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Why Fake News Spreads

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

Fake news is on everybody’s mind these days.

Where does it come from?

How does it start?

Is it intentional? An accident? Honest error based on erroneous assumption?

A few days after Donald Trump was elected, 35-year-old Eric Tucker saw something suspicious: A cavalcade of large white buses stretched down main street near downtown Austin, Texas.

Tucker snapped a few photos and took to Twitter, posting the following message:

Tucker was wrong — a company called Tableau Software was actually holding a 13,000-person conference that day and had hired the buses.

OK, a wrong assumption by a social guy who had to tell his network.

But why didn’t the actual facts refute it when they were tweeted?

A new study published June 26 in the journal Nature looks into why fake posts like Tucker’s can go so viral.

Economists concluded that it comes down to two factors. First, each of us has limited attention. Second, at any given moment, we have access to a lot of information — arguably more than at any previous time in history. Together, that creates a scenario in which facts compete with falsehoods for finite mental space. Often, falsehoods win out.

Also, people consider the source of information more than the info itself. Trusted source = valid info.

The tweet was shared 350,000 times on Facebook and 16,000 and Trump added his two cents.

The corrected information was shared only 29 times.

Why didn’t Tucker tweet his network a correction when he it turned out to be false?

“I’m … a very busy businessman and I don’t have time to fact-check everything that I put out there, especially when I don’t think it’s going out there for wide consumption,”

In other words, he couldn’t be bothered.

Research and economists aside, Tucker provided the real key.

People aren’t bothered whether it’s true or not.

They just care that they get their 15 seconds of fame.

Image credit: Business Insider

Ducks in a Row: Culture Of Hypocrisy

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

Whttps://www.flickr.com/photos/bonniesducks/4395202521/almart loves showing off all they do for their employees and it has a lot of them.

From its website (emphasis mine).

Walmart employs 2.3 million associates around the world. About 75% of our store management teams started as hourly associates, and they earn between $50,000 and $170,000 a year. Walmart is investing $2.7 billion over two years in higher wages, education and training.

What isn’t mentioned is that around the same time

Walmart lifted wages [to $10/hr], it cut merit raises and introduced a training program that could keep hourly pay at $9 an hour for up to 18 months.

Walmart especially loves to brag about its special efforts, such as those for military workers and defines its culture as “our values in action.”

However…

What kind of values enable the following scenarios?

The report says that Walmart uses a point system to discipline workers, and too many points results in firing. Walmart reportedly gives workers disciplinary points for any absence they consider unauthorized, and working less than half of a scheduled shift is considered an absence.

  • ‘I passed out at work. They sent me to the hospital. The next day, they fired me for it.’
  • “I got into a car wreck on my way to work and was sent by ambulance to the hospital. I had two fractured ribs and a concussion. I reached a manager from the hospital, who said it would be ok, and I came into work the next day with wrapped ribs and a concussion. The front manager then said that they wouldn’t accept the doctor’s note from the hospital, and they fired me for missing that day.”
  • “My appendix ruptured while at work and because I already had eight points, I could not leave work to go to the ER without pointing out and losing my job. I should have been able to leave to go to the ER and not worry about losing my job. I had even said to management, ‘So if I fall out because of my appendix and have to go out in an ambulance…I will get a point and lose my job?’ The response from management was, ‘Yes.'”
  • “I was vomiting blood and had to go to the ER. I was there for two days and each day was a point. I then had two days off, and I brought my hospital notes in when I went back. They would not accept them.”

Of course, Walmart’s well-known attitude towards women is front and center

  • “My daughter was having seizures, I had to take time off to monitor her. They counted it against me. I passed out at work. They sent me to the hospital. The next day, they fired me for it.
  • Katie Orzehowski was forced to return to work still bleeding after a miscarriage or face being fired.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so grim, but apparently Walmart expects events, such as heart attacks and car accidents, to be scheduled.

If an employee does not call in to report an absence at least an hour in advance, they receive four points, the report says.

Most ironic of all is Walmart’s tag line, which reads, “Save money. Live better.”

More accurately, it should read “Save money. Live better — unless you work here.”

All of this proves once again that there is a major difference between words and actions.

