Wednesday, July 28, 2010

MBAs Growing on Trees?

Germany, MBA, GPA, Warren Buffet, LMU, business, Education, Munich, Princeton Review, USA Today, Harvard, Swarthmore, University of Virginia, The Gap, City College of New York,  I had an interesting experience this last year in Germany with an MBA acquaintance who was looking for a job. After a month of searching and calling she was only offered executive assistant work or possibly reception or other general staff work - and with 45,000 students and over 1500 Ph.D. candidates matriculating from LMU in Munich each year, it's no wonder that MBAs seemed to be growing on trees there. One of the world's most affordable tuition structures (EUR 500 per year) doesn't hurt either to get kids hitting the books and passing all the right tests. Plus, it's Germany's #1 rated university and in the top 100 worldwide.

But what is it really all worth when it's over if the graduates are only qualified to work in a convenience store once they have the sheepskin? What is it worth if the graduates just got the degree everyone else wanted for them and didn't study the things they cared about most?

Each year the Princeton Review and USA Today compile a list of "Best Value Universities" in the United States, and that list may surprise you - with Swarthmore college in Pennsylvania and Harvard leading the list of privates and the University of Virginia and City College of New York heading up the public institutions. Universities in the US are generally the most expensive in the world due to lack of public tax funding as one finds more common in Europe and even Japan and George Washington University in D.C. takes the cake as most expensive at $38,000 per year tuition with public universities rounding out the bottom at an average $15,000.

So what does it take to go to one of the best universities and how might one decide what universities those are? The logical take might be to decide first what kind of education one wants and then see who offers that, but the more predominant and somewhat disturbing take amongst many seeking post graduate business education, seems to be to choose the college that impresses others most according to ones budget. If money is no object, just pick the school that others tell you is the best. Who gives a shit what they teach you if the place is well respected by everyone?

And I've met two MBA graduates recently who have reinforced that question to me.

I imagine asking myself, what kind of advice I would give to my son or daughter in situations of this kind. Yes, I'm old enough to have done that already, but haven't yet, so I'll just have to i
magine for now. How do I tell them to look for compassion, energy, love and excitement? How do I tell them to always balance statistics and logic with art and literature and a liberal dose of spirituality? Where can they learn risk tolerance and risk taking as equal pursuits or trend bucking and trend spotting as two sides of the same coin? How does one know when it's time to fit in and time to stand out? And if no one ever does anything controversial or is never called foolish, will they just be looked over like too many beautiful flowers in the garden - too many MBAs hanging from that tree?

And I wonder what I would have chosen for myself had those choices been available to me in university - because essentially, I learned all those things, at the hands of a small city college and the university chosen for me by the Illinois State Legislator's S
cholarship program. Yes, I was a guest of the state, but in an institution quite different from what many of my high school teachers might have forecast for me. I was fortunate enough to get one of the few free rides available to college students in the US. A free ride to pursue my dream. But I wonder how many people, at no matter what the cost, ever really consider pursuing their dream as opposed to the dreams their family and society have laid out for them.

ShortlyGermany, MBA, GPA, Warren Buffet, LMU, business, Education, Munich, Princeton Review, USA Today, Harvard, Swarthmore, University of Virginia, The Gap, City College of New York,  after my graduation and firmly ensconced in my fairly shitty first job I attended a lecture sponsored by the DSVC, the Dallas Society of Visual Communications. At this lecture was the designer of the very first Gap store's logo and I remember this speaker's theme, although I remain powerless in finding his name today. In any case, this day, he walked out onto the stage, with no slide show, no samples, and no hoopla - just a mic, and he said, "Today, I'm not going to talk about design. Today, I want to talk about love. Today I want to look at the idea of taking what you love, which happens to be design, and learning how to make a living, and a damn good living at that, doing this thing that you so love". And what an inspiring talk it was - one I don't ever recall hearing at university amidst all the supposed knowledge that was being thrown about. How to make a living, and indeed a life, doing something that one loved. I wonder if that is being taught at all in MBA school today?

