Enlightened Conflict

navigators versus sledge hammers

January 4th, 2017

Innovative solution plan as a pencil trying to find way out of maze breaking through the labyrinth as a business concept and creative metaphor for strategy success and planning achievement.



“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”






“A person who can think differently and truly on his feet will always find it difficult to sit and fit as an employee in a workplace, for his attitude & approach towards the work will often hit the ego of most co-workers.”


Anuj Somany




“If u want to work in Corporate, then u should know how to play Chess.”







I was asked recently about a past job I had where I had struggled to be sledge-hammer-maze-business-get-shit-donesuccessful. After hemming and hawing a little <I have never really been sure what hemming or hawing was> I answered “the position required a dedicated navigator with navigator skills and I am a sledgehammer with some navigator vision.”


<note: I didn’t understand that until actually into the role & assumed responsibility>





I am a sledge hammer.

Always have been and I assume I always will be.


I respect navigators but they are too slow for my tastes, far too often worried about political correctness and always too skewed toward what is important politically versus ‘what is the right thing to do.’




Let me explain navigators and sledge hammers.


In business, there are just some people who see office politics <which all organizations have whether you like it or not> and they have the skills and vision to navigate them to get shit done <they also tend to benefit personally with this skill>.


In business, there are just some people who want to get the right shit done and believe if it is right then … well … it is better to just say ‘damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead’ rather than screw around with navigating people’s feelings and politics.





That doesn’t mean that sometimes a navigator isn’t more effective and that a navigator, which is tightly associated with someone who can play office politics, is always a corporate whore.stay the course direction path compass


That also doesn’t mean that there aren’t navigators with good moral compasses because there are a shitload of navigator managers who are skilled organizational politicians who do not showcase questionable behavior or even distastefully ‘sucking-up’ behavior.


Pretty much any leader worth a shit takes a realistic approach to managing around workplace politics. This does not mean they are ‘political’, per se, or want to play the political game … it’s just they understand that you have to navigate competing interests, whatever resources may be available, the nuances of what is viewed as authority <and who has the authority … which is most typically “enough to hang yourself’>, the bendable organizational rules and whatever information is available.


And, to be clear, the best of the navigators have a sledge hammer in their tool box <and use it on occasion>.


And, to be clear, the best of the sledge hammers have either some navigational skills or, at minimum, navigational vision <i.e., they can ‘see’ the politics and organizational rubble affecting your path>.




I am a sledgehammer.


I like to get shit done.

do what communiqueAlways have and always will.




I like getting smart shit done.


And I really like getting smart ‘right’ shit done.


The nuance between that stuff is clear … if all I did was get shit done, smart & right being set aside, politics and navigating would become almost irrelevant.

Because then you are simply a doer <not a thinker or a thinker/doer>.


But even as a sledge hammer you recognize that whether you hate it, admire it, practice it or avoid it, office politics is a fact of life in any organization. And, like it or not, it’s something that you need to understand to insure not only your professional success but the success of the good shit you want to do.


Yeah. Sure.

“Politics” certainly has a negative connotation. It most often refers to strategies people use to seek advantage at the expense of others or the greater good.

In this context, it often adversely affects the working environment and relationships within it.


<and sledge hammers abhor this type of politics bullshit>


I hesitate to suggest there could ever be something called “good office politics” but some organizational expert asshats believe that is the kind of crap you do which helps you fairly promote yourself and your ideas <they call it networking and stakeholder management … I call it the ‘necessary bullshit you just have to suck up and do in order to get good shit done’>.


As a sledge hammer I realized that there were some things that a navigator thinking-maze-navigator-business-sledge-hammer-do-shitwas good at and I should learn if I wanted to be a more effective sledgehammer.


About the only thing I truly value in a navigator is “social astuteness.”


This is the ability to read and anticipate situations – allows you to prepare, adapt and tailor your behavior based on the people and conditions around you.

In my words this is being aware of the people & what they believe and the situation organizationally.


Let’s just call this “context” <at least that is how a sledgehammer views it>.




Being aware is different than acting upon it.

Being aware meant that it prepared me, and my groups, to manage the carnage or consequences of slamming your way straight thru a maze.


As a sledge hammer it pays to understand the real map, or maze, of the organization.

