Enlightened Conflict

How do you solve a problem when one half absolutely hates the other half?

February 10th, 2017

Polar Opposites conflict

 

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I want people to think about our politics here in America, because I’m telling you guys that I don’t know of a single nation in this history of the world that’s been able to solve its problems when half the people in the country absolutely hate the other half of the people in that country.

This is the most important country in the world, and people in this body cannot function if people are offending one another.

Marco Rubio

 

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Well.

 

Polarization can create some pretty foul conduct.

 

Polarization can bring out the worst in people.

 

Polarization can create stillness within turmoil when movement within teamwork is needed <and desired>.

And.

 

Polarization within leadership is a virus that infects everyone in the organization … not just in leadership.

marco rubio speech on respectful conflict

I was reminded of this as I watched a completely underreported and under the radar speech Marco Rubio gave on the senate floor after <I believe> Elizabeth Warren had been asked to stop speaking.

Warren gained all the headlines where Rubio actually had the words we should have all been listening to. It is maybe 8 minutes long and worth every second.

 

 

Please note that I believe this message is more important than just one directed toward the Senate … it is a message which all Americans should take note of.

We are fortunate to have the privilege of freedom of speech & thought and we should embrace that freedom as one to permit healthy discussion, debate and disagreements … all of which should enable healthy, positive decisions.

 

Freedom is a tricky thing. In the United States of America we have the unique opportunity to “criticize a president without retribution.” <as past President Obama said to a group of military people at MacDill Air Force base>.

 

But our freedoms are being challenge by Trump and his attitudes & behaviors in ways we haven’t really seen in a very very long time.

 

The Trump Affect ripples way beyond simple executive orders and specific friends unfluencers ripples2actions that will have an impact on the people of the country. The more dangerous ripple effect is one of attitudes & behaviors.

Within this dangerous Trump affect ripple,  the freedom to freely criticize is a little less secure … and the way we criticize, debate & discuss in the Trump era appears to be one of not listening, not respecting and not believing that there could possibly be a way to do something differently than the way “I believe.”

 

Trump and his merry little band of morally corrupt liars suggest that there is no middle ground for “ladies & gentlemen to disagree with ladies & gentlemen” <note: this is a rip off of the Ritz Carlton motto>.

 

The Trump Affect has trickled down into his direct organization … the congress.

 

And within that ripple Republicans either embrace the bully opportunity or simply privately watch in horror as leadership decorum and leadership example <which, by the way, IS important as impressionable children and adult seeking cues on how to be leaders watch closely>.

And within that ripple Democrats screech & gnash their teeth in impotent frustration over not only having no power to shift the tides of change but also because, in their heart of hearts, they know this is not the way business should be conducted.

 

Balance has disappeared.

compromise balancing actWhile people can bitch & moan that decorum, in the past, has only encouraged stagnancy & lack of action they should not confuse with what business is conducted and how business is conducted.

Just as I am more accepting of my high school football coach if we have a losing season but the players play with respect & dignity and go to class and show signs of growing up with a healthy personal responsibility … I am less accepting of the coach who permits poor behavior & lack of respectful competition even if they win more.

You can have all the good in this case. But balance has been lost.

 

In fact.

 

We should face the fact that balance deserted us the day Trump stepped onto his golden Trump Tower escalator last year to announce his candidacy.

 

And that is why Rubio’s speech is so important. Without actually saying it he suggests that we shouldn’t let Trump drag us down into some dysfunctional squabbling amorphous blob of indignant jerks.

 

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“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do.

Both are nonsense.

You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

 

———-

Rick Warren

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I like conflict and I think conflict is healthy.

creative spark light bulb

It is a basic Life truth that conflict is the positive friction that often creates innovations and new thinking and new ideas.

But, as with most things in life, there are degrees of conflict.

 

The kind of conflict we need now, more than ever, is the productive type.

 

We need to better embrace the valuable contradictions in life.

Things like:

 

Smart and funny.

Silent but says a lot.

Liberal conservative.

Cynical optimist.

 

Oh.

 

And enlightened and conflict of course.

 

We need to better embrace the fact that contradictions are powerful.

They create a chemistry ending in positive friction <when done right> and the fire for innovative thinking and thoughts.

 

In general I believe contradiction not only make life & people interesting but they also forge the kind of decisions that become the iron construct for a solid culture, civilization and country.

 

We need to embrace that conflict is part of life and not treat it as only a negative thing.

 

void embrace the unknownHumans are neither passive nor stagnant. We move. We do. We think.