Image credit: Duck Lover

Golden Oldies: Hate, Intolerance and Responsibility

Monday, September 5th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time. It’s been four years since I wrote this, but it could have been anytime in the last several decades. The time difference wouldn’t have been that noticeable, except that what I described just keeps getting worse. I find it both sad and disgusting that we humans seem incapable of growing and, instead of moving forward, we move backwards. Read other Golden Oldies here

my-way-hwyAnyone reading the news—local, national or global—knows that hate and intolerance are increasing at an alarming rate everywhere.

Also, because there have been/will be so many elections around the world this year ‘leadership’ is in the news even more so than usual.

What responsibility do leaders—business, political, religious, community—bear in fostering hate and intolerance?

A lot.

Not just the age old race and gender intolerance, but the I’m/we’re-RIGHT-so-you-should-do/think-our-way-or-else.

The ‘we’re right/you’re wrong’ attitude is as old as humanity and probably won’t ever change, but it’s the ‘do-it-our-way-or-else’ that shows the intolerance for what it really is.

And leaders aren’t helping; in fact, they are making it worse.

During my adult life (I missed being a Boomer by a hair) I’ve watched as hate and intolerance spread across the country masked by religion, a façade of political correctness or a mea culpa that is supposed to make everything OK, but doesn’t.

Various business, political, religious and community leaders give passionate, fiery talks to their followers and then express surprise and dismay when some of those same followers steal trade secrets, plant bombs, and kill individuals—whose only error was following their own beliefs.

We are no longer entitled to the pursuit of happiness if our happiness offends someone next door, the other end of the country, or the far side of the globe.

I remember Ann Rand saying in an interview that she believed that she had the right to be totally selfish, where upon the interviewer said that would give her freedom to kill.

Rand said absolutely not, in fact the reverse was true, since her selfishness couldn’t impinge anyone else’s right to be selfish.

Leaders aren’t responsible; we are, because we go along with it—as did the Germans when Hitler led them down the hate and intolerance path.

That about sums up my attitude

What’s yours?

Image credit: Street Sign Generator

Golden Oldies: Quotable Quotes: Universal Russian Proverbs

Monday, May 16th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written. Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

It’s been seven years since I met Nick face-to-face and 16 since I met him online. Much has changed in our lives, our businesses and each of our worlds, but our friendship has only gotten stronger. But the applicability of these Russian proverbs, and proverbs in general, never changes, but the wisdom they encompass grows more meaningful. Read other Golden Oldies here.

RussiaToday was a super cool day for me. I met my Russian business partner Nick Mikhailovsky, CEO of NTR Lab, for the first time, although we’ve worked together for a decade.

So when I started thinking about today’s quotes Russia was on my mind. And when I think of Russia I think of proverbs.

I find proverbs to be fascinating proof that no matter the color, culture or time there really is only one race on this planet—human.

The basic concepts of human action and interaction span the globe. In fact, I’ll bet that your culture has a saying that embodies the same concepts as these do.

War has been around as long as the human race as has the desire for peace, which only proves the truth of this proverb, “Eternal peace lasts only until the next war.”

Common sense underlies this proverb, “as long as the sun shines one does not ask for the moon,” but people rarely follow it.

Real Estate people are fond of saying that the there are only three things that matter, location, location, location, but I’ll bet that this proverb predates that by decades, if not longer. “Don’t buy the house, buy the neighborhood.”

It is well know that age is no guarantee of wisdom, knowledge or smarts, but “long whiskers cannot take the place of brains” is a more elegant way of saying it.

My next offering is one that has always been true, but has been proven in spades over the last couple of decades. “With lies you may go ahead in the world – but you can never go back.” Bernie Madoff has decades to think that one over.

“There is no shame in not knowing; the shame lies in not finding out.” This is one that all of us need to take to heart. We need to find out about our politicians, financial managers, corporate chieftains, religious leaders and any others we choose to trust.

Speaking of politicians, we should never forget that “when money speaks, the truth is silent” and we have condoned a culture of political silence.

There is a universal applicability and truth in this proverb, “When you meet a man, you judge him by his clothes; when you leave, you judge him by his heart.”

Maybe the reason for the universality of these thoughts is found in my final offering, “Proverbs are the people’s wisdom.”

Flickr image credit: Ed Yourdon

 

Booze, Sex, Drugs and — Google?

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

http://www.amazon.com/The-Show-Filip-Syta/dp/1941758150Is it possible that Google’s vaunted culture has a dark side?

A dark side composed of booze, sex, drugs and lies.

Sound unlikely?