Internal politics, more often than not, has little to do with the real organizational chart they give you when you sign on.


Someone outlined this important crap to be aware of really well:

    Who are the real influencers?

    Who has authority but doesn’t exercise it?

    Who is respected?

    Who champions or mentors others?

    Who is “the brains behind the organization”?



As a sledge hammer I realized there were absolutely some things that were in my control as I bashed my way through the middle of the maze getting to where I believed an idea, or the business at large should go.


office-politics-navigator-sledgehammer-business-jerks-speechBut, as a sledge hammer, I also recognized I needed to manage my own behavior <this lesson took some time … and learned thru some painful trial & error>.


Through watching others and some painful trial & error you learn what works in your organization’s culture.


But you learn really fast … as in REALLY fast … that as a sledge hammer you invest exactly 0% of your time and 0 energy on:



  • Gossip & spreading rumors: you learn to shut up and even when you hear something you wait and assess the credibility


  • interpersonal conflicts – you avoid “like/dislike people” discussions and certainly do not get sucked into arguments



  • Integrity above all: this is a sledge hammer mantra … be professional, do not cut corners, do things right and always remember the organization’s interests


  • No complaining: a sledgehammer accepts it will not be easy and you don’t whine about the tough path you have chosen <because it is the path you have chosen>


  • Confidence: a sledgehammer is assertive not arrogant, proactive maybe edging on aggressive without ever sneaking into aggressiveness


  • Never personal: a sledge hammer has only one thing in focus … the good of the organization <it is NEVER personal>


  • Transparency:  assume everything is gonna be seen anyway so you may as well share it all





Here is what I know.



……… whoa … did you guys do THAT ………..

When you are a sledgehammer and everything goes right it is not only the best in the world for you but organizationally everyone kind of goes “whoa, that was something.”


<which is kind of cool and makes it all worthwhile>



I will admit.


Being a sledgehammer is a lonelier way to conduct business than being a navigator. It isn’t that you are not liked nor does it mean you aren’t viewed as a team member at the table but navigators, I tend to believe, are just more social human beings & employees.


But sledge hammers have one thing in common … we are all homesick for an organization where we can not think about anything but getting good smart shit done.




“I am homesick for a place I am not sure even exists.

One where my heart is full. My body loved. And my soul understood.


(via lipstick-bullet)



angry strategizing

August 11th, 2016

if you are not angry you are not paying attention




“It’s time we stop worrying, and get angry you know?

But not angry and pick up a gun, but angry and open our minds.”




Tupac Shakur




This is hardly worth fighting for

But it’s the little petty shit that I can’t ignore

When my fist hits your face and your face hits the floor


It’ll be a long time coming

But you got the message now

‘Cause I was never going

You’re the one that’s going down


One of us is going down

I’m not running,

It’s a little different now

‘Cause one of us is going

One of us is going down



Sick Puppies

<You’re Going Down>





The Olympics is reminding us of a topic which is not discussed often enough in business … angry competition. I call it angry strategizing.

angry strategy yell think business





The Olympics has reminded me about competing angry.


While the Olympics are supposed to be about the love of competition and a better world through sports competition … it is actually about determining the best in the world. And that, my friends, is not about love it is about the rage of competition.

And while I will surely give a nod to respect shown to other great competitors and the aftermath camaraderie that can only be had among the best in the world who have competed the hardest and recognize greatness around them at the Olympics, and how they do so even in loss, I must point out that the Olympic best carry a certain rage into their competitiveness.


It may not be the traditional version of anger but it is most certainly a version of anger.


And it drives them to compete with the intent to beat the shit out of whomever they are competing against and be the best they can be so they can actually be the best.


I say all that because I don’t believe enough business people strategize with some anger. Anger that … well … there are some stupid ideas out there …


some stupid opinions


some stupid attitudes


competitors say and do stupid things


and certainly there is a stupid acceptance of mediocrity.


I know that I have sat in a meeting room with some business partners and looked around at the competition and what they were doing and saying and … angry sign window republicanwell … got angry.


And got angry enough t want and do something about it.



