Thursday, 24 December 2009

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

How Tiger Woods Got Big



Looks like Men's Fitness had to shaft the golfer for this interview in 2007, which ostensibly breaks his contractual interview obligations with Golf Digest. Full details in the Wall Street Journal


My marketing criticism is that his sponsors have dropped him, just as the guy sheds his  monotone personality and gets interesting. 


That's accenture, Tag Heuer, Gillete (wouldn't it be great if Wilkinson got their swordplay on by responding with a redoublement?) and Gatorade who slip down the ranks of brands without balls. Nike are standing by him so far.

We're at a crossroads



Here's a brief history of money and intellectual property, however Doug Rushkoff (who put me on to Terence McKenna) is not in his best media format to present his case in my opinion. 


He's evidently under time pressure to pack in almost a millennium of financial history into fifteen minutes. He's a writer first and I think Doug comes across in a much more persuasive (and idiosyncratic style) on his podcasts over at the media squat. He's also more funny when relaxed and mulling over the world than in this video.


I still think it's important because the substance is nuts and bolts rewiring of our economies. Something I've been eager to champion long before the economic crash grasped the stock exchange's new found ability to ventilate and throttle money supply now that credit is the new cash flow (or maybe it always was).


Like Doug, I've a healthy scepticism of the digirati's enthusiasm for free. I think Chris Anderson's free-thinking about free is a bit weightless because it largely applies to the digital aristocracy. That's white boy Gen X'ers like me who get a lot of free services from Google (even though I don't put their ads on here). 


I don't see how Moore's law and free chips can put food in the mouths of hungry people if I'm on a buck a day which is a billion or so people on the planet. Paradoxically they are more prepped for what Doug Rushkoff is talking about because exchanging value is a lot more easier to do with a cart of melons and a mobile phone. But it's still not free of course. Neither is barter but it does sidestep use of fiat currency.


One thing about this spanner in the freeworks thinking is that while Doug might not have put his latest book out on the net for free, as an electronic amuse gul if you will, he's been kind enough to let me read his latest book Life Inc which I think is one of the more influential books that tackles the notion that 21st century fiat currency is an operating system which is past its sell by date. You can check out the reviews and order Life Inc over here.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Show Me The Money



This isn't quite the version I saw earlier on the bus and which had me howling with laughter but it's not far off. I like the lobster mounting the other lobster or is that just my imagination going to far? 


On a more sober note, there's lots to be talked about in this commercial. The rap posturing is vintage grandma gang sign hand flicks and says a lot about both who commissioned it and who it's aimed at (low income not asocial) It also reveals something I've asserted about Hong Kong for quite some time. It likes to keep its shop assistant and blue collar classes less educated than other tier one Asian economies. I've a theory about this but will probably run it by some more people before building a hypothesis about population density, per capita GDP and land resources and so on and so forth (My new McKennaism)


Right, time to chase an invoice.

Friday, 18 December 2009

What is Transmedia?



It's fair to say that if you work in media and haven't caught on to Transmedia Planning then you are probably not part of the solution for 21st century communications. The old top down hierarchical control of media messaging that belonged to the 20th century and its devastating cultural enforcement through propaganda techniques are beginning to erode and the good thing is that it allows creativity and real engagement to flourish. What's transmedia? There are lots of explanations but flexibility and room for a story to breath is my sound-bite.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

accenture



Tiger Woods quit golf, his wife left him today and as I recall accenture announced on May 26 this year that their Board of Directors had unanimously approved changing the company’s place of incorporation to Ireland from Bermuda. Via Jason

Friday, 11 December 2009

Terence McKenna - Culture & Ideology Are Not Your Friends



A few weeks back I was listening to Doug Rushkoff's media masters podcasts and introduced to an unusually voiced character (actually they all have strange voices - Robert Anton Wilson, Bucky Fuller and Tim Leary) talking about Marshall McLuhan.

The person who captured my attention was Terence McKenna. His vocabulary is compelling. I've never heard anyone speak as interesting as this remarkable man although in a different way I'm also completely wrapped up in James Ellroy's spoken word too recently.

I've been hoovering up his entire Podcast oeuvre this last couple of weeks. So far this is probably 30 hours of first time listening and then as I tend to do repeats of exceptional episodes you can add another 15 hours on top of that - I've probably got another 20 hours to go on topics that have been repeated elsewhere or shared discussion formats, so I'm coming to the end of his solo audio captured work and I'm pretty sure now that there's very little I don't know what it took the man 50 years or so to accumulate before he died prematurely just before the millennium. It was the same when I got into Chomsky a few years back and I wouldn't mind if these discoveries happened a bit more frequently, but the reason they are greats is because they are few and far between.

