today to start communicating by writing letters, stuffing envelopes and licking stamps."
- Aaron Copland CDs
- Raw almonds
- Starbucks Komodo Dragon coffee
- Moleskine tablet
- Levenger Circa notebook and punch
- IBM ThinkPad
- Cross rollerball pen
- Project boxes
Any other nominees?
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Hmmm. Are these really the ten brainiest places to retire?
Stanley Bing wants us to shop local.
Jim Stroup both informs and prepares us for the sequel in this tale of leadership.
Debt Free gives 10 steps to avoid becoming a millionaire. [HT: Political Calculations ]
Marvelous film and an even better book: The trailer for Nobody's Fool.
Tim Berry gives a real life example of why presenters should always have a fall-back plan.
Fat City: An end to bodysnarking?
Eurociao wonders if film critics know the real Che.
Real leadership: Wally Bock on Herb Kelleher.
Guy Kawasaki interviews creativity consultant Roger von Oech.
There are always The Powerful Intangibles that can mean more to others than all of your logic. Focusing solely on the hard items and not the soft invites disaster. Fortunately, those soft items that cry out for attention usually fall into one category: Status.
Propose a change that is perceived to diminish the status of a person and you should count on a reaction akin a wounded wolverine's response to a poke with a sharp stick. This will occur despite your ability to show all sorts of marvelous reasons why the person should be supportive. Attack my status and you attack me, personally and deeply.
An example can be found in the flare-ups that occur when job titles and reporting relationships are altered. The change agent may think such matters are trivial but they aren't to the person who boasts of a direct line to the boss or who doesn't want to tell the folks at home that his or her title has shifted from "director" to "coordinator." Pointing out the extra pay and the fact that authority has not changed will not score any points. A Great Intangible has been touched.
That's why any proposed changes, both in substance and procedure, should be scrutinized for status issues. It is important to be logical, but not coldly so.
Northwestern, I know, has given honorary doctorates to Robert Redford and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Yale gave one some years back to Meryl Streep. The motive here, at least in part, is to get a commencement address on the cheap, and to give the graduating students the right to say that at their commencement someone wildly famous spoke. Yet one wonders if the graduates of Long Island's Southampton College, allowed to reflect upon the matter in tranquility, were entirely pleased when their school gave an honorary degree to Kermit the Frog.
Read the rest of the Business Week article.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
I have some questions:
- If you are not measuring efforts and are solely focused on results, then how do you achieve consistency in the quality of the results?
- Are the results defined tightly or loosely? If the latter, then quality can really fly out the window.
The overall appeal of a system that gets rid of mindless meetings and pointless procedures is hard to deny. It may be that my questions are fully answered in the execution strategy. Knowing the gaps between promise and performance, however, I get a little nervous when a bold new approach is described and it sounds a great deal like what has been tried, with mixed results, in the past.
With the number of books and magazines that I plow through in the course of a year, I could wind up saving money. [Sober voice: Nice rationalization, book worm!]
If you've been using one, give me your own review.
[HT: Dr. Helen ]
The message contained a variety of items, starting with a major issue and then moving on to some seemingly minor ones in its wake.
The response dealt solely with the major point and glossed over the others. Given the urgency of the primary topic, that was understandable. Unlike the person who sent the response, however, I had the advantage of time and could see, tucked within the initial sender's list of "minor" items, the announcement of a setback that must have been jarring. It wasn't a death in the family or a matter of similar magnitude and yet it was pretty significant. Although the writer had chosen to mention it in passing, the news was far from trivial. The unwritten message in the single line was, "I'm wounded."
I have no doubt that although the sender buried his sad news in the forest of the message, he sought some consolation. None was given. A moment was lost. And I hate to think of how often, in my rush to send a reply, I've shot past similar expressions of pain from colleagues and friends.
Benedictine held its annual commencement ceremonies this past weekend, and I happened to be there because I was the speaker. After all the degrees had been handed out, two young men in dress blue were called back on stage. Before their families, their classmates, and their teachers, these men raised their right hands and swore to "support and defend" our Constitution. And then Lt. Jeff Fetters and Lt. Michael Mundie were presented to their class as "the newest officers in the United States Army."
What a striking moment this was. Here were two young men who had stepped forward to wear the uniform in a time of war – and who had their service publicly acknowledged by their peers and institution. One retired general who graduated from this same campus in 1966 put it this way. "These young men will need every bit of encouragement in the world they have now entered," said Tom Wessels. "And by golly, it was great to see them get it."