The speaker went on to describe that all the time we were at university slaving away at becoming the perfect projectionists of culture upon society, that the rest of the students, the geeks in polo shirts and dockers, were busy learning business - and that now, it was time to turn our attention to the business of learning business - and that in turn, would teach us how to make our living doing something that we loved - doing something that we were passionate about - profitably.

He said that every artist out there had a much better chance of learning business than a business person ever had of learning art - and I have indeed found that to be true. You will find far many more people educated in the creative arts succeeding at some sort of business than you will find business people succeeding professionally at art - and as much as even I too love Warren Buffett, we are much less interested in hearing him play the guitar, which he does.

But my old boss at Leo Burnett,
Michael Conrad, has found a twist on the whole idea of the need to foster more creativity in business. At Steinbeis University in Berlin, the Berlin School of Creative Leadership has assembled an all-star squad of current and former advertising creatives to shepherd and lead an EMBA program for working professionals - people schooled in all the proper
"T" crossing and "I" dotting of MBA programs who have realized the need for passion, serendipity and the value of doing just enough more than usual to create the kind of "happy accidents" that all great lives and businesses so need to stay vital. How important it is to know that we are not perfect, but to be imperfect often enough to let the law of averages take over and produce something that is just absolutely perfect, every once in awhile - even if only once in a lifetime.

Another recent MBA grad I met recently wondered openly whether her new corporate job would allow her to exercise passion in her life - a question probably far better asked before spending the 70 grand on that prestigious MBA program - a question probably far better asked before half of the people in the world attempt a marriage - a question probably far better asked every single day of our lives, before we don't answer it and end up regretting for forgetting to get that one quiz question absolutely correct - no matter what your GPA might have been.

Monday, July 19, 2010

From Eno to Rotten: Stream of subconciousness V

Picasso, DaVinci, Emotional Abuse, Art Therapy, Alfred Hitchcock, Brian Eno, Jonny Rotten, Johnny Lydon, PIL, Picasso, DaVinci, Emotional Abuse, Art Therapy, Alfred Hitchcock, Brian Eno, Jonny Rotten, Johnny Lydon, PIL, And which artist was normal? Recently I was told by two people that they were "normal" people and I was something other than normal - seemingly because I choose an artistic path from which to do business in life and they did not. I found the whole perspective odd. Do I think other people are abnormal because they are not like me? That's what I was being told. @ I read the characteristics of a person who is prone to emotional and physical abuse of others and realized I had been affected by two such people recently. It made me wonder what kind of signals I am giving off if people feel they can abuse me @ I was called a spoiled brat, a brilliant writer, a consummate professional, a visionary, a poor speller and a marketing has-been, all by different people and for different reasons. @ I am having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at 3am. @ Due to a leg injury I have been in my house most of the week, only going out briefly and painfully. It reminded me of the liner notes on a Brian Eno album where he composed ambient music because he was bedridden - the notes also had some instructions as to how to wire up a third speaker to a standard stereo that would give you a third, sort of bass channel in the room. I don't remember exactly. I also thought about Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window" with Jimmy Stewart where he thinks he witnesses a murder in another apartment across the courtyard from his, when he is kept in with a broken leg. Count how many light switches Grace Kelley turns on each time she enters his apartment. There's a clue as to how Hitch built suspense in his films by setting up patterns and then altering them at key moments. @ This last week saw me write 700 words on a charity program in Vietnam, 500 more revised for a story on Internet privacy and then 3000 on Art Therapy. I knew least about Art Therapy and must have put more than 10 hours in it. @ Reminded this week that I have a complete stereo system and over 5000 CDs, LPs and tapes in a storage building in Seoul and need to sort out what to do with them. @ Someone from New York asked if I could meet them in Beirut to "do some damage" meaning have fun. Sadly I couldn't. @ An old business colleague writes: "Wow. Doing your own thing sounds wonderfully exhilarating and free. I'd love to try something like that. I haven't got the faintest idea how to start (or perhaps just not the balls)." He was on the board at a top ten agency and then President of another. @ So many people seem to envy my choices in life and as many more are mad at me or jealous of those choices in some way. I am not rich. I don't recall people saying much when I had a lot more money, so maybe I'm doing something right. @ I have no idea what is normal these days. That's the kind of week I'm having. @ Cooking class tomorrow. @ Johnny (Rotten) Lydon closes out the podcast today.