Being angry in business. and, no, I am not talking about being some anger management candidate but I mean planning angry … developing a strategy thinking with some anger about the status quo … maybe even having some anger toward conventional thinking and certainly some anger against whomever you are competing <but you can still respect the ones who deserve the respect while doing so> is effective and leads to effective business strategy to create real distinction in the marketplace.


To be clear.


Anger, to me, is much more useful than disdain.


Disdain breeds some arrogance and certainly diminishes the capabilities of the competition as you think about competing against them. In your scoffing at them it suggests that it is … is … well … just not worth even thinking about.


Anger, on the other hand, suggests you are facing what is straight on … in its face … and taking it head on. Anger guides you not toward some flimsy white space but directly into the fray …  directly toward the space you want in a market <whether it is already occupied or not> and take it.


Or, as Admiral Nelson once said, “you can do no wrong by putting yourself as close to the enemy as possible.”



And you know what?


In business strategy that is smart.


So that is why I call this the angry business strategy.


Certainly … there is only one real way to win … and that is without cheating.

Anger almost forces you to not only recognize that there is no virtue to be found in taking a shortcut <although shortcuts never really exist anyway> … but that there is no long cut or shortcut but rather simply getting up and going … and competing to win.


I am sure someone will point out that it may simply be you look around and get aggravated by what you see and decide to do something about it.


But I think if you have the team, and you have the product or service and you actually have the means to make your mark in the business world … then … well … it is okay if you look around at the competition and the competitive business world and get a little pissed … not just aggravated.


You get a little angry …

This is stupid … there is a better way.


This is crazy … I have a better product.


This is nuts … I can’t believe people believe that shit.


Your anger puts an edge on what you decide to say and do.


Far too often we sit around and have pot after pot of strong coffee and have intellectual discussions on how to smartly effectively compete. We worry through some fairly random details, talk about being the best and then go ahead and be anything but the best.


So … you know what?


If you are better and have a better offering and are truly worth a shit and want people to know you are worth a shit … well then … there is no real intellectual challenge.


You get on with getting on.


You just get competitively angry and stand in the middle of the field and say “here I am, and I am not going down.”


strategy think anger angry business ideas filterI am not suggesting being stupid about competing.


Nor am I suggesting bludgeoning the industry and competitors with some dull edged hammer.


But I am suggesting the anger puts some attitude into your strategy and tactics.


It puts a sharper edge into your sense of competitive purpose.


And here is what I know.


If it isn’t blind anger but rather competitive anger … you won’t tiptoe into your messaging and go to market strategy. You will stride in with some swagger, some confidence and clearly some strong purposeful messaging.


I think … no … I know more businesses would do better to attack their business meeting angry business strategystrategy with some anger.


Get a little pissed about perceptions, attitudes and mediocrity.


Get pissed that people are accepting less than the best and less than real truth.


Get pissed at yourself if you are in a position where you don’t believe enough in yourself and your offering to be able to get pissed.




I do believe more businesses should strategize with some anger.

As Tupac said … not angry and pick up a gun, but angry and open our minds.

do you actually know how difficult it is to NOT plagiarize? (as an online writer)

February 12th, 2015


writing deep thoughts cursive

“Be Impeccable With Your Word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others.

Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.”


Miguel Angel Ruiz






plagiarism  wordle_600


One of my favorite thinker/writers, Fareed Zakaria, is being skewered for plagiarism <once again>.






In his situation … we are not talking about plagiarizing ideas … or thinking … but rather background to support his points/ideas.



Several blogs, such as conservative media watchdog Newsbusters and the National Review online, spotted similarities between parts of Zakaria’s column and a piece on the same topic in an April issue of the The New Yorker.

The paragraphs in question largely involved descriptions of historical events and context about gun control in America and do not seem anywhere near as serious as other famed plagiarists – such as Jayson Blair at the New York Times and Stephen Glass at the New Republic who made up entire quotes, people and incidents.

But as media websites picked up the story and asked Time for an official comment, Zakaria issued a statement and confessed to his error:




“Media reporters have pointed out that paragraphs in my Time column this week bear close similarities to paragraphs in Jill Lepore’s essay in the April 23rd issue of The New Yorker.


They are right.


I made a terrible mistake.writing an editing


It is a serious lapse and one that is entirely my fault.



I apologize unreservedly to her, to my editors at Time, and to my readers.”



