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A Defense of Philip Kotler

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Recently, my dear friend and mentor - Professor Philip Kotler (yes, that Kotler!) got entangled in a squabble between Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, and Rahul Gandhi, the dynastic leader of the Congress party.

The fun began when Professor Kotler presented the Prime Minister with the inaugural Philip Kotler Presidential Award, an award that recognizes Shri Narendra Modi's leadership qualities on the global stage. 

Because his physician had advised him not to travel, Professor Kotler chose his friend Professor Jagdish Sheth, an eminent marketer in his own right, to present the award on his behalf.

The award was presented by a delegation led by Professor Sheth on January 14, 2019. Also part of the delegation were representatives of the World Marketing Summit which had held a conference in Delhi in December of 2018.

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The Reaction

The next day, this tweet from Rahul Gandhi poked fun at the award, seeking to undermine not just the PM, but, more importantly for me, the integrity of Professor Kotler as well:

Almost immediately, the comments inspired by the post fell into two categories - insults and praise; insults from Rahul Gandhi followers and praise from PM Modi supporters.  The tone of these comments was shrill, with many attacking Professor Kotler directly.

Professor Kotler and I were shocked.  The article questioning the award was written by a leftist outlet which casts doubt on the award: 

The government's press release makes no mention of jury members, nor the exact organisation behind the new award.

The media pounced on the story and added to the controversy:

Even one of my literary heroes - Shashi Tharoor - piled on, going so far as to call the award a fake.

Questions & Answers

As questions were raised, I decided to collect and answer them:

Is the award real? ("...little information has been shared about the provenance of the latest award, or the organisation presenting it.")

Yes, it is real.  And why would people like Tharoor assume it was fake? The "journalists" in Rahul Gandhi's tweet did not follow the first rule of journalism which is - check your facts with the source.  How easy it would have been to Google Philip Kotler and contact him through his Northwestern faculty page.

Who is Philip Kotler?  What qualifies him to give this award?

Along with Peter Drucker, Professor Philip Kotler is considered to be one of our greatest management thinkers. Who is the leading business scientist in history? According to the Hirsch-Index its Philip Kotler with an h-index of 163, followed by Michael Porter with 159. 

Ask any MBA student anywhere in the world, and you will find that they have studied Professor Kotler's books. He has received 22 honorary degrees from around the world, and published over 70 books. His 50+ years of work with the Kellogg School of Management has resulted in building the #1 Marketing department in the world.

Professor Kotler is a man with great integrity and openness. He is also one of the smartest thinkers to grace the planet. He is in the Thinkers50 Hall of Fame (2013), and is featured as a "guru" in the Economist.

Who chose the award? Why is there no jury?

Professor Philip Kotler made the final decision after a committee for the World Marketing Summit came up with a list of possible candidates.  

Professor Kotler explains via a letter published on his blog: 

lettertopmmodi_small.jpgWhy is Kotler's twitter account not verified?

Because Twitter has stopped verifying accounts, and Prof. Kotler never thought to ask. I messaged Jack Dorsey to ask him if he could make an exception for Professor Kotler.

Why was there no mention of the award on the Kotler website?

Professor Kotler's site is not updated often. When the Indian press started questioning the authenticity of the Award, Professor Kotler tweeted about it:

Why was the Indian site for the World Marketing Summit taken down?

After an event is over, often times the microsite that's used to describe the event and/or register participants is usually taken down.  The global site for the World Marketing Summit, Kotler Impact and Kotler Awards are still running.

What could Professor Philip Kotler possibly know about India?  

Professor Kotler is not just the "father of modern marketing." He is an economist and studied with some the greatest Economics teachers on the planet.  His involvement with India began in 1955, when he spent a year working on his PhD thesis in India. If the journalists bothered to read My Adventures in Marketing, they might have known that. Since then he has visited India often to teach and speak.

What could Professor Philip Kotler possibly know about democracy?

Professor Kotler has published books and written numerous articles on capitalism and democracy.  See: Democracy in Decline and Confronting Capitalism.

How to Argue 

Bottom line, I'm disgusted with the trash-talking that I see from the left-leaning Indian journalists and social media participants. 

Too many of our disagreements fall in the bottom two layers of Paul Graham's Hierarchy of Disagreement:

Graham's_Hierarchy_of_Disagreement.jpg

If someone wants to question PM Modi's track record, they would do far better through Refutation rather than Ad Hominem and Name-Calling.  Let that be a lesson for you, young Rahul, and for all who would seek to look childish: focus on the substance instead.

Professor Kotler, please excuse the mess caused by this controversy. 

DISCLOSURE:
I have worked and continue to work with Professor Philip Kotler on several projects, including The Marketing Journal, ActivistBrands.com, and FIXCapitalism. We've written a book together titled Brand Activism: From Purpose to Action (the print version is forthcoming).  No one asked me or paid me (in India, as elsewhere, paid-journalism is a thing) to write this.  I simply felt compelled to stand up for a learned man of great integrity. 

