Saturday, April 07, 2007

Great Writing of the Day: "The Suetonius of Sleaze"

"The Suetonius of Sleaze"

As a writer, sometimes I just have to sit back and marvel at the appropriateness of a turn of phrase. The juxtaposition of the famed ancient Roman historian with the modern sleaze of Times Square; the alliterative nickname, complete with allusion to Ruthian "Sultan of Swat" and rich with the aural joy of simply pronouncing "Suetonius"; all work together to create a layered and entertaining experience that passes by in less than three seconds as a throwaway parenthetical.

The fact that it comes in a Time Magazine review of a Tarantino movie only makes it more enjoyable!

It's Easy To Be Remarkable. So Why Don't We Do It?

I read a great little post in FastCompany about how valuable and easy it can be for a business to create a sense of abundance and generosity:
When I arrived, the restaurant was packed and we were told we'd have to
wait a short while for a seat. The wait ended up being a minute or two, and in
the interim we were offered a selection of donut holes.

This place doesn't make people wait to get fed, Andy said. He
explained that depending on the time of day a selection of extras were offered
to diners, everything from donut holes to prunes. After dinner, customers were
given a free scoop of ice cream.

"I mention this place in my book," Andy said. "Donut holes are not
much, but it makes a difference to people. People will talk about it with their

In the end, a rational economic analysis would say that donut holes, prunes, and free ice cream are a cheap way to buy goodwill. But that's not the point. The point is that these little perks are a reflection of an attitude of generosity and caring for the customer...and they are a hell of a way to generate goodwill and word of mouth.

Whether you're running a business, or simply trying to manage your social life, take 5 minutes to think about how you can create a (genuine) reputation for generosity and abundance, simply by showing a little kindness and courtesy.

Should We Use Science To Take Away Rights?

I ran across this little doozy of an article about teen brain development:

Neurological researchers around the country, spearheaded by Jay Giedd of the National Institute of Mental Health, have in recent years found that the brain is not fully developed until after 18. The brain system that regulates logic and reasoning develops before the area that regulates impulse and emotions, the researchers say.

The implication?

"Adolescents are at an age where they do not have full capacity to control themselves," he [Temple University psychologist Laurence Steinberg] says. "As adults, we need to do some of the controlling."

While I am certainly pro-science, something about this attitude makes me very queasy.

As a thought experiment, simply substitude "African-Americans" or "hourly workers" for "adolescents." Not quite so innocuous anymore, is it?

Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Blog?

Bruce Nussbaum notes that while senior executives are busy investing in many aspects of Web 2.0 (63% for web services, 28% for peer-to-peer networks, and 19% for social networks), only 16% are investing in blogs.

Bruce argues, "Managers in general still worry about loss of control with blogs. Letting their employees and consumers into the conversationn and allowing them their say frightens them."

I think Bruce is definitely correct that managers worry about the loss of control, but I think it's also true that it's not always easy to get your employees to blog.

I tried to launch an employee blogging initiative at my company, with senior management blessing, but none of our employees wanted to be bloggers. Even having our VP Sales directly order his people to blog had no effect--I got the distinct sense that a lot of people would rather be fired than blog!

Bloggers have to remember that something that seems as natural as breathing to them still scares the hell out of people--not for the loss of control, but simply because it's new and different. And for every grandma blogger, there are legions more who don't.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Stat of the Day: Paid Maternity Leave

Out of 168 countries surveyed by Jody Heymann, who teaches at both the Harvard School of Public Health and McGill University, the U.S. is one of only five without mandatory paid maternity leave—along with Lesotho, Liberia, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland.

--The Opt-Out Myth, by E. J. Graff

From an economics standpoint, I'm not sure what impact this has--the increased labor flexibility may compensate for the economic hardship of unpaid maternity leave--but it is a pretty striking stat.