The Shocking Truth About Business Schools

Bill Clinton at NYU CommencementIn his address to NYU’s graduating class at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, former President Bill Clinton took square aim against one of the great evils of our time: business schools.  Here is a quote from his speech (the entire speech can be found on YouTube):

“I was probably the last generation of Americans until the present day who could have gotten an MBA, if I went to business school instead of law school, with the prevailing theory being that American corporations had obligations primarily to their stakeholders. Ever since then we’ve been teaching our young people that your primary obligation is only to the shareholder. The problem is that if you do that you ignore the other stakeholders.”

It sounds plausible to blame business schools. After all, we know that business and the financial industry are to blame for the major economic meltdown of the last several years. And we know that those businesses had to learn their bad economic and management theory from somewhere. When there is a lack of morality and integrity in the practitioners of management, why not blame the places that teach managers to manage. Blame the b-schools.

What I find so startling about this statement is that the 42nd President of the United States is speaking in such totalizing terms that he is actually ignoring a fundamental shift in business schools. In fact, the “stakeholder” model that he talks about as an inspired solution is a product of the very business schools that he is pointing towards as the problem. This stakeholder model has been taught as a part of understanding management issues since the mid-1980s at the Schulich School of Business where I work which, according to Dean Horvath, our long-standing Dean, was one of the first schools to implement it.

“Ever since then we’ve been teaching our young people that your primary obligation is only to the shareholder,” said Clinton. But reading his speech, I cannot help but wonder if President Clinton has heard of the “triple bottom line” approach that has become a common element of many business school’s curricula. The triple bottom line concretizes stakeholder theory by providing a system of measuring the 3 Ps of people, planet and profit, and managing by measuring how well each are being accounted for in the management of an organization. The system has not been perfected, but it is widespread and widely taught. As a marketing professor, I have always used stakeholder theory to discuss marketing ethics in my classes at Kellogg, University of Wisconsin, and of course at Schulich.

Clinton said that this profit-above-all viewpoint of MBAs and business schools “could be why wages have been virtually stagnant for the past 30 years”  because it misses the fact that “workers are stakeholders.” That bad b-school perspective could be behind communal stagnation, “because communities are stakeholders” and behind consumer apathy.

Humbug, I say.

I would like to invite Bill Clinton to learn more about (and perhaps even participate in) the work of the Aspen Institute, a foundation that is dedicated to fostering values-based leadership, encouraging individuals to reflect on the ideals and ideas that define a good society, and to provide a neutral and balanced venue for discussing and acting on critical issues. Every 2 years, the institute gives out an award called “Beyond Grey Pinstripes” to business schools. It ranks the top 100 MBA programs in the world for how well they are equipping future business leaders with a comprehensive and integrated understanding of social and environmental issues impacting business – everything from increased consumer activism and climate change to corporate social responsibility. Here are the current top 10 global business schools, according to this important ranking.

  1. York University (Schulich School of Business)
  2. U. of Michigan (Ross)
  3. Yale School of Management
  4. Stanford Graduate School of Business
  5. Notre Dame (Mendoza)
  6. UC Berkeley (Haas)
  7. RSM Erasmus
  8. NYU (Stern)
  9. IE Business
  10. Columbia Business School

Seven of the top 10 business schools in this ranking are in the USA. Who is on top? It happens to be my own (shameless plug here…) Schulich School. Oh, and Mr. Former President, you were actually addressing the graduating class from the 8th ranked  business school in the world on these stakeholder matters. The MBA class, to be exact. Is it just me, or does anyone else find that fact that he overlooked that incredible fact incredibly ignorant?

Bill Clinton, in his speech, seems to be missing all the wonderful work done by business schools, business school Deans, business school leaders, devoted b-school professors, alumni, and students. Instead, painting with a broad and stereotyping brush, they are villainized as The Source and Fount of The Great Evil: the Spreaders of Bad Ideology. How absurd. How negative. Charging $100,000 per speech, Mr. President, you really need to be more careful to do your homework.