Professor Philip Kotler - the "father of modern marketing" - and I have co-authored a book: Brand Activism: From Purpose to Action

Brand activism is driven by a fundamental concern for the biggest and most urgent problems facing society. The main idea here is that when government fails to do its job, business has a civic responsibility to stand up for the public interest. It's what a good citizen does.  

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available in the following countries

US UK DE FR ES IT NL JP BR CA MX AU IN

The book introduces the reader to regressive and progressive Brand Activism, and shows how the best businesses are making the world a better place because their activism is a differentiator - for customers, for employees, and for society at large.  We also examine the role of the CEO.  

Here's a look at the table of contents:

Screen Shot 2018-11-22 at 5.54.07 PM.pngThe book includes the Sarkar-Kotler Brand Activism Framework, a toolkit for business leaders looking to transform their companies and institutions.  

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The book also includes interviews with leaders from various fields:

  • Scott Galloway
  • John Elkington
  • Raj Sisodia
  • John Ehrenreich
  • Christopher Davis
  • Stephen M. R. Covey
  • Hennie Botes
  • Stuart L. Hart
  • David "Dread" Hinds
  • Clark Fox

and 

Philip Kotler

Finally, we've launched a separate website to help individuals who want to learn more - www.activistbrands.com.  We hope you find it useful.

The Founding Fathers didn’t envision corporate personhood, or Citizen’s United.

In fact, I wonder what they’d think about capitalism as an enemy of democracy and a grave threat to the very survival of life on Earth.

Is democracy doomed?

What must we do to save capitalism from itself?

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Enter Phil Kotler. The legendary marketing guru is marketing a new sort of product these days. He is trying to fix Capitalism, a system he believes has helped create more wealth for more people than any other economic model.

Says the esteemed Professor Kotler (he’s taught at Northwestern for 50 years!) >>

“Capitalism must evolve to serve the needs of all citizens, not just the very affluent. Our goal is to discuss the 14 Shortcomings of Capitalism and systematically analyze the problems and potential solutions. We want to gather opinions and recommendations from everyone - and begin the process of saving capitalism from itself.”

It’s great to see one of the greatest capitalist minds working on reforming capitalism with a capital C.

According to Kotler, the current state of capitalism is falling short because it:

1. Proposes little or no solution to persistent poverty

2. Generates a growing level of income inequality

3. Fails to pay a living wage to billions of workers

4. Doesn’t create enough human jobs in the face of growing automation

5. Doesn’t charge businesses with the full social costs of their activities

6. Exploits the environment and natural resources in the absence of regulation

7. Creates business cycles and economic instability

8. Emphasizes individualism and self-interest at the expense of community and the commons

9. Encourages high consumer debt and leads to a growing financially-driven rather than producer-driven economy

10. Lets politicians and business interests collaborate to subvert the economic interests of the majority of citizens

11. Favors short-run profit planning over long-run investment planning

12. Should have regulations regarding product quality, safety, truth in advertising, and anti-competitive behavior

13. Tends to focus narrowly on GDP growth

14. Needs to bring social values and happiness into the market equation.

So that’s my latest project - helping Kotler and friends get the word out and make a difference.

Like the $300 House Project, I’m helping build an “ecosystem of concerned folks” to face the challenge.

We began by enlisting the Huffington Post as our media partner. 

We now have a FIXCapitalism channel; we’re slowly beginning to get some attention with these articles:

Check out our FIXCapitalism website, read the book, like our FIXCapitalism Facebook page, and follow us on Twitter.

The future is too important to leave in the hands of the corporations and their paid stooges - the politricksters in D.C.!

Can you help? Connect us to others who are interested - who may have a point of view they want to share - and can help move the conversation forward. Join us!

Help spread the word!

In McKinsey's latest survey on business technology, few executives say their IT leaders are closely involved in helping shape the strategic agenda, and confidence in IT's ability to support growth and other business goals is waning.  Furthermore, "executives' current perceptions of IT performance are decidedly negative."

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This sort of criticism of IT is not new.  

In fact, it goes all the way back to Nick Carr's 2003 IT Doesn't Matter article in Harvard Business Review. At the time, Carr managed to infuriate the CEOs of numerous IT companies, including Craig Barrett, Intel's CEO, along with Bill Gates and Larry Ellison.

"My point, however, is that it (IT) is no longer a source of advantage at the firm level - it doesn't enable individual companies to distinguish themselves in a meaningful way from their competitors. Essential to competitiveness but inconsequential to strategic advantage: that's why IT is best viewed (and managed) as a commodity."

