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Archive for the 'How Stupid Can You Get' Category

Being Stupid

Monday, February 17th, 2014


People who find stupid actions a source of amusement usually focus on celebrities, real or faux, and politicians.

Not me; I focus on the business world.

The first of two standouts this week is AOL, which decided to change the 401K matching plan to save money.

Moreover, CEO Tim Armstrong moved his foot from his mouth to deep in his throat by blaming the needed cost savings on Obamacare and supporting unusual cases like two women with complicated pregnancies.

When the employees screamed and the poop hit the media fan Armstrong and AOL swiftly backpedaled and reinstated the old policy.

A few years ago occasional contributor Matt Weeks wrote about the “startup social contract” and the repercussions when it’s broken.

If the workers and/or the exec team come to disrespect, disbelieve or ignore this social contract, the company is lost.

Although Matt wrote about the contract in terms of startups, it applies to enterprises of all sizes and ages.

While AOL’s actions were ill-advised, Goldman Sachs was just plain stupid, although they were encouraged by the sponsoring student group.

The conference, Women Engineers Code, or WECode, which was organized by an undergraduate student group at Harvard, featured stacks of cosmetic mirrors with the Goldman Sachs logo, a photograph posted to Instagram shows. The Instagram user also said that the bank brought nail files to the event.

One of the attendees wondered if the swag represented “sexyfeminism or gender stereotyping”

I can assure her it didn’t.

To quote a senior manager I’ve known for years, “given the choice between stupidity and malice aforethought the cause is almost always stupidity.”

Flickr image credit: The Columbian

New Award for the Socially Stupid

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/globalx/3888598346/Are you familiar with the Darwin Awards?

They are given posthumously to people who die as a result of their own overwhelming stupidity for removing themselves from the gene pool. (They are well deserved; if you don’t believe me then read through a few of them.)

However, in these brave new days of social media we need a new award; one that honors stupidity, sans death.

We need an award for all those who through their bragging on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube draw the attention of law enforcement before they can do yet more damage.

The postings document illegal acts that go from mundane to murder.

Social media paved the way for one undercover cop to buy 250 weapons, including guns that could pierce body armor and multiple walls.

The actions are prevalent enough that they warrant a new award.

Call it the IYPITWC (If You Post It They Will Come).

Or maybe DITRA (DIY Rat Out).

Perhaps it could be a Get Into Jail Free Pass.

Wait! I have the perfect name.

The SMIA (Social Media Idiot Award).

Flickr image credit: Global X

Then and Now

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Have you ever noticed how the strangest law suites keep recurring, but updated for the times and technology?

Here’s a great example.

San Francisco 1964

“…a woman who had been involved in a minor cable car mishap sued the City. The only injury she suffered was a purely psychological one: She claimed that the accident had turned her into a nymphomaniac, for which she wanted half a million dollars in compensation. (…) The jury heard the case, kept a straight face, and awarded the nymphomaniac $50,000.”

Fast forward to Nashville, Tennessee 2013, specifically Chris Sevier, a lawyer (naturally) who, through a typo, logged onto f***kbook.com, instead of Facebook.

Poor Chris was so affected by the images that dire consequences followed.

“His failed marriage caused the Plaintiff to experience emotional distress to the point of hospitalization. The Plaintiff could no longer tell the difference between Internet pornography and tangible intercourse due to the content he accessed through the Apple products, which failed to provide him with warnings of the dangers of online pornography whatsoever.”

Seems to me that he must have spent considerable time viewing those images, but, as he explains in his law suite against Apple, it’s not his fault.

“Apple employees know that a man is born full of harmonies and attacked to by women engaging in sexual acts with the intent to cause vicarious arousal.”

He believes that it’s Apple’s responsibility to “sell all its devices in ‘safe mode,’ with software preset to filter out pornographic content,” as well as warn people regarding “the damage pornography causes.”

Ain’t it grand to live in a world where there’s always someone else (with deep pockets) to hold responsible and, best of all, sue?

I just wish Steve was still around; his response would have moved this to a whole new level.

Image credit: Chris Sevier Apple Complaint by Joe Patrice

If the Shoe Fits: Cashing Out

Friday, June 28th, 2013

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mWho should make money when you finally cash out?

Most commentary I see talks about what investors and founders walk away with, but what about the rest of the team?

In an interview, Steve Blank addresses this in terms of the impact on valuation and cashing out after a large investment and how it affects what founders receive, but not its effect on the team.

If the founders walk away with a few million each after the investors take their 3-5X return, what will be left for your people?

Those are the people who made the company successful enough to be bought in the first place.

Most of you will agree that the great majority of startups will not have exits similar to Facebook or Google.

Knowing that, it is your responsibility to honor the social contract you made with your employees, when they traded their compensation for equity in your startup.

Therefore, it is of paramount importance for founders to never lose sight of the numbers; the more investment you take the lower your team’s return when the company is acquired.

Image credit: HikingArtist

The Lowdown on Voices

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/aasg/1398431198/If you’re a guy how do you get more promotions and more compensation?

