Enlightened Conflict

the science, and the lost art, of ROI

May 24th, 2017

choices-path-shopping-direction-decisions

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“… businesses want answers right away and many times high statistical reliability is not worth the cost it takes to achieve it.

 

Insights that point decision-makers to go “left” or “right” is innately good enough. Leaders are oftentimes not willing to pay for “turn left at a 30 degree angle” or “turn right at an 115 degree angle” because it may cost too much money and takes far too long to obtain those precise next steps through drawn-out methodologies.”

 

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Kuhn

 

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“Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.”

 

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John Dewey

 

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“Perfect numbers like perfect men are very rare.”

 

—–

Rene Descartes

 

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Well.

 

fire water contradiction ideas thinkThis is about how ROI gets abused in decision making and I am writing about that because the Trump administration issued their “national budget proposal” <which I fully acknowledge is simple a guideline of the administration’s desires> and immediately started ponying up all their “we made cuts where there was no evidence of appropriate results” justifications.

 

Some of those justifications are terrifying.

Some of their choices are terrifying.

 

As for the budget plan?  As one writer put it … “the math is terrifying.”

 

Cutting Medicaid would be devastating for all low-income Americans, but particularly for women and mothers: 45 percent of childbirths in the U.S. were funded by Medicaid in 2010, according to data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Trump’s budget also cuts funding for after-school programs for children and support for domestic violence victims.

 

I am going to let other people tear apart the incredibly short sighted Trump budget plan <which, yes, has scraps of good ideas> and I will focus on the criteria it appears they focused on <excepting the parental leave initiative which was like placing a half-eaten M&M on top of a turd> — budget by ROI.

 

Budgeting by ROI.

 

Whew.

 

 

This provides me with another excuse to blast my generation of business leaders and how their misguided thinking has screwed up not only how business is conducted, in general, but how we think about business. Specifically about ROI … these hollow men hollowed out business of any of the ‘art’ and color which is associated with thriving businesses which contribute to society & cultural norms leaving at an empty husk of dollars & cents and black & white ROI decisions.

 

Look.

 

roi einstein

I am all for analysis and love quantitatively judging tactics and initiatives. But I also understand that <1>  numbers often do not always tell the entire story and <2> we far too often judge ROI on one specific outcome without assessing some value on some ‘ripple effect’ outcomes.

 

But, first, the numbers and ROI.

 

I wrote back in February that numbers have lost their mojo  … yeah … well … I still believe that … just in a different context.

 

In this case we are dealing with a generation of business people who have completely bastardized the use of numbers – stripping them of anything but the false veneer of what they call “simplistic stark truth.”

Now. ‘Simplistic stark truth’ sounds good … and it sounds really good in the business world.

 

And, yet, in this starkness there is found falseness. The falseness can be found in its lack of imagination, its lack of depth and its lack of seeing anything but ‘what can be measured.’

 

This stupid view of numbers wreaks havoc when viewing ROI analysis.

 

Now … back on November 13th 2016 I wrote about the Trump administration as the last stand of the old white men  <the business generation I continuously skewer> and discussed hollowness. And while I outlined a number of ‘hollow’ things which can be blamed on this generation in that piece I neglected to point one out — the hollowing of ROI.

 

————–

 

ROI.

 

ROI <return on investment> is a fabulous tool. It offers us every day unimaginative pragmatic schmucks an almost heuristic way to judge some fairly complex and complicated things in business.

 

But old white men hollowed ROI of anything intangible and along the way scraped away some of the most meaningful things associated with investment in their desire for simplistic “this led to that.” Certainly some investments have linear outcomes and results. But not all. And these hollow men in their black & white pursuit of profit, efficiency and outcomes became color blind.  Old white men started looking at people as equal to numbers & dollars and not organic organisms of less than linear productivity <in terms of Life actualization as well as business actualization>. These hollow men fell in love with numbers and began diminishing the value of humanity.