Read the rest of William McGurn on the contrast between Benedictine and Harvard.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Mr. Chen sent us on in his car to Nanjing, where Tom took me to a steel mill he used to run. The company that Tom used to work for bought the mill from the Chinese government for $1 on the understanding that it would be kept in operation. The mill was eventually sold, for considerably more than $1 to Mr. Liu and Mrs. Sung.
The mill’s 150-pound ex-PLA guard dog, Shasha (“Killer”), was extremely glad to see Tom. So were the employees. Although there were some steel mill employees who presumably wouldn’t have been so glad, such as the two or three hundred “ghost workers” who didn’t exist at all and were on the mill’s payroll when Tom took over. Plus the thousands of workers he’d fired because they didn’t do anything. Tom also needed to get rid of the local family that had the “theft rights” to the factory. They once stole an entire railroad train from the mill and would have gotten away with it if the train didn’t have a track that led directly to them.
“Here’s where one guy threw a wrench at me,” Tom said as we climbed the tower to the blast furnace.
“What’d you do?”
“I tossed him down the stairs,” Tom said. “Rule of law is the cornerstone of capitalism.”
Read the rest of P. J. O'Rourke in China.
Pizza at the airport costs five times more than pizza on the way to the airport.
Tax audit services in the middle of an SEC investigation cost triple what they cost before one.
The most perfect situation for structured procrastination that I ever had was when my wife and I served as Resident Fellows in Soto House, a Stanford dormitory. In the evening, faced with papers to grade, lectures to prepare, committee work to be done, I would leave our cottage next to the dorm and go over to the lounge and play ping-pong with the residents, or talk over things with them in their rooms, or just sit there and read the paper. I got a reputation for being a terrific Resident Fellow, and one of the rare profs on campus who spent time with undergraduates and got to know them. What a set up: play ping pong as a way of not doing more important things, and get a reputation as Mr. Chips.
[HT: Andrew Sullivan ]
- If something doesn't feel right, don't pretend that it is right.
- Be wary of wit at the expense of others. It has a habit of turning sour.
- There are times when one of the smartest things you can do is to lose an argument.
- One of the most dangerous moments in a meeting is when everyone agrees.
- There are no little slights.
- Don't set higher standards for your secretary than you do for your chief executive officer.
- There are people who are wrong at the top of their voice.
- Predators may be beautiful but they are still predators.
- It can be easier to take a group from the bottom to the top than to keep a group at the top.
- If you have no competition you'd be wise to invent some.
- Whenever you are being given too much detail, rest assured that it is being used as a cloak.
- Look, and keep looking, for new ways of looking.
Monday, May 19, 2008
How's this for an unusual business slogan? The Smell Good Plumber.
Business Week has a slide show of the world's most competitive countries.
When Hollywood had style: a 1932 film of the ceremonies for the premiere of Grand Hotel.
The usual library: Check out books, rod, reel, tackle box.
What that means is the man is extremely productive. He completes books in the time it takes the rest of us to finish our second drafts. Adding to our guilt, he does so with a demanding travel schedule that takes him far from his native Britain. [I have visions of him writing them in airports or while sipping gin as the sun sets in some exotic clime. Aargh.]
His latest, Beat The 2008 Recession: A Blueprint for Business Survival, is a brief, creative, and to the point collection of 176 potential ways to spur your business. [The book is currently available at Amazon UK.]
The book abounds with key messages used to sum up certain sections; handy reminders such as "Simply discounting is not selling nor is it negotiation" and "A complex decision is not a decision until you have created a plan and know the critical path." His advice to keep strategic, tactical, and weekly plans nearby for frequent review so they can thwart the temptation to get off track during a crisis is especially timely.
In short, this is a workshop in a book. It is a direct way to jar and refresh your thinking. You will have heard a number of the points before but the space Bate provides for your action plan declares that knowledge without action is not all that effective.
I kept muttering, "I know that. Why haven't I been doing that?"
All else was simply show; a performance for the human resources and law department second-guessers so later it could be said that a full interview was given and all of the prescribed questions were asked.
The fact is he didn't fit their picture of a successful candidate. He was either too fat or too thin, too educated or not educated enough, too old or not quite old enough, or there was just something in his background or appearance that irked them. The reason's substance really didn't matter because they thought it had substance, the decision was theirs to make, and they'd never tell him the real reason because they weren't entirely sure themselves.