I’d give that part of your speech an F.

The astonishing and surprising truth that former President Clinton’s speech ignores is that, although some business schools may have at one time been a part of the problem, many of them today are building the solutions to social and organizational problems. They are far from perfect. But they are definitely not the unidimensional Profit-as-Monotheistic Religion institutions that Bill Clinton’s speech makes them out to be. 

And that is something not only to be surprised about, but to celebrate.

Target is Coming to Town

target2.jpgThe retail consumer in Canada is finally going to catch a break. After putting up with a dreary, outdated, ho-hum retail market for decades, in which retailing has consistently been about 20 years behind its US neighbors, there are changes afoot.

First came Costco. Great success.

Then Wal-Mart. Big success.

Then came the Apple store. Monster success.

Then Victoria’s Secret. Looking gooooood.

Now, Target. Minneapolis, MN-based Target Corp has just announced a deal to acquire the leasehold sites for up to 220 locations from Zeller’s Canada.  They plan to open 100 to 150 Target locations across Canada during 2013 and 2014, after investing about $1 billion in improvements and upgrades. And hiring a load of happy Canadians.

I have been using Target as an example of excellence in branding, target.jpgcustomer service, and retail delivery in my marketing classes for years. They have been outstanding competitors in a tough marketplace, and they have managed to maintain a lower-price higher-quality positioning that has proven nearly impossible for Wal-Mart to beat. As a consumer, I always felt that Target provided a far superior shopping experience to most other retailers, including Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart was about price, Target was about the experience.

I believe that Target has likely come to Canada for a few reasons:

  1. Slowing growth in the domestic US retail market
  2. Fierce competition in the domestic US retail market
  3. Saturation with Target stores in the US (they always stated they were going to saturate the US first before going international)
  4. Lots of cross-border shopping, which would have shown up on their radar
  5. The Canadian economy and consumer market’s resistance to recent economic dips
  6. Stronger than ever Canadian dollar (at par)
  7. Long-term prospects for strong Canadian dollar (petro bucks and the fact that all retail has an arbitrage element)
  8. Canadian dissatisfaction with retail service and choice levels
  9. Weak Canadian retail brands (Zellers? The Bay? Canadian Tire? come on….)target3.jpg
  10. Great brand recognition, awareness, and positive attitude among Canadian consumers towards Target already (who travel frequently to the US)
  11. Target’s convenient format: one-stop shopping for food, clothes (decent ones at that), sports equipment, electronics, toys, small appliances, bedding, kitchenware, linen, furniture, pharmacy and health care
  12. Target is clean. It’s customer service is outstanding.The format of the store, with wide spacious aisles and clear signage, is best in class. The experience–as I said before, and have written about already in some of my retail work–is what Target is all about.
  13. The French pronounciation may or may not have been a deciding element. Repeat after me…Tar GHAY est tres Canadian, eh?

My wife puts it this way: “I feel happy when I shop there.” We have missed the Target retail experience ever since moving to Toronto from Madison. I think that the Canadian consumer is going to richly reward Target for this decision, and the warm and wonderful feelings are going to be mutual. I know in my house we can hardly wait. The slow countdown to 2013 begins. When will they open already? And, oh…

When is The Cheesecake Factory opening in Yorkdale for goodness sake?

Social Media in 2011: A New Class

Robert Kozinets teaching at Schulich SchoolFirst things first. Happy New Year to all my faithful blog readers, students, friends, SEO victims, and curious bystanders. May it be a fascinating, enriching, and wonder-filled year for each and every one of you. Now, to the King: content.

Welcome to my new extended classroom (cue not-so-sinister laugh here….).

Yes, for the next few weeks, I am going to be using this blog as part of my two new classes at the Schulich School of Business. Although I have been teaching courses in Word of Mouth Marketing and Social Media marketing as Independent Study courses since 2007, this year I launch full undergrad (BBA) and master’s program (MBA) courses in Social Media Marketing and Management.