- Nicholas Carr

At the time, there were numerous rebuttals to Carr's view, but none more powerful than the one from John Hagel and John Seely Brown.  They argued:

  • Extracting business value from IT requires innovations in business practices. In many respects, we believe Carr attacks a red herring - few people would argue that IT alone provides any significant business value or strategic advantage.
  • The economic impact from IT comes from incremental innovations, rather than "big bang" initiatives. A process of rapid incrementalism enhances learning potential and creates opportunities for further innovations.
  • The strategic impact of IT investment comes from the cumulative effect of sustained initiatives to innovate business practices in the near-term. The strategic differentiation emerges over time, based less on any one specific innovation in business practice and much more on the capability to continuously innovate around the evolving capabilities of IT.

According to JH3 and JSB: far from believing that the potential for strategic differentiation through IT is diminishing, we would maintain that the potential is increasing, given the growing gap between IT potential and realized business value.

So how does IT become more strategic?  

The Wall Street Journal's Rachael King recommends:

CIOs also need to bring some transparency to their operations by sitting down with business leaders and going over the budget and setting priorities together. The CIO needs to also actively market how the IT department is driving value in terms that business can understand. For example, Intel CIO Kim Stevenson recently published an annual IT report where she detailed how her department implemented advanced data analytics that helped drive $351 million in revenue for the company.  

The ability for Ms. Stevenson to demonstrate the value of her organization's work in dollars and cents is changing how IT is perceived in the company. It changes the relationship from that of a service provider, a department that helps people set up servers or configure PCs, to one that uses technology to solve business problems.

CIOs must demonstrate and quantify the business value of IT.

What does this mean for the sales people of IT company's trying to sell to CIOs?  It means that the role of the CIO is often supplanted by business executives.  (In my discussions with our clients, I often emphasize this point.)

IT is so strategic, one could argue, that it is no longer left to IT.  Often it is CMOs and other non-IT business executives who are actively pursuing the mobile, social, and analytics strategies that are creating the organizational pull for new approaches to rapid application development, and as a by-product, the cloud services offerings needed to enable those strategies.

The new generation of IT will support new business strategies. This means that any vendor selling IT solutions will have to speak the language of business strategy.  And most importantly, the vendor will have to show the client how to achieve the "promised" benefits of IT.

So here's the takeaway: CIOs must work on getting a place at the strategy table.  When they do, they are viewed as effective business partners.  What must the CIO do to be viewed as a strategic partner?

Ask:

- Does your company have a clear view of how advances in IT (Big Data, AI, IoT, Cloud Computing) is likely to reshape your relevant markets over the next five years?

- What areas of business growth can IT contribute to?

- Does your company have an equally clear view of the implications for the changes you will need to make to continue to create value?

- Are these views shared effectively among your senior managers across the organization?

- Does senior management recognize the risks and uncertainties as part of the decision-making process?

- Has your company been sufficiently aggressive in using IT to improve strategic areas of your operations?

- Are there opportunities to use IT to improve operations around existing products and services?

- Are their opportunities to use IT to significantly reduce costs and cycle time in existing work processes?

- What are the data sources? How will you monitor them? How do you trigger events based on the intelligence gathered from the data? Is there a profit or cost-savings optimization opportunity?

FURTHER READING
Why CIOs should be business-strategy partners Feb 2015, McKinsey
Most CIOs are Not Seen as Influencing Corporate Strategy: Report, Feb 2015, Wall Street Journal
Public Cloud a first choice for minority of projects: Gartner CIO survey, March 2015, ARN

How does innovation happen? Most company's struggle to understand how innovation works, often confusing creativity with innovation. In today's tacit, knowledge-based creative economy, innovation and differentiation rarely come from one distinct source. Rather, innovation evolves from:

  • new ways of thinking,
  • new business models,
  • new processes,
  • new organizations (or new collaborative inside/outside team structures),
  • and new products (offerings including services)
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In his classic book - Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the late Peter Drucker found seven sources of innovation. The first four sources were internal, inside the enterprise, whereas the last three are external, outside of the company.

1. The Unexpected
2. Incongruities
3. Process Needs
4. Shifts In Industry And Market Structure
5. Demographic Changes
6. Changes In Perception
7. New Knowledge

A good description of the seven sources is here. Unfortunately, not everyone stumbles into innovation like the legendary 3M Post-It notes, or the unexpected discovery of Aspartame, but innovation can, and should be pursued in a systematic way.

Larry Keeley's Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of Building Breakthroughs gives us a glimpse into how that might be:

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Here is an added insight from Keeley and friends: the things we love in the world--the services and systems we value and use--are the ones that make it easy to do hard things.

What does all of this have to do with business results?

Clearly there is plenty of room for innovation when it comes to designing superior, differentiated experiences for customers.  Every interaction with your customer can be differentiated, integrated with the purpose of the customer.  Make it easy to do business with you, said Jakob Nielsen, the web usability expert, many years ago.

What about the power of ecosystems?  At the individual level, ecosystem thinking can help you create better ideas. it's all about disorganization.

