A new book about gender has created controversy, but perhaps for all the wrong reasons. How would you like to know that women are the superior gender, and that we actually don’t need men at all?
I don’t think that’s what Sheryl Sandberg had in mind when she wrote Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (Knopf, 2013). That’s a best-seller by the Facebook COO that I am familiar with, having read and presented a synopsis of that book at a Creative Communication Network (CCN) client site. Note: I can no longer do that under contractual agreement with Randy Mayeux, who presented it at the First Friday Book Synopsis and other CCN sites. and who has exclusive presentation privileges for the book. Regardless, there’s no way that Sandberg wanted women to eliminate men – but rather, to figure out how to co-exist with them, and how to get their “fair share.”
That’s not what Women After All: Sex, Evolution, and the End of Male Supremacy (Norton, 2015) by Dr. Melvin Konner says. His book provides evidence that men are more likely to commit crimes, die in accidents, and incite violence. To your great surprise, he also points out that men cannot reproduce without women. But, did you know that there is evidence that females can reproduce without males? You’ll have to get the book to learn how. (Hint: it’s not by humans.)
And the critics on Amazon.com are not happy. One consumer review, after giving it one star out of a possible five, remarks: “Konner practically salivates when considering a future without men.” That is in spite of a glowing quoted editorial review which says, “Women After All describes what future historians will surely recognize as one of the momentous transformations in the human saga: the decline of men’s political dominance, and with it many deplorable practices and belief systems. Engagingly written and persuasively argued, it shows how an acknowledgment of human nature combined with a long view of history can advance the human condition.” (Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, & author of The Better Angels of Our Nature.)”
Dr. Konner is a professor of anthropology at Emory University. He is actually one of the rare “Doctor-Doctor’s,” holding both an M.D. and Ph.D. from Harvard. He has written many books, perhaps the most famous of which was published in 2011, entitled The Evolution of Childhood: Relationships, Emotion, Mind (Belknap Press). You can see a list of the titles and publication dates by clicking here.
From his own website, he describes why and what he does: “I apply science to human nature and experience, exploring the links between biology and behavior, medicine and society, nature and culture. Why do we do what we do, think what we think, feel what we feel? I find answers in anthropology, biology, medicine, evolution, the brain, childhood, history, and culture. I’ve often commented on medical ethics, health care reform, child care, and other issues, and I do that here too.” You can read some of his blogs on the site by clicking here.
This book contains great outrage at the historical indignities suffered by women. Sandberg may appreciate his call that treating women better will help men as well. But, it appears that there is not a great place at the table for men. And, the thesis that society will be better off without them may be difficult to swallow.
By the way, this is no best-seller. It is nowhere close to that on Amazon.com, and it does not appear on any list that I can find.
You can’t say the book is biased. It’s full of scientific data, trends analyses, and logical interpretations. It’s just that a book which exposes problems without giving much in terms of solutions is not going to appeal to very many readers.
You can expect to see more about this author and book very soon. It is an obvious choice for the “Good Morning America“s of the world, the Huffington Post, radio talk shows, and even some of the tabloids. If nothing else, Konner will make a lot of money and get famous.
What Kind Of Society Shall We Have? – When A National Leadership Conference Teaches Racist Chants, We Get Exactly What One Would Expect
The evidence is in. The infamous racist chant on the SAE party bus had been learned four years earlier at a national “Leadership” Conference (set on a Cruise — what could possibly go wrong?) for the fraternity. In other words, at a gathering convened to train and challenge young leaders, apparently in a session that was not “authorized,” a racist chant was taught. From University of Oklahoma President Boren’s statement (read full article here):
The racist chant sung by University of Oklahoma fraternity members on a bus ride earlier this month originated at a Sigma Alpha Epsilon national leadership cruise four years ago and then was brought back to Norman where it was taught to pledges and others, President David Boren said today when releasing what he called a comprehensive investigation into the incident.
And, notice the fuzzy comments from the fraternity’s national web site:
The Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity (SAE) on Friday confirmed members of its former University of Oklahoma chapter likely learned a racist chant while attending a national Leadership School about four years ago…
“The song is horrific and does not at all reflect our values as an organization,” said Ayers. “If we find any other examples of this kind of behavior currently occurring, we will hold our members accountable, just as we’ve done in Oklahoma.”
Notice the key phrase: “currently occurring.” In other words, it would be believable that this chant has been sung, probably by members of many chapters, for the last four years, but rest assured it isn’t being sung “currently,” and won’t be in the future.