The thing I am most excited about with these courses is that they are going to take place both in the classrooms at the heart of our gorgeous and glamorous (not, and definitely not) Keele and Finch campus but also in the public space of the social mediasphere (your loud applause here, please).

Yes, you deduced that correctly, Sherlock. Important class assignments throughout the course will have to be posted, cross-posted, and linked up to a variety of social media tools, such as this blog, and, most especially the new Facebook page for the class.

As such a public venture, and, again, as a little experiment, I am keeping the FB page open to everyone (yes, even you), and this blog is open, and I’ll be Tweeting the progress of the page. As well, I’m hoping the student makes liberal use of video formats, and that will probably mean YouTube, perhaps Flickr and other different kinds of sharing sites will be involved. I am hoping for a large range of different materials, shared in different ways.

The preparation begins with today’s BBA class, and builds next week with the MBA class. Then, in a week, student presentations begin, and those presentations must be shared through social media, using the Facebook page as a sort of hub to guide students and interested onlookers to the materials.

To give you a quick preview of what is to come, here are some of the potential (and likely) topics my eager and amazing social media students will be covering over the coming three months or so:

  • Word of mouth marketing
  • Word of mouth theory
  • Brand community (various aspects to consider)
  • Social media marketing associations and resources (e.g., WOMMA, CMA, AMA)
  • Understanding Social Media Collectives (e.g., etribes; tribes; subcultures)
  • Market segments in Social Media
  • Market Positioning with social media
  • Transmedia 101
  • Understanding the basics of brand narratives,
  • Storytelling and Social Media Management
  • A Company Campaign that uses Transmedia and/or Brand Narrative
  • Book Review: Convergence Culture
  • Book Review: Enterprise 2.0
  • Metrics in SMM campaigns
  • ROI and SMM
  • Looking at past campaign(s) and how they have measured the value of SMM (positive and negatives of approaches?)
  • Book reviews of books on metrics and SMMHow to get an ad to go viral: example
  • A SMM Research Method: Social network analysis
  • The analysis of influence
  • Online Forums and social media marketing
  • Online Research for Social Media Insight
  •  Netnography
  • Web analytics
  • Social media marketing research companies and products
  • Using SNS and Microblogs—principles and guidelines
  • Lessons from Facebook marketing campaigns
  • Other SNS (MySpace) campaigns and strategies
  • Lessons from Twitter campaigns
  • SMM uses of YouTube and Flickr“
  • Wikinomics” and innovation 
  • Eric von Hippel and lead users
  • “prosumers”
  • User-generated media
  • Book Review: Wikinomics
  • Book Review: Wikibrands
  • Wikis and SMM
  • Virtuals worlds and SMM
  • Mobile
  • Social marketing and SMM
  • Of course, there may be plenty of surprises in store as well….stay tuned. I think this is going to be a great start to the year for this blog, and for everyone who enjoys thinking about and learning about social media marketing and management.

    Journal of Marketing Appointment Announcement

    jm_cover.jpgThis blog is getting some “red hot” editorial news about the State of Marketing Scholarship these days. My last post broke the news about the new editorial team at the Journal of Consumer Research (“JCR”).

    And here is a very fresh one about the #1 Journal in the Marketing field.

    As many of you are aware Gary Frazier is the editor elect of the Journal of Marketing (or “JM”) and will be taking over in July of 2011 from Ajay Kohli. For a while, Ajay, Gary, and Bob Leone have acted as co-editors of the journal. As with JCR, the manuscripts flows in the main journals in our field have been increasing dramatically, necessitating some editorial action to share the workload.

