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Archive for the ‘mediocrity’ Category

Robert Killick on the need for intellectual curiosity and courage in the face of “unknowns” in today’s business leaders:

Risk was once seen as a catalyst for competitiveness, innovation and change in enterprise culture. Now it is seen as a negative barrier to be avoided with all sorts of precautionary measures. ‘Risk consciousness’ is the order of the day, but the preference to always dig up the dark side of humanity betrays a lack of faith in human reason. Curiosity and foolhardiness are often derided as irresponsible and egotistical traits, but the great heroes of the past have taken personal risks that benefit all of us.

Today, research and experimentation that does not have a measurable ‘positive effect’ is seen as irresponsible. Yet it is precisely through experimentation, risk – and, yes, mistakes – that some of the major scientific breakthroughs and technological inventions have come about. Without risky experimentation, and without individuals willing to take those risks in the pursuit of knowledge, we wouldn’t have aeroplanes, penicillin, MRI scans or X-rays.

The ability to handle risk – though technology, human ingenuity, reason and resilience – is a measure of modernity and it can only be achieved through more experimentation, not less. The hard won freedoms to creative expression, communication and to technological innovation should be treasured, and the twenty-first century should be when we take them even further.

Risk-adverse/risk-paralyzed leaders aren’t leaders at all. At best, they are followers promoted or appointed to positions they should have had enough common sense, integrity and professionalism to turn down.

Fact: Leaders “lead.” They take their companies in a specific direction and make sure that course corrections occur as needed along the way. Standing still, ignoring emerging market trends, rewarding business-as-usual strategies, waiting for competitors to make a move before testing the waters, or building protective walls around organizations are not examples of leadership.

No one is advocating making rash decisions of course, but in order for companies to be successful, their leaders must possess certain key personality traits – among them the essential combination of vision, courage and an unbreakable pioneering streak.

Bear this in mine when placing your bets on a company, new boss or potential candidates for an executive-level position.

Have a great week, everyone!

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The best comment about the SuperBowl’s chronically lame half time show I’ve read yet (from From: johnnynotsid on Buzznet):

Subject: HOW BAD WAS THE SUPERBOWL HALFTIME SHOW?

Don’t get me wrong, I like Tom Petty but good GOD. DO SOMETHING!

WHIP YOUR GUITAR AROUND! HEAD BANG! BREAK YOUR HIP! Do SOMETHING!

Worse even than Macca did. I thought after Prince we’d be doing better but no…… We’re so worried about another bare titty on a Sunday afternoon that we have to get young Santa Claus.

Next time: Get Radiohead (I don’t even like Radiohead) or Smashing Pumpkins (even with Zeitgeist songs) or SOMEONE WHO IS ESTABLISHED BUT DOES NOT NEED GERITOL TO PERFORM!

In Tom Petty’s defense (or Prince’s, or The Stones, or Paul McCartney’s) these guys don’t suck. they’re very, very good… They’re just… you know… not exactly A-list anymore. Or very exciting. This is the Superbowl, man! People want to be dazzled. They want to be entertained. They want to walk away saying “wow! That was incredible!” Well, they aren’t.

The once premier sporting event in the USA has sadly turned into a giant ball of mediocrity wrapped up in a very thin and overpriced wrapper of hype. My question to you is this: What does that say about our society? About Brand USA? About where we’re headed – politically, economically, culturally and creatively? If the Superbowl isn’t a metaphor for a bloated and mediocrity-embracing American culture, I don’t know what is.
Instead of raising the bar every year, why is it that even the quality of the Superbowl experience is suffering? If there is one sporting event we should do right, it’s this one. But we don’t even bother to take pride in that anymore. The Superbowl has turned into just another disposable product: Commoditized, noisy, overpriced and hollow.
Are we really that afraid of glimpsing another janet Jackson nipple? Must we sanitize the US’ greatest sporting event of the year to such a ridiculous extent that the Half Time show’s musical acts have to be in their… um… silver years?
Whomever books these acts should go work for cruise lines and retirement communities, and leave the Superbowl to real professionals.

While you’re pondering the whole metaphor concept I mentioned a few minutes ago, try this concept on for size: Relevance. How relevant are these musical acts? How relevant is the Superbowl anymore? (Not the game itself, but the ads and the show and the rest of the disposable glitter.) Perhaps more importantly, how relevant are we anymore, with our paper plates and our plastic forks and our ready-made Superbowl party platters, so desperate for entertainment that we will sit through the dumbing-down of advertising and the corporate castration of sport? How relevant are we when the Euro is stronger than the Dollar, the best creatives are moving out of the US, and we as a nation seem more concerned about accidentally glimpsing a nipple on TV than homeless families living in a van just down the road? How relevant are we when – as the only superpower left – our economy is crumbling, we have the worst public education system in the western world, our bridges are collapsing, we still don’t believe in Science, and we’re the fattest people on the planet?
We’re acting like a nation of tourists.
Just in case you skipped to the punchline, here it is: “Good enough” just isn’t good enough anymore.
Heck, mediocrity – in advertising, business, product design, politics, education, research, medical care, engineering, infrastructure management, entertainment, foodservice and customer experience, and yes, even your own job – just isn’t cutting it at all. Not in the USA. Particularly not now. We should all be embarrassed by how far we’ve alowed this to get already. It’s time to wake up.
PS: The permalink of this post doesn’t accept comments. Go to the main page and comment from there. Sorry for the inconvenience.