A cynic might say – “we’ve learned our lesson. Because of the presence of responsible people with SmartPhones, we will reign in our racist chanting – but, we sure enjoyed it while the run lasted…”
Buried in this story is the noble and probably courageous action of two young women, riding on the bus, and apparently (appropriately) appalled by what they witnessed. From President Boren’s comments:
Several young women who were on the bus as dates of the members, including several sorority members, will not be disciplined. Boren said none participated. Boren also said after that it was two different sorority girls that released the videos to the public and that the two should be applauded for doing so.
Now, what to make of all this?…
It’s interesting that this report arrived on the same day that the jury decided against the claims of gender discrimination brought by Ellen Pao. She lost her case, but, maybe, she raised awareness enough to create some new level of conversation, and maybe even bring about some change. Consider this excerpt from Farhad Manjoo’s excellent column in the New York Times, Ellen Pao Disrupts How Silicon Valley Does Business:
As one of the few women admitted into the venture capital industry, she gained entree into an upper echelon where most women stay silent when they experience wrongdoing for fear of being shut out of the industry entirely.
As a consequence, though many women in the tech industry have stories similar to Ms. Pao’s, they are rarely heard from.
“What usually happens when you have something like this happen to you at work is that you negotiate a settlement with a gag order,” said Melinda Byerley, a marketing consultant who has worked in the tech industry for more than a decade. “They pay you to be quiet. This happens all over Silicon Valley — they will write you a severance agreement outlining X number of months’ salary, X number of shares, and along with that is a gag order.”
Take these two incidents together — racism alive and well in one modern day fraternity; sexist practices in Silicon Valley. We could add to the list, describing others treated as less-than-full-partners — peoples viewed as “lesser; other.”
What kind of society do we have when there is so much of this that is still practiced?
And why do our “leaders” stand by to let this happen?
Imagine what would have happened, if, at the national leadership conference of a popular fraternity some four years ago, a young man had taken the microphone and announced he had been taught that racist chant, and he felt that that was a pretty awful idea for any group of young leaders, and he was calling a press conference to condemn and renounce such activity at a “leadership conference.”
Now that would have been a future leader worth applauding!
Maybe we should put those two sorority sisters in charge of the next SAE Leadership Conference.
What kind of sales strategy allows a title of a book to inhibit sales?
You may be all in favor of “telling it like it is,” but shouldn’t that be confined to the pages inside, and not on the spine?
I remember delivering a synopsis several years ago at the First Friday Book Synopsis of a book entitled The No Asshole Rule by Dr. Robert Sutton (Business Plus, 2007) . It actually came from an article the author wrote for the Harvard Business Review. It is the correct term. The book, and all of its advice, was clearly about one of them. I always thought the book was really good. It’s not the kind of title, however, you would carry with you during the day, or display on your shelf. You probably wouldn’t want people to know you are reading it. The Park City Club, where we hold the First Friday Book Synopsis, would not even publish the title in its advance publicity in its monthly magazine. People asked me in advance how I would handle the term. I said, I would only say, “A_H_,” and hope I would not slip up. I never did, especially at client sites, and I never have. That took concentration and focus. Why a good book would deliberately cut sales because of an unsavory title is strange to me.
So, here’s another one, released on March 3, 2015. It’s called Moody Bitches, by Dr. Judy Holland (Penguin Press). It’s all about what happens to women when they go off their medications. Do you really want to carry that book around with you?
These aren’t the only ones. I can’t possibly reproduce these titles here. We would lose our license. But, if you will click here, you will see 40 more titles and book covers that will make you wonder how the titles ever got through the planning stage by any marketing professionals. I have to admit that as I went through this site, I gasped and laughed. You will too.
But, how does this happen? Why deliberately inhibit sales by offending consumers, or making them afraid to show others they own the book?
I have to admit this is one reason to read a book on your tablet or phone. No one knows what you’re reading!
Overall, deliberately cutting sales so you can have an offending title is not too bright of an idea in my view.
It is one of the clearest principles. If you don’t know what to do with your next hour, you will waste your next hour.
David Allen, in Getting Things Done, wrote of the power of the Next Action Folder. He stated that whenever you are finished with your current action, your now just completed former action, you need to start on your next action. So, always have a next action folder, with your next, next action, immediately accessible. (Which means, of course, that you have learned to put future next actions in their proper place in your Next Action Folder).
Now, as I’m reading Bold: How to Go Big, create Wealth and Impact the World by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, I get reinforcement for the power of this principle. (I’m presenting my synopsis of Bold at next Friday’s First Friday Book Synopsis – April 3).