Fareed Zakaria










Here is the deal.



The harsh Truth as it were.



If you write a lot and share thinking it is extremely difficult to not plagiarize.


Let me say again.



Extremely difficult to not plagiarize.






I am not talking about copying someone’s ideas or thinking. And I am not talking about not sourcing a huge gob of research or writing done by someone else.


I am talking about the snippet or paragraph.



How does it happen <you may ask>?



When you research a topic you will inevitably review a large number of articles, some research, certainly some other written pieces and maybe even some blog thoughts from people.


writing the first-draft


Sometimes in building your draft you will copy some of the content into a draft document so you don’t lose the thought.




Sometimes you write a thought down using your own words <although sometimes another writer says something so well it is difficult to say it any better>.



Sometimes the words get used as is. Sometimes you source … and sometimes <without thinking about it too much> you think the thoughts, and words, are so common sense they become almost a ‘public domain’ type thought in your mind.



Sometimes in writing your own thoughts in the final piece you know you will publish you lose track of what is your words and what may have been used by someone else … not with bad intentions but simply because the thoughts seem so unoriginal … it just seems like ‘shit anyone and everyone would say or know.’



I say all this not to justify any sort of plagiarism. I say this simply to say it is sometimes very very difficult to NOT plagiarize <in some form or fashion>.



Here is what I do know for sure.



It is extremely difficult to say something in an original way. Somewhere someone has articulated what you say … in almost the exact same words.



I know that may seem extremely difficult for some writers to accept, or believe, but it is true.



Unless you are a poet … I struggle to think of completely original use of words when someone writes shit like I do on a blog <or even some semi professional writing if you do a lot of it>.






At least original in a consistent way.


I think anyone who writes a lot stumbles across a unique grouping of words to articulate a thought on occasion.



I also tend to believe other writers take not of that momentary flash of word brilliance … and credit you.



But that’s not what I am talking about.


The common is easily ‘plagiarized.’



That’s it.


I was thinking about it.


I wrote a very long detailed thought about plagiarizing before:




< http://brucemctague.com/the-black-white-and-gray-of-plagiarism >




I take plagiarism seriously <always have>.


In addition, I personally, studiously avoid plagiarizing.



That said.



I am also quite sure that I have at some point <unintentionally>.



Hence the reason I wrote and published my caveat on images and words on my site:



http://brucemctague.com/spam-and-images >.

writing shit down



There is no excuse for plagiarizing.




Everyone should note how difficult it can be to NOT plagiarize.

no brilliantly created failures accepted

June 13th, 2014


 outcome zone


“We don’t want to be known for creating brilliantly crafted failures.”

Don Perkins







In business … one of the difficulties in caring about what you do … and how you do it … is that solutions are rarely just a … well … solution.


Inevitably you <at least most people in business> desire to craft a brilliant solution.



Sometimes elegant … sometimes brutal … sometimes sleek … sometimes ponderous … but always brilliantly crafted.


And in doing so the doubters or the challengers in the organization around you attack how it has been crafted … and not whether it will achieve the desired outcome <albeit they will do sounder the guise of ‘concerns it will not do what we need done’>.


They will begin picking apart the crafting and then … well … it is no longer brilliant.



While simplicity is always nice … it is more often not practical <or reality>.


Business is complex.


Solutions tend to be complex.

complex person rubix cube ichi nichi



Solutions often need to be brilliantly crafted.


And, yes, there are some people who get so caught up in building beautiful solutions that they lose sight of reality and purpose … but they are truly in the minority.




We are truly not in the business of building brilliantly crafted failures.



I say this from practical experience because advertising agencies, in particular, are always being pointed at and slammed for just being creative and not caring about the business, i.e., “all you want to do is wacky advertising.”



And every time I hear someone say this … I think it is the silliest thing I have ever heard.

Maybe even the stupidest thing I have ever heard.



I know for sure I want to say how dumb that comment is.



That is why I like what my friend, and a great creative director, said. He took the high road. Brilliance in craft and results are not mutually exclusive.


In this concise statement he says we will always seek brilliantly crafted creative solutions … but always with the intent to drive results … to attain the objective … to fulfill its purpose.


