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January 31, 2004

The Disgrace? of CBS 

Senator Durbin, from the floor of the Senate, 27 January

Recently I learned that the CBS television network, which claims to be the No. 1, most-watched network, with more than 200 affiliated stations, rejected an ad for its upcoming Super Bowl broadcast that will be on Sunday. CBS's explanation for rejecting this ad was that their network prohibited the showing of advertisements that take stands on controversial public policy issues.

So what was this controversial, dangerous ad which CBS is protecting American viewers from watching? Well, it was an ad sponsored by a nonprofit organization called MoveOn.Org. You can find it on your Web site at MoveOn.Org. You can see the ad. This 30-second ad shows several children working unhappily in a variety of grownup jobs.

When you go to the Web site and bring up this ad, you can see a little girl cleaning the floor of a commercial building with music playing in the background, a boy washing dishes at a restaurant, another youngster working on an assembly line in a factory, another fixing tires at an automobile shop, and another collecting trash for the back of a truck.

The ad ends with this line:

Guess who's going to pay off President Bush's $1 trillion deficit?

That is the controversial ad. The ad that CBS doesn't want America to see, which those who are following this debate can go to and see this "dangerous," "controversial" ad that crosses the line, an ad which CBS is going to protect the American people from even getting a chance to see. These are some of the still photos from that ad showing kids in working situations, and closing with one short tag line:

Guess who's going to pay off President Bush's $1 trillion deficit?

CBS is afraid of this ad. They are afraid if the American people see it, they would be so caught up in the controversy of this ad, it would just be unfair.

Is it controversial? Is this ad too hot for network TV? Would America be traumatized and changed forever viewing this dangerous, controversial, 30-second ad? Well, clearly not. This ad makes two factual assertions every American knows to be true. First, it says we are facing a growing national debt, a debt exceeding $1 trillion, which has to be paid off by future generations. Guess what. Those future generations are going to be comprised of our children.

Second, in those few words at the close of the ad, it says President Bush and his administration have to accept responsibility for creating this debt--a fact President Bush's own budget documents readily admit, a fact substantiated by President Bush's programs of tax cuts for the wealthy. Everybody with even a short-term memory recalls that only a few years ago we were dealing with a budgetary surplus under the Clinton administration. Now we are deep in historic debt year after year after year during the Bush administration. To argue the Bush administration's hands are clean when it comes to America's debt defies common sense and history. So what is so controversial about these unambiguous facts that our children will be inheriting a large national deficit created since the time President George W. Bush took office? Since when has stating the truth--and obvious truth at that--turned out to be too controversial for America to witness?

Maybe controversy is in the eye of the beholder, and the eye of CBS now runs from controversy. Or maybe there is another dynamic at work. Maybe network executives at CBS are so afraid of political pressure from the rightwing and their business advertisers who are in league with the rightwing politics of America that they are afraid to put anything on the air that might in fact make things uncomfortable. If that is the case, it is time for CBS to announce the name of their network is the "conservative broadcasting system" and come clean with American viewers.

Look at the record, though. CBS has run controversial ads, many of which were good for America to see. Ads sponsored by the White House Drug Control Policy Agency confronted a tough issue, maybe in controversial terms to some, but ads that were important. The White House Drug Policy ad that ran during last year's Super Bowl accused American drug companies of directly supporting international terrorism that led to the taking of lives of American citizens. Risky, edgy, controversial? Yes. Did we have a right to see that as Americans? You bet we did.

Why was CBS ready to run those ads a year ago, but won't let address the issue of the debt of America that will be borne by our children? CBS also runs ads by tobacco companies and antismoking groups to advocate viewpoints on health. In fact, they are scheduled to run during the Super Bowl--ads from two different groups, which are the American Legacy Foundation and Phillip Morris, which are basically antismoking adds. I fully support these ads. Some may view them as controversial. But so what. If these airwaves are truly the realm of the public to learn, why do we run away from a controversial ad even if it relates to a public health policy some disagree with?

CBS also routinely runs a whole range of controversial, if not downright offensive, ads during the Super Bowl. We have seen that CBS has no qualms about running ads featuring comely young women mud wrestling while a couple of beer-drinking fellows look on. Controversial? Perhaps to some, but they will run those ads. It appears CBS executives consider it important to run not one, two, but three separate ads promoting drugs for sexual dysfunction during the Super Bowl. They believe in a national debate on such sexual problems is more important to the public interest than a discussion about the future of this Nation. In the CBS eye, sexual dysfunction is a topic families with children can watch. But budgetary dysfunction, which our children will pay for, is just too controversial, too hot to handle.

So how does CBS define controversial content? Let's take a look at what goes into their thinking. Remember the series on President Ronald Reagan? The CBS executives did a complete reversal overnight and pulled the plug on the miniseries, "The Reagans," after spending millions of dollars producing it. We learned that the decision was made after conservative Republicans barraged the boardroom and executives and said we cannot run this, even though we have not seen it. In fact, CBS caved in, without the public ever having seen one single episode.

These are the same executives at CBS, incidentally, who, during 1999 and 2000 gave 98 percent of their soft money political contributions to the Republican Party. They decided this ad, which just might raise a question about President Bush's policies leading this Nation, and the deficit and debt our children face, those same CBS executives said we don't think we ought to step into this controversial area.

The major pharmaceutical companies, which will be running ads on three different sexual dysfunction drugs during the Super Bowl, have also been consistently placed among the five top spenders on lobbying the Republican Congress and in soft money and PAC contributions to Republican candidates.

