Monday, January 24, 2005

The Art of Listening, Or How to Really Manage 

Listening has become a forgotten art over time. People have developed the habit of rushing through newspapers, TV programs and conversations. Listening is not about accessing content, it’s about reflecting about it, make meaning out of it and connecting better with people by understanding them better.

I think it’s James Farmer who wrote that most people, instead of listening during a conversation, are usually busy getting their reply ready. That is so true. Modern conversations have become simultaneous monologs. True listeners are rare, and I’m not one of them though I’m working on it.

For me management is more about listening than talking. However, most managers are usually much better talkers than listeners. Listening is critical in management in that it’s the first step in putting information and thoughts together. That is fundamental in organizational meaning-making.

My impression on James’ Bad Management or Too-Much Management would be that we just lack quality listening.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Ethics of Advergaming 

The use of videogames as advertising media is a new trend that is gaining a lot of momentum. GameDev.net has just posted an interesting article on the topic:

To reach kids and teens to promote Disneyland's 50th anniversary this year, Walt
Disney Co. will use one of the hottest — and most controversial — gimmicks in
the media business: "advergaming." Advergaming is when companies put ad messages in Web-based or video games. Sometimes the entire game amounts to a virtual commercial for a TV show or product. Sometimes advertisers sponsor games; sometimes they buy ad space integrated into them.

But ad critics such as Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital democracy decry
them as "digital infomercials" that blur the lines between content and commercials and often collect data on consumers playing the games. "These are not just harmless games. It's part of the brainwashing of America," Chester says.

Forrest Research predicts advergaming will grow into a $1 billion business
this year. As marketers try to target kids and elusive Gen Y consumers, Madison
Avenue is waking up to the fact that Webwise younger consumers like video games — and disdain pop-ups, banner ads and other less-subtle forms of online
advertising. And rather than get a kid's attention for just 30 seconds with a TV
commercial, advergames can capture them for minutes or hours.

Ethical issues will obviously come out of advergaming. One of them is that it’s getting increasingly difficult to determine whether we are being exposed to ads or to “content”. With TV ads for example, we usually can differentiate main programs and ads. Advertisers are however increasingly inserting marketing messages into the programs themselves, like with a cereal box left very visibly on a table.

Watching TV is a passive activity as opposed to the immersion of gaming. The active interaction with advergaming then has a tremendous marketing power, as well as much mass manipulation potential…

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Meaning-making in Leadership 

Harold Jarche treats of something that is really important to me in Thinking Longer. Because of the financial pressures of modern economy, organizations focus a lot on short-term ROI as business continuity is now seen more as a 3-month issue than a 5-year one. At 30 I’m professionally old enough to remember a time when businesses were doing 5-year and 3-year strategic plans that would remain relevant throughout their expected lifetime. Strategic planning is now seen more as a “work-in-progress”, meaning that by the time we get it right it’s already outdated and needs to be reshaped.

A discussion I had yesterday highlighted the fact that many modern senior managers are actually managing financial performance and public image rather than being leaders. That leads to the inevitable question: what is leadership. Here’s an interesting discussion on the topic. It states that despite the fact that research on leadership tends to focus on financial performance, a large portion of it is actually related to “meaning-making”. Many modern senior managers who are very poor meaning makers are still considered great leaders ($$$). It’s OK to make money, but it’s much better to do it with a smile.

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