And that word is “Thanks.”
In the United States we have a day set aside for giving thanks.
Media-wise it is overshadowed by Black Friday and the ritual purchase of unnecessaries. And please don’t miss the tasty irony that at least one definition of “Black Friday” pins it as the day of the year when retailers move from financial loss to profit–so here in the U.S. we celebrate the religion of corporate solvency.
But for me Thanksgiving has little to do with buying stuff. Instead, I prefer to see Thanksgiving as a time to pause.
I like the work of Australian philosopher Damon Young, who at the end of his Distraction recommended giving thanks. Though an atheist he still noted that gratitude was a pretty good way of going through life—it ordered things, kept desire at bay and helped set perspective—though I wondered aloud how gratitude works without a being at the other end.
For quite a while I’ve taken cues from a poet-king who penned a number of poems, each deeply infused with gratitude. His poems offered gratitude as a way of ordering life and seeing opportunity and obstacle as part of the whole deal. Unlike the Australian philosopher, the poet-king cited Jehovah as the One to offer thanks to, and he did it again and again. And again. This is typical:
You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy. (Psalm 65.8b)
The whole poem shows off stuff Jehovah does in the world and it is worth reading (check it here). Interesting that most of the 150 poems (not all written by the poet-king) had very little to do with the ritual purchase of unnecessaries—but our culture won’t rethink that until the next great depression.
Two things strike me about the poet-king’s words:
- Gratitude incites calm. When I meditate on those words, calm happens. I appreciate that. Thanks is a much more potent perspective-maker than desire.
- Gratitude generates a sense of presence. In particular, the poet-king had the sense of taking a seat at table with the very One. Invited by Jehovah. And that is pretty cool stuff.
I’m grateful for Mrs. Kirkistan and for our kids, parents, in-laws and friends. I’m grateful for way more than enough (food, shelter, clothing). I’m grateful that you stop here and read these posts.
Image credit: Kirk Livingston
Can the outsider say anything of interest to the consummate insider?
Every organization has concentric circles of members.
As new people come in they are indoctrinated into the ways of the tribe and so become insiders and holders of the knowledge. True for businesses, churches, non-profits, ad agencies crocheting clubs and sometimes even families.
It used to be that the people on top were the ones with the power and the voice. That was back when an organization pushed its one right way of doing things down through the hierarchy. Members either did things the one right way or they walked.
But times have changed and the consummate insiders are desperate (more or less) for new ways to do things to keep the big machine moving. In fact, the big machine seems to be wheezing and seizing more often lately (think Sears or Radio Shack), unable to offer the intimate experience their audiences seek. Part of that has to do with the realizations coming from many voices that there is more than one right way to do things.
What to do?
In The Power of Pull: How small moves, smartly made, can set big things on motion (NY: Basic Books, 2010). Authors John Hagel III, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison advocate, for starters, listening to the people on the fringe. After showing examples of people on the fringe who went on to change everything—like Olympic snowboarders and Malcom McLean the inventor of containerized shipping—they observe:
It is no accident that these early examples of performance improvement come from various edges, because it is exactly at the edge that the need to get better faster has the most urgency. Incumbents at the core—which is the place where most of the resources, especially people and money, are concentrated, and where old ways of thinking and acting still hold sway—have many fewer incentives to figure out the world, or to discover new ways of doing things, or to find new information. They’re on top, and they’re ready to keep doing what got them there. But simply accessing or attracting static resources no longer cuts it. Accessing and attracting have little value unless they are coupled with a third set of practices that focus on driving performance rapidly to new levels. (18)
That is why it is starting to make more sense to listen to the person who has just signed up—they might just have a better, more serviceable idea than those invested in the status quo.
Image credit: Kirk Livingston
One gets the sense they don’t take themselves too seriously.
Old 2012 ad. Still cool.
Brand Voice Should Invite Not Forbid
My friend Dimitri* asked leading questions.
They weren’t the impossible questions like “What is the meaning of life?” or “Why five toes? Why not four or seven?” where you could speculate together and combine ignorance.
No, Dimitri’s questions were contrived and assembled to manipulate your emotions and response. In conversation with Dimitri, you knew he was looking for some specific answer. But he would never tell what he wanted. He engineered his question so the one plain answer was what he wanted you to say. Then he could launch into a lengthy response. That game left us weary, frustrated and eventually vetoing most of Dimitri’s questions.
Lots of firms play Dimitri’s game: their communication is guided only by a desire to sell (which is, after all, the point of corporations and not necessarily bad). But when the only conversation a company will entertain is one that leads you to buy their product, that looks more like monologue. People veto those conversations and/or walk away.
No one wants to be reduced to a number on a spreadsheet or a statistic. That’s why the used car salesman with the plaid jacket is a favorite target in our culture. It’s also why manipulative sermons and boring lectures are easily dismissed. Of course, some brands are famously annoying, like the “Save Big Money” voice of Menards and we tune it out—except for when we remember it because we want to save big money.
There is more opportunity today to invite participation instead of hijacking it. And invitation, while harder because it requires thinking about someone else’s need or desire, has the advantage of building relationship.
Monologue and the preachy/lecturey voice have limited shelf-life.
*Not his real name. His real name was Smitty.
Image credit: Kirk Livingston
Maybe. If conversations start with shared goals like reduced readmissions
“…days of relying on glossy brochures while hiding unpublished clinical data are fast disappearing.”
And so Suzanne Belinson, executive director at BlueCross BlueShield, took the medical device community to task at the recent LifeScience Alley annual meeting, at least as recorded in yesterday’s Star Tribune (“In era of growing risk, emphasis grows on medical device data,” by Joe Carlson). The sin of selling will no longer be tolerated and hard data trumps happy smiling faces, so don’t be coming round with your “marketing presentations” and corporate pens with clever logos.
We will not be swayed.
Actually, the days of relying on glossy brochures have been gone for decades (and perhaps such “reliance” existed only in the fever dreams of ad agency execs). Most physicians have long demanded data and journal articles, most company representatives knew this. Of course, baddies in the mix will always re-interpret data (published and unpublished) to fit their promises to sales managers or shareholders.
So…data it is.
And the bigger the better. That seems to be a theme everywhere these days, from politics to education to fast food. We are gonna get to the truth of things by sifting the data. Because data does not lie: especially if your group “lives and breathes data.”
Of course, there will always be persuasion. If not glossy brochures, then the recommendations of thought leaders or interpretations and caveats of naysayers. There will always be data sources we pay attention to and data sources we dismiss. But we’ll be the judges as we do the numbers.
Two things strike me:
- We (the big collective we, as in everybody) need to pay attention way more than we do today to do an adequate job on the numbers. Can we all dive into the data to properly satisfy ourselves? Not likely. Life is just too busy.
- There must be trust at some point. Even those doing the numbers need help doing the numbers. And so we come to trust the white-smocked number-keepers to tell the truth. Do we really have time to not trust?
Maybe this is a place for “both/and” not “either/or.”
Let’s do the numbers as best we can and learn to trust, too.
And here’s a step toward trust: reducing hospital readmissions together is one very obvious data point.
The ACA penalizes hospitals if too many patients “are readmitted with 30 days after being hospitalized and discharged.” As hospitals and medical device firms approach the same goal, each from their perspective, we’ll find that “sharing risk” is likely to cause each party to spill a bit more of what they know. It is the transparency we foster in our conversation, as we both move toward the same goal, that will build trust.
Image credit: Glen Stubbe via Star Tribune