Pitch your voice lower.


What matters to people never fails to amaze me.

I remember when John Kerry was running for president and there were more comments about his hair than his policies.

It’s bad enough that humans are predisposed to gravitate to attractiveness, but now voice tone is in the same class.

They wanted to find out whether deep voices correlated with success, since prior research has shown that Barry White-like bass is often preferable when it comes to selecting a mate.
A separate Duke study last year also found that voters favor political candidates with deeper voices.

Does a deep voice just open doors or is it more than that?

That benefit proved true even when controlling for a leader’s experience, education, dominant facial features and other variables that might sway decisions of recruiters and compensation committees.

Well, that’s depressing.

Just how big a deal is this?


The median CEO, with a  125.5 Hz vocal frequency, earned $3.7 million, ran a $2.4 billion company and was 56 years old.

Not bad, but researchers found that executives with voices on the deeper (that is, lower-frequency) end of the scale earned, on average, $187,000 more in pay and led companies with $440 million more in assets.

(For a reference point, James Earl Ray’s voice is around 85Hz.)

Another question is whether what’s sauce for the gander applies equally to the goose, but there’s no way to answer that one.

Mayew says he would like to assess the voices of women executives as well, but he says there aren’t enough for a statistically meaningful study quite yet. At last count, there were just 21 women CEOs in the Fortune 500.

Welcome to the modern Stone Age world of corporate America.

Flickr image credit: MyAngelG

Irrational Rational Animals

Monday, March 18th, 2013

We human beings are taught that it is rational thought that separates us from other animals—what we aren’t taught is that the ability to think rationally doesn’t necessarily translate to acting rationally.

While irrationality and outright stupidity isn’t new to the modern scene (think PT Barnum’s sucker) social media has certainly opened up new vistas on it.

One expects a certain level of irrational actions from teens, expressed these days by sending nude photos, but if you think adults have more sense think again; a new survey shows one in four adults stores intimate pictures on a mobile (easily hacked) device—which, as an adult, ranks as just plain stupid.

For both irrational and stupid you can’t beat those who turn to Twitter, etc., for investing advice accepting both poster and information at face value.

Startups often cater to irrationality, but they wouldn’t be in business without irrational customers—like the women willing to pay $18 for a box of tampons delivered regularly because they can’t remember to buy them.

Companies aren’t immune, either.

Online stores are trumpeting a service that only 9% of their customers want, paying celebrities for social media endorsements only to have their brand branded with the celebs bad behavior or irrationally deciding the only thing needed to foster an innovation renaissance is mandatory face-time.

However, my all-time favorite (that I’ve found so far) is Dennis Hope, who has earned a legal living since 1980 selling plots on the moon.

(Monday probably isn’t the best day to offer you distracting links, but these were burning a hole in my pocket; shades of Sundays past)

YouTube credit: TheeOscar2013

Recruiting Attitude is Back to the Future

Monday, February 1st, 2010

now-hiringThe economy is improving a bit, enough that companies are doing some hiring. And, just as in the past, the same idiotic attitude is surfacing.

It starts with a reference to the need for employee engagement and that ‘experts’ say that the companies with the best long-term success rates retain and grow their human resource base from within the company to ensure it.

But when a company fulfills its human resource needs by hiring from the outside, in most cases, it’s picking up the “rejects” from other companies.

And that part sends me ballistic.

Of all the totally wrong-headed attitudes I’ve heard on the subject of hiring, there is only one that is comparable and, in fact, they go hand in hand.

During every recession I’ve seen the theme is that the only employees worth hiring are the ones who are still working.

Even now, in a recession that dwarfs the previous ones and companies have cut 50% or even more of their workforce and are still cutting, those who are laid off are tagged as “dead wood” or “difficult.”

My blood still boils when I remember the excellent people who were completely trashed by that attitude.

I do agree that growing people from within is good company policy; however, there are dozens of reasons why a company not only would, but should, hire at levels other than entry.

  • No company can go through significant growth and not hire from the outside—it’s a given part of that growth. For example, most startups and high-growth companies have neither the diversification, nor the depth, of talent needed when growth kicks in, so they hire at all levels.
  • Hiring strictly at entry level and promoting only from within can create a hidebound culture steeped in a not-invented-here mentality, not only for products, but for processes—as happened at both IBM and HP.

There are dozens of other reasons (think about your own experience), but the reject and the dead wood attitudes are not among them.

The dead wood/difficult premise is BS, flawed, short-sighted and plain stupid.

The common belief that “stars” are independent of their circumstances just doesn’t stand up to analysis.

Most people work to the quality of their managers and the validity of the company’s culture—if they don’t shine it’s because they aren’t engaged; give people good managers and good culture and they can all be stars.

It is beyond stupid to lay work quality issues at the door of employees with no consideration of management or culture.

Image credit: TheTruthAbout… on flickr

mY generation: 2010

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

See all mY generation posts here.


mY generation: Sick

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

See all mY generation posts here.


mY generation: 1 of 100 Ways To Get Fired

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

See all mY generation posts here.


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