 

Combine that fact with individuals are unique <although they may group together> and inevitably there is some conflict. It can simply be healthy competition or it can be staggeringly evil intended activity <i.e. there will be conflict because your point of view and thoughts shouldn’t exist and I am going to extinguish them>.

 

We need to embrace the fact that conflict can be “managed”.

Maybe call it competitive camaraderie. I call it enlightened conflict. I believe if people know more about stuff <I don’t really believe it needs a technical term> then conflict will be conducted with knowledge.

 

I would suggest that ignorance, and being close minded, guides conflict toward evil interactions … while knowledge guides conflict to responsible interactions.

 

Lastly.

 

We need to embrace that enlightened conflict is really some version of pluralism.

A pluralism in that it encourages, and embraces, freedom to learn and freedom to think different thoughts.

 

In the end I imagine what I really care about are people’s actions. They can remain mute as far as I am concerned as long as their actions respect others opinions and others lives and meets global responsibilities.

 

Look.

 

enlightened conflict ideasIt is silly to think that conflict doesn’t exist as part of our natural behavior <I apologize to all the “why can’t we all get along” groups>.

 

It is silly to think that friction between beliefs and causes is not the spark for something better.

 

It is silly to think conflict and friction is not good.

Good conflict leads to positive friction and ideation and evolution of ideas.

 

But it needs to be conducted with respect. Respectful disagreements & debate lead to two things:

 

  • Positive friction.

 

  • Enlightened conflict.

 

 

The first is based on curiosity plus friction equals better ideas and thinking.

The second is lack of ignorance plus conflict equals respectful competition.

 

We here in the United States have an incredible privilege … a freedom to say what we want and disagree and criticize whomever we want. We shouldn’t abuse that privilege by not understanding that it creates good conflict which enlightened conflict thinkenables ‘gooder’ ideas.

 

Marco Rubio did something in his speech which I endorse wholeheartedly … he tried to make an impact on his own little corner of the world … encouraging positive friction for enlightened conflict.

 

 

Marco Rubio had a stellar enlightened conflict moment … and more people should see it and listen.

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“Enlighten the people, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.”

Thomas Jefferson

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responsible for what you tame

January 25th, 2017

responsible for what you tame leadership people employees

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“People have forgotten this truth,” the fox said. “But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed.”

 

—–

The Little Prince

 

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I cannot play with you,” the fox replies. “I am not tamed.”

 

“What does that mean – to tame?”

 

It means to establish ties. To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…please, tame me!”

 

I want to, very much,” the Little Prince replied, “but I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.”

 

“One only understands the things that one tames,” the fox said.

 

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Leadership.

 

afraid to grow into your heights life loseLeaders have a tough job.

 

We call it managing but in reality it is taming. You tame the independent wildness and tame the ability & potential so you can understand it, and it can understand itself, so that eventually there is a mutual progress to play the game as well as it can be played.

Please note that nowhere in there have I suggested “blind obedience.” Taming, in this view, is reaching true understanding so that real personal growth occurs.

 

That said … in that metaphorical expression of leadership … you own what you tame.

 

I say that because far too often we leaders & managers view management as something we do for the benefit of the organization and, hopefully, the benefit of the people … but we ‘own’ no responsibility for the individual in terms of actions or who they become — and certainly not ‘forever.’

 

Some of us view ourselves as shapers in some form or fashion but lean back against the belief we only dent the surface of who and what the person is and will become.

 

We view what we do as possibly taming but within the purview of just a chapter in their lives … not an entire story.

 

In some ways we do this simply as an act of self-survival.

 

The truth is that investing too much personally into your business; the organization and the employees can … well … kill you.

 

Okay.

Maybe not literally kill you … but figuratively it can become a daily strain on your psychological health.

 

Many of us, out of pragmatism, eye our relationship with employees as a story with a finite end – be it positive, sad, joyful, disappointing or ambiguous – but it is, in reality, just the end of a chapter.

 

The story keeps going.

Ours and theirs.

business inclusiveness

And while we may represent only a chapter in a larger narrative … well … we own what we tame. This is an inclusive way of leading & managing.

 

You include yourself in someone’s Life and … well … you own what part you tame.

 

Uhm.

 

Of course … this can also swing to the opposite more dangerous side – an exclusive leadership side.

 

This is ‘ownership’, not owning, of what you tame.

 

You don’t become part of them you simply offer a voice to them – I sometimes call this ‘pack mentality leadership’.