The only people who truly only care about brilliantly crafted solutions <and not about purpose or outcome> are hacks.

They are business people who don’t understand stimulus response … or cause and effect … or any kind of ‘creating attitudes to generate a specific behavior’ thought process.

In other words.

They are hacks.


Let me be clear.


There is no credible marketing or advertising agency in the world that doesn’t understand they are in the business of creatively generating business.


No debate.


This does not mean they will always get it right.


And that is where brilliantly crafted solutions really run into trouble.love 5 complexities What If love


Because people confuse ‘complicated’ & ‘brilliantly crafted.’


Far too many people will <most often in hindsight> suggest the solution was too complicated or that ‘we didn’t need to craft it that way’ and begin creating a thread of doubt in the value of brilliantly crafted solutions.

And in today’s business world it is very easy to do this.


In a business environment when people want to ‘point & shoot’ and ‘go with your gut’ and ‘if it isn’t simple enough it won’t work.’



Unfortunately … sometimes those trite ‘business semi-truths’ just do not work.


Organizations are big randomly moving fragments swirling within some confines of a purpose <only tangible in that most often they can be found in buildings with neat conference rooms and walls and a big window or two>.



Consumers <or people in general> make organizations look almost stagnant in comparison. Perceptions, attitudes & behaviors don’t just swirl … it is more like sheer chaos with some random moments where they coalesce into some amoeba like semi-formed object … only to explode into new small life forms and roam all over again.



Brilliantly crafted solutions create a cohesive moment.

Brilliantly crafted solutions bring a sense of order to chaos.

Brilliantly crafted solutions are solidly consistent yet adaptable as it comes to Life.


brilliant beBrilliantly crafted solutions are complex.



And they are often complex because … well … they are brilliant.





I say all this because no good business person is ever in the business of creating brilliantly crafted failures.



And I tend to believe more of us should be interested in the ‘creating brilliantly crafted’ portion. We tend to quickly focus on ‘success’ <versus failure> and results moreso than crafting something brilliant.



This implies all journeys to the destination are of equal value.


Nothing could be further from the truth.



We cannot always create a brilliantly crafted solution … I know that. But we should be almost always at least seeking it.


Not all solutions are created equal.brilliant dont be delicate


Not all successes are created equal.




None of us should be in the business of creating brilliantly crafted failures but all of us should be in the business of creating brilliantly crafted successes.




on s’engage (you commit yourself)

March 10th, 2014

adapt plans

“On s’engage, et puis – on voit.” <you commit yourself, and then – you see.> – Napoleon




Commitment and patience … and … well … adaptation.


The combination of these three ingredients is a powerful one.

Oddly … not many of us learn this particular recipe.



We engage. With focused commitment I may add <that’s a nice way of saying ‘with blinders on’>.



We then tend to be less than patient. In fact I could suggest we are very often impatient in our engagement <but still committed to the plan>. I would suggest in number 2 that we often underestimate the value of doing nothing <and observing>.



And adapting? Yikes. If we did that we would <in our eyes> bastardize the integrity of the structure of the commitment. In other words … in most situations we are willing to stay the course with a plan … until the bitter end.


In business … many of us commit to a plan of action and believe staying the course creates the highest likelihood to succeed. And in our impatience we plow through opportunities to adapt. In other words … we don’t really ‘see’ … we just commit to a plan.



To be clear.

Napoleon also said “When you set out to take Vienna, take Vienna.”


I share that because the commitment wasn’t to the plan … but rather to the objective. And there is a massive difference.

I sometimes believe in business <and Life too I imagine> we confuse this.


We commit and don’t see.

We commit and implement.

We commit to the means <the plan> and not the end <the objective>.


That said. Why?

Now <part 1>.

freedom and responsibilityThis may also be a reflection of a ‘cover your ass’ world we live in.



If I do what I committed to do <the plan> and it doesn’t achieve the objective … well … “Ain’t my fault. I did what I was told to do” <or the plan everyone agree was the best plan of action>.


The alternative?

As soon as you “see” after you have made the initial commitment … and adapt the plan … well … oops … you have assumed some responsibility.


Now <part 2>.

