Sunday, July 19, 2015

Go With The Voice

I have enjoyed watching Obama get a little more bolshy given that he is no longer running for anything. 'That's nonsense, and you should know better' Obama responded to a crafted trap. I am not partisan when it comes to American politics. I don't like the idea that any of us are partisan when it comes to politics. We get upset with politicians not leading us, but rather reflecting views of opinion polls. The truth is this is the only way that they get to do what they need to do. Politicians have to play the game of thrones. We only get a glimmer of truer feelings when they get towards the end of their careers. When they gain independence. I got to listen to Gerhard Schröder once after his independence came. He was much more interesting than a traditional politician. Because he could be.

Business people also have to play the game. Particularly in a connected world, you are representing your company's 'brand' 24/7. Especially as you get more senior. You can't have separate public and personal personas in a social media world. I first started blogging through the influence of a friend and Seth Godin. I tried to start an internal corporate blog at the company I was working at. Godin argues that corporate blogs only work if the author is prepared to be candid, transparent and interesting. This worked internally at the company, but it it is tough to meet those criteria externally. It requires bravery. The corporate world reflects the political world in that way. There is a nervousness about expressing controversial views and cutting yourself off from potential clients.

I spoke to an artist friend recently who is flirting with getting involved in social media. He wasn't sure about whether he should express his views. I think you have a choice. If you are reliant on a salary or source of income, you have a certain 'democratic' responsibility to reflect the views of that group. Your voice comes second. Voters want their voice expressed. Customers want their needs met. A company has a culture. You are a part of it. You can nudge your company, customers or voters but people don't change their worldview easily. If you are able to forge some sort of independence, where their support isn't required, then your voice can come to the fore.

If you are an artist, there may be some sort of responsibility to release that voice. I like the idea of art for art's sake. Art that communicates a feeling rather than an actionable idea. Alain De Botton makes the point though that Art has traditionally been didactic. It has had a voice. That voice comes through being prepared to dive into the the murky controversial areas. It requires bravery. It rises above democracy. One way of defining art may be 'something that has a voice.'

Godin believes Businesses can have a voice. They can be remarkable.

At some point once a leader has our trust, that trust confers an independence. It allows them to express views that make us uncomfortable. It gives them a voice. Voices are candid, transparent and interesting. Voices make mistakes in public. Voices aren't brands. They don't represent a single idea. They challenge ideas.

If you can... go with the voice.
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