Ideas need to be sloshing around or crashing in to one another to produce breakthroughs:

  • Research shows that the volume of ideas bouncing about make large cities disproportionately more creative than smaller towns.
  • Having multiple hobbies allows your brain to subconsciously compare and contrast problems and solutions, forming new connections at the margins of each.
  • Similarly, reading multiple books at the same time vs serially lets your brain juxtapose new ideas and develop new connections.
  • Wandering minds are more creative.
  • Studying a field "too much" doesn't limit creativity -- it does the opposite. More ideas banging about just produces even more ideas.
  • The "accept everything" mantra of brainstorming doesn't work. Debate is far more effective. Let those ideas fight.
  • ADD and bipolar disorder are both associated with greater creativity. When you're drunk or exhausted your brain is poised for breakthroughs.
  • Even with teams, it's better to mix up experience levels, familiarity with one another and other factors to keep things rough around the edges.
And at the organizational level, there's ecosystem strategy.  That's a post unto itself...

Ask:
- How do you make it easy for the customer to do business with you?
- What outcomes do you want to see?
- What is required to achieve those outcomes? 
- What must be done? What needs to change?
- How do we make innovation a embedded process?

Happiness Training

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It's all about positivity :

The legendary reggae band releases the 2012 version of the Barack Obama Song >>

The 2008 video version is here >>

I know what some of you are thinking - "Well, did America have a soul to begin with?" I happen to think it did. For me the soul of America is "We, the people..."

Furthermore, I'm quite sure that people, as defined by our founders, did not mean corporations. (See what Charles Handy has to say >>)

But to get back to the topic of inclusivity, I'd like to make a shameless plug for our new book, co-authored with University of Michigan's Professor Michael Gordon, called Inclusivity: Will America Find Its Soul Again?

inclusivity bookbuy now

BUY now >>


So what's all the fuss about? The book is about asking questions:

  • How can companies take better care of their employees--and thrive?
  • Why don't they see the opportunities in creating social value?
  • Do Americans think we have a fair distribution of wealth?
  • What are new means of putting our collective talents to work?
  • How can communities take the lead in creating opportunity?
  • How can public education prepare all students for the future?
  • How can better health care be made available without doctors?
  • How can communities do something about global warming?
  • How can you make a difference?
  • Why should you care?

Inclusivity: Will America Find Its Soul Again is a book of questions, hints, and suggestions about creating more opportunity for more people--starting with the USA, but looking at and learning from the rest of the world.

The very idea of the "United" States is based on the principles of inclusivity--all men and women are created equal under the law. But we seem to have lost our conviction that inclusivity is possible or even to be desired. The current divisive political climate, along with economic uncertainty, has fostered an atmosphere of fear and narrow-mindedness across the country.

What can we do in the face of this reality? The choice is not easy, but it is clear. Either we will decide to be more inclusive, or we will turn against each other - finding reasons to divide ourselves, not just from each other as citizens, but also from a shared future.

The USA, unless we decide otherwise, will become simply the SA.

This book is dedicated to an inclusive future for all our children, including my daughters M and K, and the idea that the United States is still the last best hope for democracy and inclusivity. We won't have one without the other.

The book includes the following sections:

  • What Is INCLUSIVITY?
  • Inclusive World
  • Inclusive Entrepreneur
  • Inclusive Economy
  • Inclusive Cities
  • Inclusive Education
  • Inclusive Health
  • Inclusive Leadership
  • Inclusive Future
Let us know what you think!

P.S. - We don't want this, do we?

Michael Gordon's book, Design Your Life, Change the World: Your Path as a Social Entrepreneur [A GUIDE for CHANGEMAKERS] is for changemakers - the people and organizations that want to make a difference in the world. 

book

The book tries to answer two questions, says Professor Gordon:

1) How can organizations best address important societal problems such as poverty, inadequate health care, sub-par education, and an unhealthy planet?

2) What's the best advice for students who want to address these issues and still live lives of relative comfort?

The reason I'm helping the professor is because now, more than ever, we need the brightest students to tackle the world's biggest problems. And the oil-coal-nuclear lobby isn't making things any easier...

Are you a changemaker?  Go find out >> 

P.S. - you can download the PDF version here >>

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No one could have known that when a Tunisian fruit vendor set himself on fire in a public square, it would incite protests that would topple dictators and start a global wave of dissent. That's the power of ecosystem disruption. The power of the Voice of the Planet (VoP).

More >>

I don’t watch TV much but I just caught a clip of Richard Branson promoting his book Screw Business As Usual. Looks like he’s on the same page as Stuart Hart - who has been essentially saying the same thing for twenty years.  They ought to compare notes!

What was funny was watching Branson sit there as the producers had him wait and wait for his three minute interview.  He was clearly in distress - the anguish of the entrepreneur who can’t bear to waste time - as he smiled and waved every time they turned the camera on him. 

The book is available later this month… have a Happy Green Christmas!

I first met Bob Freling at a board meeting of the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) in San Francisco several years ago.  At the time, I felt that here was an NGO doing innovative things but not getting enough visibility for their work. They were solar way before solar was cool. 