You can always mitigate that responsibility by going back to the “all those who agreed it was the best plan” and saying ‘here is what I see now that we have actually committed … and I think we should adapt in this way <to increase the likelihood we will achieve our objective commitment>. The problem with this is timeliness. You miss the opportunity to make the change when it should be made. Napoleon was a master of adapting the original commitment within the proper window of ‘adapting opportunity.’

Gaining consensus on adapting <or a change to a plan> is … well … a frickin’ bear. Let’s call it almost impossible. For sure we can call it ‘less than timely.’

Bottom line. Shirking responsibility takes time.




Risk analysis is simply part of business. Always has been and always will be. And it should be. Running a business without doing so is simply chaos … not running a business.adapt new plans




Eliminating risk is impossible. Only mitigating risk is possible. And I could argue that not adapting after committing actually increases risk.

I wish in today’s business world we would spend less time building ‘the perfect plan’ and instead build ‘the best plan we can’ and commit … and see.



-perfect_planNapoleon won a shitload of battles. He wasn’t perfect … and his planning and plans were significantly less than perfect.

But the dude knew how to commit.

He knew how to engage when the window of opportunity existed.

He knew how to ‘see’ <adapt>.

He knew how to keep his eye on the bigger commitment <the objective … see Vienna … take Vienna>.


He didn’t confuse committing to a plan and committing to an objective.


And, frankly, I believe we get confused on this far too often in business.


More business leaders should be saying ‘let’s commit … and see.’ And not just saying the words … but walking the walk so the implementers do not feel as if the plan is something etched in stone.


Adapting is part art <seeing information and feedback as it is absorbed and ‘feeling’ its momentum & conclusions – statistics can lie as well as people can> and part science <making sure you actually see the most relevant information & feedback>.holding universe together matters


Adapting is not for the faint of heart.




To the bold comes the fruits of victory.

the black white and gray of plagiarism

June 3rd, 2013


“… these appropriations matter. If the poets don’t assert the value of their words, who will?”

Plagiarism script

Sandra Beasley is the author of the poetry collections







You know … not too long ago I had a very clear point of view on what plagiarism is.






There is a lot of gray area.



I have always believed that original ideas and original thinking are fleeting at best.


And I have always believed that 99% of the time if you were thinking something … someone else in the great big world of ours was thinking it at exactly the same time.

Before the worldwide web that was just a theory.


In today’s world it is a truth.


A tough truth.





Sometimes plagiarism is so glaringly obvious that it sends a shiver down your spine.

Lately the most vivid examples are happening in the poetry world.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.


You are saying ‘who cares about poetry?’

<answer: an obscure few>


But it permits me to make a point and discuss plagiarism.



In the latest poetry scandal one bonehead <a guy named Christian Ward> lifted lines and slightly paraphrased another published poet. The accused poet, Ward, defended himself by saying, “I had no intention of deliberately plagiarizing and suggested he had used the original poem as a model and had submitted a premature draft.”


And another British poet has been lifting lines <actually entire poems> from numerous poets in the U.S.:


Publishers and magazines have been working to take down poems and suspend sales of collections by David R Morgan after the American poet Charles O Hartman realised Morgan’s poem “Dead Wife Singing” was almost identical to his own, three-decades-old “A Little Song”.

Assiduous digging by the online poetry community, led by the poet and academic Ira Lightman, then discovered that Morgan, a British poet and teacher, had lifted lines and phrases from a host of different writers.

One of Morgan’s poems, “Monkey Stops Whistling”, won him an award. […]




Those examples are clearly plagiarism.

This example helped me because I have always felt like I have had a pretty firm grasp on what constitutes plagiarism.






That is until I began writing a lot. And publicly on enlightened conflict.


Writing is hard.


I know I have a method to avoid <or slow down> plagiarism.


I write down my basic thoughts and thinking before I even go online to do any research.





Do not pass ‘Go” before doing this basic writing.



It also helps in that I find myself in a somewhat enviable position in that I have never faced the seemingly oft-discussed strain of coming up with new material <called ‘writer’s block’>.

write passion

I may write about bad ideas or silly things or inconsequential things but I have never, never once, not had something I didn’t want to write about.

What this reallly means is that I am in the enviable position of not having, never in fact, to cruise the web seeking inspiration for writing ideas.




That said.