The book builds on the ideas of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and writes of the power of three critical psychological triggers: clear goals, immediate feedback, and the challenge/skills ratio. From the book:
Clear goals, our first psychological trigger, tells us where and when to put our attention. They are different than the high, hard problems of big goals. Those big goals refer to overarching passions: feeding the hungry, opening the space frontier. Clear goals, meanwhile, concern all the baby steps it’s going to take to achieve those big goals… When goals are clear, the mind doesn’t have to wonder about what to do or what to do next – it already knows. Thus concentration tightens…
The emphasis falls on clear, not goals.
Here’s what I know. Though I’ve read David Allen’s book, and presented that synopsis numerous timers, I have not mastered the step. I’ve spent too many minutes of too many days without my clear goals delineated in my next action folder. I need to get much better at keeping that next action folder, with those very clear goals, up-to-the-minute-ready, and always at the ready.
How about you?
He is certainly one of the great writers of our time. Truman (Simon & Schuster, 1992) is a terrific and comprehensive biography of America’s favorite autocratic president. The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris (Simon & Schuster, 2011) makes you want to book a flight and get in a time machine to travel backwards.
There have been plenty of books about the Wright Brothers, and their escapades with the flying machine. But, something tells me that in McCullough’s book, we will experience that familiar story in a way that no one else has provided it.
McCullough is a two-time Pulitzer prize winner. He also wrote books about John Adams and Albert Einstein. He weaves details in a storybook fashion that few writers can copy. I found this positive quote about him on the web site for the National Endowment for the Humanities, of which he was a 2003 Jefferson lecturer: “David McCullough throws himself into the research of his subjects, tracing the roads they traveled, reading the books they read, and seeing the homes they lived in. His diligence pays off in detailed and engaging narratives.”
We are just under two months away from its release, and his new book is already # 1 on the Amazon.com best-selling list in scientists, aerospace, and history. Overall, it is # 303 in book sales – two months away!
And, just for credibility, my order for the book is in the queue.
We may see this book at the First Friday Book Synopsis. That all depends upon how “businessy” the book turns out to be.
In the meantime, May 15 cannot come soon enough.
Yes, you all know all this already…
The annual physical is a bother – but critical. I just had mine. My weight is (back) up. Not at its highest, but not where it needs to be. My other vitals seem ok – won’t know for sure until the blood work comes back.
I got the usual nicely worded, empathetic counsel from my doctor. It boils down to this: move more, eat less ice cream. (If you can find a doctor who says it is best to sit still all day, and eat lots of ice cream every night, please give me his/her name).
Now, with the coming health apps revolution, we are about to be able to have pretty constant vital signs readings and feedback. We will know much more about our actual health pretty much on a constant basis.
And, at work, we experience the same challenge. If an annual physical kind of gets us back on course, then maybe a perpetual feedback loop for our work life will help us keep on course much better than before…
The ritual of the annual physical reminds me of some pretty basic principles, fully transferable to the work context. The big one is this — what you don’t pay attention to does not get done. Monitor; measure; pay attention! Monitor your vital signs at work…
For your own productivity:
- are you as productive as you could be, every hour of every work day?
- are you focused – and maintaining that focus?
- are you keeping in touch with key people?
- are you getting better; building skills; becoming more…more knowledgeable, more collaborative, more attentive, more effective at listening?
For your organization:
- do you have the best strategy?
- have you built effective teams?
- are you improving your customer experience?
- are you staying ahead of the curve with your innovation challenges?
You can add other important questions to these. The list can be a long one… But this much I know. Checking your organizational health, like checking your personal health, is a constant need, and serves as a constant, needed corrective.
Just a brief update — about a day ago, we had our 900,000th page view on our blog (for the complete history of our blog).
We’ve not a “big” blog, but day after day, we provide a few thoughts on good business books, books on social justice, other books, business issues (focusing on how to be successful in your business pursuits). For those of you who read us regularly, we thank you.
Bernhard Schroeder is the Director of the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center Programs and oversees all of the undergraduate and graduate experiential entrepreneurship programs on the San Diego State University campus. He also has responsibility for the Center’s marketing and outreach on both the SDSU campus and in the San Diego community. He is a part-time Clinical Faculty, Entrepreneurship teaching several entrepreneurship course including Creativity and Innovation.
Prior to moving to San Diego, Bernhard was a Senior Partner in the worlds’ largest integrated marketing communications agency, CKS Partners, which in 1998 had offices in over 30 countries, more than 10,000 employees and over $1 billion in revenue. Bernhard joined CKS in 1991 and working with the other four partners, grew the firm to almost $40 million in revenue by 1995 and led CKS to a successful IPO that same year.