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From Seth Godin’s blog:

Most industries innovate from both ends:

  • The outsiders go first because they have nothing to lose.
  • The winners go next because they can afford to and they want to stay winners.
  • It’s the mediocre middle that sits and waits and watches.

The mediocre (blank) companies, mediocre (blank) guys and the mediocre (blank) are struggling to stay in place. They’re nervous that it all might fall apart. So they wait. They wait for ‘proof’ that this new idea is going to work, or at least won’t prove fatal. (It’s the impulse to wait that made them mediocre in the first place, of course).

So, in every industry, the middle waits. And watches. And then, once they realize they can survive the switch (or once they’re persuaded that their current model is truly fading away), they jump in.

The irony, of course, is that by jumping in last, they’re condemning themselves to more mediocrity.

Read the entire post here. (The post is about the music industry. I took the liberty of adding the (blank) elements to make Seth’s argument more… universal.)

Along the same lines, Brains On Fire‘s Spike brings us this observation from CP+B’s Hoolpla:

“It astounds me how people are afraid of so many things, but mediocrity never seems to be one of them.”

Indeed.

From dictionary.com:

Mediocrity noun
Ordinariness as a consequence of being average and not outstanding [syn: averageness]

There’s a pretty good conversation on the topic over there. Check it out and feel free to join in.

Have a great Wednesday, everyone.

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I love rants. Especially rants that relate to the world of business. And most especially rants about things that I myself have had to endure. I found this brilliant little bit of catharsis on adliterate.com this week, and since it is relevant to this blog’s theme, I thought I’d share.

Enjoy:

I hate brainstorms.

I hate running them, I hate contributing to them and I hate using them to solve problems.

They waste huge amounts of time and talent and they are no fucking good at delivering decent ideas.

And so six months ago I cleansed my professional life of this Trojan horse of mediocrity, favoring aggregated individual working or two person thinking sessions.

I suggest it’s time you gave them the boot too.

Death to the brainstorm. Long live great ideas.

The idea of the brainstorm was developed in the 1930s by Alex Faickney Osborne, the O in BBDO (which he founded in 1919 with his mates Batten, Barton and Durstine) and popularized in a book he wrote on the subject called Applied Imagination.

Osborne believed that when creating ideas quantity breeds quality – that if you can generate enough ideas somewhere in all the swill will be gold dust.

And so that’s what he built his brainstorming technique to do – deliver quantity over quality. Kind of like a Starbucks for creative thinking, you know once in a while they make a decent cup of coffee. Brainstormers are supposed to focus on quantity, not criticize other people’s ideas, be as ‘wild’ as they want and to combine and improve existing ideas.

These rules are so pervasive in contemporary business that even the cretins on The Apprentice seem to have learned them. And it is these rules that are at the heart of the ghastliness of the brainstorm experience . An experience in which too many people, with little ultimate responsibility for the quality of the outcome whitter on for far too long to the increasing frustration of the problem owner. Frustration manifestly worsened by the cult of facilitation.

A facilitators main task is to ensure that ‘everyone goes home with a balloon’ after a brainstorm – that they all feel that their pointless lives have been made somehow better by this semi cathartic experience and by the lovely little warm up games that they all played. Not to mention that they all got to vote on the most simplistic and incompetent ideas with a little stash of post it notes like some kind of mutant pin the tail on the donkey game. Facilitators like participants to have a nice time more than they like delivering actionable output.

But the thing that really pisses me off about this whole technique is that it brings an unwelcome democracy into the process of idea generation. Democracy is great as a way of ensuring that the will of the people is brought to bear in governing of their lives. But it pretty much ensures that blandness is the output we most readily associate with the brainstorm. In particular democracy leads to production blocking which is the loss of great ideas while people are waiting for their turn or having to listen to the irrelevant ramblings of other participants. And if that were not bad enough it ensures that the more polarizing and interesting ideas are lost at the evaluation stage as everyone showers the flip chart with their ‘stickies’ endorsing the familiar and feasible.

And there is no evidence they actually work beyond increasing morale, team building and other such airy fairy shenanigans. Productivity loss in an inherent part of the brainstorm approach (Mullen, Johnson and Salas, 1991; Diehl and Strobe, 1987) which results from evaluation apprehension, social loafing and the production blocking I mentioned above. Much of this research shows that brainstorms are in fact less effective than individuals working independently.

for my money the optimum number of people for an idea generation session is two with no facilitator hanging on. Two people that have a vested interest in the quality of the outcome and can switch seamlessly between divergent and convergent thinking until they get to the right idea which they both then build upon.

It is one of the reasons that Bernbach was a genius in putting art directors and copywriters together and a reason that strategists should also be paired, or paired with individual creatives.

And if you need any more convincing that brainstorms (and their euphemistic offspring like ‘thought showers’) are shit think about how easy it was to get people into the room last time you ran one. The only endevour people want to be involved in less is a four hour powerpoint presentation on the new phone system and they will make up the most outlandish excuses not to spend 3 hours in an overheated room with some idiot prancing around in front of a Nobo board for no apparent reason.

Sure have a brainstorm if you want to do a bit of team building and you don’t really care about the outcome.

If not pledge today that you will have nothing to do with the bastard offspring of the advertising industry. Refuse to run them, refuse to contribute to them and never ever find yourself voting on lackluster ideas with post it notes again.

Amen. And well put.

Have a great weekend, everyone. 😉

Photo by Chris Wray McCann

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