    Gary has decided to change the structure of the Journal of Marketing to one that includes Associate Editors (or “AEs”). I think this is a very smart move. AEs at JM will have considerable latitude to make recommendations, but the final decision will always lie with the Editor-in-Chief, that is, Gary. Gary has appointed 16 AEs, some truly excellent people, and I believe he is looking for a couple more.

    marketing_journals_411×211.jpgGary has asked me to be an Associate Editor of JM for his term and I have happily accepted. Thank you for the vote of confidence, Gary.

    What this means, I believe, is that the Journal of Marketing is institutionalizing a role and a place for Consumer Culture Theory, cultural, or “qualitative” approaches to practical marketing issues in the field. This is big news. It is something that many of us in the CCT field have been working towards for many years. More top tier options for our publications is important to continuing the institutionalization of CCT work as an important and necessary (albeit minority) component of all Marketing Scholarship, Marketing Education, and Marketing Departments.

    At the #1 journal in the Marketing field, we now have, perhaps more than ever before, the promise of a real presence and solidified representation at the top of the field.

    I think that a look at the past 7 years of cultural work in JM will show that CCT work is getting more and more applied, and offering increasingly powerful pragmatic insights to the marketing industry.

    The move is also presenting  a natural place for all types of social media and social media marketing research. One of my personal goals is to raise the quality and profile of research on social media and social media marketing research.

    Officially, these will be the areas of the Journal of Marketing that I will have Associate Editor authority over:

    Primary (substantive) content area

    Internet and social media marketing

    Secondary content areas

    1. Word-of-mouth marketing;
    2. entertainment marketing;
    3. brand and product management;
    4. retailing

    Methods: 

    • Qualitative/ethnographic (e.g., discourse analysis, semiotics, phenomenological interviews, metaphor analysis),
    • Other methodological orientations as necessary (I am trained and versed in a variety of different methods)

    If you do social media research using qualitative methods, you can pretty much guess who is going to be shepherding your work though JM.

    So starting in July I will be looking forward to seeing all your best managerially-oriented work sent to us at the Journal of Marketing. I will do my very best to make sure it gets treated fairly or even better, and to publish the best work to keep our field of Marketing moving steadily forward.

    JCR Gets a New Editor–Three New Editors, To Be Exact

    I have been on the JCR Policy Board for about a year, representing the American Anthropological Association.This has been my first time going through the process of electing a new Editor, or Editorial Team.

    In this case, I want to say that we had two team running for the Editorship and both teams were really outstanding. It was extremely difficult to choose one team as better than the other. What I can say is that I am very happy with this choice. I think the new editors will do an extremely good job, be very fair, very devoted, and very enthusiastic. If you like the way JCR is running right now, I think you are going to be pleased with the way it will continue running.

    Here is the full official announcement going over the communications transom right now. I’ve been authorized to spread the word, so here goes…

    “The Journal of Consumer Research Policy Board is pleased to announce that Mary Frances Luce, Ann L. McGill, and Laura Peracchio have been named coeditor-designates of the Journal of Consumer Research.  The new team, whose three-year term begins July 1, 2011, replaces John Deighton, who has served as editor-in-chief since July 2005.   We gratefully acknowledge John’s service, as well as his team of editors for the last three years-Deborah MacInnis, Ann McGill, and Baba Shiv.

    Mary Frances Luce is the Thomas A. Finch Jr. Professor of Marketing at The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University and Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs.  Professor Luce’s expertise is in consumer behavior, medical decision-making, and the effects of negative emotion on decision behavior. Her teaching interests center on health care marketing.  Luce received her Ph.D. in Business Administration from Duke University and has held previous appointments at the Wharton School of Business.  Luce’s research has appeared in such publications as Journal of Consumer Research, Health Psychology, Management Science, and Marketing Science.  She also co-authored Emotional Decisions:  Tradeoff Difficulty and Coping in Consumer Choice. In 2003, she was Co-Chair of the Association for Consumer Research Conference, and she currently serves as an associate editor of the Journal of Consumer Research.  She has received research grants from the National Science Foundation and the Marketing Science Institute.

