Thursday, June 30, 2011

Newspapers R.I.P.???

Different business sectors have faced the digital revolution in very different ways. The music business has been virtually destroyed by it; mostly because it allowed and still allows its greed to dictate its every decision. Hollywood has embraced it and has tried to adjust to new profit centers and new business models. The book publishing business, perhaps having learned from the mistakes of the music business, has tried to get out ahead of change and tried to make digital books its own and in so doing is creating new, sometimes innovative opportunities.

But no business has approached digital with less intelligence, less vision or less strategic thinking than journalism. Arguably a business that could have been on the cutting edge, it has operated out of fear, ignorance and petulance. The results have been that once great beacons of journalism, like the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, have been decimated. Perhaps the penultimate story about this is told by James O'Shea in his new book The Deal from Hell: How Moguls and Wall Street Plundered Great American Newspapers.

My conversation with James O'Shea:

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Where to now?

The first decade of this new millennium has been marked by unprecedented change. Today we are arguably at the apogee of that change. How we understand, cope and manage this change will pretty much determine the fate of the world for at least the 21st century. The editors of the Gallup Management Journal have looked back at the past 10 years, through the ideas of some of our most prominent leaders and thinkers. This collection gives us a fascinating insight into how these leaders have navigated this most perilous period and in so doing, they act as scouts, leading us into an even more uncertain future. The editor of this collection, entitled Decade of Change: Managing in Times of Uncertainty, is Geoffrey Brewer.

My conversation with Geoffrey Brewer:

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mortuary Affairs Unit in Iraq

Every once in a while a conversation comes along that really does surprise as much as enlighten. Jessica Goodell graduated from High School in 2001. She enlisted in the Marine Corp to serve her country in a time of war. In 2004 she volunteered to serve in the Marine Corps' Mortuary Affairs unit in Iraq. The unit's mission was to recover and process the remains of dead soldiers and Iraqi civilians. Nothing could have prepared for what was to follow.

My conversation with Jess Goddell about her experience and her memoir SHADE IT BLACK: Death and After in Iraq

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Why Success Always Starts with Failure

Success, in William James phrase, "demands strange sacrifices from those who worship her." In today's complex times, one of those sacrifices is the ability to be willing to fail. Someone deep in the corporate world once said to me in response to a question about lack of performance, that “you can get into a lot of trouble by not doing anything, but you can get into more trouble by doing something.” The fact is, that in today high speed, high touch, high complexity world, that will not do. To counter this, we need not be afraid of the new or be afraid to fail. Tim Harford, the Undercover Economist at the Financial Times, lays it all out in his new book Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure.

My conversation with Tim Harford:

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Pete Hamill's Tabloid City

Journalism is often referred to as a first draft of history. But more than that, newspapers, especially tabloids, have traditionally been the narrative, the connective tissues that binds diverse and disparate communities. They have explained community to the newcomers and explained the newcomers to the community. Through that local tabloid narrative, we've witnessed and tried to understand the conflicts and follies of daily life. And from that we form our own understanding of the world. Tabloids in short are the raw material that drives our own op ed view of the world; a kind of Rosetta Stone for understanding life. This is a context of tabloid journalism that no one understands better than Pete Hamill. Part of a generation that defined newspapermen, he has been the Editor of  two great NY tabloids, he’s the author of over twenty books, along with his heartfelt memoir A Drinking Life.

My conversation with Pete Hamil about his latest, Tabloid City

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Those Guys Have All The Fun

Media companies today have become giant, often nameless and faceless corporate enterprises. When we watch TV, we don’t seek out a show just because it’s on Fox or NBC. We don't go to a movie because it was financed or distributed by Universal or Paramount. One of the rare exceptions to all of this is ESPN. It has become not only the dominant player in sports journalism, but one of the most singularly powerful brands in the media landscape. Its on air personalities have become almost as well know at the people they cover. It has grown so large and powerful, like the business it covers, that the barriers to entry for any competitors are almost insurmountable.

