All aboard...the Cluetrain
I am probably the last Marketing person on the planet to have read the Cluetrain Manifesto - but the old cliche 'better late than never' definitely applies. Wow. First, a big 'thank you' to Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger for capturing common sense and laying it down in black and white. Though your words are now over six years old, they are able to stand the test of time – ringing as true today as they did in 1999.
You can read it all online, but I would encourage you to buy the print version and support these guys for putting themselves out there when no one else had the cajones to do so.
They preach the importance of people having ‘human to human’ conversations and giving ‘power’ (or I should say ‘a voice’) back to the people who can make a difference in the world – not just those with a VP in their title. They encourage us to put ourselves out there – whether our ideas are right or wrong – just to keep trying as everyone has something to contribute.
It is such a simple premise, but one I still see being blasted today. In too many organizations (mine is/was no exception), those lower down the totem pole are left with the feeling their opinion doesn’t count. That unless you have an MBA or a 30 direct reports looking up to you – it is just best you do your job and let the ‘professionals’ make all the hard decisions. This has to stop. This has to stop now if businesses wish to be successful.
I have been extremely lucky in my professional life to always have a position where I had direct access to the CEO’s ear, and with that – took the role of corporate cheerleader so to speak, by sticking up for the little guy to ensure their voice is heard throughout the organization. No, my current CEO may not always wish to hear my opinion (as I like to give it often and several times it is totally opposite of his), but at least I have had the opportunity to be heard. I never knew how important this was until recently when the hierarchy started to change within our walls and I found myself no longer part of the ‘in crowd’. I think my outing started when I stood up against a decision made by our CTO which was not something he tolerated - so I got on his shit list which trickled into other departments – ultimately affecting my relationship with our CEO. The ranks started to close and decisions were then being made without consulting those who could offer additional insight or would be directly affected by the choice. I realized I had just lost my voice to help make a difference. It was an interesting feeling to go through as I found myself angry most of the time for not being included, and I pulled back from those who looked to me for support as I figured I could not do anything else for them. Without a voice, what good was I to them? Gosh that was a miserable time, but important I went through it. I learned so much and found I had taken my 'soapbox' for granted.
I started thinking about how lucky I was and felt sorry for all those who had never even been able to speak up on their own. Yes, I might have had it and then lost it – but isn’t that another popular cliché…’better to have had [love] and lost it than to never have had it at all’.
Well, thankfully – I am not one to sit back on my laurels for too long. Faced with the decision of finding another job or sticking with a company I still believed could make a huge difference in the industry – I walked into the CEO’s office and had a heart to heart. Gosh that felt good. Of course, it didn’t hurt knowing if I crossed the line and he fired me for being too outspoken I had a rainy day fund to fall on…but what a sense of empowerment to take my life (and my dignity) back into my own hands. How I wish that for everyone. And, I wish that every business would give their employees the sense of freedom to open up and be heard. There are so many people out there with wonderful ideas that we cannot afford to be close-minded and watchful of titles. Doesn’t matter if you are in sales, accounting, marketing, engineering or customer support – contribute, share your passions - and find a company that allows you to do so.
Is my company perfect now? Absolutely not. I don’t think any are – but at least our CEO is committed to providing an environment that encourages creativity and sharing. And if it starts to change back to crap again…at least my resume is now up to date.
I think one of the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto, Christopher Locke, summed it up best with: 'Imagine a world where everyone was constantly learning, a world where what you wondered was more interesting than what you knew, and curiosity counted for more than certain knowledge. Imagine a world where what you gave away was more valuable than what you held back, where joy was not a dirty word, where play was not forbidden after your eleventh birthday. Imagine a world in which the business of business was to imagine worlds people might actually want to live in someday. Imagine a world created by the people, for the people not perishing from the earth forever.' Every day brings new promise - make the most of it.
The fellas also provided a quasi-12 step program for Internet Business Success in the book, but I think it applies to everyday living:
Relax. Have a sense of humor. Find your voice and use it. Tell the truth. Don’t panic. Enjoy yourself. Be brave. Be curious. Play more. Dream always. Listen up. Rap on.
Cool stuff Maynard. I am a Cluetrain believer.
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