Windows 7 Was My Idea

Microsoft is paying attention to “the way the world is going,” according to Rob Reilly, an executive at the Boulder, Colorade advertising firm that created the clever “I’m a PC” campaign in 2008 and now has added the phrase “…and Windows 7 was my idea.”

What, exactly, is that “way”? Listening to consumers. As we point out in Chapter 3, the age of “at” advertising has given way to “with” advertising.  We are smarter and more informed than earlier generations of consumers. A 2008 Pew Internet survey found that half of us go online to research future purchases.   Mostly though, we talk with each other–nearly two-thirds of the products in the world are sold by word of mouth.  No suprise there, when you consider that 14% of our everday conversation centers on things we buy and services we use.   Companies should listen to us, because we’re no longer listening to them.  Continue Reading »

Sustainability Through a Social Lens

“Consequential strangers” comprise the relationship piece of sustainability, which Wikipedia defines broadly as, “the potential for long-term maintenance of well being.”

Increasingly and throughout the world, we have begun to coalesce around the notion that we have to make some big changes.  Sustainability is driving us to rethink the way we use our resources, build our communities, and run our businesses. It is making us question our habits of consumption and connection, forcing us, gradually or abruptly, to face three powerful new social realities:

  • I can’t do it alone or just with my loved ones.
  • I can’t act as if I am the only one who counts.
  • I have to extend my social reach beyond what is familiar and comfortable.

Continue Reading »

Downsizing: Jets vs. Sharks

TV imitates life.  The economy and the ills of the health care system set the scene for this season’s Gray’s Anatomy. In the first episode, we learn that financial difficulties have forced Mercy West from across town to merge with Seattle Grace, where Meredith, Christina, McDreamy, and assorted other characters work.   ER meets West Side Story.

This past week’s episode, “I Saw What I Saw,” highlights what hard times can do to our relationships.  It opens as docs of the two opposing gangs nervously await their turn to be questioned about an unnecessary death.  Through a riveting series of interviews and Rashomon-like flashbacks that follow, we learn that even in the face of a mass emergency–a hotel fire with multiple traumas–the newly merged staff members continue to rumble.  Every scene involves gossiping, back-stabbing, and jostling each other out of the way in order to get the “good” cases.  Yet, somehow, no one takes responsibility for the woman who died. Continue Reading »

Why Shorter Posts? A River Runs By Us

I’ve been trying to keep entries shorter these days, because who has time to read? According to a Forrester Research survey, a quarter of us on line are “creators”–we write, post videos and music–leaving less time for others’ ruminations.  Making it worse is the sheer volume of information.   Facebook may be the water cooler in the sky, but email, blogs, and Twitter are part of a river that flows past us each day. 

Digital life has become a constant offering of links.  Read this, because someone you admire suggests it. Read this, because the information will help you [fill in the blank].  Read this, because it’s outrageous.  Read this for a good laugh. Read this, because it will bring a tear to your eye and rest0re your belief in humanity. I only recently have begun to give myself permission to not have to read it all.   Enticing, fascinating, and compelling though it all may be, my day simply isn’t long enough or my brain wide enough.  

The best we can do is think of ourself as gold miners–sifting through the stream, plucking out nuggets that seem to glitter, and then storing them to examine later.  It’s so time consuming, that we either give up altogether or rely on others to do the panning for us.   For example, I trust to keep me up to date on social media.   Which brings me back to my point of this (somewhat shorter) entry:  I will continue to try to be concise.  Except when I can’t.  Thanks for understanding.

Thank you, Rohit!

Just published today, the second volume of “Women of Personality.”  Rohit Bhargava was kind enough to include me.  Check it out:

Sylvia Mackey Update

mackeysFor those of you who follow football and/or have read about Sylvia Mackey  in Chapter 4 or in the article, “When Your Football Hero Husband Has Dementia,” Sylvia and John were feature on 60 Minutes in a piece entitled, “A Blow to the Brain.”

Have a Heart: A CS Story in Cleveland

A man who discovered Consequential Strangers in a bookstore in Cleveland and then asked, via Facebook, to be my “friend” (read: consequential stranger) posted a link on my wall today, with the message: “Melinda, here’s a wondeful CS story.”