After the letter arrived announcing the decision, he would talk it over with his wife and friends and attempt to figure out where he'd fallen short. All of them would try to help, much as you might assist a person with the clue to a crossword puzzle. Perhaps it was this answer or maybe they wanted more of that particular knowledge.
The analysis would be sound but for one assumption: that the interviewers were behaving logically.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
People who demand that they must feel a particular way in order to behave in that manner can be huge drains on a team. The best colleagues have a positive demeanor even if they don't feel like it.
Individuals who believe that their feelings are the key criterion mistakenly conclude that their colleagues just have better moods. That is not so. On any given Monday morning, most meeting participants would rather be on a beach in Tahiti but they have the decency and professionalism not to show it.
This operates in all directions. The leader who blubbers about every problem he or she encounters is not doing the team any favors. The team members have their own problems and should not be unduly burdened with the leader's challenges. The reverse is also true.
To some extent, acting a part is a requirement of every job. We may choose to be sensitive cops or tough cops, activist or corporate lawyers, gregarious plumbers or quiet ones, but we have to be able to project the central role.
And that requirement exists regardless of our feelings.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
The best way to ensure the detection of a mistake is to make sure that something in the environment makes it very obvious that one has been made. A good example of an environmental cue is the inevitable "extra" parts that remain after a do-it-yourself repair project. These parts make it very clear that you have not reassembled the item correctly.
The Talmud says that "whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world." Irena Sendlerowa, who died Monday at the age of 98 in Warsaw, saved some 2,500 worlds.
During the Nazi occupation of her country, this Polish Catholic woman risked her life and endured unspeakable torture to rescue Jewish children from the Holocaust. As a member of "Zegota," the organization set up by the Polish underground to help Jews, she masterminded a daring rescue operation: Posing as a nurse, she and about 20 other Poles smuggled about 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw ghetto.
Friday, May 16, 2008
Read the rest of Joe Queenan on what journalists look for in a president.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
[Assume that the job has nothing to do with religion or politics. Remember that I'm not asking if it would be right or wrong to consider the symbol, but whether it would have a negative impact.]
(a). A cross.
(b) A Star of David.
(c) A crescent.
(d) A flag pin with the flag of the nation in which the job is located.
(e) A peace symbol.
The word is GE is going to put its applicances business on the market.
Michael Overly gives some tips on how to write a statement of work.
Jack Handey has created a personal flag.
Is Germany getting closer to Iran?
Instant bossophobia: David Brent's first scene.
Jonathan Winters recalls why he was so often invited to be a guest on various television programs.
Michael J. Totten reports on the surge and Fallujah.
Arthur C. Brooks examines that old line about money buying happiness and finds some larger issues.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Every now and then, in spite of everything you do, you get to a period of time where if you don’t work like a slave, you’re toast. Suddenly, everything is on the line. There are important presentations to investors, say… or an annual meeting… or a gathering of all the senior management in the company at which you must present… or a Board meeting at which the future will be mapped out… or all of these at once.
You don’t have to be told it’s crunch time. You know. You go home at night, your head swimming with all the things you have to do. You sleep a couple of hours, maybe, and then it’s suddenly 3 AM and you’re up to stay, exhausted, stressed out, heart pounding in your chest.
That's correct. That's the only possible reason unless:
- They have other priorities;
- They have to shift resources elsewhere;
- You failed to make your case;
- They didn't trust you;
- They have a different grasp of the situation;
- The timing isn't right;
- They see a major downside;
- They want to address it later;
- They want more time to think it over;
- They see a crisis on the horizon;
- They like parts of it but not all of it;
- They want to explore other options;
- They want to see what you will do after the proposal is rejected;
- They believe they'll get more out of a different approach;
- They believe your proposal is a quagmire;
- This is new territory for them and their fears have not been put to rest;
- This is familiar territory and they see problems you don't;
- They like your proposal but know their boss won't approve; or
- You've asked them to take too much on faith.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
[Update: An interview with the author.]
Eileen P. Gunn talks with Marshall Goldsmith and John Eldred on the power of schmoozing.
I like Toby Getsch's note to the person(s) who broke into his truck on Tuesday.
They didn't mention flames: What the color of your car may say about you.
An understated and powerful film: The trailer for Claude Lanzmann's masterpiece, Shoah.
