March 15, 2008

hugh & the rabbi, episode 3



Johnnie, Mark and Rabbi Pinny all gathered for our semi-regular podcast. It was so far my favorite show, by a long shot. I think we're slowly getting the hang of it. Rock on.

The Show Notes:

The conversation begins with a document from 2002 that Mark e-mailed us all, entitled “Beyond Selfishness”. So why did he send it to us?

1.10 Mark: I was recommended this document a few years ago by a client, and I found it really expressed passionately the ideas I was starting to have, about where we were going wrong with Capitalism.

1.45 Mark: The document contradicted certain very common ideas in business- “The Heroic Manager”, or “Shareholders are the only people who matter in a business” etc.

2.18 Pinny: The document reflects something much larger going on in our times: The ever-growing need and demand for people, especially leaders, to be more “transparent” and “accessible”.

3.15 Hugh asks the question: Do y’all see this happening all over in real life, or is this something most of us are just paying lip service to?

3.40 Pinny: It’s something that really started with the internet companies, but spreading outwards. Mentions Mark Zuckerberg: Somebody worth $15billion yet still shows up for work wearing no socks.” The big companies will still stay the same, but the change will come from the newer, younger companies.

4.30 Hugh talks about a conversation he had with a few people inside Microsoft- how there’s a generation gap growing within the company, between the Old Guard, and the new generation of Microsofties, who see their company in much more open, organic terms.

5.45 Johnnie talks about how all these “Web 2.0” tools [that simply were not available 10 years ago] allow people to conduct business on a far more organic, natural and HUMAN manner, in a nimble and agile way that big companies simply will not be able to compete with. “The Revolution will not be televised, because it’s already happening around us.”

8.00 Pinny: The internet allows human beings to “Tap into the Infinite”.

9.15 Hugh: I’ll always go back to Euan Semple’s comment: “What makes the internet interesting is Love.”

9.30 Mark: The internet is about people, not technology, not machines. However the “machine” is the abiding metaphor for business and government.

11.00 Hugh asks Pinny: Being a guy who has a large business, how do you balance the need to “Grasp The Infinite” with the more prosaic realities of running a business- meeting payroll, paying suppliers etc etc.

11.30 Pinny: The way to make the balance to understand what the “Purpose” of the business is, and then make sure the wheels underneath are running.

12.30 Pinny tells a great story about “The Fifteen Hats”, when he, his brother and two others first started the company. They literally put eleven hats on the table, each one labelled with one of the eleven executive job titles, and then they shared the hats out amongst themselves. Now Pinny’s company has 100 employees, ergo “100 Hats”. In 8 years, their company has never had one person quit. Which for an internet company, is a “pretty big deal”.

13.50 Mark: Every manger would LOVE to have their employees loving their work, love coming into work, but simply won’t have this by treating people like “numbers” or a “piece of resource”.

14.20 Johnnie: How we’re saddled with this idea of “Homo Economicus”. If we’re not going to buy into the “Rational Man” model, then we have to get used to talking about concepts like “Love” and “The Infinite”.

15.45 Pinny: I believe the companies that “get this message across” are going to be the ones that will succeed.

16.25 Hugh asks Johnnie: So when we’re talking about things like “Love” and whatnot, how do you educate your big corporate clients with all this stuff?

17.00 Johnnie: I remain optimistic. Most people who work at a company know the company works not because of their rigid models, but people’s willing ness to work around those models. Most people are “just one intervention away” from a more human relationship with the company.

18.30 Hugh talks about The Blue Monster, and how it came about. “I didn’t invent something for them to believe, a-la mission statement, I just articulated a belief that was already there.”

20.45 Mark talks about working with a client of his, a large TV company. How he got them to articulate a shared sense of purpose, rather than a “mission statement”.

22.00 Hugh: If you look at all the great brands that have emerged in the last 2 decades [Nike, Starbuck’s etc], one thing they have in common: They’re all GREAT at “articulating belief”.

22.30 Mark: A lot of the current marketing schtick is about imposing something that isn’t there. Which what makes so much of it false, shallow and objectionable in the real world. Maybe the job of marketers in the future will be to “articulate what’s already there”.

23.00 Hugh talks about working on the McDonald’s advertising account in 1997. “Stay Hungry”. Conclusion: The stuff that makes companies interesting is the same stuff that makes the Bible, the Torah and the Iliad interesting.

27.00 Pinny: When a company grows, the thing they must remember is the beliefs they had that got them there in the first place. Not always an easy thing to do.

28.00 Mark talks about the disaster of Quaker Oats buying the Snapple brand. The got into serious trouble because “They didn’t know how to handle a company built on belief”.

31.00 Mark: The marketing myth of “Best Practices”.

31.45 Pinny tells a great story about one of his favorite marketing campaigns. Advertising for Zappos Shoes, inside the plastic buckets they use in American airport security, of all places.

33.00 Hugh talks about being a Jeff Buckley fanboy re. Playfulness and virtuosity- a powerful combo- in marketing, as much as in music etc.

35.30 Hugh talks about “Innocent Drinks”, a brand that comes up pretty much in 90% of all British branding conversations. “Minor Interventions of Happiness”.

36.50 Pinny talks about “The A-Ha! Moment” in all very successful [and very unsuccessful] marketing campaigns.

37.15 Johnnie: “The Tyranny of Big Ideas”. Talking about Improv Theatre: “When you try to take too much control, you take away the humanity from the process.”

38.50 Pinny: “There are no Big Ideas. There are only Little Ideas.”

40.43 [FINIS]


Posted by hugh macleod at March 15, 2008 10:37 PM | TrackBack

@Pinny - Italian airports do the coin for charity thing. I've seen it done at Bologna Airport. And you're right, people respond to it.

@Johnnie - small ideas matter a great deal.

Thank you all for the inspiration.

Posted by: Valeria Maltoni at March 16, 2008 7:22 PM