Now let's connect all the dots because there is something more direct and topical behind this CBS decision, from my point of view. These are the same executives at CBS who successfully lobbied this Congress to change the FCC rules on TV station ownership to their corporate advantage. The provision that was sneaked into the Omnibus appropriation bill that passed last week and has been signed by the President. It establishes a new ceiling of 39 percent as the maximum percentage of American TV viewers in a market that may be reached by TV stations owned by any one company. Remember that number, 39 percent.

Before the FCC adopted rules in June to raise the cap to 45 percent, the cap was limited to 35 percent. Upset at what the FCC had done, a strong majority in the House and Senate agreed to roll back the FCC rule and take it back down to 35 percent. Why is this important? The White House and the Republicans in this conference on this Omnibus appropriation bill, with no Democrats present, came up with a figure of 39 percent as the new cap--39 percent. What is so magic about 39 percent? Allow me to explain. This wasn't chosen at random; it wasn't a good-faith compromise. No, it just so happens that Viacom, which owns CBS, currently owns stations reaching 38.8 percent of American households, and Rupert Murdoch's news corporation, the owners of that "fair and balanced" Fox Network, owns stations reaching 37.8 percent.

Interesting. Interesting that the White House and Republican leaders in Congress pushed a provision in a spending bill in the dark of night, without Democrats present, that benefited two corporations when it came to their ownership of television stations--Fox, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party, and now Viacom, CBS. Both entities currently violate the old FCC limitation. They needed this new language. They would have been forced to sell off stations if their Republican friends in Congress and the White House had not come through for them.

So the White House and the congressional Republicans give CBS a significant corporate favor and CBS rewards them by killing an ad critical of the Bush White House during the Super Bowl. Doesn't that sound like a perfect subject for a "60 Minutes" investigation? Oh, I forget. "60 Minutes" is a CBS program. I don't think we are going to hear about this on "60 Minutes." I don't think Mike Wallace and Lesley Stahl are going to be taking an undercover camera into the boardrooms of CBS to find out what is going on there.

Listen to what our colleague, Senator JOHN MCCAIN of Arizona, said about this provision that was sneaked into this bill at the last minute to benefit Viacom and CBS, the biggest corporate favor they could ever ask for. I am quoting my colleague, Senator JOHN MCCAIN, who said on the floor:

This provision is objectionable because while purporting to address public concerns about excessive media consolidation, it really only addresses the concerns of special interests. It is no coincidence, my friends--

And this is JOHN MCCAIN speaking--

that the 39 percent is the exact ownership percentage of Viacom and CBS. Why did they pick 39 percent? So that these two major conglomerates would be grandfathered in, purportedly, in order to reduce the media ownership, which was voted down 55 to 40 in the Senate. The fact is now they are endorsing Viacom and CBS's 39 percent ownership, grandfathering them in because they should have been at 35 percent.

In the words of Senator McCain:


It is clear from the examples, such as the rejection of's ad, that CBS and other media companies are dominant in a marketplace that exercises vast influence over what the American people can see on television. This is exhibit A in the case against media concentration.

Too much power has been given to media executives who now are going to pick and choose and censor the content of political material which we as Americans can see. They can decide on one hand that their friends will be favored with ads and then reject ads critical of their political friends as just too controversial for America to witness.

That is exactly what they have done on this ad. CBS is able to reject and anyone else whose views they disagree with because the executives know there are thousands of other companies standing in line ready to pay for ads during the Super Bowl.

It all comes down to this: Through years of deregulation, we have created a situation in America where massive media conglomerates, such as CBS, are operating without any effective oversight and with little or no feeling of responsibility to the public.

It used to be people remembered that the airwaves these TV stations use don't belong to these TV stations, they don't belong to the media giants, such as Viacom, they don't belong to CBS. They belong to you, me, and every American. We allow these companies to use the airwaves, and they make a fortune. We licensed them for that purpose. We used to say, before the Reagan administration changed the law: If you are going to use America's airwaves, you have to be fair in the use of the airwaves. The fairness doctrine was thrown out. Now the only standard is that they only have to serve the public interest.

It is such a vague term, "serve the public interest," that CBS, undoubtedly, can get by with rejecting ads for political reasons, such as their rejection of this ad. But if the public interest standard is to mean anything, it must require broadcast licensees to air diverse points of view on issues of national interest.

It is all right for me as an American to watch something on television with which, frankly, I disagree. Maybe I want to pick up the phone and call the station manager or register my complaint with one group or the other. Isn't that what free speech in America is all about? Not from CBS's point of view. From the CBS point of view, they will pick and choose what you can watch. Ads for beer with young folks doing things which maybe you don't want your children to see--not controversial. Ads by pharmaceutical companies for sexual dysfunction drugs you may not want your children to watch--not controversial. But an ad which says that our children are going to pay off a $1 trillion national debt created by this administration--over the line, way too scandalous, way too controversial. Children and good American families should not be subjected to that, in the eyes of CBS. I certainly disagree.

Broadcasters and executives running broadcast stations should remember that, first and foremost, they are journalists. They have a responsibility to the American people to speak the truth, to give us the information and let us decide. They have a professional and ethical obligation to be fair and balanced, even if it means they have to set aside their own political views and prejudices and perhaps--perhaps--just once in a while, step on the toes of their political allies and friends, even the ones who just handsomely rewarded them with the provision in the recent appropriations bill.

