Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Immigration: the conversation begins

Jack Yan: the Persuader Blog: Immigration in New Zealand: a fair and balanced look

I mentioned the other day that I hoped my Idealog article would start a conversation. It has, on Jack's blog. When you touch on immigration, you discover stories, sometimes sad ones, sometimes uplifting ones.

Come on New Zealand, let's make our story a great one.

Logistics Viewpoint: Generation Y

Logistics Viewpoint: Generation Y

Some interesting data on Gen Y from an employment point of view. See also my comments around Generation C.

Monday, 26 February 2007

How Darwin changed the world

I've been enjoying the "biography" of Darwin's Origin of Species which charts the genesis of Darwin's ideas right through to their modern applications.

I'm not a scientist, and this post is not about science but about marketing. How did Darwin's ideas have the impact they had?

The third chapter of this book offers some clues to the secret of Darwin's success:
  • His writing style: reasonable, humble, cohesive. Evolution wasn't a new idea in 1859, but it had never been presented so completely. Darwin also adopted a personal and writing style that was personable, calm, and inoffensive in style. His naturally friendly nature was a great help in getting across some truly revolutionary ideas.
"Much later on, his son Francis Darwin said this pleasant style of writing was characteristic of his father in 'its simplicity, bordering on naivete, and in its absence of pretence ... His courteous and conciliatory tone towards his reader is remarkable, and it must be partly this quality which revealed his personal sweetness of character to so many who had never seen him.'"
  • He told stories, even if by accident. Originally Origin of Species was meant to be longer, but the impending release of a competing book meant Darwin compressed his argument more than he would have liked. But it seems to have worked.
"Few scientific texts have been so closely woven, so packed with factual information and studded with richly inventive metaphor." ... "Hardly daring to hope that he might initiate a transformation in scientific thought, he nevertheless rose magnificently to the occasion."
  • He had a network of trusted friends and associates who appreciated his ideas and embraced them in their own work. Although they varied on specifics - some believed in God, for example - they were united in their support of Darwin's work. Social networks mattered, long before the word blog ever existed.
"These four supported Darwin wholeheartedly even while pointing out flaws in his evidence or reasoning. They stood united, gathering their own disciples and followers, engaging in individualised battles on Darwin's behalf but also moving the debate further and wider, drawing in other thinkers, other topics, other implications, in an incremental process that ultimately generated major transformations in cultural attitudes and scientific thought. With Darwin busy in the background writing letters, these four recruited a standing army, commandeered the journals, invaded the learned societies, monitered the universities, dominated dinner parties and penetrated the byways of empire."

Being reasonable, telling stories, and making friends. Doesn't sound so hard - as long as the idea is a powerful one.

Come to New Zealand if you're smart

It's out now: the article I worked on for three months.

New Zealand has an opportunity to passionately participate in the global economy - by seeking out and welcoming talented people from around the globe.

It's a story of stories. While there are many facts and figures out there that point to the value of diversity, I found more powerful the stories of creative individuals who used their outsiderness to help themselves and their new country.

Vincent Heeringa talks more about immigration (though, sadly, not my article!) in this week's Kiwi FM Idealog podcast.

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us

This rendered me speechless. A very eloquent description of what might be happening in the world.

What gives you life?

It's such a busy time, but I couldn't do without my walk.

Five hours' sleep last night, and plenty to get on with today, but walking is one of those things that gives me life.

Walking reminds me I am alive. The fresh air, the movement, and the other people on the road. Saw some great smiles this morning!