I do seek inspiration <and additional knowledge> on thoughts I have.




And, well, correspondingly, who hasn’t wanted to steal words from a better writer?



Even a somewhat clever mind and clever writer can give into the temptation to be a cheating plagiarist <borrow some words>.


Sometimes this plagiarism is simply a sentence … sometimes it is stringing together quotes from other writers and sometimes it is just laziness because you cannot envision ever being able to write the thought any better than it was written.



As one writer <I am stealing from> suggested:


‘Until very recently, most scholars have been happy to simply chalk these up as “allusions” to the work of other authors.

For a long time, it was regarded as something poets just did, as a way of honoring their influences.’



This is a slippery slope.



And even slipperier <that is not a word> because even if you do what I do <write before research or the search for additional inspiration> you can still find your own words in what someone else has already written.


I cannot tell you how many times I have thought I was brilliant only to find that my own words, the words I salivated over with sheer joy over their taste, had already been used by someone else on some obscure blog in Europe or worse … in some obscure town in North Dakota.



I recognized this was going to be an ongoing slope I would find myself slipping on all the time and I even published a post clearly stating “I steal images” because I realized that with at least that one component <images> I was going to be constantly at the fringe of straight robbery:





But words?


Here is exactly what I wrote in my ‘steal images’ post:plagiarism university




Words I use.

I seriously doubt I have consciously plagiarized anyone’s thoughts or words.

I have seen some well articulated thoughts that are components of what I write about and while trying to avoid using the same words … a well articulated thought is a well articulated thought and, frankly, it’s difficult to find better words if something is well articulated.

I have found things that I have written appear somewhere else (even though I know they have never seen what I wrote).

That is the way of the world.

If people have the same idea and they know how to articulate it, it will often look very similar in verbiage.

When I do actually use something that someone else wrote I either italicize or credit it.







I also know <going back to poetry> that when I write my own bad poetry it is littered with small phrases I have scribbled down that inevitably were coined by someone else.





My blog writing is littered with wonderful two or three word phrases and words, in general, I have picked up here and there.


Were they used in the same context as what I write?


Nope <99% of the time>.



Is that still plagiarism? <yup … well … I am assuming that is>.



It certainly constitutes some level of ‘not an original work’ and serious professional writers refer to this as ‘textual rape.’


I am certainly not rewriting whole documents.



And I have found inserting copied words <citing the source> helpful to provide context for my own thoughts.


And I try and be generous with regard to admitting I did not create a thought or actual words <even if I do suck at sourcing and citing>.



All that said.



Plagiarism is tricky <when it is not clearly black & white>.





There is plagiarism technology out there.  And technology can help but inevitably it really <mostly> comes down to human analysis. It is a judgement call. In addition <to be philosophical> … if a tree falls in the wood and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound.





If I write something on enlightened conflict and no one reads it but someone else 6 months from now writes the same thing are they plagiarizing?



And … trust me that kind of stuff happens all the time.

ALL the time.


People have the same ideas & thoughts at the same time … all the time.


We don’t like to believe that … but it is so.

It is a Life truth.


It is certainly a writing truth.


Here is an additional fact.



No one knows everything, and I must research in order to write on a topic I know nothing, or little, about.


I have opinions and points of view on just about anything … but not supporting it is lazy … and therefore I need to do some research on what other people think (and know) when I write.

And, once again, I absolutely suck at formally citing sources if I use them.



Although, once again, I freely informally give credit where credit is due.


It’s an interesting challenge I face every day in detecting and slowing/stopping plagiarism when I write.



When your work is posted and reposted online and the simple publishing of a blog post enters into a global community I imagine <hope> all writers struggle with a somewhat flexible definition of intellectual property.







It comes down to 3 things for me.



–          1. The obvious steal



This one is easy.


I began with the poetry example because that is plagiarism at its worst.



Because it is not simply copying words … it is copying thinking & creativity.

It is the full alignment of plagiarism at it’s worst.


Copying words simply to get some words down on paper is bad. And it is the obvious steal.

Thoughts & creativity may be slightly more difficult to assess … but … an obvious steal is an obvious steal.





–          2. Simultaneous originality



Sometimes I get really lucky in distilling an insight, or something relatively smart, into nicely crafted gathering of words <rare … but it happens>.