Post Script: Having finished this post, I received this note from another old colleague and friend:

"I’ve been dipping in and out of your blog over the last few months and find nuggets with each venture. You really are out there and I like it. Brilliant. Would anybody who has ever known you expect anything else? I’ve been sharing it with some of the creatives here. I’m still a production guy but I’m always seeking out brain food to feed the creative animal in and around me. Hence, I think a few associates might have sought you out as a link—in case you’re wondering.

As our magazine business here creeps toward iPad and ePub and the like I find this new social media fascinating and mysterious. Even at this point in my career I find it necessary to develop the new tools and mindset for survival in this industry. Some of your blog feeds my education.

Thanks old pal."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Antwone Fisher & Me?

Antwone Fisher, adoption,  Foster Homes, Orphanage, Birth Parents

Just saw the film Antwone Fisher. A lot to relate to there. A lot.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A War of the Words - But Who's Words?

Facebook, Orwell, Time Magazine, Rapportive, Huxley, American, Stuart McMillen, China,  Vietnam,  Rapleaf, Fresh from a week's worth of Facebook blackouts, the helicopters of the resistance flew over the CBD dropping leaflets with reverse propaganda decrying the propagation of the other propaganda. A ballsy move for sure but a move aimed at infecting the masses with the new media message that the more the powers that be try to suppress and control information, the more information will behave in the manner of a thousand one-celled animals and simply multiply - exponentially.

This cartoon by Stuart McMillen juxtaposes the views of Aldous Huxley & George Orwell. In short, Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information (The Chinese model) whilst Huxley feared those who would give us so much information, that we would just drown in our own bullshit (The American model). And who's to say who's right? Both models suck - and in a perfect world we would get all the information that is valuable to those of us chasing the pursuit of happiness with all of the chaff filtered out from the wheat of knowledge that we need. But it's not a perfect world, is it? See the ministry's circular below.
Ministry of Manifestos. Distopian Soup

For all those in the intelligencia here in Vietnam who decry the blocking of Facebook every time the party convenes for some important meeting, there are a few million more who cry out over Facebook's apparent lack of concern for our privacy in the US. So who's to blame? "We have seen the enemy and it are us", it is said.

Facebook, Orwell, Time Magazine, Rapportive, Huxley, American, Stuart McMillen, China,  Vietnam,  Rapleaf, For all the 'freedom of speech' rhetoric we are like to hear from our liberal comrades in the west, we never thought that freedom would extend to people whom we do not know, and who care not a goddamn about our privacy but are more interested in the area of exploiting our information towards the dissection of a market that can then be sold to the highest bidder. Yes, people will actually pay to reach brains dumb enough to let all of their private parts hang out on the digital clothesline for all to see. "Hello moron. Need some washing powder - fabric softener?"

And so, all of a sudden, the protection of that information, that we so willingly put out there, becomes of paramount concern. I Tweet, therefore I am - vulnerable. And I am also a member of who knows how many other services, that I may not have daily activity with, but they're still distributing my information - like Freindster, Gravatar and MySpace. For all the countries that are trying their damnedest to suppress information, the greater lot of us are just throwing it out there like there's no tomorrow. It's a Brave New World all right. But none of us should be so brave as to go into it naked.

So get out your keyboard and type the following: Rapportive & Rapleaf. See what they've got on you, and then go back and do a little revisionist history. It will certainly be no worse than what the communist states are doing by not letting it out in the first place. Orson Welles envisioned a War of the Worlds where aliens would come and envelope the human race - and what it seems to have come down to is his title, minus the letter "l", where the world envelopes itself by the words it chooses to use or not use. Just remember, we all decide which words are used about us.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Fired for online activities? Join the club.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine was told to take his blog down, or risk termination from his place of employment. His blog had nothing to do with his job. Two years ago a woman was fired from being a lecturer at RMIT Univeristy (Saigon) for content on her personal blog. Knowing her fairly well, I took a look at the offending content. She deserved it. What she had written was rude, culturally insensitive and way, way off base from being a role model for Vietnamese students aspiring to be a professional anything. It was like she was a different person online than off, and not a good one.