 

These are the leaders who say “on my team <or in other words “mine”> forever.”

 

Leave and my wrath is upon you.

 

Not want to be tamed by me? you are “un” whatever it is I stand for.

 

And this is where exclusive leadership truly rears its ugly head.

 

There is little vision, there is a lot of ‘features’ in the offering <more money, more jobs, more titles, more wins, more whatever> and therefore the incentives do the work and not any persuasive direction or vision. The ‘pack attitude’ is a means to an end and a vision in and of itself.

 

—-

 

“Managers tend to use compensation as a crutch.

After all, it is far easier to design an incentive system that will do management’s work than it is to articulate a direction persuasively, develop agreement about goals and problems, and confront difficulties when they arise.”


Michael Beer, Harvard professor of business administration

—–

 

chaos team alignmentThe features, the actions & behavior of those who belong on this team, are how they speak of unity and teamwork, i.e., “everyone should act this way … but we are the ones who do.”

 

Or how about this?

 

“The only important thing is the unification of the people – because the other people don’t mean anything.” <Trump used these words once awhile back>

 

In other words … the only people who truly count are the ones who are in this leader’s team.

 

Even worse?

They use the ‘us versus them’ polarization as a means to suggest “team personality & character” all the while these types of leaders actually do it to create their own power structure.

 

They don’t desire to include anyone else nor do they tend to reach out to others <albeit they make some inclusive noises on occasion> they desire to build a construct where people ask to join <because they should, of course, have to ask> and are not asked to join.

 

Excluding leaders love the ‘us versus them’ aspect. They love being derided and they love opposition. All these things do is solidify the team’s belief they are different & better & know more than the others.

 

The team becomes what represents what is real & right and the leader controls what is real & right. The leader’s people are truly the only people that count and the leader hasn’t tamed ability but rather attitude.

 

And here is where the ownership of what you tamed hits a dangerous spot.asshole bad manager

 

The leader has tamed an attitude but feels little ownership of the people themselves. Therefore should the leader decide to move on or get tired of whatever it is they are doing at the moment they feel no remorse in leaving people behind <who still harbor the attitude he/she tamed>.

 

The pack remains, the pack mentality still seethes, but the pack leader is no longer there.

 

Anyway.

 

Let me close with some thoughts.

 

I think it is a healthy thought for every manager & leader to ponder ‘you own what you tame.’

 

Leadership and leading is never easy and I have the scars to show to prove it.

 

Bad we help thatI found it naturally tempting to build a quasi-pack mentality in my groups as a younger leader & manager.

I was, and have always been, a more aggressive business person – I am not fond of status quo and not particularly fond of ‘the safe road.’

 

I can absolutely state that as a manager you can feed off of the ‘pack mentality’ attitude. It is exhilarating and almost like a drug … and maybe more dangerous … it can feed into a self-belief aspect that can edge upon arrogance and obliviousness to the greater good.

 

I don’t think I ever fell off the cliff on this but I certainly got a glimpse of the edge.

 

As I gained more experience I saw the danger in doing so <to my team member, to my organization & to myself> and sought to find some balance.

 

You can tame your people’s ability & attitude and they, and you, will benefit at the time and in the future <whether you are still working together or not>.

 

little but big & 100

December 21st, 2016

 little things big things

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“You’re little but you’re  big.”

 

—–

Pretty Little Liars

 

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“The human tendency to regard little things as important has produced very many great things.”

 

—-

Georg C. Lichtenberg

 

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Ok.

 

Today is December 21st … the littlest day of the year – the winter solstice. The winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year in terms of hours of daylight one tree christmas winter<solstice basically means “sun stands still”>.

 

On the winter solstice, everywhere south of the equator have day lengths greater than 12 hours. Meanwhile, everywhere north of the equator have day lengths less than 12 hours.

 

The good news?

Daylight gets bigger from here. From here on out the days gradually get longer and the nights shorter.

 

Anyway.

 

On the littlest day it seemed like a good time to talk about big things … and their relationship to little things.

 

Couple of quick thoughts.

 

Time. We bitch & moan about not having enough time to do everything we want to do. I could argue that most people actually get more real practical pragmatic shit done on the shortest daylight day of the year then the longest daylight day of the year.

More focus. Less distractions. More shit done. less daylight hours. Littler day. Bigger productivity.

 

Time is time … neither little nor big.no-time-to-be-looking-at-the-bright-side-silver-lining

 

If you ever need an example of how littler can translate to bigger … well … the shortest day of the year is adman good place to start.

