Category Archives: Current Affairs

Charter for Compassion

Friday video today is a pitch for compassion worldwide. The Charter for Compassion organization is rooted in the idea that compassion is at the heart of all religion, a core concept that brings humans together. Think about it: What do all organized religions have in common?

I’ve been a member since I first heard about it. Check it out at Isn’t this something every person with a conscience agrees on? A good goal?

Charter for Compassion Vision

We believe that a compassionate world is a peaceful world.

We believe that a compassionate world is possible when every man, woman and child treats others as they wish to be treated–with dignity, equity and respect.

We believe that all human beings are born with the capacity for compassion, and that it must be cultivated for human beings to survive and thrive. Join to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Embrace the compassion revolution.

Charter for Compassion Overview

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

We therefore call upon all men and women to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.

Check it out please. Good for all humanity.




Why All Business Has to be More Social

Are trends favoring social businesses over classic “greed is good” businesses? Is all business social business? Or, every day, more business is social? I think so. I hope so.Define_Social_Entrepreneurship

I first heard the term “social venture” in the late 1990s. Back then, social ventures were the odd exception to the norm, making money while making things better for their employees, their community and rest of the world. They sold devices to sanitize drinking water in the developing world for small profits. They sold technology to develop clean energy. They sold goods that protected the health of the less privileged in the developing world.

It’s been about two years since Harvard Business Review published “Every Business Is (or Should be) Social,” an article by Deborah Mills-Scofield. She wrote:

All businesses are social. All companies have people as customers, employees and suppliers. At some point in deciding which supplier to use, in engaging your workforce, and in getting your product into users’ hands, relationships with people matter. Improving their experiences always improves the outcome for your company.

It’s not just random change. It’s progress.

It’s not that people running businesses are more ethical or moral than they used to be. It’s because of changes in rewards and penalties for good or bad behavior. Social and technological changes are real factors.
The big change started with the Internet in the 1990s. Websites gave businesses a new and different way to reach the world. Before the World Wide Web, businesses had essentially only two ways to reach out to get people to know, like and trust them. They could pay for advertising. Or they could go through the media with public relations, events, articles, speaking opportunities and the like.

The second option depended on getting through gatekeepers: editors, event managers, producers and so forth. By the middle-to-late 1990s, businesses could generate their own website and online options to attract people and help them get to know, like and trust them.

Then came blogging. Millions of people started their own blogs. Experts established their expertise by writing and publishing blog posts and articles. The gatekeepers ceded power to the general public, the readers, search engines and the quality of content. Authors, consultants and assorted business experts established themselves independently of gatekeepers.

The finishing touch was social media. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social sites offered publishing for the masses, billions of opinions expressed as likes, follows and comments.

The result of these trends is what we call transparency.

In his book “The Age of the Customer,” small business advocate Jim Blasingame suggests that we’ve passed a tipping point. “You don’t control your brand,” he says, “your customers do.” And that is a shift in centuries of business reality, he adds.

And it’s because of the accumulated power of the customer as publisher in millions of tweets and updates.

Transparency means bad business behavior is more likely to result in damage to the brand. Big corporations still want to spin information toward their favor, but it’s more difficult to do.

United Airlines took a huge hit in brand image when a customer posted a video on YouTube complaining about treatment of a guitar. Clothing brand Kenneth Cole took a huge hit when its founder tweeted that riots in Cairo were caused by his firm’s new spring fashion line. When Volkswagen cheated on emissions tests, the world knew. When General Motors misplayed product recalls, the world knew.

Transparency also means that good business behavior matters more, too.

Markets care about business stories. A new local business is more effectively able to compete against big national brands because buyers know the local firm’s story and care about it. Clean energy businesses are finding buyers willing to pay more for renewable energy than fossil fuel energy. People pay more for healthy food than mass-produced food. People care about genetically modified foods, and local foods. Some customers prefer local coffee shops to Starbucks. Chain restaurants are less attractive to some than local restaurants.

As we look at business today and trends, shouldn’t all businesses be conscious of their impact on employees, customers, the environment, the economy and the world?

Isn’t it a sign of progress that when so many businesses have a social conscience that we drop the distinction between social business and just plain business? Shouldn’t good behavior be a business advantage?

