This blog is about the relationship between organizations and the people who work for them. And, it’s dedicated to the millions of people around the world who go to work every day wanting to do a great job.
Archive for March, 2012
Is there a right way to write? Ever since Dr. Johnson wrote his dictionary people have been laying down laws for the English language. Perhaps the most famous rules today are Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules for writing, which begin with: Number 1 – “Never open a book with weather” – as in “It was a dark and stormy night.”
My own rule is the title of this post and¬†a central message of David Foster Wallace’s brilliant essay “Tense Present: Democracy, English, and the wars over usage,” which was published in Harper’s Magazine in April 2001. Wallace¬† says that as much as grammarians want to believe that rules for writing exist to prevent misunderstanding they actually exist to prevent your not being taken seriously. For example, to make one up¬†- “Running furiously down the road the clock struck one and she knew she was going to be late.”¬†Everyone knows what this imaginary writer is¬†trying to say. But the result is laughable.
Here are some other examples,¬†not invented that I¬†found in the Montreal Gazette and Toronto Globe and Mail on Wednesday February 29, 2012.¬†
“Montreal drivers were slapped with a 14-cent jump in gasoline prices on Tuesday and energy industry eperts say that’s just a taste of the higher fuel costs Canadians can expect in coming months.”
“She was smart as a tack, perceptive and forever thinking outside the box.”
“Another worry: these digital medical records will be worth their weight in diamonds, not just in gold”
Here thanks to George Orwell are some rules to avoid breaking my rule.
On Sunday night when I was a kid everyone gathered around¬†the ¬†TV¬† to watch the Ed Sullivan Show. The papers joked about his voice, his awkwardness,¬†and his look – old stone face they called him. And impressionists like Rich Little and John Byner made a¬†living “doing” him, even on his own show.¬†Sullivan’s show was a hit. One of the reasons it was a hit is that he knew¬†people tuned in to see his acts not¬†him.
Yesterday I saw someone introduce a speaker at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art. It was wrong in almost every way. It was boring. It was too long. It began with the introducer explaining who they were. Then it had too much detail about the speaker – every degree and award for 30 years. And then not enough on¬†why we would¬†want to hear what the speaker had to say. It made me want to grab them, sit them down and force them to take a class from a master. A master like Ed Sullivan.
Watch the clip. He’s¬†fast. He’s excited. He’s all about, look what I”ve got for you, here’s why, and getting out of¬† the way.¬†¬†The clip is a long one -¬†although I assure you Ed’s intro isn’t -¬†¬†so don’t feel you have to watch the whole thing – intro plus act. But then again you just might want¬†to – it’s guaranteed to warm up a cold winter’s day like the one I can see out my window right now.¬†Ready? Heeeerrrrrrrrrreeeeee’s Ed!
For all the talk in Canadian business about innovation and collaboration, I just read a startling and rather disappointing fact from a talk given by BDC late in 2011: ¬†Canadian “businesses invest $2,400 less per employee, per year, in computers, software and training than American companies do.”
A few years ago that amount spent on information and communication technology wouldn’t have bought you much. Today it could set an employee up with enough technology and applications to be able to connect the way they want, when they want, with colleagues virtually anywhere in the world. It could create the opportunity for innovation and collaboration that we believe is so vital.
The United States have been hit harder by the recession than we in Canada have and yet they invest $2,400 more in the stuff that will make it easier for their employees to create new and more efficient ways of doing things;¬†new products and services that better meet the needs of their customers; and a competitive advantage. ¬†This doesn’t seem right.
When we as leaders are out talking about the importance of innovation and collaboration to the future of our organizations and our country are we making it a priority? ¬†The numbers say we aren’t.
If innovation and collaboration are key strategic priorities, then we need to invest in them. If they aren’t, then we probably shouldn’t keep saying that they are. ¬†