While broadcasters may wish to exercise their discretion in selecting ads that would run afoul of a community's decency standards, broadcasters should not and must not become censors of content. That is the fundamental promise of the first amendment. It is wrong for the Government to censor content. It is wrong for corporate stewards of our public airwaves to do so.

I hope the American people will not sit idly by and watch as these media giants, such as CBS, become bigger, more powerful, and decide just exactly what we as Americans will get to see on TV.

You can vote on the future of CBS here.

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January 29, 2004

valuation of intangibles for everyone 

Why valuation transparency has become the concern of every human being

If we leave it to 20th C business as usual all performance will get measured in financial transactions, even though their own books show that these measures have nothing to do (and compound conflict with) human relationship values. Although there are more technical ways to describe the 3 biggest intangible compasses that large organisations are currently not valuing : ask yourself about THE MAP's 3T's: What’s your Time worth? What is communal Trust worth wherever you share something vital with people; and what is Transparent safety at the borders between places or races or organisational responsibilities. Regarding the latter issue, we now know that most of the greatest accidents in human history were not the sole cause of one person or one organisation but where little by little safety/care eroded either by falling through the cracks that some borders stretch when people are measured separately or the hostilities that occur when 2 neighbours find no common ground to collaborate on and so rhetoric spins until they compete to the death.

This brings us to a critical issue : all the numbers 20th C managers used to control things buy their image of precision by separating things. They assume there is no interaction between these separate units or no compound impacts over time. Yet the major innovation our world is coming to terms with in networking technology puts a new premium on connectivity. We will never implement anything that has to do with networking without a second type of governance that audits connectivity with every bit as much attention as people are currently made measurable for separate performances. And there are a lot of things your children will need to master in learning virtually as well as doing for real. We need open agnencies to support them in their ways ahead, not to slam closed doors (or raise a toll) in their face at every networking junction.

There are many ways to play with the language of what human beings value growing apart from the token of money; do email us if you would like to try to co-edit the language to a context that matters to you. As one example, here is the start of a dialogue we are co-editing with the European Union network of excellence on knowledge management. Actually anyone interested can join the conversation here

One follow-up from earlier posting on CBS.: you take the 3T's lens to heart , you will never look at a big media business without questioning what its doing for your time, trust and eg nation brand?
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Cheating Culture 

I've just stumbled on the website for the the book "The Cheating Culture"Its news column includes


KPMG under heavy fire for selling illegal tax shelters



Parmalat scandal may cost investors up to $12 billion



Students at UVA plead mental insanity in cheating case

Electronic Piracy

Is the record industry's campaign of fear working? Insiders say no.


Financial Services

Mutual fund frauds cost typical investor $3,700, says study

An interesting looking set of links. The author discusses the pressures in American society that he believes are causing an increase in cheating - perhaps chief among them an increasing focus on numbers and targets
the last quarter-century has seen an intensification of bottom-line pressures. So there's more of a focus on profits in business but also in law and medicine and even nonprofit organizations are more focused on the bottom line, and people are under more pressure to produce. For example, 30 years ago, lawyers didn't turn in billable hours, and to the extent that they did, they weren't expected to work nearly the kinds of hours that they're expected to work now. Now, young lawyers at law firms have to keep track of everything they do during the day, all of their billable hours, and they're accountable to the partners as to how many hours they're billing, their billing expectations are up to 2,200 or 2,400 hours a year, and if they can't meet their quota, then they are the first to be fired during a downturn, or they're less likely to make partner, or they don't get a bonus ...
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Beyond CSR 

I find image-making with Corporate Social Responsibility sufficiently disreputable to have guest edited a special issue of Journal of Brand maangement last year asking when will brand and real CSR repair ech other's broken trust.

Seems that a deep hitting report following this up has just been issued by Christian Aid
Executive summary (extract)

'We have lived so long at the mercy of uncontrolled economic forces, that we have become sceptical about any plan for human emancipation. Such a rational and deliberate reorganisation of our economic life would enable us, out of the increased wealth production, to establish an irreducible minimum standard which might progressively be raised to one of comfort and security.'
Lord Harold Macmillan, UK Prime Minister 1957-63

All day a steady file of people make their way up and down the potholed main road running through Umuechem, going to and from a polluted stream that is now their only source of water. Large trucks thunder by at regular intervals, on their way to and from the oil pumping station on the outskirts of town. For, despite the lack of basic amenities, this is the oil-rich Niger Delta of southern Nigeria.

As well as taps that are dry, this town of 10,000 people also has a hospital that has never treated a patient, a secondary school where no lessons have ever been taught, a post office that has never handled a letter and a women's centre that has never held a meeting. All were supposed to have been supplied under 'community development' schemes, funded from oil money - local wells produce 15,000 barrels a day. But all have failed or remain unfinished.

Four of these projects were 'generous' gifts from the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria - the oil giant's subsidiary that runs the flow station near Umuechem and is the country's dominant oil company. The others, including the water system, came from the state-financed Nigeria Delta Development Corporation, which works alongside Shell - to similar effect.

Sadly, this story of failure is not new. In 1990, when the country was under military rule, local young people mounted a protest about the lack of such facilities. Shell called in the police, most of the town was burned to the ground and 80 people were killed. To this day, no one has received a penny in compensation and the basic amenities are still missing.

This is the story of corporate social responsibility - or CSR - writ large.

Certainly, it is a story that stands in stark contrast to Shell's professed commitment to 'core values of honesty, integrity and respect for people'.

