Each Thursday, your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets. I do this for one reason: Knowledge is power.
For years the most popular method of getting through the workday for America's business people has been make-believe, such as playacting that your office is like a sitcom or that the work it does has serious meaning.
Motivational business books like How to be a Business Super Hero or Ronin: The Way of the Samurai dare workers to think of closing deals and switching toner cartridges as inherently heroic. Recently, your Crap Archivist discovered three hilarious works of self-important business pretending, all at the Santa Monica Friends of the Library bookstore, which just might be southern California's premiere dumping ground for $1 business books that each offer exactly the same advice.
(And Cold Sassy Tree. Good God, they have a lot of that.)
So, here's three all predicated on metaphors of deep stupidity.
Punk Marketing: Get Off Your Ass and Join the Revolution
Authors: Richard Laermer and Mark Simmons
Goofy, Self-aggrandizing Metaphor: You sell Vitamin Water just like Jello Biafra would have.
"Punk is . . . Realizing people don't care about your business and certainly not your marketing, unless you give them a good reason. Better be a damn good one." (page 147).
Laermer and Simmons want you to believe that generating advertorial content for mobile devices is exactly like the birth of punk rock in every possible way, although they seem to have forgotten the parts about dying young and needle drugs and chucking your own feces upon all that society values, strategies I don't recommend for the Betty Crocker account.
In fact, complaining about the number of violent advertisements that aired during the 2006 Super Bowl, these punk-rock badasses write, "Some things are still sacred to American families, so stop messing with them."
They don't even seem to have heard about creativity being fueled by rage and alienation. Here they sneer at marketing they consider un-punk: ads for Gain detergent that try too hard.
"They are behaving like the unpopular kid at school we want to beat up when they should be like the science teacher we respect because he knows his shit."
So, to Laermer and Simmons punk = bullying unpopular kids and looking up to authority figures.
Of course, we live in a world where Green Day gets nominated for Tonys and the guy who made the movie about G.G. Allin went on to direct The Hangover, so maybe these guys are right when they claim punk is exemplified by bBrand integration" on Survivor and The Apprentice.
Or Richard Branson making everyone like his airline best.
In chapters with titles like "Leave Me Alone, Will Ya!" and "Kill the Middle Man," these guys dole out shopworn business common-sense in language that aims for Black Flag but comes out Avril Lavigne.
Here are things Laermer and Simmons identify as punk:
The Sex Pistols.
Wal-Mart's "Ol' Roy" dog food.
JK Rowling's decision to keep the plots of the later Harry Potter books secret until release date.
The intentional scarcity of Nike's Air Jordan XIII Retro Lows, which led to "fights" and "madness" among "sneakerheads."
Embedding ads in video games.
Taking a day off to visit an art gallery or see a movie so that your mind makes creative connections that inspire you to take on familiar problems in a new way.
Proctor and Gamble.
Venn diagrams linking ovals marked "Commerce," "Content," and "Consumers."
Jesus, CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership
Author: Laurie Beth Jones
Goofy, Self-aggrandizing Metaphor: You run your profitable business right in line with the principles of the man who said "You cannot serve God and mannon."
"Jesus frequently praised his staff members and told them 'Well done.'" (page 232)
"As quarterback, Jesus knew his game plan could not be to take the truth up the middle." (page 118).
In this chunk of arrogant, feel-good blasphemy, Jones posits that the good business leader is indistinguishable from a man who owned nothing, paid nothing, and died over a 40 silver-piece deal gone sour.
In dozens of two and three page chapters, she contrasts key incidents from the gospels with anecdotes about Michael Eisner, Norman Schwarzkopf, and USA Today founder Al Neuharth. She compares Jesus' ability to "boil it down" to Nike's "Just Do It" slogan. Just like Augustine, she twice introduces an example with the words "One of my favorite Gary Larson cartoons . . ."
Within the space of a paragraph she can wander from scripture to the sorriest of pop-culture chatter. From the lesson "He Empowered Women":
"Captain Picard never went into new territory without the intuitive female counselor, Troi, at his side."
Other lesson titles include "He Kept in Constant Contact With His Boss,"
"He Served Only the Best Wine," and "He Did Not Kick the Donkey."
Her specialty is imagining the Son of God as a plain-spoken Jimmy Stewart type:
"Even the thief nailed to the cross beside him made it into Paradise because, with his dying breath, he acknowledged and saw the truth. Jesus said, 'C'mon buddy. We're going home. I want you to meet my dad."
She often refers to the disciples as Jesus's staff. This can be amusing:
"Jesus was afraid. He talked about his fears to his staff."
"Jesus took his staff in hand when he said, 'Greater things than I have done shall you do.'"
Here's the best of Jones' observations:
"Perhaps Jesus loved parties so much because he was born at a party."
"Jesus did not follow the crowd. He led it. He did not report the news. He made it happen."
"Jesus had power because he 'owned' it."
"It is no coincidence that many of the leaders and prophets in the Old Testament were shepherds - people with plenty of time to listen."
Jungle Risk Management
Author: Gert Cruywagen
Publisher: Actua Press, Pretoria
Goofy, Self-aggrandizing Metaphor: Consultants are awesome, powerful jungle animals.
"The equivalent of body armor, like that employed by the leopard tortoise and the porcupine, for an enterprise is a robust business plan."
Jesus CEO and Punk Marketing might be shoddy, shallow, and insulting to anybody who cares about Jesus or punk, but at least they pulse with the curious passions of their authors.
By contrast, Jungle Risk Management works about as hard a football coach teaching social studies. Author Cruywagen will rattle off interesting facts about, say, an ostrich for a couple pages, and then he'll toss in a page-and-a-half warning companies not to stick their heads in the sand.
The idea is the animal facts should help people run their companies or manager their careers, so I don't really get why Cruywagen includes things like this, from his chapter on the impala:
"To sacrifice more than 50% of your offspring to enable the species to survive is an extremely heavy price to pay, but ultimately the results justify the means."
I think that brave bit of business truth-telling also turns up in The Fountainhead somewhere.
Cruywagen also insists that lion is king of the beasts the way that McDonalds is king of the beasts, compares the teamwork of wild dogs to investment firm Cantor Fitzgerald's rapid return to the market after losing their headquarters in the World Trade Center attacks, and reminds us that helmeted terrapin give off a stink to ward off predators, which I think might be what NBC was up to bringing Jay Leno back.
Here's more tips to apply to your workplace:
"However, risk management is not only about defence, and teamwork is required to rapidly exploit opportunities, or in the case of the African bush, to acquire and kill prey."
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"A zebra mare gives birth lying on her back."
"The best-known meerkat is probably Timon from the Walt Disney movies about the Lion King."
"The case for risk management integration cannot be more aptly illustrated than by the example of the ultimate risk manager, the Nile crocodile."
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