Why not give peace a chance?

rainbow_peace_symbolDuring our busy lives it seems to me that we often let the chances for peace pass us by. And how does this happen?

It happens with our reactions to things, to events, to words and actions by other people. For example, the snappy response to a question asked when we’re busy, or the angry outburst when things don’t go as expected. The responses we make to these things can often lead to friction or bad feelings.

One of my old bosses used to tell me that I needed to act not react. His idea was that reaction was an instinctive, visceral and almost unthinking response. While he believed that action was a considered response to a particular person or situation.

Just think about this for a moment:

  • What would happen if we decided not to react instinctively to people or situations?
  • What would happen if we decided not to protect ourselves before it was necessary?
  • What would happen if we took a few breaths before acting instead of simply reacting?

Would this give peace more of a chance to grow in our lives? I’m going to give it a try, it’s a simple change that will cost nothing and it might just make the world a slightly better place.

Hope is not a strategy, so what are we going to do?

Barack_Obama_Hope_posterIt was very interesting to watch the 2008 US election campaign with all its talk of hope.

Checking Wikipedia, a definition of Hope “is a belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one’s life.”

But hope is not a strategy by which one can achieve change. So it makes me wonder what concrete actions Obama will take to bring about change. And I wonder how he will do this in the face of the multiple challenges facing the US and the world.

Some the challenges for the US and the world include:

  • wars on several fronts
  • continued terrorism
  • economic crisis
  • growing unemployment
  • growing divides between rich and poor
  • high expectations from diverse supporter groups
  • shifting relationships on international stage

Hope is not going to save us. Nor is focusing only on the problems. The real challenge will be in harnessing the hope and turning it into energy directed towards positive change.

This is where ideas of resilient and sustainable local communities really come into play. Just like we’ve heard for many years it is time to think global (in terms of hope) and to act local (in terms of positive actions).

Hope is not a strategy, and hope without meaningful action plans is merely wasted energy.

So the question is “what actions are you going to take today to change the world, to change your life, or even to change your mind?”

The changing marketing landscape …

500px-Ambox_PR.svgMarketing in the good old days:

In the past marketers thought they were in control of their brand and their messages.

They had lots of resources and became expert at creating above the line and below the line campaigns that pushed their messages out to their consumers. In this world few consumers had the resources to talk back to the brands or their marketers.

Few consumers had the knowledge or the money to commission a TV ad campaign or print media campaign to answer back or to make counter claims against the might of the brand.

This brave new world:

The landscape has been changing over the past few years. The internet, fuelled by web 2.0 technologies, has given ordinary people a voice and a channel to talk back to marketers and their brands.

Suddenly the unequal power relations that marketers have enjoyed for so long have shifted. And with that shift the illusion of control is rapidly disappearing.

People have always talked about brands, companies and products, but this has usually been on a limited scale.  The scale of those conversations was limited by the size of people’s day to day social networks and the relative cost of pushing the conversation out to other people.  Thus conversations about brands, companies and products used to be limited to the people one met throughout the day or with whom one had a phone conversation.

A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies. – Cluetrain Manifesto

What has really started to shift this landscape for marketers is the ability consumers have to scale their conversations about brands, companies and products nowadays.

New tools refactoring old ways:

Social computing enables collaboration without deep technical knowledge. And we are starting to see it go mainstream.

Now ordinary people can create online media channels to get their own messages out. They can also co-opt the marketing messages and brands and re-engineer them (like this Diet Coke & Mentos example or Jeremiah Owyang’s Brands that Got Punk’d by Social Media ).

Social computing has empowered ordinary people to access the kind of technology that was once only the preserve of very large organisations

Here the term social computing includes concepts such as social media, social networking, etc.

The growth of online social networks – like Facebook et al. – mean that ordinary people now have access to much broader networks. With these tools individuals can maintain loose ties with many more people online than was possible offline. And they can maintain that network of relationships at a relatively low entry cost in terms of both time and money. It also means that like-minded groups of people can now find each other more easily.

The landscape for marketing and for marketers has well and truly shifted.  But the real question is how do the old principles of marketing apply in this new landscape?

More on this later …

This post is also syndicated over at iMedia Connection

Is it time for a new approach to management?

The traditional approaches to managing organizations have been optimized so much that there little improvement that can be made. At the same time there are huge changes in society and how people want and expect to work.

With the growth of collaboration technologies such as web 2.0 and entry of generation Y into the workforce things are starting to change.

The time has come to ask if the real change for organisations is away from the centralised bureaucratic model of the early twentieth century?

If that is the case, then what should our new model organisation be modelled on? Everyone knows that somebody has to be in charge – or do they? What would happen if:

  • … we decided to trust people to do their jobs?
  • … management became a dialogue instead of a monologue?
  • … collaboration and collective intelligence were the order of the day?
  • … we used technology to enable all of this?

None of this is to say that quality is unimportant, or that meeting business targets is unimportant. By the way, who says that quality cannot be built in using trust and collaborative work practices?