Outside certain areas of business and investment and supporters in the public sector, few people will know much about what CSR is, where it comes from and how it works. If they have ever heard of it, they will probably just think that it sounds like a good thing (which it does, that is part of the point). But this is now a big, and growing, industry, seen as a vital tool in promoting and improving the public image of some of the world's largest corporations.

In simple terms, companies make loud, public commitments to principles of ethical behaviour and undertake 'good works' in the communities in which they operate. It sounds and looks like a modern version of selfless philanthropy and no doubt in many individual cases is motivated by a genuine wish to help and has led to some benefits. What's different is that companies frequently use such initiatives to defend operations or ways of working which come in for public criticism.

'We can't be so bad,' would go a company's clichéd CSR-backed response. 'Look at all the nice things we do.'

CSR, in other words, can merely become a branch of PR. Sometimes this looks like the only reason for spurts of development activity by large companies. Shell, for instance, was at the forefront of CSR in Britain, following the joint public relations disasters of the Nigerian government's execution of human rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and the row over Shell's plan to dump the Brent Spar North Sea oil platform - both in 1995. Certainly for some, such as those living in Umuechem, Shell's CSR programme has brought no tangible benefits.

Christian Aid, of course, supports responsible and ethical action by business. The problem with CSR, we say, is that it is unable to deliver on its grand promises.
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January 26, 2004

John if I only ate apples 

...I might find myself at the doctor's too
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January 25, 2004

What happens on the McDonalds diet? 

What happens on a 30 day diet of McDonalds? Find out in this from the New York Post...
Last February, Morgan Spurlock decided to become a gastronomical guinea pig. His mission: To eat three meals a day for 30 days at McDonald's and document the impact on his health.

Scores of cheeseburgers, hundreds of fries and dozens of chocolate shakes later, the formerly strapping 6-foot-2 New Yorker - who started out at a healthy 185 pounds - had packed on 25 pounds.

But his supersized shape was the least of his problems.

Within a few days of beginning his drive-through diet, Spurlock, 33, was vomiting out the window of his car, and doctors who examined him were shocked at how rapidly Spurlock's entire body deteriorated.
...and thanks to this entry in Robert Paterson's blog for the link.
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January 24, 2004

why you may never see the greatest ad ever made... 

the eye-catching opening second: ten-year olds working in a steelworks

cut several times to other big industry factory lines peopled by kids

no words just ominous sounding music for 20 seconds

then silence and 10 seconds for the caption :

who else did you think would be paying back America's debt?


If not the world's biggest conversation, I would have thought this should be one of America's biggest. But apparently CBS won't screen it even though American people have collected to pay the money their superbowl rate card demands. Unless there is an explanation that's currently alluding my grey cells, I conclude CBS and parent viacom don't believe in freedom of speech

A few years ago the idea that the public could rate a global empire the size of Andersen as too untrustworthy to be worth having around seemed unlikely. From all our research at Beyond-Branding, it seems time to rip down a big networked media company. Perhaps CBS is the goat that needs to be sacrificed; its not this company's first offence against public decency as the documentary on who tried to block freedom of speech in exposing how much tobacco companies new about addiction to deadly habits showed.

You can vote for the future of CBS here.

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Could "The Corporation" brand- film , book turn a tide in worldwide public opinion  

The Corporation: Could this film and book have an impact?- part 1
Chris Macrae
Book: " The Corporation - The Pathological Pursuit of Power"

Eminent Canadian law professor and legal theorist Joel Bakan contends the modern business corporation is created by law to function like a psychopathic personality.

Beginning with its origins in the sixteenth century, Bakan traces the corporation's rise to dominance. Simon and Schuster: “the most revolutionary assessment of the corporation since Peter Drucker's early works,” THE CORPORATION makes the following claims:

• Corporations are required by law to elevate their own interests above those of others, making them prone to prey upon and exploit others without regard for legal rules or moral limits.

• Corporate social responsibility, though sometimes yielding positive results, most often serves to mask the corporation's true character, not to change it.

• The corporation's unbridled self interest victimizes individuals, the environment, and even shareholders, and can cause corporations to self-destruct, as recent Wall Street scandals reveal.

• Despite its flawed character, governments have freed the corporation from legal constraints through deregulation, and granted it ever greater power over society through privatization.

Bakan urges restoration of the corporation's original purpose, to serve the public interest, and calls for re-establishment of democratic control over the institution. Concrete, pragmatic, and realistic reforms are proposed.

"This fine book was virtually begging to be written. With lucidity and verve, expert knowledge and incisive analysis, Joel Bakan unveils the history and the character of a devilish instrument that has been created and is nurtured by powerful modern states. They have endowed their creature with the rights of persons -- and by now, rights far exceeding persons of flesh and blood -- but a person that is pathological by nature and by law, and systematically crushes democracy, freedom, rights, and the natural human instincts on which a decent life and even human survival depends: the modern corporation. This incisive study should be read carefully, and pondered. And it should be a stimulus to constructive action -- not at all beyond our means, as the author outlines."
-Noam Chomsky
"Bakan's "The Corporation" is one of those rare books that opens up a new world. It's message is compelling-- and more important now than ever. With exquisite historical evocations and incisive contemporary examples, the author challenges us to recognize the flaws inherent in the very nature of the corporation and the practical possibilities for reform. You will want to have the book at hand for frequent reference for many years to come."
-Robert Monks

"Since Rachel Carson's Silent Spring began to expose the abuses of the modern industrial system, there has been a growing awareness that profit at the expense of Earth--of individuals, society, and the environment--is unsustainable. Joel Bakan has performed a valuable service to corporations everywhere by holding up a mirror for them to see their destructive selves as others see them. The clarion call for change is here for all who would listen."
-Ray Anderson

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January 23, 2004

Stepping back from the edge... 