Wonderful, sad, and hopeful all at the same time.  The article, Englishman’s Search for a Heart Touches Hearts in Cleveland,” by Regina Brett appeared in the October 9, 2009 online version of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. It tells the saga of Stephen Bacon, who “traveled from Cambridge (England) to Cleveland in search of a new heart.”  When he arrived in 2007, he had only a few phone numbers of Clevelanders.  Ultimately, as Brett reports, “A community formed around him.”  A community of consequential strangers.  She tells his story better than I could.  It  doesn’t have a happy ending in the conventional sense, but it certainly underscores the fact that every relationship matters.  

Thank You, Under 30’s

Inc. magazine online is asking readers to chose their favorite from their “30 under 30” honorees whom the editors describe as “America’s coolest young entrepreneurs.”   A teaser to the article, “For Young Entrepreneurs, Safety in Numbers,” which describes the willingness of this new generation of business leaders to look beyond the walls of a traditional company, says it all:

Despite the economic gloom and doom, the honorees on this year’s 30 Under 30 list are building wildly successful ventures with the help of their peers, parents, professors, and patrons.   Why enlisting these loyal tribes of support has become so important in the start-up world — and how the smartest companies foster that same loyalty among their customers.”

The honorees are the vanguard of the Millennial Generation (those born between 1982 and 2005), and as you can read in this excerpt from Chapter 7, they were born to connect.  They intuitively know the importance of consequential strangers, and they can teach the rest of us a thing or two about collaboration and connecting across traditional boundaries.  My vote went to Pete Cashmore, the 23-year-old founder of the website–which provides one-stop shopping for advice about using social media, as an individual, a business, or to promote a cause.   Last year when this old dog set out to learn some new tricks, fortunately someone recommended the site, which has been an invaluable resource, praised by experts as well as newbies like me.   I didn’t know most of the honorees, but reading about them gave me hope!

Older NFL Players Did Not Get Rich

On Yahoo Sport Blog was a post about the recent NFL study that I mentioned here and in “When Your Football Hero Husband Has Dementia“–an article for the online version of More magazine.  This has absolutely nothing to do with CS, but I was struck by the ignorance of two comments in particular:

im sorry but everyone who keeps talking about the poor insurance and pension plans. They made millions of dollars during their carrer. they should have enough money to take care of medical bills or buy what ever insurance they want. If not then they should of had a better accountant.

who cares? they’re all wealthy, and making money they don’t deserve!

Here’s something I didn’t write in the article about the Mackeys:  John’s first year on the Baltimore Colts, he made $17,500 plus playing bonuses.  The most he ever made in a year–his last in 1972–was $50,000.   No doubt, the biggest bonus he earned was for catching the 75-yard-pass that clinched the 1971 Super Bowl.   But his ten-year career total didn’t even add up to $500,000–less than supporting players now make in a year.   He was left with a pension that netted him less than $30,000 a year before taxes.   It might be different for players today, but the game of football didn’t make John Mackey “wealthy.”

CS Help Shape Our Extended Selves

In 1964, close to a thousand young Americans from cushy middle- and upper-class homes put themselves in harm’s way to participate in Freedom Summer which many historians cite as the beginning of what we now think of as “the Sixties.”   To withstand the dangers and to hold on to a new vision of America, each volunteer had to summon his “extended self”–the part of our identity that is tied to another person or social group.  As I explain in “We Become Who We’re With” in Chapter 3:

Our extended selves are continually affected by consequential strangers.  In the course of any given day, each encounter leaves us with impressions–images and ideas that in turn color our perception and influence our behavior.  We then bring that newly informed self into our next encounter, where we exchange more impressions.

The volunteers’ sense of self was forever changed as a result of their participation in Freedom Summer, and many other paradigm shifts in history have been driven by the same dynamics.  As sociologist Doug McAdam told me, “a movement can’t spread without the influence of weak, bridging ties.”  Translation:  Consequential strangers can take us beyond our comfort zone.

For a more current example, consider the NFL players’ participation in Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which began on October 1.  The macho men of the gridiron deck themselves out in–what?  Hot pink.  Talk about a paradigm shift.  But there’s a reason they can go beyond their individual selves.  Read why in my Psychology Today blog, “Will Pink Cleats Help NFL Players Win the Game?