The BS Business
Every month, High Lantern Group gathers a small list of interesting, provocative, and contrarian items that shed light on what makes great strategic positioning and thought leadership. We are happy to share them with you - and hear from you about ideas worth sharing.
Six Ideas That Made Us Think
1. The BS Business
Do not miss Lucy Kellaway’s long, magnificent rant against “corporate claptrap.” Drawing on 25 years of listening to self-important, bloated clichés, she gives example after embarrassing example of meaningless business jargon. Among the many gems, former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrends stands out with “the most mysterious sentence ever composed in the English language”:
“In the wholesale channel, Burberry exited doors not aligned with brand status and invested in presentation through both enhanced assortments and dedicated, customised real estate in key doors.”
Kellaway’s take: “I have showed this sentence to many business experts over the years, but no one has ever been able to say what it means or explain why a raincoat maker could be talking so intently about doors.” This article alone merits a subscription to the FT.
2. The Myth of the Digital Generation
Before we start reshaping society to fit the needs of the so-called smart-phone generation, consider first this dissent from Nature:
There is no evidence that there is a single new generation of young students entering Higher Education, and the terms Net Generation and Digital Native do not capture the processes of change that are taking place. Many members of the digital-savvy generation use technology in the same way as many of their elders: to passively soak up information. Children say they prefer IT in their lessons and courses? Do schools listen when kids say they prefer chips for lunch every day?
The article draws on a new study that suggests that the “digital natives” don’t actually know how to multi-task, and educational programs that assume they do hinder learning.
3. Harold Ramis and the Genius of the Fake Speech
In search of more things about which to be nostalgic, Vanity Fair offers a tribute to the 1978 screwball comedy Meatballs. Director Ivan Reitman reflects on Bill Murray’s pointless speech in the film:
The “it just doesn’t matter” speech was a big, pivotal turning point in the movie. Frankly, I was borrowing from the great Belushi speech in the last act of Animal House, where he talks about the Nazis bombing Pearl Harbor. That’s what we were going for, this rallying of the troops.
But wait! Reitman overlooks what matters most: the pompous, over-the-top, semi-incoherent patriotic speech is the defining touch of his Meatballs co-writer Harold Ramis. In nearly every screenplay Ramis wrote – Animal House, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, Caddyshack – there’s a special “pivotal” moment for a nonsense speech. A 2004 profile in The New Yorker explains:
Anyone who saw these films as a teen-ager can probably still quote from one of Ramis’s signature tongue-in-cheek pep talks, which resemble John F. Kennedy’s “Ask Not” speech turned inside out. In “Stripes,” for instance, Bill Murray exhorts his fellow-soldiers by yelling, “We’re not Watusi, we’re not Spartans—we’re Americans! . . . That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We’re the underdog. We’re mutts. Here’s proof.” He touches a soldier’s face. “His nose is cold.”
4. The Temptation of Life-Extending Medicine
“Consumption [of healthcare] in the U.S., per capita, measures about 50 percent higher than in the European Union,” claims a recent article in Bloomberg. Much of that spending occurs during the last stage of life. Yet as Health Affairs explains, many of the promising advances in medicine may not only give older, ill patients false hopes, but they could also delay critical conversations about end-of-life planning:
Physicians’ fears of foreclosing options may be as great as those of patients and families, so all conspire to do what the other wants. This natural ambivalence is amplified by very real changes in the effectiveness of treatments for even advanced disease. Even though small and incremental, there are enough examples to shift the tone of the discussion, engendering doubt about patients’ resolution to forego further treatment. Personalized medicine, with molecular or genetic targeting, has achieved some tantalizing successes, raising hopes of patients and physicians alike while complicating discussions about palliative and hospice care.
5. Advice on Ending Meetings
Design guru Paula Scher, veteran of a thousand pitch meetings, advises ending a client meeting before the clients inevitably resort to nitpicking, pointless criticism, and self-serving destruction:
After the initial gush of approval—with the response to the work going above expectations—a wave of doubt inevitably enters the discussion, and the perception of the work falls below expectations. An agile designer responds quickly by proposing a compromise, bringing the perception back up again. Scher advises adjourning at this high point, instead of tapering off into awkward silences to squeeze out every bit of feedback. “What will happen [if it goes on] is the counter rebuttal to your offer will go below the reasonable level of expectation,” observes Scher. “[It] will continue on until you reach sudden death.”
6. Instagram: The New Engine of Restaurants
When Media Noche opened in March, the restaurant was an immediate social media magnet, drawing visits from a small army of San Francisco’s Instagram influencers, who promoted the restaurant to tens of thousands of followers…Since June 1st, guests have posted 19 shots of the banana-wallpapered bathroom, 36 of their feet artfully contrasted with the signature tile, and 131 photos posing in front of the flamingo mural…The average guest takes pictures for 10 minutes before ordering anything. Many bring tripods to better frame their shots.
Websites Worth Reading
- Tacos vs. Burritos Priceonomics reports city-by-city data
- Institute for New Economic Thinking Economists with non-mainstream views
- Avidly A site within the LA Review of books