I was pointed to the guys at The Edge, by my friend Carole Edrich, a risk guru, examiner and author. I had not been aware of it, but it seems to operate in the same space as GBN.

It seems there is an emerging body of evidence on the historic consequences of individualistic rationalism. Jared Diamond in particular writes beautifully and clearly on the making of bad decisions:

"This question, why societies make disastrous decisions and destroy themselves, is one that not only surprised my UCLA undergraduates, but also astonishes professional historians studying collapses of past societies. The most cited book on the subject of the collapse of societies is by the historian, Joseph Tainter. It's entitled The Collapse of Complex Societies. Joseph Tainter, in discussing ancient collapses, rejected the possibility that those collapses might be due to environmental management because it seemed so unlikely to him. Here's what Joseph Tainter said: "As it becomes apparent to the members or administrators of a complex society that a resource base is deteriorating, it seems most reasonable to assume that some rational steps are taken towards a resolution. With their administrative structure and their capacity to allocate labor and resources, dealing with adverse environmental conditions may be one of the things that complex societies do best. It is curious that they would collapse when faced with precisely those conditions that they are equipped to circumvent." Joseph Tainter concluded that the collapses of all these ancient societies couldn't possibly be due to environmental mismanagement, because they would never make these bad mistakes. Yet it's now clear that they did make these bad mistakes."

Read more at the site...

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McDonalds' Whopper Employee Incentive 

Tonight, I spotted the following official printed memo on a McDonalds back-office noticeboard in Milton Keynes, UK. I just wanted to blog it to illustrate the wonderful ways McDonalds is "caring" for its cash-starved employees. What a wonderful place to work if you can get these kinds of performance incentives. Who says the McJob doesn't exist... ??!!

Anyway, I shan't comment anymore. It's just too "litigiously" risky..... You be the judge of the meaning, relevance and authenticity of this statement ..!

(By the way, 50p=80 cents)

If you would like 50p an hour extra, are in need of some extra cash and have not got a performance review for another six months, well now your problems are solved... You could earn 50p an hour more, simply by ??? Just ask your shift manager for details on how to get to that little bit extra !!!<em>
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January 21, 2004

Stop Press on Connect the Disconnected 

Its always been a guideline of mine that the net's first great value multiplier is to connect the disconnected. When a powerful space like the World Economic Forum actually does that, we should register the first hurrah for "beyond world leaders as usual", and pray this wasnt a temporary aberration but the emergence of a new World Economic Order

With thanks to our
Rapporteur Lilly Evans:
I have just heard President Khatami of Iran at the opening of World Economic Forum focusing on the essential role of Dialogue. He spoke of "the world where dialogue becomes a principle we will be able to institutionalise". He highlighted two points, which have been also picked up immediately by Jack Straw, UK Foreign Affairs Minister:
"democracy is a HUMAN EXPERIENCE not a Western invention"
"democracy is a PROCESS not a revolutionary event"

Finally, perhaps the theme for our conversation here could be another point made by President Khatami that:
"solutions to economic (and social) problems will come through DIALOGUE to establish comunications and understanding, and overcome contradictions"
"democratic norms are not 'packaged goods' and get established through LONG YEARS of dialogue".


homepage of wef
WEF goes public
During the 2004 Annual Meeting, the World Economic Forum and civil society organizations - including church, non-governmental and non-profit organizations - will co-organize discussions for the general public. These events will be held in conjunction with our Annual Meeting 2004 under the heading “Open Forum Davos 2004”. The general theme of this second year edition is “Globalization or Deglobalization for the Benefit of the Poorest”. The debates will be in German and English with simultaneous translation into both languages. Webcasts will be available for all sessions (see programme below).

Wednesday 21 January

19.00 - 19.15: Introducing the Open Forum 2004
19.15 - 21.00: Do Labour Rights Partnerships Work?
Thursday 22 January
12.30 - 14.15: Trade Round: Where There Is a Will, There Must Be a Way
18.00 - 19.30: Is the Biodiversity Agenda Changing Companies' License to Operate?
Friday 23 January
18.00 - 19.30: Has Globalization Amplified the Risk of Financial Crises?
Saturday 24 January
12.30 - 14.00: Religion: Does Globalization Bring Salvation or Curse?
15.30 – 17.00: Can Civil Society Contribute to Peace?
17.30 - 19.00: Children Rights, Public Service or Market Rules?
Sunday 25 January
12.30 - 14.00: Globalization or Deglobalization for the Benefit of the Poorest?
14.00 - 14.15: Closing Remarks to the Open Forum 2004

On a less positive note, I note the usual suspects were convening a session on global brands at risk:

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Global Brands at Risk

Date: Wednesday, 21 Jan 2004
The world's most successful brands are often also cultural icons that embody national values. 1) To what extent do geopolitical events and subsequent shifts in public opinion actually affect global brands? 2) What strategies can companies adopt to protect brands from negative turns in public sentiment toward geopolitical events? 3) Can brands ever become truly global and transcend association with national values?

