I attended a professional development session recently that dealt with corporate branding, and more specifically with how one is supposed to dress, talk, mingle, and even answer their phone in order to be both ‘successful’ in business and move one’s cause along.
I detest such events immensely and think it’s obscene that people can make a living as image consultants. And while I do leave such sessions with a tidbit or two of thought provoking knowledge, when they consume an entire day I’m often left wanting my time and money back.
Frankly, I’ve done a brilliant job both in my own personal career and for the organizations that have employed me. And, blessedly, never once have I compromised who I am to do so. The organizations that hired me did so knowing upfront who I am. They hired my brain not my haircut or wardrobe or my manner of leaving a voice mail message. I readily admit I am odd, eccentric, exceptionally opinionated, exceedingly complicated, full of contradictions (as my sister attests to) and blatantly egotistical … yet despite this – or perhaps because of it – organizations continue to hire me because I come equipped with a marvelous facility to master the ‘art of the long view’ (as Peter Schwartz captures the concept) and project manage people and systems so they reach their full potential and outcomes. In many organizations such a person would need re-engineering and re-tinkering to remove the perceived negative traits in the list above.
However, I contend these traits are what make us human and humane. They are what connect us to others.
It is an image consultant’s role is to strip humanity from employees and turn out legions of corporate suit look-a-likes that obey with as little ability for independent thought as possible. Image consultants by their nature are supposed to weed out curiosity, uniqueness and diversity. Homogeneity is the mantra of their work.
Because I’m a British prig at heart and enjoy such moments, I brought up the topic of deportment in session couched around a potential Masters thesis. Someone should tackle a comparison of the contribution made by suits and their supporters who advocate the imperative of proper uniformed business – and often cultural – deportment and those folks who have approached things in their own way.
Would you not agree the contribution made by early pioneers in the internet world like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates – who dressed uber-casually and disdained suit culture – have had far more impact in today’s world than any number of business suits in their financial towers?
Would you not agree the contribution made by one man dressed in nothing more than a length of cloth – Mahatma Gandhi – has impacted more people globally than any number of suits in their financial towers? And even if you did not agree, how could you possibly argue making money was more noble a contribution to the world – or a more lasting one – then an approach to peaceful protestation?
And would you not agree the imposition of dictated expectations or requirements around deportment has only birthed horror on our world – witness the wearing of yellow stars in World War II; witness any movement that seeks to force a required uniform on its youth (the Red Guards in China or Hitler-Jugend).
Think of that next time you’re asked to cut your hair or don a tie.
On a completely different note, we watched the opening ceremonies this morning for the 19th Commonwealth Games live from Delhi, India. It’s been a good sports year with the Olympics, World Cup and now Commonwealth Games. Interestingly, did you know the idea of the Commonwealth Games was dreamed up by the former sports editor, Bobby Robinson, from the Hamilton Spectator. In 1930, the very first games, then known as the British Commonwealth Games, took place in Hamilton, Ontario.
There are now 71 teams participating from the 54 member Commonwealth family of Nations over the next eleven days of competition. I hope you get to see some! Go Canada Go!
If you’re afraid of spiders avoid this movie but if you’re a fan of either Scarlett Johansson or the campy 1950s creature-from-the-black-lagoon genre of movie making, rent this tout suite. Directed by Kiwi Ellory Elkayem, who makes this type of tongue-in-cheek sci-fi shtick his bread and butter, it stars David Arquette as Chris McCormick, the son of a wealthy Arizona miner who returns to his hometown days after giant mutant spiders start over-running it. His love interest is single mom Samantha Parker (Kari Wuhrer), the town’s sheriff. Despite the film’s you-see-everything-coming approach, it works thanks to Scarlett’s presence (and even here she is a presence), the endearing quality of Harry Potter look-a-like Mike Parker (Scott Terra) and a perfectly played Deputy Pete Willis (Rick Overton). Is Eight Legged Freaks a good film? Hell no! But as pure entertainment on a Sunday night, you can’t beat it. My rating 6 out of 10.
If nothing else, Food Inc. will make you take a more sobering look at the food you purchase as you wander the supermarket aisles of any American grocery store. Robert Kenner directs this documentary look at the business that is food in America and in the process dismantles our perception of farmers and the goodness and healthfulness of the food we consume. From the small handful of multinational companies that now control what we eat and how it is created and processed, Food Inc. unwraps the disturbing truth that money – not safety, not nutrition, not ethical employment practices – lies at the heart of nearly everything we lift to our mouths. It is a wake-up call to us all to get involved, ask questions of our grocers and demand answers. My rating 8 out of 10.
Goodbye, Dragon Inn
“Did you know this theater is haunted?” is the first sentence spoken between characters in this movie. It comes roughly 45 minutes into the film. That’s either boldness or craziness on the director’s part. But the director here is Malaysian-born Ming-liang Tsai and in this case, boldness is appropriate. Goodbye, Dragon Inn stars Tsai regular Kang-sheng Lee as a smoking movie-goer in a theatre on the verge of its last show. When a Japanese tourist (Kiyonobu Mitamura) takes shelter in the theatre to get out of the rain he encounters all sorts of quiet folks who busy themselves watching King Hu’s 1967 martial art film “Dragon Inn”; most memorable of these is the disabled ticket taker women (Shiang-chyi Chen). This film is a warm and comedic homage to film-going of yesteryear and is full classic Tsaisms, including a fascination with water and immeasurably long shots where very little happens. While not as good as either The River or I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, the addition of real-life Chinese martial art movie heroes Tien Maio and Chun Shih as themselves was a brilliant move. My rating 6 out of 10.