What struck me is how informal and close the board members were.  One of the board members - Larry Hagman (good ol’ J.R. Ewing) - did a brilliant set of solar commercials which I think says a lot about his character and wanting to make the world a better place (quite the opposite of his TV character!). But I digress.

The story here is that SELF pioneered the use of solar power to fight “energy poverty” across a spectrum of applications with their “solar integrated development model” - from clean water, to drip irrigation to improve food security, to electricity for health clinics, schools, and micro-enterprise.

In his blog post about the $300 House Energy Challenge, Bob explains:

“It’s simple really. First, solar energy powers pumps and filters for clean water. This also enables drip irrigation for critical crops. Once people have those necessities, the solar energy is used to power health care facilities which can power equipment and refrigerate vaccines, for example. This increasingly healthy population can then open schools which are powered by solar to provide computer and Internet-based learning. Finally, these well-fed, well-cared for, well-educated villagers can begin community and entrepreneurial activities to grow their economy.”

Bob’s optimism is tempered with reality. The Millennium Development Goals won’t be achieved without energy access, he explains in another blog post.  In case you forgot what the MDGs are (as I often do) they’re listed as:

1) eradicating extreme poverty and hunger;
2) achieving universal primary education;
3) promoting gender equality and empowering women;
4) reducing child mortality;
5) improving maternal health;
6) combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases;
7) ensuring environmental sustainability; and
8) building a global partnership for development.

Note that they are interrelated, ecosystemic problems - and that from Bob’s perspective, energy is the key factor which makes all of them feasible.

With the $300 House project, my eyes have been opened to the fact that the approaches for dealing with the poor are often not very constructive, and sometimes end up doing more damage than good.  That’s what  $300 House adviser Stuart L. Hart is talking about when he says we need to create smaller problems. It is also a concern of our critics on the $300 House. When I spoke to Matias Echanove recently, he was concerned that mass produced housing could in fact disrupt the local economy - the small businesses that are based in informal slums around the country. I hear him. 

Our $300  House project is exploring ways to integrate services and jobs into the ecosystem as well, and we’re reaching out to talk to the leaders in the communities that are interested in this approach. In India, we’ve just completed a survey - with the help of THL - that covers 15 villages in three of the poorest states in India - Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Jharkhand.  I’ll go into more detail in a later post.

For me the question is quite simple - we see an explosion of interest in  developing integrated  townships for the middle class in India, but why is there nothing comparable for the poor? To borrow a phrase from the US, why can’t we build “master-planned communities” for the poor?

Is it too much to ask that governments, NGOs and development institutions, and businesses work together with the communities involved to build integrated solutions?  

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Unfortunately, there are far too few examples of collaborative development. This is something we all need to look at urgently.  There is also a problem of ownership.  The development community, NGOs, and most governments think they “own” the problem.  Unfortunately, without a business mindset to make solutions scale, their is so little real progress.

The poor remain poor. 

And that’s why the work Paul Polak is doing is so important.  He’s looking at making small changes at the bottom of the pyramid; small changes that make a big difference in the earnings of the poor. This is also the approach advocated by Esther Duflo and Abhijit Bannerjee in Poor Economics.

At a much larger scale, we see an example in the Gates Foundation’s approach - which is all about examining the ecosystems of poverty.  A common criticism of the Gates Foundation goes along these lines: “How can people like Gates, living in a different universe, help people at the bottom of the pyramid?”  This is a false and damaging argument, but answered quite well by Sam Dryden:

“Some people may ask how my team and I—working at the world’s largest foundation located in a prosperous corner of a rich nation—can relate to a subsistence farming family in Ethiopia or Bangladesh. This is a very reasonable question to ask. The farmer has a direct connection to the land and we are considerably removed, both by distance and culture. We begin by realizing these differences and humbly listening to farmers and their families, learning and respecting their cultures, ways of living, and knowledge of place and home. The solutions we seek are those appropriate and welcomed in this context, not those imposed by distant values or interests.”

And finally, perhaps there is an alternative to the giant top-down programs, and incremental bottom-up “Let the Poor Do It Themselves” approaches we’ve encountered. 

With the $300 House, we’re thinking micro-development - is it possible to build integrated micro-solutions at the village level?  And in cities, at the neighborhood level? 

Why not?

What's Good about the USA

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Despite all the whining about the decline of the USA, and charts showing the downsizing of the American dream, today's a good day to reflect on why we still hold the promise of Abraham Lincoln's words in 1862: "the last best hope of earth."

A few thoughts:

1. The individual can still make a difference:  Check out Paul Farmer, Paul Polak, Michael Moore and, yes, Barack Obama. Give me an example of any other country in the world where someone like Obama could even remotely hope to be elected president.  See what I mean? Of course, the flip side of this is that you have corporate puppets like Sarah Palin and Rick Perry, but I'll take the voice of the individual any day.  What's the alternative? China.  Enough said.