    Ann L. McGill is the Sears Roebuck Professor of General Management, Marketing, and Behavior Science at the Booth School of Business, University of Chicago.   Professor McGill’s research focus is consumer and manager decision making, with special emphasis on causal reasoning, consumer evaluations of products and services consumed alone or with others, the influence of freedom of choice on outcome satisfaction, and product and brand anthropomorphism.  McGill has held teaching positions at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and New York University.   Besides teaching and advising several PhD candidates, McGill is an editor of the Journal of Consumer Research and in 2008, she was Co-Chair of the Association for Consumer Research Conference.  McGill won the 2005 McKinsey Award for Excellence in Teaching at the University of Chicago.   She received a BBA with high distinction from the University of Michigan, and an MBA and a PhD from Chicago Booth.

    Laura Peracchio is Professor of Marketing at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. Professor Peracchio received her Ph.D. from Northwestern University and a dual BA and BSE from the Wharton School and the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania.  Peracchio’s areas of research interest are focused on consumer information processing including food and nutrition issues, visual persuasion, and language and culture. Her work has appeared in the Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Consumer Psychology, Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, and Journal of Advertising. Peracchio is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Consumer Research and the Journal of Consumer Psychology and has served as President of the Society for Consumer Psychology. She was awarded the Society for Consumer Psychology’s Inaugural Distinguished Service Award and research awards from the American Marketing Association, the Marketing Science Institute, and the Journal of Consumer Research. Peracchio’s teaching focuses on nonprofit marketing, social and public policy issues, and consumer behavior.

    The Policy Board was very impressed with the proposal submitted by Professors Luce, McGill, and Peracchio.  They are all highly respected scholars and long-time contributors to JCR and to the consumer research community more broadly.  Ann is currently an editor of JCR, and all three have served as area-editors and members of the JCR editorial review board.  The team brings great energy to the editorial position, and under their direction we expect to see JCR’s influence broaden and strengthen among researchers interested in all aspects of consumption behavior.  In addition, the team has excellent ideas for promoting interdisciplinary research within JCR.   The field of consumer research will continue to develop in important ways under this team’s scholarly leadership.

    The JCR Policy Board is comprised of representatives of eleven organizations.  Current members of the Policy Board are Itamar Simonson (American Marketing Association), Rob Kozinets (American Anthropological Association), Linda L. Price (American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences), Barbara Bickart (American Association for Public Opinion Research), Juliet Schor (American Sociological Association), Michel Wedel (American Statistical Association), John Lynch (Association for Consumer Research), Leigh McAlister (INFORMS), Ronald Faber (International Communication Association), Durairaj Maheswaran (Society for Consumer Psychology), and Norbert Schwarz (Society for Personality and Social Psychology).

     

     

     

    People-Centered Marketing: An Introduction

    people_kozinets.gifThe latest phase of my career is taking an interesting new direction. I am trying to get a more holistic look at “marketing” as a discipline and a practice, and analyze how all the elements of “marketing”, such as marketing research and brand management, fit together with management as a field. I’ve been thinking about this for over a year, and last year wrote an editorial for Canada’s national business newspaper, The National Post, on the topic. I originally titled it rather dramatically as “The End of Marketing” but they published it more positively as “Marketing’s Evolution.” Here is the original article, if you are interested.

    Talking with the brilliant and insightful marketing researcher, consultant, professor, and author Shira Nayman about some mutual interests about six weeks ago, I was struggling with a term for what I was trying to say. “Consumer-centered marketing” was clumsy, but it was all I had. Wordsmith that she is, she suggested the term “People-Centered Marketing” and it really fit.

    So when Ruth Bolton and the Marketing Science Institute came calling and asked me to present to their Annual Trustee’s meeting in San Francisco, this topic of “People-Centered Marketing” came to mind immediately as something I definitely wanted to introduce to their high-level group of academics and practitioners, in order to get their feedback and have them help me develop it.