 

Little, or few, is more often than not a harbinger, forerunner or precursor to big.

 

From few, many. From one, multitudes.

 

This leads me to the heinous concept called ‘the big idea.’

 

I admit.

 

I get tired of hearing about ‘big ideas.’

 

In fact … in my cynical mind … whenever I hear big idea I hear hyperbole, fantastical thinking & likelihood of big failure.

 

I perk up when I hear someone say … “you know … I have a little idea that I think can make a big impact.” That I can get onboard with.

 

Let me make my point by showing how few, let’s say 100, can be the beginning of something big.

 

100 monkeys.

 

cancelled ThinkingMonkeyYeah.

100 monkeys.

 

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100 Monkey Theory

In 1952, on the Japanese island of Koshima, a monkey named Imo washed a sweet potato before she ate it.  She and her fellow, Macaca Fuscata monkeys were given sweet potatoes by the scientists who studied them.  The monkeys like the taste of the potatoes, yet did not like the dirt.  Imo taught her mother and the other monkeys she came into contact with and over time more and more monkeys were washing their potatoes.

 

Imo’s practice catches on.

 

Well, the interesting observation is that after a significant minority (let’s say 100 monkeys to use a number) of the monkeys were washing their potatoes, the scientists observed that very quickly after this, all the monkeys were washing their potatoes.  Like a critical mass had been reached and now all the monkeys were able to access this knowledge somehow even if they did not come into contact with Imo and her friends.  More interesting is that scientists observed that at the same time, on other islands monkeys were also washing their potatoes.

 

It appears that when 99 monkeys were washing potatoes and one more joined, a critical mass was achieved and this awareness was now available to everyone (please don’t get hung up on the exact 99 or 100 numbers).

 

This is known as the 100 Monkey Theory.

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So.

 

The foundation of the theory is when a certain critical number achieves an awareness of “something” <an attitude or behavior)> and that ‘something’ becomes accepted … it shifts into a norm, i.e., from the few, many.

 

I believe the truly stunning aspect of this theory is the ‘island to island’ aspect.

 

Oh.

 

And these monkeys didn’t have internet.

Nor a classroom.

Nor any physical contact.

 

This theory suggests that, although the exact number may vary, when only a limited number of people know a new behavior it may subconsciously reside as the conscious property of the collective people. I am NOT suggesting some telepathic mumbo jumbo … but … I am suggesting that accepting new behavior <and attitudes I imagine> has a tipping point.1 2 3 gif score rate life people

 

In addition … I do believe the ‘100th’ is reflective of my overall belief that great minds puzzling over similar situations are quite likely to have the same idea & thought <and inevitably the same innovation> wherever they may be and never having crossed paths with someone who is having the same idea at the same time>.

 

If you agree with that, then the 100 monkey theory is not as wacky or cerebral as it may seem at first blush.

 

Look.

 

You may not buy it.

 

You may not think people are related to monkeys.

You may think 100 isn’t enough.

But you should think about it.

 

You should think about how from little … something bigger arises.

 

And while I really do not want to get hung up on the actual numbers it is fascinating to think that there is a point at which if only one more person absorbs the new attitude and changes its behavior that somehow this awareness is picked up by almost everyone.

 

A book has been written on this theory, “The Hundredth Monkey,” by Ken Keyes Jr., I don’t suggest reading it because, well, the concept is pretty simple and you don’t need a book to explain it nor do I believe a lot of pages with graphs and explanations will convince you.

 

But.

Here is my point on the littlest day of the year.

 

It can take a littler amount than you may think to create the change and behavior you desire. Add to that thought the importance of 1 – as in 99 to 100.

 

Whenever you doubt that 1 can make a difference just think about the 100 Monkey Theory.

 

I believe any one even remotely interested in creating cultural change should invest some time thinking about this theory. Instead of needing dollars to create change or wacky ideas to affect attitudes or investing energy trying to create “a wave of change” someone should focus on “the 100” or ‘the few.’

 

Think about creating change by offering relevant useful behavior information and focusing on the few.

 

Gosh.

 

Sure would make life a little simpler huh?

 

<note: some people, like me for an example, call this creating an influencer base to influence mass behavior>

 

Lastly.

 

If you focus on the littler stuff, the fewer, well … this means you can have a planned what happenedlittler plan than normal.

 

I can hear the screams of disagreement from big idea people … “big ideas need to be nurtured and protected by big well thought out plans.”

 

Well.

 

The main issue with big plans and big planning is the fact that little things are always changing.