I’m happy to report that I think it’s happening. Slowly and in stops and starts, progress is being made. All business should be social business.

(Note: republished with permission from my monthly column in the Eugene Register Guard Blue Chip magazine.) 

Fifty Years of Progress

Fifty years ago, a generation of college kids thought we had the power to change the world. The age of aquarius, the greening of America, the global revolution. How did we do?

Fifty years ago, back in the sixties, farsighted people started warning us all about the damage humans were doing to earth. and it happened pretty much as they warned. Climate change, species going extinct, air and water fouled. All major cities near water are planning for sea levels raising. Warnings Unheeded

Fifty years ago, back in the sixties, farsighted people started warning us that the difference between “haves” and “have-nots” was the biggest threat to the worldwide long-term peace.  Since then, we’ve made it worse. In the U.S. we changed laws, changed the tax code, and even changed politics to exaggerate the wealth of a few. Worldwide, the difference between wealthy and poor, developed and underdeveloped, got steadily worse. And technology made it visible. Is terrorism just religious extremism? Would Jihadism been able to take roots in prosperous societies with jobs for all?

Fifty years ago, back in the sixties, laws and courts changed to outlaw blatant racism. Institutional racism became illegal with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and related legislation. The courts and the presidents desegregated the schools. And yes, of course things got better. We don’t have institutional racism like we did. We elected a black president. But don’t we also have a serious relapse of open racism, now called, simply, “not politically correct?”

Fifty years ago, back in the sixties, women’s liberation became a movement. Women demanded equal opportunity. Yes, of course things are better now, but how much? There’s still a salary gap and a glass ceiling. Fewer than 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Fewer than 20% of US legislators are women. 7 percent of investing partners at the top 100 venture and micro-venture firms are women.

Conclusion: Generation X, Millennials, take the baton. And good luck.

(Image: Shutterstock)



Rant: The Insidious Power of Political Code Phrases

Angry MobWe all use language as weapons and we’re victims of political code phrases that manipulate and distort. One classic example is the difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist. Or the battle of pro-life vs. pro-choice. What does “Wall Street” mean these days? We speak in codes and use words as weapons.  And I ask you to step back for a brief pause, and consider some new code. The power of language matters.

Jihadist vs. Muslim or Islam

Take this test: Take the more aggressive anti-Muslim or anti-Islamic statements in national politics over the last few months, and substitute the world “jihadist” for either “Muslim” or “Islamic.” See what happens to the statement. Doesn’t it improve the discussion notably?

If you use the word “jihadist,” you are talking about people who are deadly enemies to us an billions of other people, most nations, and most societies in the world.

If, on the other hand, you use the words “Muslim” or “Islamic” instead, then you make 1.6 billion people your enemy, and you are making their faith the delimiter. Then you’ve fallen into the trap of letting fear override principle. When you are talking specifically about politics and policy in this country, if you suggest policies based on religion you’ve lost track of what we stand for. Religious freedom is probably our most hallowed principle. That’s what got the pilgrims into those boats.

Bigotry vs. “politically incorrect” 

Our usage has devolved to cloaking bigotry as merely “not politically correct” or “not PC.” People should be ashamed to espouse racism, sexism, homophobia, and religious hatred; but lately, if they just refer to so-called political correctness, they aren’t. They treat “not PC” as simply honest, or, worse still, failing to fall victim to some useless conventions.

How did this happen? When did we let these code word trivialize bigotry?

The meaning devolved. It started a couple of decades ago with comedians – Bill Maher and Jeff Foxworthy come to mind immediately – making fun of what they called political correctness. We all understood, back then, that they were poking fun at exaggerations, or so it seemed; but we didn’t think they were seriously advocating bigotry.

Fast forward to now, and the usage is often cloaking bigotry now. It’s as if discrimination against Mexicans, Muslims, LGBT, and others is okay if you just call it “not PC” and give it a wink and a nod. For my two cents, I’d like to live in a society in which ethnic, racial, or religious slurs are still inappropriate. And I worry that we’re sanitizing them.