    The presentation was great, and the comments I received were extremely helpful. I thought I would share the introduction to the presentation with you, my beloved blog audience, in order to give you a flavor of this work and share some of what is to come.

    consumer_knowledge.jpgFollowing is the introduction to the presentation, where I lay out the idea of People-Centered Marketing in basic form, and give the essential outline of the talk.

    As an anthropologist, I am drawn to the history of marketing-which likes in face-to-face, interpersonal exchange. It’s an aspect that lives on in service encounters and in marketing throughout much of the developing world, accounting for perhaps eighty percent of all exchanges.

    Modern marketing, marketing as we know it, has moved away from face-to-face encounters, of course. That has happened for very good reasons of scale. But in this move away from the face of the consumer, something has been lost. Something vitally important. Marketing as a field has become increasing distanced form the consumer and her world.

    The consumer has become less and less of a person, and more and more of an abstraction. An object, if you will.

    In this presentation, I will propose that marketing as a field is in a state of slow decline. I will speculate that an important reason for this deterioration is because we have been following almost exclusively one somewhat limited model of understanding the consumer. This is a model which abstract, distances, and objectifies not only the consumer, but the marketer and the very act of marketing.

    Acting as a bit of an agent provacateur, I will provoke more questions rather than propose answers to this dilemma.

    Overall, I will suggest that we need to rethink how we think about consumer understanding. How will we seek to know our consumers? In our difficult and dynamic environment, that intensely philosophical examination is actually an extremely urgent question with immensely practical ramifications for how we do marketing and how we do business.

    So, using and proposing the term “People-Centered Marketing” for the very first time, here, I will propose a more relational, conversational, lifeworld-centered style of both understanding and interacting with consumers as we go forward in these changing, challenging times.

    dehumanized_2.jpgHere is how I will frame this view:

    1. I will begin with a high-level look at the field of marketing as it currently stands
    2. Then, drawing on my own experiences as the founder of a new marketing research approach, I will reflect on why I think marketing must deal with these issues
    3. Then, the presentation takes a turn into philosophical terrains—into phenomenology and the “conservative wing of Heideggerian hermeneutics” to be exact—in order to unpack the meaning of understanding in relation to “understanding the consumer”
    4. From there, I explain three ways of understanding consumers which show how we need to refucos and balance what we do as marketers and marketing researchers
    5. Finally, I offer a few examples and some very cursory ideas about first steps towards strategically implementing these changes in the practice of day-to-day marketing and management.

     And, yes, I did it all in a 35 minute presentation! I can’t quite believe that myself.

    And if you want more, as *they* say, “Ya gotta buy the book.” Except it isn’t written yet… Comments from you, Gentle Readers, are always welcome. Thanks for listening, and for “understanding”….(see how subtle my patented fractal-segue-conclusions can be?….).

     

     

     

    Social Media Changes Everything: An Open Letter to President Obama about Wikileaks

    Wikileaks Logo interpreted by KozinetsDear President Obama:

    It was really nice when social media was your special friend, wasn’t it? When you had your Facebook page and everyone lauded it, you were the social media President, the social media guy. People saidf you had “cracked the code” on using social media for politics, people wrote books and reports about how you had won the Presidency by “getting” social media when very few people and companies go it, and everything was great.

    But now social media is not your special friend any more, is it?

    As the major media have been ceaselessly reporting, “a cache of a quarter-million confidential American diplomatic cables, most of them from the past three years, provides an unprecedented look at back-room bargaining by embassies around the world, brutally candid views of foreign leaders and frank assessments of nuclear and terrorist threats” (NY Times, Nov 28, Shane and Lehren article).

    Social media changes everything.

    Social media isn’t just about fan pages, Mr. President. It isn’t just about organizing your supporters. It most certainly isn’t like chain mail, that can just “amplify” a social (“Change”) or campaign (“Vote”) message. Not in the big picture analysis. It isn’t just about marketing. Not really. Where you did get it right, President Obama, and where there is still lots of hope, I believe, is that the key to your campaign’s use of social media-although it has disappointingly dropped off in your years in the Oval Office-is that it was always about Empowerment.