Even worse, these changing little things are oblivious to the neat orderly plan you had in place.

 

And even with all this change I imagine you have a choice … plow through the little changes swirling around with an unchanging plan … or watch the little changes <kind of like watching a double dutch jump rope> … and let your neat plan take on some less neat fluidity.

 

Little things can make big differences.

 

Little things can make big plans & ideas die.

 

And not everyone can see little shit when there is a big shiny looking shit dazzling you as if it were a star you shouldn’t take your eye off.

 

I would suggest that you know you are a big planner <as in one effective at creating Big plans> if all the little things that go wrong do not make your big plan go awry.

 

Little things can make big plans go awry.

 

Shit.

Little things can make anything go awry.

 

On the other hand.

 

Little things can make big impacts.

 

Little things can become big things.

 

So.hard to plan success_and_happiness

 

On this littlest day of the year think a little littler.

 

Think small.

 

Take a little time and focus on little things which, if nurtured, can become big things.

 

And maybe think a little about the fact that there is not too little time but rather maybe we should seek to do bigger things in the little time we have.

 

Oh.

 

And always remember … big shit is always a composite of a shitload of little things.

 

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“That is the problem, we give larger space to small things. We give them power to break us in the tiniest form.”

Kajapajo

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cannot resist the invasion of ideas

December 16th, 2016

 strategy think anger angry business ideas filter

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“One can resist the invasion of an army but one cannot resist the invasion of ideas.”

 

 

Victor Hugo

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“Our ideas, like orange-plants, spread out in proportion to the size of the box which imprisons the roots.”

 

Edward Bulwer Lytton

 

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Well.

 

Whether we like it or not … whether we admit it or not … we are all ignorant. It ignorant people understandingis impossible for s to know everything therefore we have ignorance boxes <different topics> in our heads just sitting around collecting dust waiting to be pulled off the shelf.

 

Now.

 

Those ignorance boxes are interesting boxes.

They come in different sizes and shapes and depths.

 

In addition.

 

Ideas are an interesting plant to … well … plant in the ignorance box.

 

Why?

 

The roots of ideas will inevitably end up in conflict with the box they have been planted in.

 

That is the inevitability of the invasion of ideas … conflict.

 

That is the inevitability of the invasion of curiosity … conflict.

 

One territory … let’s call it ‘the country of what you do not know’ is always being invaded by an army of ideas and thoughts <some true and some untrue>.

 

Yeah.

 

There are winners and losers in this whole knowledge, curiosity & ideas battle … of which you, yourself, can be victor or vanquished. The only thing you can be sure of is you will always be in conflict and always be at war.

 

That is one of Life’s biggest truths.

 

Curiosity comes with a price … and a reward.

 

I wrote once … ‘far too often we place curiosity in some unequivocal good or bad space … “curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning” or “curiosity killed the cat” … but, truthfully, curiosity embodies both good and bad. And I say that as one who is unequivocally in the camp of “knowing more of anything is good.’

 

The constant invasion of ideas seems to revolve around two things near and dear to my heart:

 

  • Positive friction.

 

 

  • Enlightened conflict.

truth and conflict

 

The first is based on curiosity plus friction equals better ideas and thinking … therefore … the friction has a net positive effect. I could even argue that even bad thoughts that are well thought out and well articulated is positive friction. I imagine  could argue any thinking is better than no thinking.

 

Anyway.

 

The second is that … well … any conflict of thought & ideas will enlighten in some form or fashion. I tend to believe the arc of conflict leads to true knowledge. But “arc” is the key word. I think we get a little hasty with regard to people and thinking and this constant war. We forget it is a battle by battle thing and not a ‘battle which embodies the outcome of the war.’ We look at someone who we deem as ‘ignorant’ rather than viewing them in the midst of battle and somewhere on the arc of true knowledge.

I can honestly say there are few people I will not debate with, discuss with or have a discourse with. I will discuss anything with anyone and listen and respond … “go to war” in other words.

 

Yeah.

 

Other than purposeful ignorance I tend to view ignorance as simply the opening gambit in the battle of the day.

 

Regardless.

 

i will talk about anythingI am definitely a curiosity guy.

 

And, well, I guess I am definitely a conflict guy <when it comes to ides and thoughts and issues>.

 

And I love the thought that I am not actually seeking ideas or ‘working hard to learn’ but rather ideas and thoughts are constantly seeking to make battle with us … constantly invading our space, our ignorance, and … well … we go to war because it is a war worth fighting.

 

It is a fight for knowledge.