Clean Air and Water vs. Bureaucracy and Red Tape

One thing all politicians agree on is that they all favor small business and oppose bureaucracy and red tape that affects small business. That’s as universal as motherhood and apple pie. On the other hand, if you don’t have bureaucracy and red rape, you don’t have clean air, clean water, industrial safety, widespread health care, maternity leave, and so on.

Portland (Oregon) was aghast a few weeks ago to discover that a couple very small businesses making colored glass for artists, located in residential neighborhoods, have been spewing poisonous gas into the local air for decades. Nobody knew. They were too small to require environmental screening. The owners weren’t evil, according to the reporting I’ve seen; they just didn’t know. And what would have made the difference here? Exactly what we call bureaucracy and red tape.

Isn’t it also true that the poisoned water in Flint MI is related to a breakdown in enforcement of rules? Now experts are saying hundreds of other cities in the US have similar problems, but we just don’t know it.

I look at this problem as a business owner. My wife and kids and I own a business that employs more than 60 people. We didn’t inherit it, either; we created it from scratch and grew it without investment.We mortgaged our house and took risks when we had to. But we also breathe the air and drink the water, and we share the community, so we never objected to tax on profits or regulations that keep the community safe.

Conclusion: The Danger of Diluting Meaning

This post is about language, not political candidates. As our U.S. politics become increasingly divisive, it’s as if we are divided into two warring armies, in trenches, tossing code phrases at each other like soldiers in trenches would throw grenades or shoot bullets. Where once we sought facts to resolve issues, now we gather around phrases that hide facts. It’s like shouting instead of talking, without the listening and reflecting that leads to common ground and shared truth somewhere in the middle.

(Image: Flickr CC by daliborlev)

Headlines: Naked, Vicious, Brutal, and So Forth

1972 Tim Berry Mexico City
That’s me there in the UPI office in Mexico City in 1972

I was 26 years old. Married, already a father, but still, so young, and so full of illusions. I still thought – although I was starting to wonder – journalism could be about changing the world for the better. And not at all ready to accept the truth as Matt Kenny presented it to me that night, beer in hand, in a bar in Mexico City.

“Tim,” Matt said, “you have to learn about 50 words that will almost guarantee you play in the papers.” He swallowed. He looked at me and frowned. “But first I have to warn you,” he said, shaking his head, “you’re probably not going to like it.”

He swallowed again, then started listing the words:

“naked, violent, brutal, cruel, vicious, rape, clash, showdown, face-off, fists, bare, nude, stripped, fight … “

I can’t remember them all. Using these words, and combinations of them, Matt told me, would guarantee much better readership. Headlines with these words beat all other news stories.

This was in 1974.  Matt Kenny, 50-something, gray hair, glasses, and quick to smile, was day editor for United Press International in Mexico City. I was night editor. Matt had been with UPI longer than I’d been alive.  We were at that bar together that night because I Matt was a nice guy, a teacher at heart, and I was annoyed at him. So he took me out for a beer, to explain. To teach. And what he taught me 44 years ago is still true today. It’s true about headlines, readership, traffic, and people. Matt’s 50 words still work.

I was annoyed at Matt because a few days before he had rewritten my lead about a Kon-Tiki-like raft trip arriving on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. I covered the story live, from Cozumel, and Matt handled it on the desk. It was a scientific expedition, a social science experiment, or so said the adventurous organizer. I wrote a lead focusing on the science, the experiment. Matt rewrote my lead to emphasize “suntanned bikini-clad” women and the co-ed journey across the Atlantic Ocean on a raft. He took the science out of it, and replaced it with the sex.

United Press International, alias UPI, was a wire service with generations of history as the “other wire service,” the competition to Associated Press, AP, which still lives today. Mexico City was an outpost. We filed stories from Mexico City to the New York editors. The system gave the editors in New York our first sentence only, as they scanned new stories coming in. From that one line they decided whether or not they wanted to see the first paragraph.

Matt was right, of course; I didn’t like it. And he was right about headlines. Matt Kenny was not unhappy or bitter or cynical or even hard-boiled. He was a pro. He did his job well. Matt’s 50 words don’t tell us anything about him — I liked him a lot, was proud to work with him — but they tell us a lot about us. I’ve seen it over and over in the years since. I see it in the coverage of politics, news, and life in general, not just in news media, but throughout social media. And in email subject lines too. That’s who we are. It’s not the media; it’s us. Now, about violence and the primary elections … do you think this is related?