It’s always dangerous to take the word of an ex employee without at least a pinch of salt or, maybe a few pounds — or sometimes none.

Filip Syta worked as an ad sales executive at Google for two years until 2014, when he became disillusioned with his work. So Syta dropped out and wrote a novel, “The Show,” about a fictional search advertising giant. The story describes a San Francisco company called Show that employs a lot of 20-somethings who make a lot of money, have a lot of parties, drink a lot of booze, sleep with one another indiscriminately, and take a lot of cocaine.

Is it possible? Or likely?

Yes and yes.

Just as possible as in any situation where young, immature, mostly male humans suddenly have a lot of cash and are seriously bored.

“You get bored after a while, you get everything there, basically. They do everything that your mother doesn’t do for you anymore. There’s a dry-cleaning service, swimming pool, dentist, doctor, food, massage — you don’t have to think about anything. You just go to work and it’s all taken care of.

“And also I think a lot of talent is being wasted there because we hired smart people. We will hire smart people, but they hire overqualified people because they have such a strong brand. Many people are bored at their job … It’s kind of chill and might get boring. These other people seek out other adventures when they’re together — they don’t have to care about anything. They know Google has their back. It’s like a kindergarten for grown-ups. And obviously there was a higher and more adventurous type who obviously take more risks. Everyone is very relaxed, and they don’t take the safe way.”

But what’s really troubling is what he claims goes on in sales.

Syta told Business Insider the company was “extremely data driven.”

“They measure everything, and you want to look good to your manager and your manager wants to look good to their manager and up the chain it goes, so you want to report great numbers,” (…)   Does nobody check?

“No, no because no one cares.”

But surely there are numbers and metrics that can be easily verified?

“No, no, not always,” Syta said. “Because the upper manager will not go down to the account manager-level and check. Of course they will see real cash flow coming in. But in specific cases of a specific client, they won’t check. As long as it looks good everyone is happy because everyone cares only about their own task to look good to their next upper manager.”

So we [Business Insider] were curious: How much of this is true, or inspired by real events?

“Ninety percent,” Syta told us.

90%? That would definitely worry me if I was advertising with Google.

I haven’t read the book and, to be honest, it doesn’t hold much interest for me.

Obviously, the majority of people in either the fictional or real company aren’t involved in the shenanigans, but still…

Do I think it’s different/better at Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or other high flyers?

Probably not, but maybe that’s just my own cynicism.

I saw the results of too much money too fast up close and personal decades ago, although I admit it wasn’t even close to what goes on in the Valley today.

So yes, there probably is a dark side at Google.

Image credit: Amazon

Stain or Paint? What’s Your Preference?

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

https://www.flickr.com/photos/27656042@N03/3320116815/in/set-72157607737046395/Bosses are enamored with culture and rightly so.

However, for culture to work its wonders it must sink deeply into the organization in the same way that stain is absorbed by wood.

Cultural stain is the direct result of walking the talk and making sure that everybody else walks it, too.

It’s intentional action and it requires paying attention.

It must be applied carefully or every imperfection and flaw in the organization will be on display.  

Stain is never the output of an underling; when ideas do bubble up from other parts of the organization they won’t take root without the support of the boss, whether publicly or not.

The problem is that many bosses find it faster to treat culture like paint.

Cultural paint is easier to apply and, like real paint, it can hide everything from minor blemishes to dry rot.

It’s paid lip-service, with effects that are grounded in convenience and often included only to make the employees feel good.

What paint-loving bosses forget is that the more coats of paint are applied the more likely is it to peel.

People aren’t stupid and will vote their displeasure with their feet.

Flickr image credit: maurice.heuts

Entrepreneurs: Hiring Consistency

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

 http://www.flickr.com/photos/ozeraser/5583590556/

Startups, and those who love to work in them, operate on the same premise—what you see is what you get—from the beginning.

The beginning starts not on the first day of work, but from the moment they first connect.

Candidates expect the company to reflect its products and its reputation, as well as the hiring manager’s.

Those hiring expect candidates to reflect their resume and reputation.

In practice, that means the person who reports to work is the same person who interviewed, i.e., the same attitude and interests they had when interviewed and hired.

If a different attitude walks through the door on start day it must be addressed immediately.

If the start-day attitude turns out to be the candidate’s true colors, but doesn’t match the company’s culture it is best to face the hiring error sooner, rather than later when the damage is already done.