I can't tell you how awesome it is to listen to someone who is exceptionally erudite and articulate expound on topics as diverse as James Joyce, Ethnobotany of Shamanism and Marshall McLuhan talk on two or three subjects close to my heart that I've never heard anyone else articulate. One of those is Culture & Ideology are not your friends and I think it's a terrific introduction to the man's work. You may or may not recall I wrote something similar here.


If you like that podcast, you may find his unusual adventures into the use of hallucinogenic sacred medicines as at the very least some of the most original thinking I've come across. Even if we discount his experiences in different dimensions I haven't explored since I did this tattoo, I find his thinking, hypothesis and conclusions rewardingly creative and intelligent.

You can download "Culture Is Not Your Friend" Over Here and below is a Scribd document of the speech. You can add the iTunes library of McKenna's free flowing and unscripted orations that defy conventional use of language over at Psychedelic Salon on Matrix Masters as they  raise the bar for the spoken language of English. Terence fucking rocks. Word.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Book Competition - Chief Culture Officer



It feels like there's an air of unreality and hyper reality colliding in a mid jet-stream spectacular of post-modernism meets earnest-but-pedestrian commercial cheese. 


Well anyway that's how I would start writing a critique of the above video before tapering off into silence, because the task Grant has set out to is challenging but definitely not humourless.


All you need do is head over to Grant's blog Cultureby because he's giving away a copy of his warmly anticipated book Chief Culture Officer which is easily the most compelling argument for pinning down the stiffs and psychopaths in the boardroom and letting the humans of our species inside. You know it makes sense.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Square




Square is a new micropayment/mobile phone payment system by the co-founder of Twitter Jack Dorsey.  It raises an interesting question about trust which is something I want to write more extensively about soon because trust is something that works on many levels including the media we consume. TV is (generally) a more trustworthy media than the internet because it costs a lot of time and money to get a communication message onto mainstream media's traditional screen but in any case I think this could be the most disruptive business model to the credit card business ever. 


Which would be a good thing. 


I think Paypal have blown it by being greedy, slow and thinking like a 20th century business rather than trying to figure out how to be truly revolutionary which often involves waiting a bit and not screwing the customer.


What interests me is that Jack Dorsey has already shown with Twitter that he is much more interested in doing the right thing than squeezing any business venture for immediate profit or Twitter would be looking different than it does now. Because of this I immediately trust him and take this new business seriously. The picture above shows the 'dongle' require to make payments and which works with an iPhone or an iTouch. Japan is way ahead of the game on the built in micropayments system for their mobile phones and may explain why Twitter always seem to pilot ideas in Japan first, but you can read more about Square over here.

How To Fix Capitalism




The recession and the crisis and banking are the least of the reasons for thinking that we need reforms. the crisis of capitalism goes much deeper: the influence big business has on governments (and the warped policies this leads to), increasing central control of the economy and the general move away from free markets.. I have some modest proposals on how to fix capitalism.


Break up monopolies and oligopolies


Under existing competition (anti-trust in American) laws, it is necessary to prove abuse of the monopoly. This allows a business to avoid competition, because it has not been proved to have used particular practices. Competition may be locked out (for example, by network effects) and consumers may suffer from a lack of innovation or product quality, but none of that is illegal.


The solution is to assume that monopolies are harmful and should be broken up. Either this should be an invariable rule, or it should be up to the monopolist to prove that the monopoly is somehow beneficial. An exception should be made for natural monopolies, but the price of that should be tight regulation, nationalisation, or (best of all) mutualisation.


That still leaves the problem of oligopolies. The answer is simple: break up any company with enough market share to have a noticeable influence on prices — say more than 5% nationally or 10% at a city/county level. Again, they would need to make the case of exceptions.


Doing this would also mean that there would be no "too big to fail" banks, so a financial crisis would be easier to solve: let them go bust and nationalise the assets and liabilities.


Remove barriers to entry


Abolish patents. They have not been proven to speed progress: the evidence seems to be to the contrary. They definitely increase costs, are an inefficient way of funding R & D and allow oligopolists to block competition.