 

Look.

 

I have heard many people say “I want to know everything there is to know on this topic.”

I often wonder if they are up for the battle that will need to take place to make that happen.

 

I know someone can know a lot.

 

I absolutely know that you can know enough to be dangerous.

 

But I am 100% unequivocally clear that knowledge is a never ending battle.

Even on one topic you probably don’t have enough hours in a lifetime to know everything there is. I guess that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try … but suggesting you know everything is … well … not only silly but may actually be a reflection you do not understand the extent of the conflict at hand.

 

My site is called Enlightened Conflict.

 

My motto is ‘seek truth.’seek_truth

 

And I do feel as if I am constantly fighting a war … and fighting on the side of Truth.

Do I believe I know truth or at all truth? … absolutely not.

 

As any warrior would tell you … I get closer to be the best I can be as a warrior every time I fight. It is the conflict which fights ignorance and seeks to enlighten in victory … or maybe just survival of the battle of the day.

 

Maybe that is why the two quotes I opened with interested me.

 

The conflict of ideas does not have to reside in any open debate. You don’t even need another person. Ideas invade in any number of ways. They plant themselves in boxes you have forgotten you even had. They grow to a point where you cannot ignore them anymore and begin to battle existing ideas you have. It becomes … well … a war between learning and unlearning … new and old … what you knew and what you know.

Oh.

And once ideas bloom enlightenment occurs.

 

 

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“Enlighten the people, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.”

Thomas Jefferson

 

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communications, advertising & the battle for truth

December 6th, 2016

 

everybody needs what i am selling deserve life

————————–

 

“Forget words like ‘hard sell’ and ‘soft sell.’

That will only confuse you.

 

Just be sure your advertising is saying something with substance, something that will inform and serve the consumer, and be sure you’re saying it like it’s never been said before.”

 

=

David Ogilvy

 

———————

 

“If you try to comprehend air before breathing it, you will die.”

 

=

Mark Nepo

 

—————

 

“Seeking truth is a full time job.

Communicating truth is a purpose in Life.

Embrace that truth and your Life will be significantly more complicated, but significantly more rewarding.”

 

=

Bruce McTague

 

——————–

 

Well.

 

Communicating has always been a tough gig but in today’s world it has taken on liaran increased challenge.

 

I scan headlines in magazines and online and I cannot see one topic being discussed, one industry or any one group of influential type people that isn’t under attack by ‘lack of trust’ or, in other words, ‘liars.’

 

What that means is anything you are communicating isn’t starting from a commodity standpoint <all facts and truths are created equal> but rather you are already in a hole trying to climb out of ‘prove to me this is not a lie.’

 

Truth has never had a more difficult challenge than today. This may sound odd because common sense suggests truth is truth and, unvarnished, stands clear of any and all clutter as … well … truth.

Unfortunately that is not … well … true.

Truth, more often than not, is a wallflower and not the one breakdancing in the middle of the room. The schlub doing the crazy dance alone, being watched by everyone, is more likely a lie or a semi/partial truth. You have to coax truth to the dance floor. Someone has to bring it out into the audience and permit it to be seen.

 

Truth telling is hard work. It is not for the faint of heart. Seeking truth is a full time job <which most people, frankly, just do not have the time to do as they do their paid full time job>.

And communicating truth has to be a purpose in one’s life in order to meet the onslaught of untruths, purposeful ignorance, unintended ignorance, semi-truths and … well … cynicism.

 

To be clear.

 

I do not believe we are in some ‘post truth world.’

Nor do I believe what someone said “there are no facts anymore.”

 

Facts are facts and truth is truth.

There may be some confusion around this but … of all industries … advertising and marketing communications people had sure as shit better be fucking clear on this … or they are in deep shit.

 

Anyone in the professional communications business had better be absolutely fucking clear that communicating today ain’t like communicating yesterday … or they are in deep shit.

 

While I believe business, in general, benefits if they start on day one embracing the thought they are in the decommoditization business <rather than in the ‘uniqueness business’> I believe communications would benefit by embracing the thought they are in the ‘establishing truths’ business.

 

Look <part 1>.

 

Advertising, marketing and all of professional communications is in a challenging position. Challenging in that businesses spend money on marketing & advertising most typically to sell shit. Therefore its main goal is to … well … sell nothing in boxes business selling stuff capitalismshit.

 

This means that if I represent a product and its main buying audience is white, male & blue collar <or pick any demographically based segment> … I am going to use imagery and words that will appeal to them <sometimes to the detriment to other audiences who are less likely to buy your shit>.