Best biz books? A distinguished panel gives their choices of the best business books and some of the choices aren't even business books. [Good for them!]
- When a colleague was the target of unfair attacks;
- After a sarcastic remark was made at a staff meeting;
- When you began to notice that a team member was being ostracized;
- When you didn't really understand the assignment;
- When you first sensed that a project was about to unravel; and
- Right after you said yes when you wanted to say no.
Read the rest of Myron Magnet's reflections on Saul Bellow's Mr. Sammler's Planet.
Vista taxes all but the most modern PCs with hefty processing and memory requirements. Many of GM's PCs can't even run the system. "By the time we'd replace them, Windows 7 might be ready anyway," Killeen says. Then there are compatibility problems with all the software that needs to run on Windows. GM's software vendors still haven't ensured all their programs will run on Vista trouble-free. So the company is sticking with Windows XP for now. Killeen figures GM could install Windows 7 in three or four years.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Consider the first paragraph:
During the Great War, I lived in the west of Berlin, in a room with a balcony in a small boarding house on Fasanenstrasse. The room was small, too, as was the balcony, but for someone like me whose needs were few it was a place to live. Not once during my stay there did I speak to the landlady or the other boarders. Every morning a chambermaid brought me a cup of coffee and two or three slices of bread, and once a week she brought the bill, which grew larger as the slices of bread grew smaller and the coffee lost its taste. I left the rent on the tray with a tip for her. She knew I didn’t like small talk and came and went without a word. Once, however, she forgot herself and stayed to chat a bit about the boarding house. Its landlady, Frau Trotzmüller, was a widow whose husband had been killed in a duel, leaving her with three daughters and a son, her youngest child, who had disappeared at the front. No one knew if he had been killed or taken prisoner. Despite all the family’s efforts to trace him, nothing was known of his fate. Multitudes of soldiers were dead, captured, or missing in action; who could locate a single mother’s son, a speck of dust swept away by the winds of war? Frau Trotzmüller and her daughters didn’t impose their grief on their boarders, and their boarders didn’t inquire about young Trotzmüller. Everyone had his own troubles; no one had time for anyone else’s. It was only because I was a poor sleeper that I heard the grieving mother sobbing for her son at night.
Doing so forces you to distinguish between the essential and the marginal. It also causes you to select the point of greatest priority among the essentials. Without such self-constraints, you can easily pour in so many points that your perspective becomes obscure.
As you know, major corporations condense their products to one word. [Disneyland sells Fun. Southwest Airlines sells Freedom. Revlon sells Hope.] Compared to the one word approach, crafting one line is easy.
One clear line makes it easier to communicate your key point to others. The single point presents a much smaller target to potential critics than a multitude of reasons.
Why should you be promoted? Have your supporting analysis but give the reason in one line.
Why should a disciplinary action be taken? Tie together the evidence with one connecting line.
Why should you buy a particular car? Once again, one line.
It's no guarantee that your decision is best but it can help you along the way.
Read the rest of The Wall Street Journal article here on the use of wikis in government.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
These protesters are the most vociferous manifestations of a global trend: We are all paying more for bread, milk, and chocolate, to name just a few items. The new consumers of the emerging global middle class are driving up food prices everywhere. The food-price index compiled by The Economist since 1845 is now at an all-time high; it increased 30 percent in 2007 alone. Milk prices were up more than 29 percent last year, while wheat and soybeans increased by almost 80 and 90 percent, respectively. Many other grains, like rice and maize, reached record highs. Prices are soaring not because there is less food (in 2007, the world produced more grains than ever before), but because some grains are now being used as fuel and because more people can afford to eat more. The average consumption of meat in China, for example, has more than doubled since the mid-1980s.
- Don't try to be hip. You may have graduated a mere three years ago but to most of the students, you are no longer one of them.
- Unless you are a professional comedian, don't tell a lot of jokes.
- Keep it short. Your audience is already eyeing the exits.
- Keep it nonpolitical. This should be an occasion for unity, not cheap political shots at any party or politician.
- Try to say one thing that might be of practical use to the graduates 20 years from now.
- Let your unspoken message be your example. Scrap any tasteless, cruel or ignorant remarks.
- Translate all foreign phrases and keep jargon to a minimum.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Jim's point is right on target. One of the most successful executives I've known developed a reputation for grooming future department heads. By doing so, he influenced his entire industry because many of his employees went on to direct similar operations with other organizations. The ones who stayed with him were also extraordinarily good.