Reduce the copyright term to the optimal length suggested by research of about 15 years. It ought to be obvious that works produced in the reign of Queen Victoria should not be in copyright in the 21st century.Exclude works distributed with DRM from copyright to ensure that copyright works do fall into the public domain when the copyright expires. Reduce the copyright term on computer software to two years, and make copyright contingent on disclosing source code (so others can alter the software when it comes out of copyright). Abolish region of origin rules. It should be legal to describe a Cava (when selling it) as having been made in the same way as Champagne. Abolish unnecessarily restrictive licensing. Many US states require people to be licensed to work as interior designers or hairdressers. I can understand requiring doctors or auditors to be licensed, but these are just barriers to entry.


Reduce bureaucracy


The best example of the problem (or opportunity from his point of view) that I have heard, is something Ted Tuppen, the founder and CEO of the huge British pub chain Enterprise Inns, said. I may not have got the wording exactly right, but, as I remember it, it was:


There will always be pubs available to buy because owners of free houses are driven out of the business by the amount of bureaucracy.


Small businesses cannot cope with tight regulation. Big businesses can hire teams of lawyers and paper-pushers. This is one of the many problems with patents. The government, far from discouraging oligopolies, is actually encouraging their formation.


Stop being "business friendly"


People seem to be thinking much less clearly about this now than they did in the 18th century. Back then, the business friendly ideology was called "mercantilism", and this was the primary source of opposition to free markets. Now, governments profess to be in favour of free markets and "business friendly".


Of course, businesses sometimes want free markets, for example they do not want to regulated. On the other hand they also want to minimise competition, reduce costs, receive subsidies and form cartels. Businesses are usually in favour of free markets in general, but not in the specific case of their own industry.


The new mercantilism is the root cause of the problems most of my other proposals seek to solve. It has also lead to a failure to regulate properly. The obvious examples are the clear failures in the regulation of banks (such as allowing deposit takers to have high risk investment banking operations), but there are others: the US broke up Standard Oil and AT & T, but failed to break up Microsoft, reflecting the general trend towards letting businesses do as they like.


New mercantilism has dropped the one aspect of the 18th century form that I find has some redeeming features: economic nationalism. Democracy is compromised by the economic pressure tyrants can bring in a globalised economy. I also find it extremely odd that governments will minutely examine an applicant for a holiday visa, but allow a dubious foreign tycoon to gain great influence within their country by buying influential businesses.


New mercantilism is dishonest. It does not openly oppose free markets. Instead it relies on conflating free markets with capitalism.


Financially penalise large businesses


This idea is simple. Tax big companies more. This will discourage mergers except where there are clear gains. British tax law already has lower rates for small companies, but this does not go far enough. The rates should keep increasing as companies get larger (at the moment there are no further increases on companies with profits greater than £1.5m: I would suggest bands at say £15m, £150m and £1.5bn as well). Obviously, we would need similar systems in all major economies.


The size criteria should not be based on profit. It should be based on value added: so a big company that has a bad year would not see its tax rate reduce (obviously taxes paid would do down in proportion to profit).


Give shareholders control


Shareholders are supposed to the owners of a company, but in the case of large listed companies this control is limited. This does lead to problems:


Shareholders have to resort to expensive and disruptive means such as accepting hostile takeover bids to replace incompetent management — this also tends to encourage consolidation where there is no real economic benefit. Management have an incentive to focus on the short term. They can take their bonuses and leave, while accumulating problems for the future. Management tend to overpay themselves. As J.K. Galbraith said: "The high salary of the chief executive of a large corporation is not a market reward for achievement. It is frequently in the nature of a warm personal gesture from an individual to himself." Management indulge their egos, buy engaging in exciting takeovers, and risky businesses, rather than getting on with the humdrum but reliably profitable. It is impossible to prove what people were thinking, but it is hard not to believe that this contributed to the destruction of GEC/Marconi


Reject the corrosive "greed is good" ideology


Adam Smith never intended that the idea of the "invisible hand" should be interpreted as meaning that people should pursue their own interests, and that this would lead to an optimum outcome. He wrote extensively on morality.


The reason for those troublesome bonus schemes for directors is that it is assumed that they would not run the company as well as they could unless they were "incentivised" with payments for success. This contradicts management theory: Herzberg classifies pay as a "hygiene factor", a poor motivator compared to, for example, job satisfaction.


What is even worse is that by telling people that they are expected to be selfish, they become more selfish. Economics students become more selfish because they are repeatedly taught to expect that people are rational and selfish: the association between the two can only strengthen the effect.


Society is permeated, especially in business, politics and economics, with the idea that is people pursue their own interests, this will automatically lead to the best outcome, and that, therefore, people should be selfish. This cannot be fixed by endless incentives to align interests: life and business is too complex for that to work. A free market is not a substitute for integrity.


