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Views from the Prairie

August 11

New American Business Success

Many (thousands) of years ago, a small country went through an economic collapse. This collapse generated numerous religious writings calling people "back to the right way" of living. Repeatedly, people were asked to define success in life by spiritual measures instead of by how much wealth they had.

The same thing is happening today in American business. There is a spate of business books redefining what it means to be a successful leader. Most of these books point out that success and leadership are based on factors that are almost impossible to measure. These criteria can be described as "spiritual".

For example, Maria Bartiromo' book, The 10 Laws of Enduring Success, lists as major headings, Self Knowledge, Vision, Initiative, Courage, Integrity, Adaptability, Humility, Endurance, Purpose, and Resilience. Just try to put any of these on the balance sheet! Yet, they are more likely to impact the results of the company than anything that the accountants can measure.

When times are good, defects in character don't seem to matter. Nearly everyone is making money. When times are bad, character becomes more important. This is true both for corporations as well as for individuals.

Similarly, a book on creativity, A Whole New Mind, suggests that anything that _can_ be measured is something that we can outsource to a cheaper location. Therefore, the soft skills are the ones that will count in the future. The author claims that "design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning" will dominate in the future.

In Moral Intelligence 2.0, a book by Don Lennick and Fred Kiel with Kathy Jordan, they discuss how to be a leader in turbulent times. The main criteria they suggest are: Integrity, Responsibility, Compassion, Forgiveness, and Emotional Competence.

There are even more books recently published on the same theme such as Humiltas - a Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership by John Dickson or Unusually Excellent by John Hamm.

What all of these are pointing to is the value of character in business. We all make mistakes. Our character shows in how we deal with those mistakes, how we handle when our own behavior does not meet expectations, and how we deal with the uncertainties and unexpected events in life.

Leadership is not something handed to us. We earn it by our life experiences, what we learn from life, and how we direct those experiences to help others. We make ourselves into someone that others want to follow.

Personal development has been long part of American culture. The Great Awakening back in prior centuries focused on personal improvement and gave us numerous facets of our culture. We Americans have always pointed to character over class or position as the basis for success.

No Privacy on the Web

For a long time, many of us have acted as if we have privacy on the Internet. People have done searches that they would not want others to know about. People have sent messages that they would not want to have other know who sent it. But privacy on the Internet is a thing of the past.

For example, face recognition software is becoming common. Some places are starting to use such software to try to recognize who is passing a public camera. Others use it to try to link together pictures taken in different locations to a specific person. We are likely to see facial recognition software go through the web and tie that "sexted" image with the person applying for a job. Privacy in pictures is disappearing.

For a long time, many people assumed that the volume of information on the web meant that nobody would want to search through it all to find specific people. Recent events in other countries have proved the opposite. Today's supercomputers allow oppressive regimes to search through all the postings on Twitter to find who organized the event, track that person down, and deal with him/her.

A recent effort in Israel is trying to provide up to the second tracking of "criminals" and "terrorists" with the goal of trying to predict when and where they might take action. Today, the British government wants real time tracking of people who advocate violence.

It is time to consider that actions on the Internet (including on Facebook) as being done in the public square.

Risky World

Risky World University of Pennsylvania researchers recently showed that the portable radios used by many U.S. federal law enforcement agents have security flaws that allowed sensitive traffic to be intercepted. The researchers also found that the radios can be effectively jammed using an electronic child's toy and that an attacker can track the location of a radio's user.


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