But for all of these changes listed above to work it is necessary that there is two-way communication, clarity of & responsibilities, clarity of strategic purpose and tactical execution. The principles of agile software development and scrum exemplify this approach. All of these changes call upon better management practices than we often see in a command control environment.

Most of all these changes work from a presumption of trust. I’ve worked with organisations where the mere idea of trusting the staff is horrifying to managers.

The important thing for managers to remember is that the control you have is only an illusion anyway. Nothing a manager achieves is done without the participation of others. Imagine how much more could be achieve if the others were actively engaged in the process rather than just along for the ride.

American burgers – now I get it!

For many years I have thought that American friends were delusional when they rhapsodised about their burgers.

After all I had eaten at McDonalds so I knew what an American burger was like.

However, at the urging of several friends I tried some real American burgers on a recent trip to San Francisco.

The burger places recommended were Jeffrey’s and In-n-out, both of which I valiantly tasted in my attempt to find a great hamburger.

At In-n-out I went for the ‘animal’ style cheeseburger with fries and a chocolate shake – as my friends had told me it was a very tasty burger. It was in fact a completely different kind of food to that perpetrated on me previously as a burger by other purveyors.

But then someone said that Jeffrey’s did an even better burger. So off I went (through the worst traffic on El Camino Real) to share a burger lunch with IdaRose.

Again I picked the cheeseburger, but this time added chilli cheese fries (a meal in themselves) and a chocolate shake. The burger was great, the chilli cheese fries amazing, and the shake was the best one I’ve ever had.

Now I know why my American buddies rave about their cheeseburgers. These real burgers are a tasty meal. They are nothing like the plastic shams that are perpetrated on the rest of the world.

Seriously if you find yourself in Menlo Park grab a Jeffrey’s burger and if you see an In-n-out drop in there too.

[Image source: me this is my burger plus chilli cheese fries at Jeffrey’s in Menlo Park CA]

*Note: Neither Jeffrey’s nor In-n-out have given me anything (yet) but I am amenable to free burgers when next I visit the US.

How resilient is Australia?

500px-Flag_of_Australia.svgReading this book at the moment – Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects by Dmitry Orlov. It is very interesting to consider how Australia would manage.

Orlov considers America and its current situation in the light of a possible economic and social upheaval. He compares the American situation against Russia performed during its collapse after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Orlov brings a fresh view of the US and his ideas (which I hope are all totally wrong) are food for thought.

The big question for me is how different or similar is Australia to the US in this context? What are the factors that give us resilience? What kinds of things can be do to build up our resilience in the face of upheaval?

Why do we wait until funerals to say positive things about someone?

There is one thing that I’ve often thought was sadder than a funeral itself. It is the way that everyone stands around saying what they liked about the deceased when they are no longer around to hear it. Sometimes it is even sadder to hear that they never told the person in question.

Why is it so hard for us to say positive things to each other?

It certainly seems easier to be critical and to say negative things. And when you think about this it does start to make sense.

Saying positive things opens us up and makes us vulnerable to the other person and to rejection. While saying negative things closes things down and seems to keep us safer and more distant from the other person.

One change I can make this year is to say positive things to people when I get the chance. Not suggesting to make stuff up, just to speak truth. I’m not waiting for another funeral to say a positive thing about someone. And if that opens me up to rejection then c’est la vie!

[Image source]
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Obama talks about continuing the grassroots involvement

How spooky! Just after I posted this morning with some thoughts about Obama and change I received an email from him (as did many others). His email linked to a YouTube video, which is also on my.barackobama.com.

In the video he talks about change and the need to build on the grassroots movement that helped him to get elected. He also announces a new movement called Organizing for America to fight for change in “your local communities”. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

Will there be a real change in the US with Obama?

Having recently visited the US it is interesting to consider if there will be real changes in how the US operates along with the change in government.

Not everybody wanted Obama to win. So now we have the some people, mainly the centre and conservatives, feeling disenfranchised. and regrouping for next time, as indicated by these stickers on the right.

And on the other side we have the liberals or progressives hopeful for change as exemplified in the video below.

Also we have Obama faced with the greatest number of crises and threats to the US on multiple fronts since the the 1929 Depression & Second World War. For example, we have the:

  • economic crisis,
  • environmental crisis,
  • increased instability in the middle east and India-Pakistan,
  • increased terrorist threats,
  • breakdown in infrastructure in the US,
  • social fragility in the US,
  • etc.

That is a mammoth list of issues for anyone. And it includes important domestic and foreign issues to manage. I suspect that Obama will need to govern from the centre to maintain legitimacy across the diverse groups for whom he must govern. But he will also need to find a way to work differently with the rest of the world. The US government cannot afford to just invade anyone of whom they disapprove any longer.

How he handles all of this is critical for the US and for the rest of us. One thing is certain, the old and well tried approaches might not be useful in these times.

Can Obama lead towards a real change?