Break the loop


What matters most is the rejection of the new mercantilism, which will at least stop things getting worse, but we still need to undo the legislation and the structures that have been put into place at the behest of the mercantilists. The two go together: the rise of the new mercantilism is partly the result of the lobbying power of large corporations. Break them up and reduce their power and they lose their influence.


Education is also important. Most people cannot, at the moment, distinguish between capitalism and free markets, or see the parallels between the original and the new mercantilism.


Via Graeme

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Simple Solutions



While Adam and I are still hammering out the details on the big economic/geopolitical stuff that probably wont really be of any consequence anyway, my friends over at Baby Creative in London have squeezed out this little film which I think has a nice simplicity to it worth bearing in mind.

Tiger Woo - MKULTRA Sports Edition




Y'all know Tiger Woods is an MKULTRA right?

Where did you think that Golf prodigy programming came from.

I don't usually take an interest in public figures lives and I really don't have any interest in Tiger Woods other than his mother's Thai extraction. But there's always been something quintessentially money focused about his golfing talent and a lack of interest outside the world of golf and money that I hope is a bubble which may now have been pierced.

This clip from Taiwanese TV gets away with far more than we're accustomed to and looks strangely accurate as well as a taste of the future.

The unusual spelling for this posts title is explained here, it's what the internet was invented for isn't it? 

Via Grant

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Axe



Nice twist on the usual simplified equation of attraction through scent. 


Via Simon Law's blog who along with Famous Rob keep me on top of the nice ads worth paying attention to.

tumblr




It took me a long time to 'get' tumblr'. I pumped my twitter feed in, my disqus, my friendfeed, rooted around a bit and left it spewing out content all over the net for ages and then one day, it fell into place. The thing about tumblr I find most fun is there are no instructions, so there's no rule book, which kind of makes it the best place to learn the etiquette, ways of interacting with people and just generally enjoying the whole make your own coffee book while hitting the dopamine pellet release button in the brain for hours on end (I'm not alone being a serious junkie for tumblr). I do whole nights sometimes and suddenly feel like hitting the sack just around the time when I should be getting up. But that's OK. I value my beauty sleep ha ha.


You can add me if you wish, or check out some of the new kids on the block like 9GAG, vi.sualize.us or even, if you were paying attention to that digital social networks visual I posted earlier get into the original tumblr - Deviant art.





Buy Nothing



Do The Green Thing have been getting more and more creative recently on their blog and this latest attempt feels like they are getting close to both the attractive lure of senseless shopping with an idea of branded nothing. It's cute, it's fun, it's polished and I want one. They have a twitter presence here along with an online Doctor Will Powers in case the urge to consume for consumptions sake takes a hold there's immediate twitter advice like the Samaritans.


It's funny isn't it. I always think of Tuberculosis when I hear or read the word consumption. Like how it was described in Charles Dickens novels around the turn of the century. Incidentally a long time ago I used to live on Doughty Street in Bloomsbury where Dickens wrote a few of his books.


Working in advertising I can see how some readers would struggle to work out how I can reconcile marketing with my green credentials but it's something I've spent a lot of time working out if there is a role for marketing communications with sustainable living and there most certainly is. 


From 'more ideas less stuff', to changing perceptions and behaviour along with encouraging clients to take a longer term view of profitability than the immediacy and insanity of the quarterly report, this blog and my work as a communication strategist will always find creative ways of encouraging people to love brands through responsible selling. Each client is different and can approach the issue in a different way but a dig though the archives will reveal some of the ways that we (I've stolen all the good ideas) have approached this problem solving in a creative manner.


There's also always the comments if anybody feels there's an issue that needs clarification or a position that doesn't make sense. I welcome any challenges as they invariably end up improving my thinking.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Do The Right Thing




I don't want to link to the haters but if you've been following this story then you can see my position in the comments. It's one of those times when we don't need a rule book. We need the hate removed and Google does that exceedingly well all over the world with their advertisers and the content it's associated with, as well as full-on state-complicit censoring in China. 


I'm all for free speech; like Chomsky I think we don't believe in free speech at all if we don't allow it for people we despise. But it's risen to the top of the search engine rankings and unlike free speech it's lingering in the air forever. So take it down. No rule books, no editorial policy, no censorship. Just remove it.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Data Junky





Here's my podcast habit which I want to freshen up a bit. The more news oriented BBC podcasts can get a little bit obscure in terms of geography and relevancy. Have you got any suggestions for replacements? Anything under 20 minutes isn't really for me though.