Moderated by

Nigel Roberts ** Vice-President, Europe Fleishman-Hillard


Bruce L. Blythe ** Chief Strategy Officer Ford Motor Company
Orit Gadiesh ** Chairman Bain & Company Inc.
Stelios Haji-Ioannou ** Chairman easyGroup
John A. Quelch ** Senior Associate Dean, International Development Harvard Business School
Sir Martin Sorrell ** Group Chief Executive WPP Plc
Sir Howard Stringer ** Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sony Corporation of America
Michael D. White ** Chairman and Chief Executive Officer PepsiCo International
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Open Research on What Branding isnt doing Well 

I am doing some research (email me, Chris Macrae ; will share a report of what people say- mention whether you want your contribution to be stated anonymously or with your name or with your name and email/web)

Looking from your professional view of the world at marketing/branding, what’s the worst case branding practice you’ve ever seen that you feel able to talk about (perhaps its happened to you as customer)?

Our reason for asking is:
-we at exist to try to clean up branding – to show this power doesn’t have to have the humanly depressing global impacts that Naomi Klein and her No Logo alumni rightly attribute to much of its current use in trying to make our profession transparent, we are delighted to swap experiences with other professions who may have nagging doubts about whether they are systemising the greatest impacts for customers or society or any other stakeholder of a sustainable corporation or industry network
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Radio 4 on a BB theme? 

Tony Quinlan tipped me off about this upcoming BBC Radio 4 programme.

Thinking Allowed
Channel: BBC Radio Four
Date: Wednesday 21st January 2004
Time: 16:00 to 16:30
Duration: 30 minutes.
Laurie Taylor investigates a business-led response to the claim that brands are the source of all evil.

I think you will find this available online after broadcast here.(At the time of writing it's featuring last week's programme)
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January 18, 2004

The Dinosaur's Last Belch 

We received one of those breakthrough questions from a member of our transparency communities at : what makes for owners trustworthy enough to multiply value for everyone involved in an organsaition?

We are registering people's answers at one of the 16 threads at but I thought the Dinosaur Last Belch story merits becoming a valuation brand in its own right

The precipice curve of compound change has a most unfortunate mathematical shape for OWNERS/SHAREHOLDERS who are not aware of it. Short-term your historic results will appear best ever, just before change or transparency destroys all of your value. As a transparency example, note how the business numbers out of Andersen's Texas unit were making the best ever numbers the firm had ever seen quarter after quarter until the light was shone on how they had actually been earned. From that second on all Andersen's reputation was being zeroised by the dynamics of intangibles law. The same precipice curve of compounding consequences governs those who lose any stakeholder's trust entirely or those who let a social change compound up on an organsiation without preparing every employee and every cultural patterning of the organisation to turn at the right time so that the change's exponential impacts and the company's deep contextual purpose sustain a huge forward roll rather than a Dinosaur's Last Belch.
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January 16, 2004

Virgin Hell? - Top 10 Mistakes of Losing Leadership Halo 

I don't know what all of these are - tell me

I actually do this as one last wake-up call because as a heavy air flight traveller Virgin has probably done more to improve the ordinary passenger's lot than all the airline companies of the world (excluding SW airlines which I hear great things of but it doesnt serve routes near me). I'd hate to see Virgin take even one more step over the precipice of distrust that comes from losing the brand leadership halo.

Format of 10-list is well known to late night americans and Lettermans -perhaps some will send an entry- doesnt have to be virgin

1 Having a pilot arrested drunk on tarmac of Dulles airport...

2 Reportedly letting a recent passenger fly from Dulles to London with 5 bullets in his coat pocket (1)

8 Having staff so used to praise that they fall apart when several people queue up with a legitimate complaint, which is now happening more and more often because all the little niceties that used to be inbuilt when Branson was acting as chief mystery customer seem to be evaporating now he feels as if he is retiring to more of a back seat driver

9 Posting my frequent flyer card in a parcel full of junk mail so that it never arrived (I'm usually not at home when the post comes,and I dont bother to collect parcels of un-notified post from postal courier depots open at off times). It took me months of elasped time & hours of correspondence to find out why I hadnt got my renewal card - apparently customer time doesnt matter in sorting out detailed and genuine complaints

10 Making it incredibly arduous to get more than 8cl (small glass of wine) within 30 minutes of inflight meal on transtlantic flights.

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January 14, 2004

Existence precedes essence: Lessons for Future Customer Innovation 

An intriguing article by James Ogilvy can be found in the latest edition of Strategy+Business, entitled “What Strategists can learn from Sartre” (registration required). Ogilvy’s thesis in a nutshell is that as individuals become more and more self-determining, independent and unpredictable in the post-modern era (i.e. they have discovered existential freedom and they are no longer bounded by expected norms and behaviours in keeping with their past behaviour or pre-defined ‘essence’) so marketers and business in general must adapt and respond by creating a capacity for “existential strategy” and “customised innovation”. I’ll let Ogilvy explain,

“The old production economy was predictable because it operated in the realm of necessity; it produced goods and services people needed, and those were relatively stable. The new economy plays in the realm of freedom; it produces goods and services for a customer who is not bound by needs. The old economy called for strategies built by engineers who could calculated according to predefined laws. The new economy calls for strategies created by existentialists who understand freedom. Most important of all the old economy operated at a regular pace, in the clockwork time of industrial production. The new economy lurches forward and backward in some new kind of time that was anticipated by the existential philosophers (Sartre, Heidegger etc..)”

Now it could be argued that an important aspect of the "paradox of choice" is that our ability to "rediscover ourselves" in individuated, existentialist terms has come about precisely as a result of the increased choices made available to us by the market economy. Of course, marketers will always argue that choice is the real killer value delivered by the seller-dominated marketing system. Without choice, people will not be as empowered as they are to achieve freedom in the first place. As Alan Mitchell writes in Right Side Up, “Choice is the marketers trump card. It sweeps away all the bad stuff, the inherent flaws and waste.”

