Don't mean to stray from things dental too much, but I've been exploring the story of William Wilberforce and the Abolitionist Movement in great depth lately, and there are so many important lessons to be learned from it all. (See first my "Good deeds do, sometimes, go unpunished" of April 15) It all started when I watched 2007's "Amazing Grace" for the third (!) time; now I'm reading Eric Metaxas' remarkable book of the same name. In the final analysis, Wilberforce and his many friends in the movement managed to defeat the Slave Trade by exposing it, making it transparent, showing the population of the British Empire what was happening behind the mask of propaganda and lies that the slaveholding interests had put forth for 200 years.
There are so very many deep parallels in today's world, aren't there?
My great friend Anne McCrossan may just know more than anyone about Transparency, and about what she terms Blatant Integrity.
Still, it isn't as if every business that proceeds with Blatant Integrity and Transparency wins out, and all the Enrons and AIG's and morally bankrupt banks just go under right away. Not yet anyway. Seeing slimy companies succeed can be disheartening, it's true. Like William Wilberforce, Anne has been pushing hard against some pretty stony walls for a long time.
But then there's Josiah Wedgwood. As Seth Godin points out in "Meatball Sundae", Wedgwood created the first brand in the history of the world, he was the first to proudly put his name on everything he made, the first to smash substandard items with his walking stick and lead his staff to do better. The first to engage his customers Viscerally and build Affinities, not just count transactions. And- his own Blatant Integrity led him to support the Abolition Movement with an image that was the very first iconic image ever used in a human rights campaign. "Am I Not a Man and a Brother?" became the anthem of a generation.
And his company is, this year, celebrating its 250 year anniversary.
In those early, heady days of brands most businesses were based on Affinity with their stakeholders- meaning their customers and employees. Then things started to change as the more faceless corporate model took hold.
For a long time, what Seth Godin calls the "Advertising-Industrial Complex" drove much of human commerce, although we might refer to it tongue-in-cheek as inhuman commerce, because it was all based on corporate-speak and piles of legalese, nothing Visceral about it. Nothing to really engage us. Now, with the rise of Social Networking, the consumer has experienced a true renaissance. To use Anne's phrase, we can look away, walk away, click away from any business that refuses to engage us in the manner in which we wish to be engaged. This gives Visceral businesses a stupendous advantage- in the long run. Those of us who understand and wish to operate this way must be patient. Even Enron fooled people for awhile.
Sometimes, though, I begin to think that the increasing difficulty of doing evil in the dark is one of the most important developments of our time.
I know that the media says that "the world" is all one big global connected morass, but in practical terms your "world" is a fluid concept that changes all the time, and is, truth to tell, much of the time just the people and places and businesses right in your own neighbourhood. I urge you all to recognize your newfound power, support the folks around you who possess Blatant Integrity, and hammer those who do not. Shine some light on them all; the Enrons will scamper for cover while the Wedgwoods will simply look better for having been seen more clearly. "Steady On", Anne!