Digital Social Networks




Via Uba Kontrovasie

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Digital Necrophilia - I Like To Fork Myself


Now I think about it there's a lot of outstanding posts percolating in my head and which I've made rushed notes to in various places, though this is one post I feel like writing and which was originally sparked by some of the excellent conversations I had with Teflon John, before his Goldman Sachs girlfriend discovered I'm a Metrosexual Marxist. 

Well... (dot dot dot) I'm sure he's got a different perspective but as he was in the rest room during the chilly silence that descended before his return, I can only say that I was admirably unfazed by the inappropriate but not unique assertion of bi/curious sexual preferences that the monologue drifted onto after a long soliloquy on Goldman culture. But I think my conversation switcher of  'let's talk about me' may have closed the deal.

Unlike Goldman Sachs of Hyenaville, money isn't my main driver. Though I hasten to add I don't know if I'd be any better a pack dog if fate had slipped me into that alpha male club instead of the ability to write about it with a mixture of candour, humour and disgust. But we don't really know that stuff until we're in the context itself though having lost all my possessions and money recently I'm pretty happy with what I don't have as well as what I do. Which is a reality tunnel topic I'm dwelling on since discovering Robert Anton Wilson over at the Media squat through the increasingly funny and brilliant Douglas Rushkoff.

Anyways (as the Jamaican bad boys say): 

Digital Necrophilia. 

Like so many subjects in accelerated culture (and it's so fast I'm in my element) the early thinking has been superseded by this podcast I listened to and then followed by Neil's post on learning to forget which is quicker to read though I recommend you check out The Forum on BBC radio to listen to Victor Mayer-Schoenberger if you didn't attend the talk Neil did.

But the reason for resurrecting this topic is twofold. A few years ago I was asked to write a presentation about beauty on the net for Unilever regionally in Asia, and despite having 300 slides chopped down to a very primitive 150 I did pick up on some of the themes in blogging and internet culture including discovering Daul Kim's blog which I predicted would be a taste of the intimacy of reading into the lives of people who inhabit the trillion dollar beauty business. 

This has come back to haunt me like an Ave Maria curling round a cathedral choir during a requiem mass. 

Depressing.

She was seventeen ish when I discovered her blog, and died in Paris on Friday, at the age of 20. Here's her last blog post where she says 'hi to forever' with Jim River's "I go deep". One thing we had in common was our love of British minimal tech. See you on the other side Daul.

Digital Social Networks (AKA Social Media)

300 Case Studies of Social Media Marketing

Just as much a reminder for me as for you.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

peopleagainstdirty.com



I saw the Method cleaning products guys present at PSFK in San Francisco last year before returning back to Beijing for the Olympics. I was really impressed with their *warning - overused but in this case appropriate word-alert* passion for their business. Nice guys doing nice to the environment products. I thought they might have been too small to get into great advertising but that's what they have done here with droga5. There's more information on people against dirty over here.

Via Simon

Friday, 20 November 2009

Nothing tastes better than skinny


Of course this blog post comes to you while I tuck into a bowl of new potatoes with butter liberally applied, but I do think there's something quite remarkable about the uproar over Kate Moss saying this because it has all the hallmarks of a highly spreadable meme. I mean it's probably the best strap line I've ever heard. It's a powerful way of saying don't do it.


Memorable, evocative and truly disruptive. 


Pity there's no money in it.


However in it its defense. First of all it's a point of view. Those are Kate Moss's taste buds and if she chooses to say not eating, tastes better than eating then isn't she entitled to say that?


But as a prominent person (albeit one who has enjoyed a fat line of coke quite publicly and needs to be skinny for her job while making no attempt to be a role model) you might argue that she has a responsibility to set a good example and deter the never ending parade of anorexics and bulimics that the media are somewhat biased about reporting. Simon Rothstein for Murdoch owned The Sun blasts aways.







But then isn't it in the interest of big agra, big media and big pharma to be profitable by attacking anorexia as a more pernicious problem than obesity? Isn't it in the interests of those corporations and their lobby groups and PR companies to demonize anorexia when the real problem lies in the other direction? I often hear dangerously overweight people say "I love my food", but I never hear dangerously underweight people say "I love my waistline".


I say this as someone who has packed a few pounds in the past. Usually when I'm enjoying the delights of cooked breakfasts and delicious bread in the UK. Most people are quite surprised when they see this picture.





What do you think? I'd really like to know?