He has experience working with Fortune 100 firms like Apple, Nike, General Motors, American Express, Mercedes Benz, Kellogg’s and others as well as start-up companies. He was involved in the initial branding and marketing launches for startup companies Yahoo! and Amazon. Today, he mentors more than 20 founders of startup companies in San Diego with yearly revenue ranging from $400,000 to more than ten million.
His book, Fail Fast or Win Big: The Start-Up Plan for Starting Now, was published by AMACOM (February 2015).
Here is an excerpt from part 1 of my interview of Bern.
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Morris: Before discussing Fail Fast or Win Big, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?
Schroeder: Two people had a huge impact on my personal growth. The first was my father who instilled in me the notion of working to get what you want. He worked two jobs for 14 years to put five kids through private school. Never saw him much in those years but we had an amazing relationship after he retired. So, I started working and making money at the age of 11 and I thought that was completely normal.
The other person who I never thought would have an impact on my life but did was my aunt. Looking back, my aunt was just a good average person who was fun to be around but no one that really stood out in my family. That all changed one day. I was 19 at the time, full of piss and vinegar trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I was definitely struggling trying to determine how one laid out their life, like it was a play or something. I was told by my father that my aunt was dying. Just like that. Stomach pains for a few weeks, then the diagnosis. Terminal cancer. Three weeks to live. Having never experienced death in the family, I could not get my head around the concept of death. My aunt was only 38, looking amazingly healthy and was going to die. She had told my father she wanted to meet with me. My fear and apprehension was, “What do you say to someone who is dying?”
I met her in a hospice room at the hospital. When I walked into the room, she was sitting on the bed with a serious mound of paper all around her. I asked her, “What are you doing?” She replied, “I am organizing my life so as not to be a bother when I am dead.” For the next three hours, we talked about life. My life. Her life. And she started to tell me about all the things she had never done or had regretted. She sacrificed for the family and lost the love of her life (my aunt had never married). I can almost picture her sitting on the bed and talking to me as she said,” Bern, no matter what you do with your life, don’t ever have regrets. Don’t ever settle for something you don’t agree with. And live life as if you were going to die tomorrow.” That day when I left, I don’t think I realized what had just happened. But her words would come to define the way I lived my life. My personal life and entire career was defined by this statement,” I will not spend one day being in a place where I don’t feel I belong.” And that is exactly the way I have lived my life.
Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?
Schroeder: Three mentors have had the most impact in my professional development. The first mentor was in my very first marketing job. I did not realize it at the time because if you have never been mentored before, you really don’t know it is happening (being mentored). The key element is trust. We usually don’t build a quick trusting relationship with our boss. But looking back, he leaned in…he nurtured me, pushed me, scolded me and praised me. In the two years I worked for him, I received five years of experience and advice. He actually created a solid platform for my entire career.
The second person was a few years later and he was a crusty kind of curmudgeon guy we brought in from Xerox. Within about two weeks of meeting him (I reported to him), he pulled me into his office and flatly stated that I was terrible at two things: I did not know how to listen, and I really did not know how to sell. Now, you have to realize in just three years at this marketing agency, I had risen from entry level employee to vice president. So, I thought to myself “this guy is full of shit.” But over the next 3-4 months, he actually proved to me that I really did not listen and I was really not accomplished at the art of selling or as he liked to put it, the art of getting people to buy from you.
He did two things that changed my professional life. The first thing he did was to send me to a “Spin Selling” seminar in San Francisco which I did not want to attend. The three-day sales seminar changed my outlook on my personal and professional life. I learned the skillset of listening. I learned the difference between what people wanted and what they needed. I learned personality types and how to read a room. It was amazing. The second thing he did was simple. He honed my ability to trust my instincts. This is a really hard skill “or feeling” to develop. You can’t really see it. Can’t really take a class or seminar in instinct. Over the next two years, after every client or prospect meeting, he would ask me to deconstruct the meeting. What was “really” going on in the meeting, who were the decision makers, what did they really want and so on. Then, based on my deconstruction and thoughts, he would give me feedback on where I was spot on and where I was completely off and why. Again, you don’t really see or understand it when you are going through personal development in a deep way but looking back, it was huge.
