Cluetrain Folks Say Life Should Be Meaningful

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In addition, this country has not viewed free trade agreements as sufficient cause for deregulation. Consequently, manufacturing jobs have gone overseas, compounding the domestic job shortage. In many portions of the country, people lucky enough to have a non-service industry job often have titles like “assistant coordinator of awareness.” Job ads show lots of need for pushing bureaucratic papers. Even the definition of fulltime employment had to be changed to try to hide the crisis.

Since economies are based on production and trade, the United States’ economy, the national debt aside, is not sustainable. Hiring people to keep up with all the crazy changes to regulations governing financial institutions, or playing games of compliance with false statistics to qualify for certification, hasn’t really worked for getting food into children’s mouths.

Technology change in and of itself is not a bad thing. There is enough pain and suffering to provide opportunities for inventing systems and devices to improve quality of life. More likely than not it is the fear that complying with regulations, which probably requires the hiring of attorneys and accountants, will not make any new idea profitable, that is keeping people from inventing.

And so it was believed that The Cluetrain Manifesto might hold some answers for where the economy is going. The book, which started as a web page, has quite the cult following. It reads somewhat like a cliff-hanger. It was reminiscent of Holy Blood, Holy Grail books that assure the reader some great discovery will be revealed in the next chapter, then in the next, and then in the next, and then in the sequel.

If anything, the Cluetrain Manifesto should leave the reader clueless except for a few things. First, the authors are very, very hip; and second, they despise hierarchy. The latter in itself is a good reason to read the book.

The authors lambaste business as usual, nailing every absurdity MBA types like to jam under employees’ fingernails. For example, they point out that the purpose of communications departments are really to shut down conversations. Story after story is told to illustrate how employees who disobeyed authority and spoke frankly with customers actually did more for the business than its PC sycophants.

On the subject of public relations, they wrote, “Everyone – including many PR people – senses that something is deeply phony about the profession. And it’s not hard to see what it is. Take the standard computer-industry press release. With few exceptions, it describes an ‘announcement’ that was not made, for a product that was not available, quoting people who never said anything, for distribution to a list of people who mostly consider it trash.

“Dishonesty in PR is pro forma. A press release is written as a plainly fake news story, with headline, dateline, quotes, and all the dramatic tension of a phone number. The idea, of course, is to make the story easy for editors to ‘insert’ in their publications.

‘But an editor would rather insert a crab in his b**t . . . .” They go on to explain how real editors, who want to sell publications, don’t let sources write stories, and are capable of seeing through such “thinly-veiled advertisement.”

Among other absurd dances corporate structures like to make their puppets perform, the authors go after the products of visioning sessions. One author, Christopher Locke, wrote another book entitled, Gonzo Marketing; Winning through Worst Practices. The Cluetrain people are bold enough to say outloud that good employees are not reading the ridiculous memos sent out by HR departments. They’re playing on the net.

But they wouldn’t be visiting corporate web sites except to laugh. They tell consumers about how great, green, and diverse companies are, but make finding products or getting assistance almost impossible. They are full of buzzwords the Cluetrain people equate to blank Scrabble tiles that can be used anywhere. Position statements are taken as corporate leadership telling their employees and potential customers, “minds are so pathetic that they desperately need help, even if it comes in the form of an axe.”

Failure to communicate openly and honestly about products, and gagging employees with rules and regulations, are signs that a company suffers command-and-control psychosis at the helm. The Cluetrain people argue that knowledge progresses not under orders but through volitional exploration.

Most importantly, the Cluetrain people argue for a return to humanity. Markets, they constantly remind, are people. People, in turn, are imperfect. They might not have the right answers, but they find answers faster by tapping their networks than following corporate chains of command. They are more likely to find the right answer by using modern technology to relay requests to others for input. People need to be bold and risk being wrong.

Thanks to technology, “org chart” hierarchies are obsolete. Many companies are finding customer satisfaction, in the sense of fixing problems rather than scoring bad survey questions, improves by letting the whole world weigh in on tech support message boards. Organizations, they repeat and repeat, need to allow their employees to communicate in honest and human voices.

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