2. The rich aren't all money-grubbing pirates. More than any other country on earth, our rich turn to philanthropy to leave a legacy.  Check out the Gates Foundation or the Clinton Global Initiative.  Where else do we see this kind of private philanthropy at the individual level - from both rich and poor? Have you seen what happens in Bangladesh?  Note: I know, we do have folks like the Koch brothers who are busy strangling democracy while they protect their "freedom."  What about India?  Nope.

3. The United States is the world's largest source of humanitarian aid. Yes, despite all the whining, our government is still the largest donor by far. We can do better, but hey, you don't see anyone else even close in real dollars. This type of comparison is a statistical game.

4. We're far less sexist than Europe.  Seriously, that's a fact.

5. Class and caste barriers are far lower here, and can be overcome.  See point # 1.

6. Customer Service.  If you think customer service is bad in the US, you should see the rest of the world. Speaking from plenty of experience, we are in another league.

7. Independent thinking.  Not so widely seen on Fox, but still here.  The sheep to thinker ratio is far healthier in the US. 

8. Tolerance.  We are a tolerant nation. It's kind of funny when the most intolerant group we have is the atheists.

9. Melting Pot of People and Ideas. True in business, but also in social terms.  I'm still a fan of E pluribus unum.

Keep on keeping on, America. And may tomorrow always be better than yesterday.

Bin Laden lost.

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The story is captured in this snippet borrowed from a larger infographic from the New York Times. The middle class is under historic assault in the US, explains Robert Reich, and this bodes badly for democracy, not just here, but all over the world. 

Here’s the money quote:

Look back over the last hundred years and you’ll see the pattern. During periods when the very rich took home a much smaller proportion of total income — as in the Great Prosperity between 1947 and 1977 — the nation as a whole grew faster and median wages surged. We created a virtuous cycle in which an ever growing middle class had the ability to consume more goods and services, which created more and better jobs, thereby stoking demand. The rising tide did in fact lift all boats.

During periods when the very rich took home a larger proportion — as between 1918 and 1933, and in the Great Regression from 1981 to the present day — growth slowed, median wages stagnated and we suffered giant downturns. It’s no mere coincidence that over the last century the top earners’ share of the nation’s total income peaked in 1928 and 2007 — the two years just preceding the biggest downturns.


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We’re losing our competitiveness, as well as our ability to lead.

There’s a growing sense in the business community that we must find a way to work together again. To do this, we have to reject political terrorism - the political brinksmanship which prevents us from finding common ground or even beginning to look for honest solutions. Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, recently created a stir when he suggested that it was time to halt all political donations. Warren Buffett did the same with his no-nonsense plea to raise his taxes.

Welcome to the third world, America! Looks like we’re headed on the fast-track back to serfdom.  Brought to you in large part by the GOP and corporate Democrats.

Sometimes not knowing what you’re doing can help you do it.

Here I make a fool of myself at the Guardian’s Activate2011 conference in London:

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Thanks, Adrian!  Read the article here >>

And if you haven't already, submit your ideas to the $300 House Open Design Challenge!

The final Harvard Business Review post in the series, and hopefully the start of some real change at the bottom of the pyramid.

Our goal is to go social for social business. Can social co-creation help the poor?

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Keeping fingers crossed.  Thanks to Ingersoll-Rand for the sponsorship and to all the judges and advisers at 300House.com!  Thanks jovoto and COMMON. Thanks Shaun.

Thanks also to Scott Berinato at HBR and of course - VG, my partner in crime.

Writes Floyd Norris in the New York Times:

The Business Roundtable, a group comprising 200 of the largest companies in the United States, is out with a “study” that claims to show that the United States levies excessively high tax rates on companies. It actually shows nothing of the kind.

This is the sort of thing that makes business look E-V-I-L.

What is the Business Roundtable?  Another version of the US Chamber of Commerce? And just who are the members of this august organization?

Surprise! They’re only the CEOs of the “most respected” companies in the US.

Have they no shame?  No sense of decency?

The CEOs should be embarrassed, but instead they keep playing this absurd, deceptive game. We have come to expect this sort of behavior from the oil and coal lobby, but not you. To Bank of America, General Electric, Xerox, Wal-Mart, UPS, Target, SAP, Pepsico, Microsoft, and Procter and Gamble: Grow up, ladies and gentlemen. You are hurting both democracy and capitalism. Not to mention your brand.

Good on you, Google and Apple, for not being part of this institutional lying machine.

Michael Hudson, U of Missouri, on how we in the US lost our way. If this is true, we really have destroyed ourselves:


Read: The Economy of High Wages

Seth Godin posts a very insightful blog entry on the HBR site. He's talking about the challenges of marketing at the bottom of the pyramid:

When someone in poverty buys a device that improves productivity, the device pays for itself (if it didn't, they wouldn't buy it.) So a drip irrigation system, for example, may pay off by creating two or three harvests a year instead of one.