Update: In a situation worthy of Voltaire's assertion that God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh I see that the word "fat" when Googled today provides its top story on Google News that is rich in comment on Western society. Peruvian gangs have been killing rural farmers for their fat sold to cosmetic companies in Europe. You couldn't make this up which is precisely why we need to think about it a bit harder than usual. Imagine being slaughtered for your fat like a beast? There was a time when I had a few pounds to share but not as well as my liver, and heart and kidneys *shakes head*.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Cultural Media Studies






I wrote most of this on paper and so you may detect a different tonality and flow to the text. I guess I need to start somewhere on the long road to another vast topic I want to connect with here, and that's culture, but I'll start with media, move on to books and then scratch the surface of culture: something I think I'm qualified to comment on. I pride myself on living with real people in different countries and have managed to achieve that with a bit of planning and a little bit of luck including what may have seemed like bad luck at the time but often yielded gems along the way. So here goes.


I've blathered on about the awe I have for Marshall McLuhan and particularly his 1964 classic "Understanding Media". It's a seminal tour de force that contributed greatly towards my  never ending discovery of communication theory and for that I'm very grateful. It's rare that I find the view reflected upside down in my retina as unintresting or unable to provide questions I need answers to. 


I recall a long time ago in a distant agency within the M25, that I was the first to request the retro-tech short message service from HR, who explained what it was or why our banana Nokia phones had the alphabet on the keypad. Fortunately and unlike fax machines I didn't have to wait for anyone else to subscribe and immediately had a lot of fun 'interrupting' the creative team with SMS messages sent from the de facto 'planners room' called the library a place where we tended to cluster.


It was not a service like today where all mobile providers automatically make revenue from service provision. Back in the day (1998) it was a service that so few used, it needed to be subscribed to seperately. This was around the cusp of when it was about to take off, big-time and globally. The rest is history and we now see it as a utility of life that cannot be substituted and is arguably the basis for status updates on messenger platforms and the increasingly ubiquitous Twitter.


Why am I once again resurrecting, McLuhan's 'medium is the message'? Well I've never stopped giving it consideration and I guess in some way it's finally losing (or at least occasionally feels like diminishing) its overwhelming philosophical momentum, despite the internet and it's mind bogglingly immense challenge to the twin notions of hot and cool media conjured up by Marshal's book nearly derailing me totally. Perhaps it has forever.


I've since reconciled most of the neurological dynamics that constitute media temperature, engagement and distraction (a critical and too seldom discussed dimension) with the content; you know, the bits we brief and that the creatives deliver on).


In any case my recent enforced seperation from the internet means I was once again consuming printed words from a creative underground's bookshelf in a manner that would shame a Hoover into mutating mechanically into a Dyson.


"Suck it". "Suck it and see" I was once told by someone who didn't want to answer all my questions. Well I'm sucking it now. Hoovering up printed works for the first time in a long time and I'm pleased to see that my early thoughts immersed in digital are confirmed. It's   possible I've concluded, to neurologically rewire my brain back to the state it used to be. 


One where I would devour long thick chunks of printed text for hours on end, day after day, week after week and well, you get the picture. That was before RSS snacking became the best god damm information buffet one could wish for. When the information highway suddenly cranked up a bit, resembling the 1993 Corvette I wrote about in this post over here.


Since writing this I've dined on Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers (over rated and dripping with inconsistency - the sort of book I imagine I'd be guilty of writing) as well as the insufferably over stretched "Wikinomics" which is not so bad when picking and  choosing the chapters that matter, but is nevertheless borderline sea sick boredom if compelled under orders or circumstances like myself to eat the entire spread.


Wikinomics is, compared to RSS, like enforced consumption of no-label crisps and curling  and dried salmon-spread sandwiches before say a cool dip on a hot summers day in an inflatable pool with the kids in a back garden over freshly sliced prosciutto wrapped around bread sticks, ace deli pickles, avocado and vinaigrette with bruschetta and black olive tapenade and hell, let's go for it, a yellow bell pepper coulis - just because I can.


It's a good book in parts, but fuck me (metaphorically) it has whole chapters that are more iterative and circular than Marble Arch roundabout playing Hotel California on a car stereo, looping endlessly on a scorching hot day with bumper to bumper traffic. Ah the Eighties - how I loved you.


So you don't believe me eh? Well feel free to read what I wrote a few months before Hong Kong Clown Investigation Department (CID) busted my intravenous digital drip compelling me to read all these books.