How did this happen? What were the moments, who were the players that created this media, social, cultural and journalistic phenomenon? In his oral history Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN, James Andrew Miller takes us inside the history of this culture bending company.

My conversation with James Miller:

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mmm Mmm good leadership

Whether you are working as a CEO of a company, or dealing with kids, we live in an age where interruptions are the norm. It's a time where the most carefully structured to do list is often out the window by 10:00 am. And it's going to get worse! But is there some hidden value in all of these interruptions? Do these interactions and distractions actually form the basis for a whole new way to interact with family and colleagues and in fact, to provide new opportunities for leadership? Doug Conant, one of our nations most respected business leaders and the President and CEO of Campbell Soup Co, outlines a whole new approach to modern leadership in his book TouchPoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments.

My conversation with Doug Conant:

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

It's the greed, stupid.....

25 years ago, Gordon Gekko told us that greed was good. That it was the essence, not only capitalism, but of every aspect of our society. When we look back at that movie moment, we see that it fell almost halfway between the beginning of what economist Jeff Madrick calls the Age of Greed and the crash and recession of 2008/2009. How did we get to the economic landscape we face today? Are there common threads and specific personalities that have forever changed our financial markets? If so, can we trace them to the crises we face today and will it better enable us to understand how to move forward? Economist and journalist Jeff Madrick thinks so and he's laid out the proposition in his new book Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present.

My conversation with Jeff Madrick:

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Monday, June 20, 2011

The lessons of the last war....

At the moment we are a nation engaged in three wars, in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. We have now been in Iraq and Afghanistan almost twice as long as the American effort in WWII. As we seek an exit strategy, much of the discussion now centers on what might constitute success or victory. In this age of insurgency and counter insurgency, how do we know if we are in fact. winning a war? Since what is past is prologue, it's perhaps noteworthy to look back at America's experience in Vietnam. A war where the wiz kids at the Pentagon quantified everything, but knew the value of nothing, Col. Gregory Daddis gives us an up close and personal look at the lessons of history in No Sure Victory: Measuring U.S. Army Effectiveness and Progress in the Vietnam War.

My conversation with Gregory Daddis:

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Friday, June 17, 2011

It's not your parent's marriage

I've always liked the notion that marriages are like fingerprints. No two are alike. We see the friends who have the prefect marriage, suddenly split asunder. The couple in a high conflict marriage who have been together for years. We seek soul mates, partners, friends and lovers. We go into marriage with the highest expectations and then often stay in them with a kind of low level ambivalence. All of this is accentuated by the needs, pressures, speed and reality of life in the 21st century. Pamela Haag in Marriage Confidential talks about all the permutations of marriage today and why it's not at all like Mad Men.

My conversation with Pamela Haag:

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

What if all of our technology turns against us?

Since the dawn of the industrial age, the core of science fiction has been the delicate dance between man and machine. From the primitive fears generated by Frankenstein to the precociousness of HAL to the Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 in Terminator, these stories have touched our most primal fears. Today the machines are all around us; our phones, cars, ipods, all ubiquitous, connected, and laden with physics we don’t understand. We talk a great deal about how much information about each of us exists within these machines. What if at a precise moment, all of these machines suddenly turned against us. This is Daniel Wilson's scenario in Robopocalypse: A Novel. Soon to be a major motion picture directed by Steven Spielberg.

My conversation with Daniel Wilson:

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A fair food system

Our population is growing exponentially. The need to feed that ever growing population has created new pressures on our food system. However the current system, designed to bring abundant food at low cost, is now broken. It’s consequences, in terms of our environment, our health and our economy, needs to be addressed. This is not just a question of eating locally, but requires a redesigning of our entire food system.

Dr. Oran Hesterman takes up the challenge of what this new system might look like in his new book Fair Food: Growing a Healthy, Sustainable Food System for All

My conversation with Dr. Oran Hesterman:

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