Read all about it >>

The Solar Electric Light Fund's Bob Freling has posted an entry in Harvard Business Review about his Solar Integrated Development (SID) Maturity Model and how it fits into our concept of the $300 House.

Here's Bob waxing eloquent:

Together with potable water, nutritious food, accessible health care, educational opportunity, and economic empowerment, the $300 House completes this virtuous ecosystem in which individual households and their communities can march hand in hand towards a bright and sustainable future.

Read the whole post The $300 House: The Energy Challenge >>

The $300 House Challenge is showing us that individuals and companies are willing to make a difference.

Check out WorldHaus from Bill Gross and his team at IdeaLab. Read his Harvard Business Review post on the "design challenge" here >>

The Gap screws up with their logo redesign. A giant failure of imagination in the boardroom.

But Umair Haque asks the right questions:

  • Do designers have a seat in the boardroom -- or just in the basement? How often does your CEO ever talk to a designer?
  • Are designers empowered to overrule beancounters -- or vice versa?
  • Is the input of designers considered to be peripheral to "real" business decisions -- or does it play a vital role in shaping them? Is design treated as a function or a competence?
  • Are designers seen just as mechanics of mere stuff -- or as vital contributors to the art of igniting new industries, markets, and catgeories, sparking more enduring demand, building trust, providing empathy, and seeding tomorrow's big ideas?
  • How much weight does senior management give to right-brained ideas, like delight, amazement, intuition, and joy? Just a little, a lot -- or, as for most companies, almost none?

Seriously.

We all need to wake up. The Chamber of Commerce approach to design isn't going to work anymore.


David Smith's HBR post on the financial challenge of the $300 House raises some very important issues:

Cracking the challenge of slums is the world's biggest problem of the next quarter-century, because the ecology of slums and the ecology of cities are linked. We cannot have a healthy global economy without healthy cities, and we cannot have healthy cities without tackling slums.

Join us >>

9/11: Reject Hate

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9/11 shows us just how divided our country still is. On the wrong side you have the threat of Koran burning from a lunatic preacher. On the right side you have President Obama making a plea for tolerance and true freedom.

For me the lesson of 9/11 is pretty simple: reject hate.

Here's some stuff to think about:

Alex Bogusky: God issues recall

Michael Moore: If the 'Mosque' Isn't Built, This Is No Longer America

Byron Katie: Inquiry - Terrorism and The Work

Tom Friedman: What If 9/11 Never Happened?

Adam Weinstein: America's Jihad on America

Will Ferrell's Dubya impersonation

We still have a long way to go.

Here it is. The new song from Steel Pulse - for the people of Haiti.

At: www.holdon4haiti.org >>

Watch Paul Farmer explain:

Disclosure: SELF is my client, and I helped facilitate the project.

The global-warming deniers are quiet as the world's forests burn.

Across Russia, the political drama adds to the horror as this, the hottest summer on record, takes its toll on the poorest Russians as they lose property, homes, and even lives:

russiafire.jpg

For those of you who are ready to say this is "God's punishment," I can tell you we're probably going to be next. Maybe not this summer, because we're getting far more rain in the West than usual, but perhaps the next.  The reason I can say this with near certainty is that our forests are already dead or dying. So my guess is that all these dead trees are going to burn across North America pretty soon.  The map looks like this (it's an overlay of the extent of the pine-beetle plague):

us_fire.gif

None of this is normal.

NASA watches as the carbon footprint grows.

Our politicians do nothing. Our Republican Senators have been owned by Big-Oil and Big-Coal forever.  And the poor Christians haven't yet figured out that they're being taken for a ride.  For them, I say - check your Revelations 11:18 - at some point you have to say "enough!" Why do you support these people who are destroying God's Creation?

Sen. Jim Inhofe, this is on your head. Your grandchildren won't forgive you, even if they think you're just swell right now. This is not "global warming deception" as you call it in your Luntzian language of deceit. It's g-l-o-b-a-l w-a-r-m-i-n-g, period.

Have you no shame, Senator?

Ever since the Haiti earthquake, I’ve been thinking about why we don’t have a quick-build house made of sustainable materials at a price point that the poor can afford (with micro-credit if needed).

300house.gif

The $300 House-for-the-Poor is an extension of the concept of “reverse innovation(inspired by my client and friend VG) in which innovations developed in poor countries are then brought back for use in developed countries and other parts of the world. Housing impacts health, energy, education, and security.

What if we could build sustainably designed houses for the world’s poor at an affordable cost? What if these same designs could provide relief to refugees and victims of natural disasters? The we I’m referring to is a collaborative of companies, governments, and NGOs.

This type of a structure will be engineered in the same way the TATA Nano was engineered - without the traditional assumptions.

Once built, the $300 house should be used across the globe - from Haiti, to Africa, India, and yes, even in this country, to help the homeless.

