Influence people

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Who Should Vote?

Democracy is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.
— Plato

Most philosophers agree "one person, one vote" is the right policy in a democracy.

But who counts as a person?

You could say any individual affected by the government should count. But it's hard to say who is and who's not affected by the government. And would you let children vote? Probably not.

That answer's clearly wrong.

You could also say any adult citizen should count. But would you let POWs, felons, tourists, aliens, and the mentally incompetent vote? Probably not.

That answer's also wrong.

I'd go out on a limb and say any democratically competent adult should count. And I'd determine whether any adult were "democratically competent" by requiring her to answer, in writing, two questions:

Philosophers call my preferred political system an epistocracy (episteme is the Ancient Greek word for knowledge.) An epistocracy restricts suffrage to the democratically competent, assuming good political outcomes depend on votes cast from knowledge, not ignorance. Philosopher Jason Brennan calls it "rule by knowers."

You might say, "Wait, the Founding Fathers rejected epistocracy!"

That's true; and they also rejected the Ancient Greeks' democracy, in favor of the Ancient Romans' republicanism.

Under the Founding Fathers' preferred system, citizens can vote to elect politicians, who act as a firewall against mob-rule. They defined a citizen as any wealthy white man.

But 230 years later, we have a democracy, the political system Plato called the "agreeable form of anarchy." We let nearly any yahoo vote.

Plato also warned: Democracies inevitably give rise to tyrannies when a populist autocrat can play to the mob's passions.

It's time for an overhaul—b
efore we're led over the cliff.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Expanding Your Boundaries?

According to Bain consultants Chris Zook and James Allen, a company can grow profitably in two ways: by diversifying or by expanding the boundaries of its core business, or what they call entering adjacencies.

Their study of thousands of companies has led them to say there are six ways to enter an adjacency:

  • Expand along the value chain (De Beers moved from wholesaling into retailing diamonds, for example).

  • Use new distribution channels (supplement maker EAS moved from selling to nutrition stores to selling to Wal-Mart).

  • Enter new countries (Vodafone expanded from the UK to Europe, the US, Germany, and Japan).

  • Address new customer segments (discount broker Charles Schwab became an advisor to the super wealthy).

  • Offer new products and services (IBM pioneered "global IT" and doubled its earnings).

  • Build a new business based on an in-house capability (American Airlines created Sabre, which in turn created Travelocity).

From their study, Zook and Allen also conclude that companies which learn to enter an adjacency, then repeat their recipe again and again, grow at twice the speed of rivals—at a minimum.

How about you? Are you expanding your boundaries?

My new business partner and I, while our direct marketing agency is still in its infancy, have already added six new products and services to the four core offerings we opened shop with in January, including PR, video production and marketing research.

We're following advice you can find in Competing Against Luck, whose authors say customers never "buy" products and services, but "hire" them "to get a job done."

We're designing a menu based on jobs our customers need to get done. We might not grow at the pace of Charles Schwab or IBM, but we're trying—and learning a lot in the process.

I'll keep you posted, in any event.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

B2B Events Get Hip

Expect more annual B2B events to market themselves like music festivals, according to Cramer.

Meetings once held in convention center halls and hotel ballrooms will migrate outdoors and to hip, alternative venues, offering inspired music and entertainment.

"Festivalizing" your B2B event means adding not only rad surroundings and music, but the other hallmarks of a big festival: frictionless registration, entry and wayfinding; a "choose-your-own-adventure" schedule; post-modern structures; exotic food and beverage; cause-related happy hours; playrooms and coffee houses; co-created artworks; social media extravaganzas; and event themes that celebrate coolness, community and creativity,

Festivalization's dual goals are "reinvigorating attendee bases and attracting millennial prospects, who prefer experiences, touchpoints and connections at events," Cramer says.

B2B event planners are riding a wave. According to Billboard, 32 million Americans attended a large music festival last year.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Truth about Trade Shows

Last evening, I watched an old rerun of The X Files. The entire episode is a flashback to a time before FBI Agents Mulder and Scully are partners, and is set inside a trade show in Baltimore in the year 1989.

It was a kick to see how many everyday objects have changed in a quarter century. Men's suits. Women's dresses. Cameras. Computers. Telephones.

But not trade shows.

The imaginary 1989 trade show looked just like a 2017 trade show.

The truth about trade shows: they're lodged in the '80s. We still need them now, but we need them to deliver something new.

With buyers' ranks thinning, web content exploding, and pre-released products the norm, '80s-style trade shows are obsolete.

Yes, we still need to meet face-to-face, take the pulse, and wave the flag, but why "flash back" to do so?