Sometimes I am simply early in the sharing of an idea and thought <I cannot tell you how many times I have seen one of my post ideas published in a viable credible publication maybe 2 weeks to 2 months after I wrote mine … please note … typically written better than how I wrote it>.


Most often what I consider a quasi-original thought on my part is simultaneously <or close> not only being thought by someone else but actually being shared somewhere on the world wide web. Here is where working for a while in a creative industry helps me mentally.


What do I mean?


We all are accessing the same stimulus.

With the world wide web even more people are being stimulated with the same information and background and news than ever before. If you put the same material through the same filters inevitably similar thoughts/things are going to be generated.



In the advertising world everyone realizes in new business pitches that the final creative ideas presented will be very very similar throughout four disparate agencies simply because the initial strategy and research <the input to the development> is very similar.



Ideas and thoughts on the web are the same.



We are all absorbing the same stimulus … inevitably a number of us will generate similar responses.




–          3. The inspiration



Plagiarism posterprint

There are gobs of beautiful talented writers out there and even the quasi talented can craft a beautiful thought on occasion.

All these beautiful words serve as inspiration.



But inspiration ‘borrowing’ doesn’t have to happen on the web.



John Fogerty says about Proud Mary.

In 1967 he sat in his apartment in San Francisco and says “I began playing a song intro I had been working on which was based on the opening of Beethoven’s 5th symphony. I didn’t like how Beethoven had composed it and preferred hitting the 1st chord hard for emphasis and not the 4th. “



Margaret Mitchell took the title of “Gone with the Wind” from a beautiful lyrical poem called “Cynara” written Ernest Dowson:



Yea, I was desolate and bowed my head:

I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

All night upon mine heart I felt her warm heart beat,

Night-long within mine arms in love and sleep she lay;

Surely the kisses of her bought red mouth were sweet;

But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,


When I awoke and found the dawn was gray:

I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind,

Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng,

Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind;

But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,


Yea, all the time, because the dance was long:

I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

I cried for madder music and for stronger wine,

But when the feast is finished and the lamps expire,

Then falls thy shadow, Cynara! the night is thine;

And I am desolate and sick of an old passion,


Yea, hungry for the lips of my desire:

I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion




Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm …


Is that plagiarism?


Or is it simply inspiration?



Words I see inspire me to think all the time.


Sometimes someone’s words inspire me to write.


Sometimes their words become the cornerstone with which I build my thoughts and words around.



The internet has made the random beautifully crafted thought more accessible than ever.



It’s not just published literature anymore … Beethoven or poetry … but now it can be a blog in the Philippines with a readership of less than 50, a tumblr post or a tween on xanga.


We have access to more thoughts and thinking and words than ever be for … and all of it can be used for inspiration not to be plagiarized.






Those are my three.

Experts & professional writers <of which I am not> have others.


In the end?



While some people suggest ‘it has become common on the web to ignore the basic courtesy of giving others credit for their idea.’



I don’t agree.



Original ideas are few and far between.


Original words, and wording, probably even rarer.



That certainly doesn’t absolve anyone from citing or providing sources or even sometimes sharing credit for inspiration.






All I know is that plagiarism has entered into a big massive humungous gray area.


I struggle with it every day when I write.



I know I do because I know when I write … depending on what I write … I taste the words in my mouth.




“With every draft I read aloud, I tasted the words in my mouth. Salty, sweet, fatty, lean, velvet, metallic, mean. Mine. What does it feel like, tasting words you’ve stolen? Like sand, I suspect. Sand that a man dying of dehydration drinks in the desert, never slaking his thirst.”



Sandra Beasley is the author of poetry collections





Sandra is 100% correct.Words to Savor



My own words taste like the most indescribably good taste in the world. The perfectly cooked steak, the sip of a cool drink on a hot day, the robust blossoming of a super Tuscan red wine on your palate or the hamburger straight off the grill … you can savor each word as you read them.



Others words can taste great also <the ones from better writers> but they don’t taste as good.





I didn’t cook them up.



And words that I am tempted to plagiarize? Taste like sand.



I spit ‘em out.


writers write

That’s how I keep myself out of the gray.





But I keep writing.

Enlightened Conflict