The third person taught me about the power of teams. Up until I met my third mentor, I thought that all my accomplishments to date were based on me. That is, my success was singly determined by me and what I could accomplish. I had been on pretty fast track since coming out of school late (undergraduate at 27 years of age) and I was motivated to move aggressively in building my career. Took on risky promotions and difficult clients and was successful. When I met this person who would become my third mentor, I did not really see him as even being a potential mentor. First, I felt I was his peer. We were both about the same age, both had accomplished a lot and were now partners in building what would become a billion dollar company. But early in my relationship with him, he pulled me aside and in a very nonchalant conversation told me two things: I was not a strategic thinker and I absolutely did not know how to build teams of people that would go “to war” for me. I thought about that. Over the next two years, he taught me how to be real with people. How to nurture and care for the talented stars working for me. I learned the art of management where everybody wins. The other thing he taught me about strategy was perspective. To use a military analogy, I was always the lieutenant or captain building and rapidly executing marketing campaigns. But I was not the general, sitting on the hill or further away, who was looking way beyond the battle…looking at the how the entire war would be waged. I learned an immense amount of strategic perspective from him that lifted me to a new level of branding and marketing strategy. One that allowed me to clearly create brand and marketing strategies for my future clients (like Amazon and Yahoo!) with a very strategic plan, strong on tactics but amazing on marketplace strategy.
Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.
Schroeder: It’s hard to identify a turning point or epiphany in one’s life unless it’s something cathartic. Something that shakes or even defines your core. I would have to say, looking back, it was my aunt’s death. Her calmly talking to me as she was dying about never having regrets really formed the basis of how I would view life. I did it my way or the highway. I had people tell me, “ I don’t really like you…but you are one of the sharpest marketing people I have ever met and I respect you.” And seriously, all I wanted was to be respected. I did not really care if people liked me. Never have. The other part of what has become my mantra is I firmly believe no one was born to do anything…so what will you do? I have crafted my career around constantly challenging myself and enjoying life. I am not working on the cure for aids or cancer, so trust me, I have a perspective on what’s important in life. Sell another car or book, great. But don’t get hung up on that. I have wanted to make impacts and bring people along for the ride. I still stay in touch with people I hired and mentored in the mid 90’s. I mentor more than 20 founders of companies in San Diego. I reach thousands of students on the SDSU campus with messages of entrepreneurship, passion and doing what you want to do. It’s the most fun I have ever had.
Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?
Schroeder: This is a tough question, especially since I work on a university campus. I look back and view my formal education as a necessary part of life to learn some core basics and learn how to become a good speaker and writer. I look at what impacted my life and formal education has played a very small role. My accomplishments have come from doing what I wanted to do that pushed me, really pushing the edge of marketing, mentorships and work/play experiences.
Morris: Of all the films that you have seen, which – in your opinion – best dramatizes important business principles? Please explain.
Schroeder: Okay, going to date myself here. I remember seeing A Wonderful Life several times and realized two things: I don’t want to be the hated banker guy and I do want to feel like I was important or loved enough to be missed. I also wanted to care about people. Second movie was Dead Poets Society. I wanted to live carpe diem…to seize every day. I did not want to have a meaningless professional career. I did not want a job. I did not want to settle or conform. I did not want to do what other people wanted me to do. I did not want to live through other people expectations. The third movie was Wall Street. I both wanted and did not want to be Charlie Sheen. I wanted success to come from hard work but not from cheating. I never wanted to compromise my integrity or ethics. Maybe walk up to that line but not cross it. The second thing, I knew I was going to be involved in growing or running a big company someday. I did not want to be Gordon Gecko. I did not want to be that guy that ruined people’s lives for money. Maybe that’s why still today, I carry a slight disdain for some venture capitalists. I encourage all the founders I mentor to bootstrap and eat top ramen so as to preserve their equity for as long as possible so that they can maintain control of their companies should they ever have to take on investors.
Morris: From which non-business book have you learned the most valuable lessons about business? Please explain.
Schroeder: Tough question. What do I say to sound pithy here? As I look back to the books I read in my formative years, I think of Papillion, The Outsiders, Catch-22, The Godfather and a few others. I think the one book that impacted me with its realism and symbolism was One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. If you have read this book or seen the movie, you are not supposed to like Randle Patrick McMurphy. But the more I read the book, I saw Randle as one of the few sane people in the book. My takeaway from the book relating to business was life is crazy, don’t try and completely predict it. Whatever your situation, make the best of it and change it if you can. And don’t ever conform in your beliefs or who you are…no one really cares anyway especially in business. And if you can befriend people on your journey, do so. They could be the part of your professional life that matters most. I don’t really remember, in a fond way, all the billions of dollars of products or services I helped sell in my career. I do remember the people, good or slightly crazy.
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To read all of Part 1, please click here.
Bern cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:
His website link
Lavin Entrepreneurship Center link
Fail Fast or Win Big Amazon link
TEDx Encinitas video link
StartUp Circle video link