OK, I'm only into my third book while dipping sporadically into the Holy Quran before hitting the Talmud and the Torah while taking a never ending feast on Therevada Buddhism (which I interrupted recently with a book on Mormonism - The American Religion), and keeping an eye on The Tao 'n stuff. I can't take the Bible too seriously these days despite some awesome chapters, but that may be over familiarity breeding testimonial contempt. I do however like the observation I read recently over on Lee Maschmeyer's blog, that the Bible is an early example of open source collaboration which brings me (as only the Bible could) on to Tapscotts & Williams Wikinomics. There's an inverse proportionality to Wikipedia content and value itself. This highly padded (and thus time wasting) book Wikinomics is a 21st century publishing irony of the highest order?


There are however in this book, as I've mentioned, great parts. I loved learning about the LAMP stack. Linux, APACHE, MySQL (Database) and PHP (Perl Scripting). Frankly that is one sexy fucking combo and they should cut out the nonsense we often teach kids and introduce infants to that lot from Kindegarten age - I'm serious, it's a language isn't it? 


Or is it the case that since English became the Lingua Franca we no longer entertain ideas of placing emphasis on learning languages. I can imagine George Orwell with his Spanish(or was that Catalan?), Urdu and several Burmese dialects would have recognised this as a national and systemic weakness brought on by globalization. Yet we feel this everytime as a Brit we sit in meetings where people are arguing their case more effectively in their second or third language than we can in our first. It's awe inspiring and only my own understanding of Thai, Burmerse, German and weak French provide succour against this overwhelming feeling of inferiority. You'll feel worse if you speak just the one. I'm just saying.


Despite the ace LAMP stack chapter in Wikinomics, there's waffle McCheesy summertime specials like the chapter on IDEAGORAS which  could be wrapped neatly into a couple of concise blog posts or bundled into an Harvard Business Review circular, for corporates who want to play with the new boys on the block - that's us isn't it? I mean, come on! That part about printing on cakes as one memorable example illuminates what the writers of Wikinomics perceive as the peak of  intra/extra corporate innovative collaboration? Do me a favour. Fucking cup cake printing. Don't believe me? Check it out. It's a weak book and riddled with stretched arguments though that doesn't mean a weak argument will never manifest itself as an argument that is proven robust through subsequent realization.


Yeah right.


So anyway, in pursuit of complexity, inconsistency, contradiction and general woolly thinking. I would like to now pull out of Gladwell's skinny and twitching ass (complete with walnut timbre voice) a real nugget of a find which he begins to tease out of his latest book Outliers. It runs beautifully consistently with what I imagine not too many of you are aware (though it's all in the archives here) are my own views on culture. That mile wide and inch deep tarmac of delusional self construct. Beautiful for pulling away at speed in our own directions but less suitable for landing a plane without buckling the surface up under the pressure like fresh linguini. You get the picture.


Because culture both matters and it doesn't. Or maybe it's just inconsequential if the spirit has the courage to overcome the cultural conditions imposed on us and then enforced by us in yet another myopic loop of recursive patriotism. In other words "You're as big or as small as your culture" but never bigger than the ultimate fighting club called humanity. United we stand so to speak.


Here's the evidence to support it, because me and Malc are at one on this.


In Gladwell's outliers, he tiptoes round an inch of culture that is easy to drill through and set up some cone induced traffic jams around, for as long as John Major's hotline is a telephone call away. You see Macolm introduces Geerte Hofsteder's cultural dimensions. Don't let that scare you off because I"ve stuck the boot into Hofsteder about four years ago while working on the Unilever business regionally and in this presentation I wrote over here. It is now dated somewhat, by a lot of new thinking and reading I've done. However Geert's work is pertinent as is Malcom's chapter on Korean Air's little accident streak which I'll talk about a little later 


Because It's Gladwell's ionospheric 10 000 hours - Practice makes Perfect (ubung macht den meister) mantra that beggars  belief. Rather than rip to shreds "Talcum Malc" equating the whole U.S. population into four outliers which is inconsistent with the books theme in so many ways, I'd prefer to hone in on that point about The Beatles who Malcom writes, riffed for a couple of thousand hours while in Germany but actually improvised from sheer boredom rather than a manic obsession with perfection that Malc implies (Beatles Anthology - 2000) in Hamburg's Star Club. And don't even get me started on why a few thousand hours isn't even close to 10000 hours. No. The Beatles were Spesh because they were spesh. I'll never forget that Mexican kitchen I talked about in LA (in The White Album Post) where the kitchen staff had only two words in their vocabulary for me when I turned up for work and explained in crap Spanish that I was English - The Beatles. Hooligan. They grinned. That's the Brits isn't it. Off the scale creative or out of order repugnant.