But the two examples were radically different. My friend's blog was enlightening, humorous, extremely well written and a real liniment for the pains of poor reading we suffer here in expat heaven - hers, a piece of rambling horseshit that truly undermined the title bestowed on her by the university on her name card. But that's not the point is it?

The point is, why were their two respective employers holding their employee's citizen journalistic involvement over their heads and using it as leverage against their jobs? Let me say that in English; Why were these two employers F#*&%^$g with their Sh%@?

And the answers to those questions could fill a lot more pages than we have here. But it makes you wonder. For those of us raised and schooled in countries where freedom of speech, even stupid speech, is supposedly a right granted to us constitutionally
, WTF is going on when those same countries reach across oceans and continents to quash those rights on their citizens living abroad? WTF is it when we have to use those letters as opposed to the actual words?

The video above is an absolute farking scream. And it uses the "F" word extensively. The writer/director/producer was suspended from his job at Best Buy after his video gained a million views on YouTube. For those outside the US, Best Buy is a computer and electronics retail chain, and the video involves the subject of a customer wanting to make a purchase of such an item - but in no way and no inference, ever mentions the creator's day-job employer.

So what to do? Calling your boss a limp pricked weasel on Facebook is a pretty clear violation of that non-disclosure clause in the contract - so don't do that. And Tweeting that your latest conquest can suck the chrome off a trailer hitch is reasonably more interesting than Tweeting whatever numb-nut thing you were thinking while online at Starbucks - but still cheap and rude. The lesson seems to be, that no matter how erudite and charming you think you are online, you are probably most certainly not viewed that way in person, based on your sophomoric online antics.

Which brings me around to me.

When I started this blog two and a half years ago, I made the conscious decision that I would put my own real name on it, and stand by its content, keeping in mind that I am me, in whatever form I choose to represent myself - digital, print, electronic or in person - employed or unemployed, and need to be responsible for what I write, and who I am - in whatever arena that might fall. And until recently, that has not been so much of a challenge. But that had been until recently.

For everyone who loves this blog, there might be 10 employers who don't. And for every 99 employers who don't, there might be one that does. The trick seems to be only working for those who do like it. And this week, I found two. Two organizations who actually found the work on the blog to be a benefit to the assignments I will accomplish for them. For one, the entire idea that I have worked for 2 1/2 years producing a steady diet that has accumulated into 350+ stories tells a prospective client that I am consistent, disciplined and tenacious. Hell, I'm not being paid a dime for this. Who would do that? And why TF would anyone do that? And two, it tells them that I love what I do. And that's almost unheard of these days.

Love. That's a funny word to use for work. And yes, I do consider this work. Passionate work.

I met a woman this week who has just returned to Vietnam, fresh with a shiny new MBA from one of the top 25 schools in the world. She was telling me that she wasn't sure the multi-tentacled global behemoth she had just signed on with would allow her to apply passion to her work - and there's a word you don't hear very much from people in regard to work these days - passion. How refreshing.

Jerry Della Femina, past CEO and co-founder of the famed New York ad agency, Della Femina, Travisano & Partners was cornered by a rather religious and right-winged employee one day and told that she had heard some water cooler chat about two employees shagging under a table in a conference room. She requested that Mr. Della Femina reprimand the employees and even went so far as to suggest that the two be fired for the act. Imagine that. Fired for fornicating. What had the world been coming to? Now people are getting fired for writing, or worse, making harmless YouTube videos.

Mr. Della Femina politely thanked the woman for bringing this to his attention and excused himself. Later, in an interview with a journalist he recounted the story and summed up his reaction as such;
"Hell, I thought if people feel comfortable enough to f--- here, then this must be a pretty damn good place to work."