 

Now.

 

Of course you want to do it with style and substance and some sense of responsibility <not be stupid>. So any advertising person with any chops <any good> will figure out a way of not doing the stupid shit to sell shit.

Even then … your audience is your audience and while we would like to suggest everything is made to be created with a larger purpose of ‘bettering the world’ … to a business who only has maybe $1000 to market something <or some finite budget amount> that $1000 is spent on selling shit and not ‘bettering the world.’

 

Simplistically … you sell to the people who will buy or have bought.

 

Simplistically … you sell to those people who will buy in the most effective way so that they will actually buy.

 

I say hat because someone on the outside looking in can take apart imagery & words and make some very valid points with regard to the kinds of messages they send … but marketing people & advertising people are under a lot of pressure to sell shit. And, remember, they are in the service business … they ultimately do not do anything but ‘strategically create persuasive creations’… and a business makes the decision on whether what they create will actually be produced and put in front of people.

 

And here is where the communications folk can get a little sideways. They focus on imagery & words & ‘attention’ with the intent to gain interest … not specifically sell shit. And they ignore truth as … well … too complicated & too complex. And it is quite possible we communications folk may have gotten away with that in the past, but in today’s world, sure as shit, you better be grounded in hard, clear truth or you are gonna get screwed.

 

Look <part 2>.

 

In the good ole days … truth was appreciated, but aspirational sold.

 

sell hope i canWell.

 

That was before we all got a good dose of cynicism and started drinking from the fountain of untruths.

Messages are everywhere and simply suggesting you were offering truth because “you’re too clever to fall for manipulation” gave people permission to at least think you were offering truth.

No more my friends.

While aspirational drives value, lack of truth suffocates value into nothingness.

This doesn’t mean there will not be a boatload of products and services who make a sale standing on the superficial surface of irrelevant, but appealing, value. But that will be the geography populated by the hacks.

This truth thing may not be a battle which some people want to fight. And that is okay. But someone has to or the entire industry will become … well … irrelevant. If no one tells the truth then why would I listen to anyone.

I, personally, am not suggesting ditching aspirational but I am suggesting that truth, communicating the truth in a away that people actually believe it is true, is the key to future success.

 

Look <part 3>

 

I have worked in and out of the marketing and advertising business for <yikes> over 30 years so I feel like I have some qualifications to comment on the industry.

 

Everyone on the outside of the advertising business looking in thinks those creating the advertising think about shit that … well … truthfully … advertising people actually never waste their time thinking about.

 

And everyone inside the advertising business thinks about more shit than people outside the advertising could ever imagine they think about.we all scream for the truth

 

Suffice it to say I could gather up examples of advertising using material over 20 years and make pretty much any point I want to make – good, bad, absurd, true, untrue, semitruthful, smart, insightful or blatantly uninsightful.

 

Anyway.

 

Here is a communications truth — perception is not reality.

 

The perception is that advertising makes shit up, makes stupid vapid shit and says nothing <as much as possible> and if they do say something it is a lie and, ultimately, they try and make people feel something <to sell>.

 

Nothing could be further from the truth <with the non hacks>.

 

The problem in advertising typically arises when the ad creators struggle to articulate the benefit <or convince themselves that it is ‘non differentiating’ and then seek to ‘differentiate’ in some form or fashion>.

 

It then can unravel from there because the ‘go-to’ phrase at this point in time is ‘do something brave’ … or ‘entertaining’ or ‘edgy’ <notice nowhere in there is “smart, insightful, thoughtful, truth”>.

 

Sure.

 

Great advertising messaging always is, and will be, imbued with some sense of courage.

 

Why?

 

Because if you want to be distinct you will not please everyone.

Because if you want to tell the truth you will not please everyone.

 

on-top-of-the-worldThe hack advertising people use the ‘do something brave’ phrase indiscriminately to justify bad advertising.

 

The good advertising people use this phrase to do something smart in order to not be different but stand ABOVE everyone else.

 

Yup.

 

Huge difference.

 

Hacks say ‘stand apart.’

 

Non hacks say ‘stand above.’

 

And this is where I imagine articles about advertising should focus their attention on.

 

Why doesn’t the advertising stand above <and not be below what is good & right & untrue>.

 

Advertising should be smart and not talk down to people but actually enable them to rise up to the occasion … and FEEL like they are rising up to engage with that brand or company.