I also love the opportunity to listen to podcasts while I walk. This morning I heard two motivating, inspiring interviews:

  1. How to influence upward - Anna Farmery's interview with Marshall Goldsmith, who wrote the book How to influence upward. Did you know that people spend an average of 10-15 hours a month complaining about their boss? Marshall talks about how that energy can be redistributed more productively.
  2. From the author of Fish!, a new book, Cats! The Knowledge Gym's Mike Doughty interviewed Dr Steven Lundin about stimulating genuine innovation and fun at work. I really like where this guy's coming from. Why Cats? Because they're curious, and according to Dr. Lundin, that's the best place to start with innovation!
I'm discovering that I can't afford not to partake in these life-restoring activities like walking, prayer, listening to music, and even making some of my own (okay, so sometimes the result is not pretty, but it's therapy, okay?)

Have a great day, and don't forget to do what gives you life!

What do I do again?

Another late night, and I'm writing again.

But actually, that is a good thing! I've been doing precious little writing lately, and for a writer, that's no good.

I did consider changing the company name to "Simon Young Talkers", "Simon Young Schmoozers" or, as I negotiated the awful Auckland traffic today, "Simon Young Wait-at-Traffic-Lighters".

But no, writing it is. And, much to my surprise, this year the plural "Writers" actually means something. I'm currently experiencing just enough abundance to be able to reactivate the subcontractor arrangement set up oh so many years ago now. Long may this abundance continue!

And the talking and schmoozing is likely to continue, too. I've got the Hitwise Online Performance Awards to go to tomorrow night, and the Marketing Awards on Friday night. I pick up the tux tomorrow!

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Rites of Passage

On February 20th, 1860, one of New Zealand's first indigenous Maori Anglican vicars - Reverend Raniera Kawhia - was ordained at Whareponga Marae in the remote eastern village of Ruatoria.

I was privileged to be in that exact spot, 147 years later to the date, as Raniera's great-great-great-granddaughter, Pane Kawhia, followed in his footsteps.

About 30 of us from theSanctuary congregation journeyed to the East Cape this weekend to celebrate with Pane, who until recently was among our congregation before "going Anglican".

After a traditional liturgical service in English and Maori, hundreds of people gathered for a massive banquet in the town centre of Ruatoria. As people stepped up to the mic to share their thoughts and best wishes for Pane, I marvelled at how much influence just one person can have.

The whole weekend also got me thinking about rites of passage. Pane was in a unique and privileged position to hear what people were saying about her. Normally those words are saved for eulogies, where they - sadly - can't encourage the people they speak of.

Both the traditional Anglican service and the Maori protocol of being welcomed onto a marae have traditional roots that somehow reach the heart, even if you're neither Maori nor Anglican. If I were thinking about efficiency - as we Westerners are prone to do - both of these traditions seem outdated and long-winded. But what purpose do they serve?

Maybe they create space for reflection. As my eyes glazed over during the Maori sermon (although I tried to pick up as many words as I knew), I noticed wild mountain goats climbing on the rock face above. Amazing.

The weekend also brought home to me the amazing power of community. By being in each other's space for three days, we got to know each other, warts and all. Thankfully our trademark is "being real" and there were no surprises - except perhaps for the odd standout performance on the karaoke floor.

An amazing story about cable TV and love

Jason Harper is a pastor somewhere in America. He preached a message about the importance of "getting into the gutter" with people, only to be chastised by an old lady in his church.

"How can you talk about getting into the gutter when you work in a church all the time?" she asked.

It got to him, and Jason set about looking for one of the hardest jobs he could take. He wanted to keep it legal, so drug dealing or pimping was out of the question, but debt collection seemed to fit the criteria of "despised profession".

His experiment: to see if he could do the job, and also bring the reality of the gospel message into people's lives.

How did he go? Can you do the work successfully, as well as loving people?

Find out.

Friday, 16 February 2007

And away we go...!

I'm off to Ruatoria for the weekend, staying on the marae and helping celebrate the ordination of a friend into the Anglican ministry. I'm steeling myself for a loong bus ride - thankfully I'll be in the company of friends, and if it gets bad I've got some magazine reading to catch up on.

So I'm just milking the last few hours of high technology until Sunday evening. While checking my emails I discovered there's a discussion forum going on around a book I've just bought, Wake Me Up When the Data Is Over: How Organizations Use Stories to Drive Results.