So what are we waiting for?  It’s time to get busy designing the $300 House!

The political intentions of our GOP friends would leave the US with a hollowed-out economy.

Here is an example of how Obama’s unpopular bail-out for the auto-industry led to the creation of a new and critical cleantech industry - electric batteries - in this country. What say you, FOX News?

Watch:


Good for you Alex Bogusky! Can this ex-ad-man save the planet?

More on Hunter Lovins and Catherine Greener >>

Watch:

The book that tells the story is Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. It's truly inspirational, as is the story told by Will Harlan - he's in the video - about his encounter with the Raramuri, the Running People.

Of course, the main man is Caballo Blanco. Check out Norawas as well.

Now, where's my Iskiate?

Go J.R.! Note he mentions my client - the Solar Electric Light Fund. Stay tuned for more news about them...

I like the SolarWorld ads Hagman does quite a bit. Here he's talking to Sue Ellen (who seems to be blaming him for BP's mess in the Gulf):

Shine, baby, shine! Well said, Larry Hagman!

The thing about Hagman is he put his money where his mouth is - years ago - by converting his estate to solar, before solar was cool.



Anytime we see people dividing people based on otherness, it's time to worry.

Joel Stein's My Own Private India is not the kind of journalism you expect from TIME magazine. But it does show you how immigration in the US has become an irrational issue - charged with racism and tones of hatred.

Never mind that Stein and TIME have apologized. How could either one have assumed that this could pass as journalism, or commentary, or even satire?

Sandip Roy's commentary in response: Joel Stein and the Curry Problem - provides some insight into just how irrational we have become.  His point, that some "good" Indians have sided with Arizona's nuttiness, should not be lost on us. 

Maybe we should all go watch Fiddler on the Roof - including Joel Stein. Either that, or everyone needs to "go home" - and leave the U.S.A to the Native Americans.

Happy July 4th, everybody!

Question: Will President Obama invite Kindra Arnesan to the White House? She represents "We the People," not "Them the Corporations."

Run for governor, Kindra!

Now we know that our corporate newsmedia isn't going to cover this, let's see if Rolling Stone magazine or The Daily Show will. Funny when the news comes from the edge, not the center. The center continues to not hold...



Jail time for these environmental terrorists.Call your congressperson…

For the first time, in 2010, online advertising will pass traditional advertising on TV and print:

admoney2010.gif

While this is remarkable, I can tell you where the highest ROI is. 

It's with the Republican party.  You can buy every single Republican vote for a paltry $34 million, as the health care circus has shown us.

Wow. Who needs Google when all you need is the budget for one Superbowl ad.  Think about that: all it takes to buy the entire GOP is one Superbowl ad.  There goes the future of our country. 

PS - On a side note, I wonder what it takes to buy our Supreme Court... 5 bucks to Clarence Thomas' wife?

Finally, the US catches up to the rest of the civilized world

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The real disaster here is the barbaric behavior on display from the Republican members of the House

Have they no sense of decency?  Nope. None at all.

$34 million from the insurance lobby is all it took to buy the entire GOP, every last one of 'em. That's bloody cheap.

Just a few days ago I praised Forrester’s decision to create individual blogs for all their analysts.  So they finally get it, I thought.  Boy, was I wrong!

Yesterday I noticed how their migration to the new blogging platform was executed:

forresterkaput.gif

Yes, that’s the dreaded “The requested page could not be found” message. 

Apparently, for Forrester, moving to a new platform means all old URLs die.

This is just so wrong. Linkrot is a common mistake that companies and institutions make all too often. For this to happen at an institution like Forrester shows me they don’t understand web basics.  Don’t get me wrong, a lot of big companies have made this mistake, but for Forrester it’s inexcusable!

Maybe Forrester should have a chat with Jakob Nielsen.  Check this:

Any URL that has ever been exposed to the Internet should live forever: never let any URL die since doing so means that other sites that link to you will experience linkrot. If these sites are conscientious, they will eventually update the link, but not all sites do so. Thus, many potential new users will be met by an error message the first time they visit your site instead of getting the valuable content they were expecting. Remember, people follow links because they want something on your site: the best possible introduction and more valuable than any advertising for attracting new customers.
and

At other times, it becomes necessary to re-architect a site and impose a new structure. Even then, the rule continues to be: you are not allowed to break any old links. The solution is to set up a set of redirects: a scheme whereby the server tells the browser that the requested page is to be found at a new URL. All decent browsers will automatically take the user to the new URL, and really good browsers will even update their bookmark database to use the new URL in the future if the user had bookmarked the old URL.

I remember when the same stupid mistake was made by Harvard Business Review back when they switched domains from hbswk.hbs.edu to harvardbusiness.org. Overnight, they destroyed their online ecosystem, as Forrester has just done.

What’s the big deal, you ask?  In today’s connected world, this is brand destruction plain and simple. Not the way to build an attention platform.

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