 

That is Trump in a nutshell.

 

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.......... hollow men making hollow decisions ......

………. hollow men making hollow decisions ……

Well.

 

I could argue this all happened because ROI analysis permitted a shortcut for business people — a thinking & decision making shortcut.

It permitted, and encouraged, an entire generation to not have to really think but rather fallback on “that’s what the analysis said.”

 

That is plain and simple lazy fucking business … not smart solid business.

 

I will not argue that a good ROI analysis can offer a quick spontaneous glimpse of truth viable snapshot … in fact … it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who stated that the growth of intellect is spontaneous.

 

Of course, he hadn’t been bludgeoned with measurement, ROI and data driven decisions.

 

Of course, he was also on the one who stated … what is the hardest task in the world? To think. And. We are all wise. The difference between create destroy pencilpersons is not in wisdom but in art.

 

And that is where Trump and his merry band of old white men doing this whole budget thing are most aggravating.

 

It is not that they cannot envision the art of decision making but rather they purposefully abstain from the art of decision making <and focus solely on ROI>.

 

It is not that they are incapable of holding two conflicting ideas at the same time but rather they purposefully choose to ignore one idea or thought for the one most supported by the science of ROI.

 

 

It is not that they are oblivious to the qualitative nature & benefits of budgetary decision but rather they avoid the more difficult defense of the qualitative to utilize the more easy, and lazy, rationale of the quantitative.

 

I don’t blame them specifically <although it is their budget blueprint> but it is the unfortunate legacy of that entire generation to do those things.

 

All that said.

 

While ROI seems a straightforward way to analyze … ROI, when evaluated properly, can be devilishly tricky … but when done well it can inform some great insightful decisions and ideas.

 

ROI, when evaluated properly, can be devilishly painful … like having the devil screaming at you type painful … and even when done well tends to dull <not sharpen> the good ideas.

 

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The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

 

—-

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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But ROI, measurement … practical rewards & output … that is what we ‘do’ these days.

This seem o be our “how we conduct business handbook” these days.

philosophical-discovering-gravity

We seem to have forgotten the value of unsought discovery and the value of … well … the benefit of the benefit <I spent money which created ‘x’ outcome … which enabled this other ‘x’ outcome>.

 

We seem to have culturally decided consciously to … “inevitably we will show a failure of imagination.”

 

What do I mean ? Let me use a quote from Le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy:

 

 

 

“…in the hands of politicians grand designs achieve nothing but new forms of the old misery…”

 

 

 

In our failure of imagination in our analysis of existing programs and initiatives we come up with grand designs begetting new forms of old misery. But what makes today and this budget worse? These are supposed to be fucking business people and not politicians in place making these ‘grand designs’ <isn’t that what some people voted for with Trump?>.

 

I admit.

 

I am wary of how ‘we the people’ will move forward with regard to budgeting tough-choices-shopping-decisions-lifeand programs and policies and deciding what we should do to better America..

 

I am wary because I see little moving forward, no ‘trying to do what it takes to get there’ other than bludgeoning people with simplistic harsh solutions and no imagination to overcome the cries of ‘why waste money on something like this!”

 

I am wary because I see men of a generation who bastardized ROI analysis applying their own bastardized version of ROI thinking to people’s lives <under the guise of “applying it to people’s money/taxes” — no, they are not the same>.

 

I am a business guy.

 

I cannot envision running a business, or a government, without solid measurement, ROI & budgeting rigor.

 

But I also know from running a business with hundreds of employees that the greatness of an organization does not reside solely in some number … or some ROI analysis.

 

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“The true greatness of a nation is not measured by the vastness of its territory, or by the multitude of its people, or by the profusion of its exports and imports; but by the extent to which it has contributed to the life and thought and progress of the world.

 

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I tend to believe most of us every day schmucks recognize that ROI is part of doing business and insuring our hard earned money/taxes is used effectively.

But I also believe that most of us every day schmucks also realize that some things just cannot be measured solely by numbers.