I love the title. It's up there with Stop the Meeting I Want to Get Off!. If you're interested, the discussion is over at Virtual Chautauqua.

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Mad films - finding the funny in life

Extremely tired, I watched He Died with a Felafel in His Hand last night. Some good laughs. Very good laughs!

From a story structure, it's pretty episodic, but that randomness kind of builds nicely. The humour was in some cases classic (cliched?), but it worked because of the good actors...

Like two completely unrelated conversations interweaving, and the resultant double-entendres.
Like somebody giving a big announcement ("I'm gay") and everyone else being underwhelmed ("Do we have any lollies?").
Like recurring gags - main character Danny (the talentedly droopy Noah Taylor, who I recognised but didn't know it from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) being in the bath when the doorbell rings, swearing, and going underwater. Or being at his Underwood typewriter when the doorbell rings, swearing, and smacking his head on said typewriter.

Matter of fact, there was a lot of swearing. Sometimes it was funny, but - and maybe this is just because I haven't lived in a flat like the ones portrayed here - it did seem a bit overkill sometimes.

So the student-y anarchist pretentious artist part of me loved this movie, absolutely loved the pop culture and art culture references. The part of me that is aware that I am over 30 thought it was a bit childish and pretentious. But that didn't stop me from enjoying it.

From an amateur sociologist's point of view, I found it an interesting and searching view of my generation. It reminds me of the book Urban Tribes, in that there's a generation delaying marriage until their mid-30s, and therefore lacking the traditional "ties that bind" of family and marriage, and therefore seeking other bonds. That may explain the cryptical references that start halfway through the film, where everyone - everyone - who meets Danny, says "Your Mum says hi, you really should call her." Weird.

It reminded me of I Heart Huckabees, which I don't know if I've reviewed yet. I absolutely loved Huckabees, and it had more of a storyline that Felafel didn't have.


I nearly forgot about the "finding the funny" part. I heard a podcast recently about finding the funny in life, and realised that - thank God - I do that regularly. I laugh out loud easily, about stupid things.

Latest thing, just as I started writing this post, was a phrase from the Economist podcast, saying Rudy Giuliani used to live with "three gay men and a chihuahua". A chihuahua? That's outrageous!!

Ah, whatever gets you laughing. Ha.

The future is full of real people

It's a theme I've heard over and again - the disintermediated future means we can be ourselves.

This has implications for media, marketing, employment, everything.

In the mass media world, we presented the "one size fits all" version of ourselves. We dress conservatively, don't discuss our views on certain subjects, and maintain a general positivity.

In the niche world, which seems to be on its way, we do, be and say whatever the hell we want to. Examples:
  • 42Below vodka's viral advertising
  • Diggnation - watch these guys get drunk, swear gratuitously (although sometimes they say frickin' instead of the fruitier alternative) and be incredibly geeky
Okay, so that's only two examples. But I believe this is the way of the future. And it affects employment, too.

A podcast I heard yesterday from The Engaging Brand talked about incorporating emotion into the workplace. Good listening! I particularly liked what the host, Anna Farmery, does at the end of every meeting: asking each person "what are you thinking, what are you feeling about what we've just discussed?"

She also made the important point - this question needs to be asked in a context where all feelings are legitimate, ie there's not a 'correct' answer to this question.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

"Deadlines" is one letter short of deadliness

Just been working on two projects where I wrote at length about blogging. Sad thing is, I haven't had time to blog or even read blogs lately... Looking forward to next week which should be a bit quieter (never say never...).

Headlines of note:
  • The top secret project I'm involved in is going to be an Open Source Film. A documentary of sorts. A soulscape / soul grab / soul capture. And it's going to be about Generation C. (Hey don't let the fact that it's secret stop you from asking questions!)

