Out of the frying pan

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Archives - December 2008
Monday, December 01, 2008

There’s been a lot of criticism directed at those who believe the economic sky is is falling. The backlash against irrational panic has reached such a level that we did a quick phoner with the CEO of Chicken Little Consulting, the creative birdbrain behind the panic campaign, as she caught her breath from running around like a well, you know.

Do you regret your infamous “The Sky Is Falling” campaign? Like all good fables, there is a bit of truth to what’s being said, but a lot of misinformation. When the acorn hit me on the head earlier this year, I could have done one of two things: ignore it and chance that the entire kingdom was doomed, or run through the village screaming and rush to tell the King that the world was coming to an end. Look, we thought we had it right. We needed to take swift and decisive action even before we knew what the full situation was. Hank Paulson has privately called to thank me.

s_Robin ROBIN DOUSSARD

You’ve been vilified lately as the symbol of what not to do. President-elect Obama said recently, “This isn’t a time for fear or panic. This is a time for resolve and leadership.” The clucking class says that was aimed directly at you. I wasn’t the only one saying the sky was falling, but I’m an easy target. Remember, I’m a chicken. The entire barnyard was up in arms at one point. But I can’t say it doesn’t hurt.  Republican Rep. Jerry Weller went rogue on me and said, “Once again, Chicken Little has been proven wrong.” Then Barrons mocked me with a headline that said, “Sorry, Chicken Little.” Everyone always blames the messenger.

I feel your pain. How’s your staff taking the basting? You know, I’m a tough old bird, so I don’t let it get to me. But Goosey Loosey, head of our creative services, is taking it pretty hard. He’s no longer loosey or goosey and in our business that’s a killer. Henny Penny, our financial VP, is putting all our eggs into one basket. But the last thing we need is to lose confidence. That will only make it worse. We’re just afraid of ending up like poor Chip Diller from The Animal House Group. He hasn’t worked since 1978 after his “Remain calm. All is well!” advice during that dustup at that university in Eugene.

Any bright spots? I really like the chickenlittlewasright.com website. And we’ve got a sharp new guy coming aboard. Knows the political landscape. His name is Foxy Loxy. Have you heard of him? He’s part of the bailout team and he’s coming over to the house tonight for dinner and says he has a bundle of incentives for us. Not the usual chicken feed. He specifically asked that we invite Turkey Lurkey, who was the brains behind our campaign for the Three Little Pigs’ subprime housing proposal. Foxy says he really likes Turkey. If this goes well, we could be back in the game before this thing is over.

One last question, and I’m sorry we have to ask. But why did the chicken cross the road? To bypass the regulators, of course.

 

 

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There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.

This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay. 

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.

New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”

That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

— Linda


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