But does it? If one part of the equation puts people in control – ubiquitous connectivity and information accessibility - there is another part that is taking us out of control. That is because while choice has proliferated in order to serve customers every need, people often lack the expertise and the time to evaluate all the choices. More information is only useful on the occasions when we want it and there are times when marketers and business simply overload us with choice.

Ogilvy acknowledges this and makes a clarion call for businesses to respond by acknowledging the role of existentialist thought in strategy-making..

.. "existentialism is a philosophy that stresses the importance and robustness of individual choice. In a world where it sometimes seems as though there are too many choices, and too little authoritative guidance in making those choices, existentialism provides a viable approach to strategy - perhaps the only viable approach"

By this he means that just as you and I can determine our own future free of any predefined essence or stereotype (our class, education, trade, income, material wealth, birthplace,parents), so businesses can do the same. They can embrace the foundations of existentialism to escape from the constraints or corporate essences of the past (industry sector, product line, marketing mindset, attitude to customer value, organisational structure etc etc) in order to embrace new and totally different possibilities for the future.

Ogilvy then goes on to define five principles of corporate existential strategy:

1. Finitude (or making hard decisions because you can't do everything). This is concerned with making strategy trade-offs where you have to say "No" to certain options otherwise you are not making strategy. This fits with our own personal need to shake-off excess and the curse of plenitude!

2. Being-toward-death - "If you think your life is not finite, if you think you're immortal, then you may act as if you've got time for anything. If you follow the existentialists in dwelling on death however, each day of your life will gain both preciousness and a sense of existential urgency", Ogilvy writes. To get by, firms need to paint vivid future scenarios of their fit in a changing world. Being toward death provides the immediate motivation to take the actions necessary to avoid corporate strategy decay and ultimately death. This is exactly what The Support Economy aims to achieve... the arguments in which are borne of the paradox of our existential freedom, the surfeit of choice and complexity thrown up by the market economy and the need for firms to innovate around distributed capitalism to embrace these opportunities before they die a slow death ...

3. Care - The concept of "Care" is used by Ogilvy to denote how firms need to be concerned with breaking free of their past, and to care enough about change to reinvent themselves. I think however that his analysis here is a tad too firm-centric. As he points out, "care is a feature that differentiates human beings from purely cognitive, Cartesian creatures. Sure, we think, we calculate, we cogitate. But we do so in a way that is different from how computers do it". The problem with most business strategy is that it is precisely founded on a technical rationalist justification for human behaviour where people become an object(ive) in the firms personal goal to create value for itself. The concept of "Care" should therefore be used, I argue, to denote how organisations need to adopt a more human-centric, participative dialogical view of relationships and real human needs, not just one focusing on what the organisation cares enough about.

4. Thrownness - This, Ogilvy says, is concerned with just "how far" it is possible to change. He argues that firms should understand their past and core competencies, "know them, use them and don't forget them" yet at the same time, avoid "coasting on the extrapolations from the past". It takes "a dancing existentialist" to see the vast possibilities of the future.

5. Authenticity - Finally, Ogilivy includes one of our favourites in his five principles of existentialist strategy. Authenticity, he suggests is not about being true to yourself, "but also openness to the possibilities of the future - not just one possibility, but several possibilities. Feel free to reinvent yourself and your company for an uncertain future", Ogilvy writes.

So what can we make of all this? I agree with the essence (pardon pun) of what Ogilvy is saying. Whilst corporations plough a familiar furrow, individuals are changing and morphing into new forms, creating new needs, building new connected and authentic relationships and generally bypassing the corporate line. In terms of marketing segmentation for example, the all-too-convenient method for boxing consumers into common groups for CRM and other business applications, people are effectively leaping out of one segment and into another as they seek to fulfil different, sometimes the same, needs.

For businesses, one way to address this unpredictability is to 1) acknowledge and 2) build a powerful new capacity for customer innovation; one that moves out of their "own box" and into new realms and possibilities for creating (or co-creating) more personalised customer experiences and solutions. Only then can organisations play a more meaningful and connected role by helping people to live more meaningful, authentic lives - or in other words, creating positive context....
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The Corporation 

Robert Paterson links to this review of a new documentary, The Corporation. A fascinating and provocative review of what sounds like a fascinating and provocative film. The dirty linen of corporations down the years washed before your eyes on screen.
With interviews from the usual gang of lefties - Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, et all - The Corporation could easily have been a yelling, screaming, chanting case of shaking your fist at the wind, but it must be said that the people constructing this film have done so with academic impartiality and impeccable depth. Michael Moore rightly points out that, though the company that will distribute this film will undoubtedly not agree with its contents, or Moore's words, it will still sell the film because it doesn't actually believe in anything but pure profit. Moore is pretty clear, and undeniably right - a CEO will sell you the rope with which to hang him, as long as there's a profit in it.

But not every CEO it seems. Interface Carpet CEO Ray Anderson had an epiphany a few years ago that not a single corporation on the planet was a sustainable one. Every large company takes more out of the earth than it gives back, and when you come to grips with that point, it's no great leap to realize there has to be a limit placed on that kind of imbalance if we're to avoid killing ourselves. Pump crap into the oceans for long enough and you have an ocean of crap - so where do you pump that?