 

 

I worry that this Trump administration is reflective of the lost art of ROI family choices tough decisions aheadanalysis and the value of discovery

 

In their love of money as ‘winning’ they have lost sight of the value of seeking what is beyond the horizon. They have devalued imagination to such a point that they most likely define imagination as measurable in an ROI analysis. In other words they take ideas and thoughts, even ones with no history, and embrace them not by saying “what if” and “what could be” but rather by grinding it through some veg-o-matic ROI machine to assess its true value.

 

And that, my friends, is how they came up with their “blueprint for a national budget.”

 

And that, my friends, is how they plan on running this country and making their decisions.

 

And that, my friends, is not how America does business … because it shows a failure of imagination and it is imagination, not ROI analysis, which drives real change and progress.

 

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“Imagination has brought mankind through the dark ages to its present state of civilization.

Imagination led Columbus to discover America. Imagination led Franklin to discover electricity. Imagination has given us the steam engine, the telephone, the talking-machine, and the automobile, for these things had to be dreamed of before they became realities.

 

So I believe that dreams–daydreams, you know, with your eyes wide open and your brain machinery whizzing–are likely to lead to the betterment of the world.

 

The imaginative child will become the imaginative man or woman most apt to invent, and therefore to foster, civilization.”

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Baum

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We often beat the crap out of ourselves

May 4th, 2017

beat the crap bad days people life

 

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novice-heartbreaker:

 

    Reminder: Everyone has bad days, you don’t have to be your best self everyday.

 

Everyone has days where they are sad, cranky, or lazy.

Don’t beat yourself up for being human, you’re ok. What counts is how you handle yourself and treat people on a regular basis.

 

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Well.

 

I tend to believe everyone thinks Life does a fairly good job of beating the crap out of us almost every day. It tries to beat optimism out of us, hope out of us, positive out of us as well as … uhm … compassion, empathy, fellowship and almost everything good.

It doesn’t always succeed … but it surely tries to beat the crap out of us.

 

And, yet, despite knowing all that … we still beat the crap out of ourselves.

 

It is kind of a little nuts when you think about it.

push-through-bad-days

 

Its nuts because most people don’t set out every day thinking “boy, I hope I have a bad day and do some bad shit.” Most of us set out each day with the intention to do something good … not bad. Most people do the best they can.

 

And, yeah, sometimes that best isn’t that good … or maybe just not as good as our good really is. But that doesn’t mean that simply because we have a bad day or are cranky or even a little lazy that we still don’t do something useful and, in general, conduct ourselves in an honorable fashion.

 

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“The purpose of life is not to be happy.

It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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Look.

beat the crap love myself

I am not suggesting you have to sit around and say “I love myself.”  All I am saying is that you don’t have to beat the crap out of yourself for being human.

 

You have some bad days.

 

You have some days when you are cranky and not particularly pleasant to be around.

 

You have some days when you don’t want to get out of bed in the morning … but you do … and everyone around you wishes you hadn’t.

 

You have some days when you do not feel energetic … may even feel lazy … and you don’t really get shit done that day.

 

None of those things make you bad.

None of those things make it worth beating the crap out of yourself.

 

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“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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Days come and go, opportunities come and go and your ‘bad’ comes and goes.

That’s the way Life goes. You can beat the crap out of yourself if you want but it seems like, if you think about what I just wrote, you would pretty much conclude that even your bad days while they could be better could also certainly be worse.

 

Uh.

That’s called Life and that’s called ‘being human.’beat the crap poo poo people on you

 

Let’s face it.

Every day someone is gonna point out you are having a bad day … and you may not even being have a bad day for fucks sake … it just may be a bad moment.

 

Let’s face it.

Every day some jerkwad is gonna look at you as if you had done something wrong even when you do something right.

 

Let’s face it.

About the only time someone isn’t going to be giving you shit is if you act like a robot … and even then someone is going to bitch about you being ‘too consistent’ and too much like a robot.