(Image: that’s me in the picture, in 1972, in the UPI Mexico City Bureau, photo by David Navarro)

Viral Video Protests Objectification of Women

Another Friday video.

I found this last week in my Twitter feed, embedded in an Ad Age article about the advertising conversation around this viral video. You probably already saw it. I could say that the objectification of women is important to me because I have four daughters, but no, it’s not just that. It’s because it’s right. It’s because I’m human. And objectification of women is bad for all humans.


What If You Answered Those Spam Emails?

In this TED talk, comedian James Veitch answers emails offering wealth in gold. It’s pretty funny, a nice 10-minute break for a Friday.

I’m not happy with the ways this embeds on this blog, so if this doesn’t give you a good screen display in the resolution you want, then you might want to try it by clicking this link: TED talk James Veitch What Happens When You Answer Spam Emails.

Real Cases: Paths Female CEOs Took to the Top

This is interesting: Harvard Business Review just published some research on how large-company female CEOs reached the top. The authors looked at the career paths of 24 women who head Fortune 500 companies.

Executive women

They do say they were testing the standard assumption that these women took “the most competitive business tracks, like investment banking and management consulting.”

It turned out, however, that the standard assumption wasn’t particularly accurate.

Most women running Fortune 500 companies did not immediately hop on a “competitive business track.” Only three had a job at a consulting firm or bank right out of college. A larger share of the female CEOs—over 20%—took jobs right out of school at the companies they now run.  These weren’t glamorous jobs.  Mary Barra, now the CEO of General Motors, started out with the company as college co-op student.  Kathleen Mazzearella started out as a customer service representative at Greybar, the company she would eventually become the CEO of more than 30 years later. All told, over 70 percent of the 24 CEOs spent more than ten years at the company they now run, becoming long-term insiders before becoming CEO. This includes Heather Bresch at Mylan, Gracia Martore at Gannett, and Debra Reed at Sempra Energy.

Even those who weren’t promoted as long-term insiders often worked their way up a particular corporate ladder, advancing over decades at a single company and later making a lateral move into the CEO role at another company.  This was the experience of Patricia Woertz, CEO of Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), who built her career over 29 years at Chevron.  And it was the experience of Sheri McCoy, who became CEO of Avon after being passed over for the CEO role at Johnson & Johnson, where she worked for 30 years.

I was glad to read that the authors conclude with some inspiration for women executives:

… the notion that regardless of background, you can commit to a company, work hard, prove yourself in multiple roles, and ultimately ascend to top leadership. These female CEOs didn’t have to go to the best schools or get the most prestigious jobs. But they did have to find a good place to climb.

And, by the way, 24 women CEOs for 500 big companies? Too bad. It should be about 250, shouldn’t it?

(This was originally published on Planning Startups Stories)

The Frightening Decline of Distribution of Wealth

Today is Blog Action Day, an annual tradition since 2008, and this year’s theme is inequality. It’s hashtags are #BAD2014 #Blogaction14, #Inequality, #Oct16. 

It’s scary to me that we don’t all take better distribution of wealth as automatically important, and self evident. I remember being a kid, in the 1950s and 1960s, when everybody I knew, everybody in the mainstream news media, and everybody anybody talked to, assumed that concentration of wealth in just a few hands was a symptom of an underdeveloped, third-world economy. We who lived in the United States, we all agreed, were blessed with a growing middle class. The better distribution of wealth was a sign of a strong economy and an enlightened society. Or so we assumed. 

Flash forward 50 years or so, and (OMG and WTF) we’re riding on several decades of increasing concentration of wealth, both in the U.S. and worldwide. What’s wrong with this picture?  

I’m struggling as I write this for the proper adjectives for the three-minute video embedded here. Startling? Disturbing? Frightening? Extremely important? I’m not sure. All of those words apply. Please take the three minutes, and just watch. (And, by the way, click here for the YouTube source if you don’t see it on the page here.)