By the same token, if those hiring presented a scenario of fairness, a strong team, intolerance for politics and the opportunity to make a difference, then that is what the candidate expects.

If the founder or manager presented herself as a motivator, innovator, team-builder, mentor-type during the interview that is what the candidate expects.

If the company’s or managers’ true colors are different from those presented during the interviews then, not matter how hot your startup, don’t be surprised when your new hires walk.

Flickr image credit: Marc Lane

Do Honor Codes Work?

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

https://www.flickr.com/photos/tostie14/34110178I expect stupid from teens; it’s not really their fault, since brain science has proved that teen brains are in a process of change and during that time the frontal cortex isn’t functioning.

The frontal cortex is where ethical judgments are made, along with connecting cause and effect.

Middlebury College has always run on an honor code, as do many colleges and universities, but it is giving in.

“So the whole idea of an honor code is very honorable, quite evidently. But there’s an issue of it being actually implemented. I think there are a lot of reasons, both internal and external to Middlebury, why it’s problematic to assume that such an honor code has a degree of credibility.” –Ronald Liebowitz, Middlebury’s president

Jessica Cheung, a junior at Middlebury College who wrote this essay, sees what’s happening and isn’t happy.

“Ethical judgment, it seems, has been supplanted by our need to succeed. (…) The honor code is a model of a world I wish to live in: one of honesty, personal responsibility, learning for the right reason, choosing right in a moment of temptation. These are the very deepest and most literal things we ask a school to teach us. If all this dies, what else can survive?

Just as critical, those who aren’t cheating are loathe to report cheating when they see it.

And it isn’t just Middlebury; the problem is rampant in colleges and universities across the country, including the most elite, like Stanford and Princeton.

Granted, brain maturity doesn’t happen overnight; research says that the brain continues maturing into the twenties, but based today’s ethical attitudes and watching AFV brain maturity is occurring well into people’s forties and fifties—if at all.

The stupid and unethical things, such as cheating, that we do as children and continue to do as teens and young adults don’t suddenly stop when we hit adulthood nor do the factors that motivated their doing—competition, the desire to succeed and peer pressure.

Food for thought as we enter another election year full of lies and cheats—on all sides of the table.

Flickr image credit: Kevin Tostado

Lies, Cheating and the Slippery Slope

Monday, May 12th, 2014

https://www.flickr.com/photos/smemon/5382067751

Lying and cheating are common occurrences and recent research shows that, contrary to popular wisdom (wishful thinking?), they do not make people feel badly.

In an interview, Dan Ariely, a leading behavioral economist at Duke and author of The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone – Especially Ourselves, made two comments that especially caught my eye for both their perception and accuracy.

“I have had lots of discussions with big cheaters — insider trading, accounting fraud, people who have sold games in the NBA, doping in sports. With one exception, all of them were stories of slippery slopes.”

“When you are in the midst of it, you are in a very, very different mindset…. You are not a psychopath, and you are not cheating. You are doing what everybody else is doing.”

There’s a lot I could say about this, but I prefer to share a quote that KG sent me after reading the article.

I believe it is the key to the solution and states it succinctly.

It is my belief no man ever understands quite his own artful dodges to escape from the grim shadow of self-knowledge.

The question is not how to get cured, but how to live. –Joseph Conrad (1857 – 1924)

The only problem with this solution is that it requires self-awareness, personal effort, determination and grit.

All of which are in short supply these days.

Flickr image credit: Sean MacEntee

Progress?

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/3191664147/Every place I turn is commentary of some kind focusing on new changes for the New Year, but looking around it’s hard to believe in them.

In a recent Rules post I shared something I sincerely believe, it’s about progress, not perfection, but I haven’t seen a lot of progress lately anywhere in the world.

  • 99% of politicians of all flavors rant on spouting their preferred ideology, with no real concern for the citizens of whatever country they represent.
  • As we learned, too many financial CEOs were made of ego and greed and the skill to mislead, but it seems that attitude is spreading to companies of all sizes, as well as individuals, in a trickle-down effect.
  • More and more people are willing to bend the rules and/or lie to achieve their ends.

While I accept that progress often involves several steps backwards to those taken forward, what’s happening is ridiculous.

Progress should mean a net positive after doing the math.

Or is that another of my out-of-date attitudes?

Flickr image credit: Kevin Dooley

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