Sadly, the world seems painfully shy of the enlightened views of Mr. Della Femina these days. Maybe those dolts at Best Buy and a few international schools could learn a thing or two from him, the new MBA graduate and myself -

a life with no passion is no life at all. Learn to feel it, revel in it, harness it and put it towards some greater good in life, work and the hereafter. I was told once, in relation to creativity, that you can always pull a crazy idea back in a bit, but you can never take an employee who only comes up with average ideas and get them to do crazy when you need crazy.

The smart employer will see the energy and inherent creativity in their employee's online efforts, and learn to harness it, encourage more of it and apply it to productive tasks. And the dumb employer will get to hire all the other wallflowers who don't know the difference between a well-phrased Tweet and an ill-punched time-card. Viva la difference!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Face Lift: WWED Remodels

Birthday, Face-lift, Facebook, GarageBand, Remodle, Vietnam, WWED, WWED RadioDavid Everitt-CarlsonWatch out for that paint can! Things are a bit of a mess around here. I had a birthday last week and decided a face-lift was in order. This growing old business ain't pretty, so please bear with me.

For the next few days, and maybe weeks, we'll be tinkering with this thing and getting it just perfect, but for right now - don't walk under that ladder - you'll just have to live with it. I've got gay interior designers running all over the place trying to sort this out. It's making me a little wonky. And somebody shut my Facebook down again. Welcome back to Vietnam. It's just like it was when I left, only commie-er.

I'm sorry if things are a bit hard to read, but nobody reads most of this stuff anyway. My best customers are here for WWED Radio, and that's going to be having a face-lift as well, as GarageBand is closing down and I'm trying out a new service in the next few weeks - so sit tight and let Michael Jackson's doctors work on this face.

As was asked of me a few months ago when I showed an old photo of myself with long hair in a tank top, "Can we have that boy back?"

Oh, he's coming back alright, just a lot better this time.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Rapportive: My new Toy. Watch out!

Technorati, Don Martelli, Email, Sidebar, Social Networks, Social Networking, Rapportive, Facebook, Google, I was having a gTalk chat with the Executive Editor at Technorati, whom I have never met, and he said, "You are/were with Leo Burnett, right?", and I asked him how he knew that. "Rapportive", he answered. It's an app that's compatible with Google and it gives you a sidebar with information about the person who is sending you email. Cool. Or cool? (with a shiver)

Technorati, Don Martelli, Email, Sidebar, Social Networks, Social Networking, Rapportive, Facebook, Google, I immediately downloaded and installed the app and voi la! There in gorgeous color and text was a complete bio of the person I was talking to. All his past jobs, his present jobs, a few tweets and some whatnot. Whatnot for sure.

I checked my own bio by pulling up an email I had written to someone else and holy frickin' jeezuz! There's a rap sheet on me a mile long. This thing is dangerous, especially if someone else is using it.

Imagine you meet a girl in a bar and things are going fairly well so you pull up her email on your iPhone and find out that she's really a man and has had a stellar career in the sex toy industry, right there on your email sidebar.
"Another marguerita honey?". I don't think so.

But it's an app, it's out there and it's free, so better to get your hands on one now and play offensive instead of being on the defensive later with your wife, girlfriend, boss or parole officer. Once on the Internet, nobody can really hide anymore. And that is the absolute God-given truth.

I futzed with the app a bit and found that it collects all sorts of data from social networks, Facebook, etc., that you're a member of, and also takes tons of Google profile info and makes it public, but once installed, you are able to go in and edit this info so all your underwear isn't flapping about in the digital breeze. I deleted all my old jobs so only my present title and company show up.

Take a look-see up above for a sample of what it does. It only works with Google currently but I wouldn't be surprised to see Yahoo and others far behind.
Damn. Being a stalker used to be fun. Now they can see you coming in 360. Privacy takes another hit at the hands of the Digerati. Orwell was only off by twenty six years or so.

See my Technorati story on this same subject by clicking here.

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