    Edelman wrote a nice report about the Obama campaign’s use of social media that hammered home how it used social media to empower its supporters. Here are its principles:

    1. Laddering support through tiers of engagement
    2. Empowering super users
    3. Providing source materials for user-generated content
    4. Going where the people are
    5. Using tools people are familiar with
    6. Ensuring that people can find your content
    7. Mobilizing supporters through mobile devices
    8. Harnessing analytics to constantly improve engagement activities
    9. Building the online operation to scale

    Those are good solid marketing lessons, good social media marketing lessons, too. But here’s a new lesson for the books, Mr. President: Empowerment cuts both ways. Wikileaks is doing this, too. And here is another one: social media changes everything.

    wikileaks-graphics_1084331a.jpgWhat I mean is that, for you, and for others in power like corporate executives and heads of nonprofit companies, and leaders of all shapes and sizes, social media is like someone coming and peeling a wall from your house and one from your office, replacing them with two panes of glass, setting up deckchairs on your lawn, and inviting everyone to come take turns watching you. The same ability to get into people’s living rooms means they are peering into your living room, too.

    You want “Transparency”? In the social media world, you’ve got it. “Control of the message”? Well, that’s a whole other thing.

    Here is the dilemma. What Wikileaks did and keeps doing is a major headache and a major embarrassment. You, Hilary, and your State Department staff must be apologizing like jostled Canadians at this point. Maybe it is more than a headache. Almost certainly the site is breaking some laws by “publishing” such private governmental information. Should it be shut down? Crushed like Napster or Pirate Bay (sorry).

    wikileaks_censored.gifI don’t think so. What the major press has also picked up is that this gargantuan leak is also an incredible opportunity for anyone to take a peek, as deep a peek as they like, into the way American diplomacy is done. It is a window thrown open onto something that was previously backdoor. And in a real democracy, that is incredibly value, because it spurs examination, self-examination, and real “Change” (remember that word, Mr. President? It used to be your friend, too).

    According to Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, the site will release a treasure trove of documents early next year that will show a big US bank engaging in “flagrant violations” and “unethical practices” and trigger all sorts of regulatory examination. And as the finance industry goes, it is no doubt that other industries will follow. A parade of companies will follow, their leaders hung out to dry, naked and vulnerable with their expletives undeleted, their decision-making  and moral stances fully exposed (anyone remember the Ford Pinto? How about the Toyota scandal?)

    Social media changes business in more ways that marketing. It is a painful transition. It is going to be wrenching. We are just feeling the first death thrashes of the old, secretive system. But in the long run, truth and consistency are good things.

    obama_thinks.jpgMr. President, please be careful as you consider the question of whether to shut Wikileaks down, or limit its ability to reveal.

    Let’s be honest. It isn’t like this is the first time you have tried to control social media, President Obama. Most people have already forgotten how you got into a public argument with Joe Anthony, an early supporter of you. Mr. Anthony was advanced enough in social media to start a MySpace page with your name on it, to support your bid to become a candidate for President, before you did. He gathered 130,000 friends for you. You then went straight to the authorities at MySpace and had them turn the page over to your campaign so you could take control of it. Oops. No thank you, no apology, just “that’s mine-I control that.”

     That old school, heavy handed technique did not work. The followers rebelled. It got nasty. It took a real, personal apology and a lot of effort to get people back and on board.

    You learned your lesson that time. Please remember it this time. Let the secrets keep flowing until you learn how to manage them. Let the information get out until frontstage and backstage are consistent. Let the people know how you really govern, not just how you say you govern. Please don’t just be a politician. It is clearly not what the people want from you. Learn from the mistakes to lead with inspiring integrity and truly empower.

    And let social media change everything.