Maybe it's time for organizers to flash forward, to think badgeless and boothless and begin to craft experiences matched to today's need to gather and do business.

The answers are out there.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Quiet Desperation

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.

Henry David Thoreau

Last week, Steven Beck, a 61-year-old handyman who lived as a recluse in a foreclosed home in a Washington, DC, suburb, killed his dog and then himself, moments before his house blew up.

His act saddened neighbors, who suspected he was desperate.

Media lures us every hour to celebrate beauty, luxury, mastery, victory.

Self-help gurus tell us, "Professionals are amateurs who didn't quit."

But the Steven Becks tell another story. Some professionals quit, as well.

Vincent van Gogh completed 860 oil paintings and 1,300 watercolors and drawings before he died from a self-inflicted gunshot.

Ernest Hemingway completed 20 books and hundreds of articles and won a Nobel Prize before he died from the same cause.

Hunter S. Thompson completed 15 books and hundreds of articles before he died, once more, from a self-inflicted gunshot.

Thoreau called quitting "confirmed desperation."

If he was right, most of us are desperate; and some of us are confirmed in despair.

The easy success stories are "fake news."

The real news is: the 5 Signs of despair are easy to spot.

Learn what they are.

HAT TIP: Thanks to Susan Rosenstock for her work to raise awareness of the 5 Signs someone needs help. You can help with a donation now.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Comma Sutra

When and where should you insert your comma for maximum satisfaction? The style manuals don't advocate one position.

Those used by book publishers endorse the serial ("Oxford") comma, claiming you need it to clarify any list.

Those used by newspaper publishers eschew it, claiming economy should rule your writing.

Even though advocates can now cite a Maine court's decision, the serial comma is far from the law of the land.

What's your verdict?

The Yeahs

Book publishers insist the serial comma assures clarity. 

For example, because I inserted a serial comma before the coordinating conjunction "and" in the following list, you won't conclude both my followers are dead guys:

This blog is dedicated to my followers, William Strunk, and E.B. White.

The Chicago Manual of Style, for example, endorses the serial comma. You're clear that four, not two, people posed for this White House guest:

She took a photograph of her parents, 
the president, and the vice president.

Modern American Usage also endorses the serial comma, on grounds that it's harmless.

The Nays

Newspaper publishers insist the serial comma, being far from harmless, clutters writing. 

The serial comma here feels like poke in the eye:

I can't resist watching The Three Stooges, Moe, Larry, and Curly.

And The Style Book of The New York Herald Tribune shows how the serial comma here not only clutters the sentence, but misleads you to think Smith donated the racing cup:

Those at the ceremony were the commodore, the fleet captain, 
the donor of the cup, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Jones.

The Comma Sutra

Serial comma or not, some lists are best reordered.

The Times of London once summarized a BBC travel show with this list:

The highlights of his global tour include encounters with 
Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector.

Yes, a serial comma would prevent you from thinking Nelson Mandela collected dildos; but he'd remain an 800-year-old demigod. The simple fix would be:

The highlights of his global tour include encounters with 
a dildo collector, an 800-year-old demigod and Nelson Mandela.

POSTSCRIPT: My rule for using the serial comma: easy does it. For in the words of the Kama Sutra:

The mind of the man being fickle, how can it be known what any 
person will do at any particular time and for any particular purpose.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Milk and Serial

As reported by The New York Times, a Maine appeals court has ruled a group of dairy workers deserve back pay because a state overtime law lacks a serial comma.

Five delivery drivers sued Oakhurst Dairy, claiming the company denied them overtime pay.

The judge hearing the case determined Maine's overtime law doesn't exempt the dairy from paying its drivers.

The law states workers need not receive overtime pay for "the canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of: (1) Agricultural produce;(2) Meat and fish products; and (3) Perishable foods."

The judge ruled, because there's no comma after "shipment," the drivers deserve overtime pay. Why? The drivers don't pack perishable foods for shipment; they only distribute them.

The comma missing in Maine's overtime law is the "serial comma" (also known as the "Oxford comma").  

When used, the serial comma precedes the last in a series of things, reducing ambiguity. For example:

Before the secret meeting, Putin invited the hackers, Sushchin, and Dokuchaev.

Without the serial comma, the sentence could be understood to mean Sushchin and Dokuchaev were a team of hackers (they're actually spies):

Before the secret meeting, Putin invited the hackers, Sushchin and Dokuchaev.

Got it?

PS: Everything you ever wanted to know about the serial comma will be covered in my forthcoming manual, Comma Sutra. Among other things, it will explain when and where to insert it to achieve total satisfaction. Look for it wherever adult books are sold.
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