 

Communications should be truthful, regardless whether it is simple or complex, and enable people to be able to FEEL truth in such a way that doubts about that brand or company are swept away.

few thinking and feeling

And it all has to be done with an eye toward ‘decommoditizing’ or being distinct in some meaningful way <because truth, in and of itself, is not a differentiator>.

 

Advertising cannot be dull and uninspired … and you cannot use a small budget as an excuse.

 

In fact … the truth is that a limited budget is typically what drives innovative advertising.

Yup.

Inspired smart creativity tends to make each dollar be more effective <hence you can live with a smaller budget>.

 

In other words … a smart, insightful, relevant, entertaining ad will be more memorable than a typical ‘category using sacred cow imagery’ ad therefore it needs to be seen less for the same effect.

 

Oh.

And if you add in ‘truth’ <in a way in which you aren’t just communicating it but people actually BELIEVE it>, your communications is more memorable, more believable, can be seen less for the same effect … and is, of course, of higher value.

 

By the way … smart means not any obvious photoshopping or any exaggerated ridiculous claims or just plain inaccurate information or anything fluffed up or untrue.

 

By the way … smart means avoiding stereotypes, typecasting and idiotic generalizations and lies.

 

Note to advertising people:

We can see through those slimy tactics. Realize consumers are people … people who are smart and informed.

Make me aware of a product.

Educate me.

Relate to me.

Tell me the Truth.

 

Regardless.

 

 ===

 

“A dull truth will not be looked at.

An exciting lie will.

 

That is what good, sincere people must understand. They must make their truth exciting and new, or their good works will be born dead.”

 

==

Bill Bernbach

 

——-

 

Truth is truth.

 

Lies are lies.

 

Responsibility is responsibility.

 

And if you do not accept your responsibility to tell the truth as excitingly and politics lies and truth and repeatingconvincingly as you possibly can … lies will win.

 

If you choose to vulgarize the society or brutalize it … or even ignore it <all under the guise of ‘understanding what the consumer wants’> … society will lose.

 

I honestly do not despair when I look at business in today’s world … or even marketing & advertising behavior.

 

I get aggravated.

 

No.

 

I get angry.

I get angry that we are not accepting the responsibility.

I get angry that we are not strong enough to accept the burden.

I get angry that many do not even presume the responsibility is within their purview.

 

Business, whether you like it or not, shapes society. Business, whether you like it or not, shapes truth.

 

What we do matters.

 

Selling stuff doesn’t matter.

It only matters as a means to an end.

 

What really matters is the shaping of attitudes <which ultimately shapes behavior>.

 

Far too often by simply focusing on ‘selling stuff’ the byproduct of our ignoring the larger responsibility is that we brutalizing society in some form or fashion – in this case and in this time and place … it would be truth we are brutalizing.

 

Am I suggesting that selling stuff or being profitable isn’t important? Of course not.

 

All I am suggesting is that HOW you sell stuff and be profitable matters.

And that you have a responsibility in HOW you do what you do.

 

Because HOW you do things impacts society.

It shapes society. It can vulgarize or brutalize … or invigorate or instill good.

 

HOW you do things has a power way beyond simply you or what you do in that moment.

 

HOW you do things is a pebble dropping into a pond.

 

In the end.

 

I will not argue that all advertising is good.

I will not argue that all professional communications is good.

A lot of it is shit.

 

But I will argue that good communications & advertising people, not hacks, are smart and tend to create smart insightful educating communication pieces that avoid the trite and stereotyping imagery and focus on telling the truth, if not A real truth, rather than lie or some semi truth.

 

I would also argue that good communications & advertising people, not hacks, have the opportunity to save truth in today’s society.

telling-truth-piss-you-off

I think many of the world’s institutions are embattled but the one that concerns me the most is Truth.

The institution of truth is under siege.

I can honestly say I don’t think most who are attacking truth are trying to facilitate its downfall … most are simply unclear what is truth and what is not. I believe anyone in any position of influence should be proactively assuming the burdensome responsibility of telling and protecting truth <that will come at an expense> but today … I think the professional communications industry should be at the forefront of the battle.

 

Why?

 

They get paid to communicate. If they cannot figure out how to effectively communicate truth, who can?

 

They must … must make their truth exciting and new, or their good works will be born dead. Uhm. And lies will win.

seek_truth

===

About the author:

I am a 50something who believes my generation hollowed out Truth by simplistically suggesting truth was best told through simplicity.

Truth is neither simple nor hollow.

I have had one framed picture in my office since maybe 2000: Seek Truth.

 

Enlightened Conflict