Anderson has become an advocate for responsible corporate life, managing to keep his company's raw material and pollution intake from rising at all over the last few years, while still managing to increase profits by $200m and maintain his company's place as the biggest carept manufacturer in the world. As Anderson describes the way he used to run his business, he's almost in tears. If only a few other CEOs had a tenth of his humanity.
After reading this review, you may find yourself accepting the closing recommendation:
Set aside three hours of your life and watch The Corporation. Hunt it down, find it, any way you can. I just watched 750 people sit down as capitalists and stand up yelling for change. I witnessed people throwing brand name products into garbage cans afterwards in disgust. I witnessed hundreds signing on to email lists for more information about how they can help change the world. I saw an audience moved to exact change on the world around them, to take back what was once theirs and maybe one day can be again.

Normal documentaries don't have that kind of an effect on an audience. Normal documentaries don't give you enough to get truly fucked off at what is being done to us. The Corporation, to be sure, is far from a 'normal' documentary. This is the kind fo filmmaking that could, if seen on a large scale, change the society we live in.
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Beyond irony 

Spotted at the Selfridges sale in London, by someone attending a debate on sustainability yesterday... Big signs around the store saying...
You want it
You buy it
You forget it

Buy me I'll change your life

It's you
It's new
It's everything
It's nothing
Even in irony, the arch motivation of the double-bluff shines through. Just the sort of valueless nonsense that gives branding its terrible reputation.
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January 13, 2004

Brands as Cultures 

In a debate about motivation in organisations on Chris Corrigan's blog, Robert Paterson comments on why some can't engage their staff. He says
I suspect that their cultural immune system is too powerful. This inability to change culture is I think opening up the competitive window of our time.

For instance, all the traditional airlines know that Southwest gets its low costs by its flexibility and gets its flexibility from its staff culture. Yet, they, the traditional airlines, cannot respond. They cannot change their command and control culure. Consequently, they are prepared to die as organizatins rather than give up their culture.
This observation resonates strongly and calls attention to one of the challenges where branding has frequently failed. A combination of instrumental thinking by marketers and a general obsession with "best practice" rather than celebrating the more complex qualities of being human, probably drives out the kind of spirit that characterises Southwest.
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January 11, 2004

Network age Failure of Management to become Transparent will cost all 

I'll sure be first in line to read Prahalad's book. Most corporations haven't woken up to the fact that management is the least productive thing you can do of any human stuff - brands, people, value , measurement, systems etc - unless you are going to go beyond systemising just hierarchy and complete a triangle- above hierarchy is networks across organisations, below it is self- and co-organising so that grassroots innovation such as the customer demands is core. It would be good if brands, which accidentally strayed into being one of the worst command & control short-sighted instruments -guilty on the global scene largely as charged by Naomi Klein - could help other professions go beyond in embraing al 3 subsystems of management transparently - whether they will depends ultimately I suppose on whether anyone bothers to interact with this blog, our book, any of us individually or at the communal meetings we stage around the world about 3 times a year
future orgs

It also depends on management coming out on a little matter of mathematics. Every corporate report I've ever seen fails o'level maths because it nevers does more than add numbers whereas the most valauble models of corporations (in service, knowledge or networked economies) are now multiplicative. To break out numbers separately and petend they add is the most false sort of precision that any class could try to use to enslave other people. It is time for managers who believe in ruling only by addition to have their heads cut off. I'll be speaking about this on the first corporate goverance world congress in Canada next week.

Chris, 2004 Year of Transparency
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January 08, 2004

Co-creating value 

Chris Lawer's blog points to Prahalad's upcoming book, The Future of Competition: Co-creating Unique Value with Customers.
Increasingly, individual customers interact with a network of firms and consumer communities to co-create value. No longer can firms autonomously create value. Neither is value embedded in products and services per se. Products are but an artifact around which compelling individual experiences are created. As a result, the focus of innovation will shift from products and services to experience environments that individuals can interact with to co-construct their own experiences. These personalized co-creation experiences are the source of unique value for consumers and companies alike.
I hope the authors have read Beyond Branding, especially chapters like Whose Brand is it Anyway? and Brand, Dynamic Valuation, and Transparent Governance of Living Systems We're strong believers that the connected economy makes much conventional brand thinking redundant and antisocial.
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January 06, 2004

Communicating Any Organisation's Big Story 

In olden days, Unilever marketed consumer goods across the developing countries emerging from the old British & Dutch empires. Consumer goods mainly meant products which women bought to improve family life. Unilever's big story was the loop between giving self-confidence to women consumers who had hard - and often culturally underprivileged lives - and training local people wherever Unilever businesses were planted in developing countries. Wow if only Unilever's essence had been systematically maintained these last 2 decades, it would be playing a role today in assembling corporations that felt like helping bridge the divides between East & West with the love and trust of all the women -and the cultural diversity of family grassroots - of the world.

If you think you know a Corporation's Big Story and would like us to register it here, please rehearse its rays of light with us by emailing Chris Macrae
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January 02, 2004

Who's Reporting from 2004, Year of Transparency 

Together with the Intangibles Crisis Union, I am inviting 12 professions to provide continuous editorial columns (from our home page) with us during 2004, Year of Transparency. Let's leave tangible experts to waste management time at the lasst decimal point level of value and animate the conversations on where there's a lot more value of all. After 21 years of studying networks and globalistion - we know lots of applications for opening up great win-wins.
The question is apart from branding, which professions and vocations should we invite? For example, let's think laterally - rather than CSR, I would prefer to have correspondents representing what the biggest humanitarian networks are asking big organisiations to respond to so that we take Corporate Social Responsibility way beyond the average practice of the Enron generation!
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