 

 

Anyway.

 

beat the crap situation define 1

I have used a couple Emerson quotes/thoughts today because  he abhorred how society tried to grind everyone into a simplistic repetitive cycle of ‘expectations, reward & recycle.’

 

He abhorred how society beat the crap out of people their individuality so that they turned into something that they weren’t born to be.

 

He abhorred the fact the more we got the crap beaten out of us by society & Life beat the crap situation define 2the more difficult it was to break free from the grip of what society expected and demanded of us.

 

No one said that being yourself was easy.

And it seems like beating the crap out of yourself doesn’t make it any fucking easier.

 

Everyone has bad days. What counts is how you handle yourself and treat people on a regular basis.

 

So stop beating the crap out of yourself … that is Life’s job.

the ports have names for the sea

April 28th, 2017

hand-ocean-birds

 

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“And the ports have names for the sea.”

 

 

William Auden

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Well.

 

I could quite easily argue that the most fundamental thing necessary to be successful in Life and in business is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s walk in my shoes see my view morality shoes.

In other words … the ability to see what they see, think what they think and understand why they do what they do.

If you have that ability … or maybe it’s a skill … it fosters understanding, ability to compromise, enables at least the possibility to shift thinking and … well … it actually encourages you to rethink some things and maybe unlearn some learnings.

 

I do sometimes look at what is happening in the world and how we seem to have stopped listening and I think of Auden’s line from a poem he wrote about Iceland. I think about it and sometimes believe we are all out at sea floating amongst tides, waves and storms <rarely calm> looking at the ports with names. And, yet, we can never envision that the ports may look out at us and not only view us differently … but also the seas upon which we float.

 

By maintaining our personal view we do not listen, therefore we do not debate <we only lecture> and we certainly never compromise or find some common ground. Instead we all bob around the vast ocean just trying to keep our own head above water and yell at each other for stupidly bobbing around in the water the wrong way <or not the way we are>.

No wonder the ports have a different name for the seas then we do. We call them Black, Caspian, Mediterranean, Baltic, Caribbean , etc.. Ports most likely look out and … well …”a place upon which fools who do not listen to each other float” is what I guess they would name it.

 

I word it that way because … well … it seems like sometimes we forget that we are all trying to figure out a way of keeping our heads above water.

 

Now.

I imagine the reasons why we forget all the commonalities and why we ignore what each other truly has to say is not simple, nor just one thing, but rather a thousand reasons scattered around like quarters on the floor just waiting for someone to ick up. I would bet I have sloppily discussed many of these reasons on enlightened conflict.

 

But I can truly only think of one thing that trumps all the thousand reason to not do what we should be doing – moral imperative.

That may sound high too falutin’ for somethings as simple as ‘listening to each other and discussing’ but truly it is a moral imperative that we try and solve this.

 

We are better as people if we hear an Ann Coulter and Bernie Sanders debating, in a civil fashion, what they believe and why.

 

We are better as people if we hear a Wilbur Ross and Robert Reich debating , in a civil fashion, what they believe and why.

 

We are better as people when the most liberal of institutions open their ears and eyes to the most conservative of believers and listen … really listen … and discuss and say do not conversationsdebate … and realize that most often our differences reside in tactics, possibly in some strategies, but rarely in objectives.

We are even better when common everyday schmucks, like you and I, sit down and listen and discuss and debate <kind of like Heineken just suggested in a fabulous video message they produced>.

 

I believe this can happen if we embrace the moral imperative as people.

Ah.

But there is that ‘moral’ word I keep tossing into this mix.

 

What a divisive word for a word which should be a unitor.

 

Beyond the entire civil discourse and listening and finding common ground discussion it seems to me that a shitload of us are actually embracing what I believe is called ‘moral condescension.’ It’s not that we are just condescending with each other about views, opinions and beliefs … but all of that crap is grounded on an underlying sense of moral condescension <’not only do you have the wrong belief & attitude but you do that because you are not a morally strong as I am’>.

