Multinationals, It’s Your Move

Flickr/ virtualreality

If your business practices are the embodiment of the picture above, I implore you to take heed.  We know who wears no clothes. We’ve given it a lot of thought and we’re ready to take away your social license to operate. The game is over.  The jig is up.  We’re sick and tired of being sick and tired.  We’re ready to open our windows to stick out our heads and yell.

In short, we’re “mad as hell and we’re not gonna take it anymore!

We all live in glass houses now.  Choose your next move wisely as the time for cleverness has passed.

Company taxation: The price isn’t right | The Economist

On the Death of Labor?

SPOILER ALERT: If you were thinking of reading H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine,” and do not want to ruin the plot (and haven’t found time in the 117 years since it’s release), read no further!


I read “The Time Machine” last weekend with an eye towards gaining a better understanding of the story’s bifurcated human race.  I can’t recall where I learned of the story (probably an adaptation for children), but I knew it was about a time traveler who witnessed two species descended from the human race.  Elois inhabited the seemingly gilded surface while Morlocks toiled in subterranean lairs.  I’ve posted a passage towards the end of this post which struck me as both poignant and prophetic.

I don’t often allow myself to read fiction these days for fear of losing precious time for learning, but this one reminded me that good fiction can offer the author’s perspective on humanity.  Wells’ thoughts were surely worth the time invested.

A couple of related tweets today brought the book back to mind.  (The connection may not immediately avail itself, but if you stick with me to the end, I think (hope?) you’ll find it worth your time.)

Noah Smith, economist and author of the Noahpinion blog, shared a link to new BLS numbers which show the continued crashing out of U.S. labor participation.

Matt Bruenig passed on a ThinkProgress article which shared his graph of the corresponding decline in dispute related work absences.

Bruenig’s Graph

And now a bit of the story of Morlocks and Eloi.  I hope it pulls at you the way I felt it.  For me it was pure social commentary dressed up as fiction.  See what you think.  (Btw, you’re getting a bit of the milk here, but the cow’s still well worth it.  The book’s in the public domain, so Kindle and presumably other versions can be had for free.)

A passage from Ch. 5.  (Emphasis mine. Or is it?)

Here was the new view. Plainly, this second species of Man was subterranean. There were three circumstances in particular which made me think that its rare emergence above ground was the outcome of a long-continued underground habit. In the first place, there was the bleached look common in most animals that live largely in the dark – the white fish of the Kentucky caves, for instance. Then, those large eyes, with that capacity for reflecting light, are common features of nocturnal things – witness the owl and the cat. And last of all, that evident confusion in the sunshine, that hasty yet fumbling awkward flight towards dark shadow, and that peculiar carriage of the head while in the light – all reinforced the theory of an extreme sensitiveness of the retina.


Beneath my feet, then, the earth must be tunnelled enormously, and these tunnellings were the habitat of the new race. The presence of ventilating shafts and wells along the hill slopes – everywhere, in fact except along the river valley – showed how universal were its ramifications. What so natural, then, as to assume that it was in this artificial Underworld that such work as was necessary to the comfort of the daylight race was done? The notion was so plausible that I at once accepted it, and went on to assume the how of this splitting of the human species. I dare say you will anticipate the shape of my theory; though, for myself, I very soon felt that it fell far short of the truth.

At first, proceeding from the problems of our own age, it seemed clear as daylight to me that the gradual widening of the present merely temporary and social difference between the Capitalist and the Labourer, was the key to the whole position. No doubt it will seem grotesque enough to you – and wildly incredible! – and yet even now there are existing circumstances to point that way. There is a tendency to utilize underground space for the less ornamental purposes of civilization; there is the Metropolitan Railway in London, for instance, there are new electric railways, there are subways, there are underground workrooms and restaurants, and they increase and multiply. Evidently, I thought, this tendency had increased till Industry had gradually lost its birthright in the sky. I mean that it had gone deeper and deeper into larger and ever larger underground factories, spending a still-increasing amount of its time therein, till, in the end – ! Even now, does not an East-end worker live in such artificial conditions as practically to be cut off from the natural surface of the earth?

Again, the exclusive tendency of richer people – due, no doubt, to the increasing refinement of their education, and the widening gulf between them and the rude violence of the poor – is already leading to the closing, in their interest, of considerable portions of the surface of the land. About London, for instance, perhaps half the prettier country is shut in against intrusion. And this same widening gulf – which is due to the length and expense of the higher educational process and the increased facilities for and temptations towards refined habits on the part of the rich – will make that exchange between class and class, that promotion by intermarriage which at present retards the splitting of our species along lines of social stratification, less and less frequent. So, in the end, above ground you must have the Haves, pursuing pleasure and comfort and beauty, and below ground the Have-nots, the Workers getting continually adapted to the conditions of their labour. Once they were there, they would no doubt have to pay rent, and not a little of it, for the ventilation of their caverns; and if they refused, they would starve or be suffocated for arrears. Such of them as were so constituted as to be miserable and rebellious would die; and, in the end, the balance being permanent, the survivors would become as well adapted to the conditions of underground life, and as happy in their way, as the Upper-world people were to theirs. As it seemed to me, the refined beauty and the etiolated pallor followed naturally enough.

The great triumph of Humanity I had dreamed of took a different shape in my mind. It had been no such triumph of moral education and general co-operation as I had imagined. Instead, I saw a real aristocracy, armed with a perfected science and working to a logical conclusion the industrial system of today. Its triumph had not been simply a triumph over Nature, but a triumph over Nature and the fellow-man.

