No Customer Engagement, Workplace Sexism & Arguing With Friedman

Twitter, Twitter chat, KaizenBizAbout once a month, we do something different on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz. It’s “Bring Your Own Headline”. It tends to be much more wide ranging and quick conversations about business ideas, events or news. What are you reading or viewing that made you stop and think? This week, we are going to move from topic to topic and see what big ideas are popping up. So, check out these stories and bring your own this Friday to the live Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am.

Customers don’t want to engage?

Gregory Ciotti has a provocative post on, “The Shocking Truth: Customers Don’t Want to Engage With Your Company.” Ciotti writes that customers don’t want to have conversations with companies and that a recent Corporate Executive Board study reveals three myths:

  • Myth #1: Most consumers want to have a relationship with your brand.
  • Myth #2: Interactions build relationships
  • Myth #3: The more interaction the better

But…but…but…many marketers tell you to converse with customers on blogs and other social media platforms. However, the research is telling us otherwise. Consumers think with their pocketbooks and values. Ciotti explains that creating brand loyalty comes from understanding what does drive customers to purchase, recommend and repeat. The two biggest driver is the sense of shared values (think Toms Shoes or Harley Davidson). The premise is that consumers will identify with a shared idea or belief and buy.

If customers can suffer from information overload, how much interaction is enough?

Ciotti recommends “making an enemy.’ To what degree do brands invoke a sense of group identity?

Is brand loyalty more likely to occur if a customer receives a discount and/or a sense of money well spent?

 Sexism is more underground?

With the firing of Jill Abramson from The New York Times, there has been discussion about women, gender expectations and the workplace.The conversation never really goes away and Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In has stirred things up as well. According to Rosalind Barnett of Brandeis University, there is a soft war against women going on around us. Fast Company has a recent group of posts that look at various ways women are penalized in the workplace for being…well..women. From the Mommy Tax to entrenched biases discovered through research, it seems that this tension is likely to remain a part of the workplace for the forseeable future.

How are gender roles expressed in the workplace?

What underlies the discomfort when a person acts outside of gender role expectations?

How do traditional gender roles benefit the workplace?

Arguing with Milton Friedman

Economics is one of those subjects that most people consider dry and esoteric. Yet, when we talk about corporate responsiblity, fostering start ups or which regulations should enacted and/or enforced, we are applying economics. Milton Friedman was an avid advocate for capitalism and free markets. He explained in 1970 that “There is one and only one social responsibility of business — to use it resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.””There is one and only one social responsibility of business — to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.” In practice, this means that a company can operate and comply with best practices and laws but not necessarily engage in corporate social responsibility.

According to Roger Martin, there is a problem with the logic of Friedman’s argument. Martin writes that the trade-offs  that Friedman objected to are unfounded and that “100% focus on shareholder value to the exclusion of other societal factors actually produces measurably higher value for shareholders.”  Instead,  Martin offers an Aristotlian perspective that shareholders get greater value when businesses offer excellent customer service, create positive work environments and engage with the community in a sincere and socially responsible way. There may be a straw man in Martin’s argument but there are many questions since the global recession about how free markets should be and if pure capitalism truly benefits all.

According to Friedman, increasing profits within the rules of the game is the one responsibility of business. How is this still true?

What are the advantages of free markets? Disadvantages?

To what degree must corporations live a “virtuous life” or is this more about individuals living this way?

How is our understanding of living a “virtuous life” changing capitalism in 21st century?

Time for your suggestions

The above topics are my suggestions for our lighting roundtable discussion on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz. If something caught your attention this week, bring it the discussion on Friday, June 6, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT. Remember to include the link and even  a discussion question.


What Is This Brou-ha-ha About “Having It All”?

men, women, having it allWe’ve certainly talked about work/life balance recently and women’s leadership but the latest brou-ha-ha erupted in The Atlantic in a post written by Anne-Marie Slaughter. She really touched a nerve when she described her dilemma between her high-level position and her family. Now there are posts written on Forbes and on Harvard Business Review among many others. One particularly interesting post was written by Dorothy Dalton.

Under all of this are deeper issues

Gender roles have been changing for many decades at this point. This is not unique to the US. But sociological constructs persist. Often certain jobs or even industries are relegated as “men’s work” or “women’s work.” Stop for a moment and consider your impression of a woman working in the construction industry in a non-clerical role or a man working as a nurse. Maybe it isn’t something that seems wrong or out of order to you but how do people in general perceive these roles? This is where the deeper issues lie.

Who said women had to be caregivers 100% of the time?

Many of the roles that are assigned to particular genders stems from another time in history. In our own time, now in 2012, there is much more mobility and possibility for both men and women. There is no monopoly on which gender is the most compassionate or nurturing.

However, there is one more variable that must be factored in. There are ongoing serious economic uncertainties for many countries. For many men and women, work is not a choice but a necessity. “Having it all” isn’t a choice; it’s a just a day-to-day experience. If you have to work, how do you manage your values, priorities and financial obligations?

If we have to do this day and and day out, what has to give?

At the end of the day, this issue is not about Sheryl Sandberg, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Christine Legarde or Angela Merkel and how they manage their careers and a personal lives.  It’s not even about the “nanny-people” and what really makes a good parent or a good worker. We all have talents that are not gender-specific. It’s just as likely that a man has talent as a nurturer and parent as it is that a woman has talent for organizing and managing the operations of a multi-national corporation. It’s really about everyday men and women who want choice about how they create fulfilling lives.

So what is this brou-ha-ha about “having it all?”

Please join us on Friday, June 29, 2012 on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz to discuss this topic. The chat begins on 5pm BST/12pm ET/9am PT and we want you to add your insight and expertise to the conversation.

Discussion questions:

How is the concept of “having it all” affecting the workplace?

Why does “having it all” persist as a women’s issue rather than a human/talent/leadership issue?

Is “having it all” simply a class issue? Why/why not?

How do we move this conversation beyond gender roles and expectations in the business environment?