 

Not only is condescension of any type irritating but moral condescension ratchets up irritating to … well … an incredibly irritating level.

 

For the most part most people don’t really have to deal with it because most of us either keep our moral ‘high horse’ in our pocket or share it with friends and acquaintances of like mind.

And most other people know our views and just avoid us if they disagree.

What that means is <a> there is a significant lack of any discourse and <b> when there is we fairly quickly move into our ‘moral condescension mode’ which … well … irritates the other person/people.

 

I do ponder why we hate moral condescension so much. I mean condescension in general is irritating but with morals and morality it just has a tendency to more condescending moralitybring forth a little anger.

 

I would offer to everyone that maybe it suggests we should feel some guilt for some indulgence in the vagaries of life. It suggests that maybe we feel too much … well … about ‘muchness’ without truly examining the barebones of shit without all the muchness attached.

 

The truth is that, for the most part, if you strip away the condescension it only suggests some examination of what we focus on and what we do not focus on … who we possibly deprive something of in what we may truly subconsciously be indulging upon as something ‘we earned’  <this idea, to me, is at the nucleus of the condescension>.

 

Uhm.

You do not earn indulgence.

You earn money & respect <as well as some other nice and not so nice characteristics I imagine>.

 

I say that because regardless of whether you are the moral condescension giver or the moral condescension receiver you should be stepping back and stripping away the indulgence aspects <simplistically … I earned that huge SUV and deserve it … even though some people cannot even afford taking a bus> and try viewing all moral decisions and people’s views in the most stripped down version.

 

I say that because naked we kind of all have the same problems and issues in a harsh world — it is just a matter of degree in most cases.

 

I say that because we kind of have a moral obligation to the fellowship of all humankind and ‘fairness’ <whoever you would like to define that> for all.

 

Look.

 

I fully understand as we bob around in the sea of survival <and self beliefs> we cannot have moral obligations to everyone around the world. It kind of seems to make more sense to understand we actually only truly have moral obligations against the people we come up against. T

he ones who metaphorically enter into our moral space.

 

This suggests a concept of proximity or that proximity matter in morality.

 

Uhm.

Well, yes and no.

 

First … the closest proximity is yourself – you can control your own actions and what you think, do and say.

 

Second proximity then would be the ones closest to us – physically or mentally.

horton hears a who speak out morality

Third proximity would actually be ‘the world.’ And what I mean by that is you have a choice to be vocal with regard to what you see as right or wrong. It’s kind of like the moral version of the butterfly affect. If enough voices are raised even Horton will hear the Whos in Whovile.

 

I say that because distance diminishes the affect your own moral obligation can have a real impact.

 

But maybe what that proximity idea I just shared with you means is that we have some moral obligation to intersect, with ideas, and listen and discuss with those who our space interconnects with.

 

Here is what I know for sure.

 

We do not listen to each other enough these days. And we certainly do not discuss things with an eye toward commonalities anymore. Our differences seem incontrovertible and our civility has diminished to such a point we don’t even attempt to engage in discussion because of such certainty of lack of civility we do not even believe it is worth the attempt.

 

That is a shame. And in Bruce terms … “it is bad.’ The lack of any attempt is, at Find your voice listen speak moralityits worst, ignoring a moral imperative for the greater good.

 

We would all do better if we recognized that ‘the ports have names for the seas’ … and they may be different names than the ones we have given the seas.

 

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Historical note about the line I opened this piece up with … and a thought that sometimes mistakes can lead to a different way of looking at things and thinking about things … and … well … in the end — doing something different than you planed.

 

W.H. Auden describes somewhere how he had written a line, in a poem about Iceland.

 

and the poets have names for the sea

 

and the printer set it up in galley as …

 

and the ports have names for the sea.

 

Auden left it liking the line better. A happy accident.

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Enlightened Conflict