-H.G. Wells from “The Time Machine” 1895

The middle class was born of unions and it’s dying with them.  The only question that remains is whether there are enough of the “miserable and rebellious” left to make a difference, or is this all foregone?

Fools for the Citi?

I learned tonight that Vikram Pandit (ousted CEO of Citigroup) and his COO will both be walking away from the firm with $15 million.  Why’s that you ask?  Well, the severance packages are apparently due to their making “significant contributions to Citi during their five years of service.”   A quick search for the history of Citi’s stock price over that time yielded the chart below.  The red (Dow Jones) and orange (S&P 500) lines track pretty well over this time for roughly break even investments.    Citi, however, goes from $34o/share  to $35.93 over that time, almost a 90% loss in share value.   (These are obviously not exact start and end dates of employment, but you get the picture.)  For me, this is akin to having someone torch your house to the ground, leaving only the garage untouched, and handing over the keys to your car as thanks.  Am I the only that has a problem with this?

Are You Ready For the Social Era?

 The times they are a changin.

-Bob Dylan

Go ahead.  Dig in your heels.  Shove your head in the sand.  Keep telling yourself that the good old days are still here.  It’s your call.  But  when the unstoppable force hits what you think is an immovable object, perception will be upended by reality in a none to flattering way.  In other words, shit will hit fans, asses will find slings.

While you were busy managing your workforce the pendulum swung.  Business will never be the same.  Sure, there’ll be Mastodons around for a while, but the ice age is over. They can move to higher ground, or migrate towards the polls, but these are temporary moves.  A handful of firms are starting to figure out how to succeed in the new paradigm.  Connecting, engaging and co-creating is the new path forward.  Using social media to communicate and take won’t get you very far.  Success breeds imitation and today’s vanguards are garnering plenty of it, so it won’t be long before the herd heads in this direction.  Fair warning, predators are waiting in the bushes to pick off the laggards.

Not everyone will lead, but anyone can lead.

-Nilofer Merchant

So what am I getting at?!

Nilofer Merchant (@nilofer), HBR blogger and one of my favorite thinkers, just released a new book, “11 Rules for Creating Value in the Social Era.”  I recommend reading it yesterday.  It’s a short, crisp read on the what, why and some of the how of the Social Era.  Nilofer doesn’t have all the answers, but I think she’ll help you begin the transition from today’s road to ruin to tomorrow’s path of sustainable prosperity.  It’s short enough that I don’t want to give away the milk, so you’ll just have to take my word on this one…  Or, I guess you could go read Nilofer’s latest post, which introduces the book.

I opened this post by inviting you to do what exactly what your gut reaction is probably telling you as the social era sets in.  Go with what got you there.  Run scared.  Duck and cover…

Alternately, you could wake up from your stupor, pull your head out of your rear, and start dealing with reality.  The tidal wave of change is upon us.  If it hasn’t hit your business yet, it will soon.  Open your eyes.

It’s your call.

Need more convincing?  Check out the clips and comments from readers.

How Can We Help? (CSR Professionals Unite!)

Image by: SweetOnVeg

I’m reading a collection of essays, “What Are You Optimistic About?: Today’s Leading Thinkers on Why Things Are Good and Getting Better,” which features the musings of over 150 thought leaders.  It has been an interesting read so far.  One of my favorites came from Martin Rees (Former President of the Royal Society), a scientist who once estimated “there was only a 50% chance that civilization would get through 2100 without a disastrous setback.”  As un-optimistic as that may sound, he was still readily able to give reason for hope.  Lord Rees’ optimism springs from a host of opportunities, but he singled out clean energy as his top priority.  Check out the conclusion to his essay:

This goal deserve(s) a priority and commitment from governments akin to that accorded to the Manhattan project or the Apollo moon landing. It should appeal to the idealistic young—indeed I can’t think of anything that could do more to attract the brightest and best of them into science than a strongly proclaimed commitment, from all technologically-developed nations, to take a lead in providing clean and sustainable energy for the developing and the developed world.

The full essay is available here:

Could we do that?

The book got me thinking that I could do something similar with my CSR colleagues.  I thought we could all write a short essay based on the idea of, “My one piece of advice…,” to help share an important idea or perspective which might help others in the profession.  I’d like to gather several articles to put in an eBook which all contributors would be welcome to share from their sites.  It’ll take work, but with a little help finding contributors, I think we can make it happen.

If you’re interested in participating, leave a note in the comments, or ping me on Twitter.  I’m casting a wide net, so you don’t need to have CSR in your  job title.  If you work in a related field, or just have a passion for helping businesses improve their efforts around a broad spectrum of responsibilities, you’re welcome to join the fun.  The more the merrier!

What’s the big idea?

I have a couple of ideas rolling around for my essay, one based on behavioral economics and the other on the importance of regularly freeing yourself from the weeds to reassess the big picture.  So, what do you think?  What would you want to share?  Is there a topic you’re passionate about that you think could make a positive contribution?

What are you waiting for?  Throw your hat in the ring!  All comers are welcome, no, encouraged to join the fray.  No essay is too short or long.  No idea too insignificant.  If you have something you want to share, I want to help you share it.

Can we count you in?

So there’s the ask.  Can we co-create something which can help advance our profession, and in doing so, make the world a better place?

I’m certain we can.  All we need is your help…

Image by: Cristian Bernal | townhero

Not sure where to start?

Follow Goethe’s advice from the pic at the top of the post.  It works for me. 🙂