So instead I'll pick up on the interesting chapters or is it chapter because sport isn't interesting, sport is a media/social object for (generally speaking) allowing men of questionable masculinity, the self confidence to talk to each other (often passionately) unhindered by accusations of homosexuality permeating the air. One only needs to observe the silence on Australian Football and tight fitting shorts, America's obsession with Canadian Ice Hockey and anal sex (or is that just right wing nut US obsession? Probably) , steroids and poppers for American Soccer and/or well hung African American (strange fruit hangs differently) basketball players. Did I just write that? Yes. But nobody will question it. Nobody ever does.


I digress. Where was I?


Oh yeah. Gladwell's Outliers, but not in the hung, drawn and quartered black American populace (see how I revived the last paragraph's ending) there's a chapter where Malc writes about Korean Air going through a bit of a rough patch. It's important for the cultural question that keeps on cropping up all round the world in the planning game because Korean Air's history was beginning at one point to be littered like a Lockerbie bomb's cadaver sprawl with aviation accidents and so the Korean Aviation authorities compelled the airline to do the unthinkable and contact the Federal Aviation authority to see what was the cause of the unmistakable trend for ditching Jumbo Jets in awkward circumstances.


Could it be a cultural issue? Fuck no. Culture is only ever a good thing. It's what we wrap out inner pride and outer flags around. It's worth going to war for and is never flawed. In short Culture is King. It's magnificent where ever one travels which is why when in Rome one makes praise for Prada. Nobody inside an entire country could point out that Korean air needed outsiders to investigate the insider issue because the Feds can only be invited in an emergency and not imposed on a nation. Which is why the US needs to listen right now to criticism of foreign policy because Hillary and even Obama are already spoiled persimmons. Capiche?


Could one culture be less perfect than another? This is the sort of dangerous question that can lead to justifiable accusations of racial bigotry or prejudice. The answer is in all cases. Sometimes.


The issue that led to a series of aviation disasters (it's always a disaster isn't it when an Afghan wedding isn't involved) was the power distance ratio mentioned earlier and which draws on Geerte Hofsteder's principle that different cultures have different hierarchical language constructs  for engaging with senior (or subordinate) ranks.


For example, in this instance the senior air pilots were unable to be addressed by the second in command pilots in a direct manner that would avert impending doom. Much like my argument with Hong Kong CID as I tried to convey they should get off their asses and talk to the cab driver sat outside with my suitcases in his cab. I could say what I like in that instance but my urgency wasn't their urgency so everyone got even more overtime.


The power distance ratio which varies from country to country meant that immediate danger could not be averted through direct language. Formality is a cultural protocol in Korea (and across Asia). This is where culture needs to be examined more closely as ressponsible  for and contributing towards less than satisfactory solutions.


Korean culture is (or was) structured in such a way that safety could not be maintained.


It's so funny it's not funny for those in the research influenced business but even the research findings  were so sensitive a subject to broach that the presenter to Korean Air was unable to say directly "Look it's our  culture that is the problem". That's a self referential joke of the highest order isn't it?


Eventually the problem was defined and the Federal Aviation Authority was brought in to culturally 'retrain' the pilots and crew to address each other in a manner that once implemented, saved their own lives. It's like a scene from Black Adder isn't it. With the men in the trenches jumping through hoops to point out the bleeding obvious to the donkeys leading the lions.


But it took the US to make the emphatic point that some cultures (as Morrissey might have sung) are bigger than others. And it's true they are. Though context is everything, like those Afghan weddings bombed by war drones can testify.


The conclusion?


Like I've said many a time (though even the observation is culturally biased), culture is a mile wide and an inch deep. If Pilots to cabin crew can retrain, then so can all of us. It's not insurmountable and it's because of this that while I'm endlessly fascinated by culture (I like to live outside of my own), I'm also deeply unhappy with an all too frequent dependancy by different nationalities to pull the culture card out as either a mark of superiority. Or an excuse to do less than is internationally up to standard. The future is here, it's just unevenly distributed.


As a last example of counter cultural exceptionalism I suggest Windows by Microsoft. My answer to the "we're different card" is that if the world is so diverse, then why is it that with different scripts and reading directions. Left to right, right to left and top to bottom that there is only one position for Start in Windows and one for minimise. The drop down menu is global. But if you focused grouped it there'd be pandemonium.


So culture is great, and culture is important, but it's also not necessarily essential that things need to be different given the extent of our commonalities. So few actually get that. 






Plus ça change (plus c'est la même chose)