  • I'm on Second Life now - as Gerontius Wunderlich (that's my user name). I've only just learnt how to stop walking through things, and how to fly. Again, time is a crucial factor. But looking forward to exploring this new world and its people.

  • Darwin's Origin of the Species: A Biography has been a fascinating read so far, especially in the keys to the book's influence and success. And no, I'm not a Darwinist, and yes, I'm still enjoying reading the book.

  • Went to an interesting talk yesterday from Jim Scheinman, VP of sales and business development for Bebo, all the way from San Francisco. Best quote: "Online social networking is a much more efficient way to know your friends, and to stay friends." I get it, but efficiency in friendship still sounds bizarre! Still, Jim's words about engagement marketing really rang true, and judging by the numbers there, marketers are taking notice.

  • Speaking of engagement marketing, a Jehovah's Witness just knocked on the door. They have terrible sales and marketing, but maybe it's improving. Just one person this time, and moderately attractive (although I guess that's the luck of the draw - no offence to any ugly JW's out there!), and instead of the usual foot-in-the-door spiel, just "we're leaving these brochures with you and your neighbours". No long arguments, no hairsplitting, not even any "what do I have to say to get rid of these people". Welcome to the 21st century, Jehovah's Witnesses. Next thing Cobra will learn the same lesson. Or not!

  • Interesting podcasts I've heard recently: Behind the YouTube hits (very good listening!) and Breakthrough Ideas for 2007 (take notes - this is good stuff)
Right. On to the deadliness.

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Customer disservice - my cover story for Marketing Magazine

It's out on newsstands now (well, the discerning ones) - Marketing Magazine with my latest story, Customer Disservice. (I preferred my original title of "Is the Customer Dead Yet?")

You'll need to buy the dead tree edition to read this article, but you can get a free online peek at my online column, this month entitled "It's all about the people".

People. That seems to be the common thread through all my articles. I'm either getting old (highly unlikely), getting a hobby horse (semi-likely), or I'm becoming an expert!

Better than I would have said it

This article from Christianity Today echoes the sentiments of my last post, and better than I said it.

I'm mentally composing a post about why I mention God so often in a blog about ... well, everything. If I were a reader it would bother me and I'd want to know, so ... stay tuned.

Saturday, 3 February 2007

How seeing God as judge could cause world peace

I've been reading with interest some of the comments and columns following Auckland Anglican Archbishop Richard Randerson's admission of agnosticism.

I particularly enjoyed Keith Rowe's piece on a "chance to renew a sense of God". But I had to pause at this paragraph:

Some want to recapture a sense of God as the all-powerful being whose chief work is that of judge. It is the very image of God that has authored wars, crusades and intolerance.
I see where he's coming from, but I disagree.

What Keith may be drawing on are the times in history when men took themselves to be God's natural agents of judgement, and did really stupid things that had less to do with God and perhaps more to do with the politics of the day.

He's not seeing the other times in history when great good came from people becoming aware of God's judgement. The English revival spearheaded by the Wesley brothers helped prevent a revolution in England like the one in France. The Welsh revival of 1905 had such a powerful effect on society that the police had to form a choir for lack of law enforcement work. The principles of law became internalised, as people met the Source of all truly just laws.

When God is judge, that means I am not. Nor is anyone else on this earth. Yes, there is social responsibility and leadership at all levels of society, but it is all delegated authority. That means there is an element of stewardship - responsibility that goes along with every privilege.

I have had experiences where I have known the utter fear of God. There's no other word for it - it is genuine fear. But it is a fear that liberates as well as convicts. It's very hard to describe unless you've experienced it. And the counterfeit - fear of God as imposed by humans - is truly awful.

Those times when I have experienced the fear of God stay with me. They remind me of my responsibility not just to other people, who can't watch my every move, but to God who chooses to live inside me.

If we really could grasp who God is, the judge and the healer, this world would truly be a better place. But that can only happen one person at a time. And for right now, I guess that one person is me.