Oct 31

Blue Rondo à la Rep: What Happened to Jazz?

Today’s blog entry is special for (at least) two reasons. First of all, the subject of the day is jazz music. As we’ll explore below, jazz lends itself well to dissection in a RepMan blog. Second, today’s entry was written by two RepMan guest bloggers – young Peppercommers and jazz enthusiasts, Laura Bedrossian and Nick Light. As always, comments are encouraged in order to continue the conversation.
Harlem JazzCan you identify any of the musicians mentioned in this post and pictured above in this famous 1958 photo taken in Harlem?

[Nick]

Greetings, readers. In order to kick off the discussion, I’d like to briefly talk about why Laura and I chose jazz music as the subject of today’s entry. Given that the general overarching theme (we think) of RepMan is reputation, we thought it appropriate to examine a topic that couldn’t have a more confused reputation (which is to say image or brand). In my experience, when I tell new acquaintances that I like jazz, their notions of what jazz is rarely come close to the real modern jazz experience. Now, I’m not saying that everyone should have the same experience as my own, nor that my experience is the real one.

The most common associations with Jazz music that I encounter are: 1) Those who see jazz as elevator music. jazz is not elevator music, and the music you hear in elevators or shopping at JCPenny is rarely jazz. 2) Those who associate jazz with John Coltrane and Miles Davis. I enjoy Miles and Coltrane, and they certainly played jazz music, but their careers have long since ended, and jazz has expanded in so many directions since their golden years. Check this out, for example. 3) Those who see jazz as an exclusive, white glove genre for individuals who are too polished to associate with the groundlings. In my experience, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. In short, jazz music lacks consistent branding. We could spend a lot of time debating why. One suspects money is a large issue. But I digress. Laura?

[Laura]

Completely agreed, Nick. Though I would like to add that for someone who says that jazz music is her favorite type of music, it is usually accompanied by a –“What are you, 70?” I’ll chalk that one up to inconsistent/incorrect branding (if any).

In addition to our love of jazz and the obvious issues with the image that people have in their heads, I also am fascinated by the history of the genre. There once was a time where jazz and drug/alcohol addiction seemed to go hand-in-hand. Which is not to say that all musicians did, but I still think that is an image issue today. My own observations and studies have gotten me to wish I could jump in a time machine and work on the personal brand of some musicians, or if I wanted to fight an uphill battle, some bigger challenges. 

PR Dreams:

  • Glenn Miller – when Jimmy Stewart portrays you in the movie about your life, you’re automatically a PR dream.
  • Benny Goodman – credited with one of the most recognizable jazz tunes ever – Sing, Sing, Sing.
  • Louis Armstrong – no explanation necessary. He’s the man.
  • Ben Pollack – as the “Father of Swing,” five famous jazz musicians started off in his group—two of whom are on this list.

Not-at-all-as-dreamy PR Dreams (aka nightmares):

  • Bix Biederbecke – alcoholic, father was a minister who openly disapproved of his son’s choice of career.
  • Charlie Parker – drug addict/alcoholic. Didn’t show up to a gig one time, everyone thought he was dead, but he was actually blackout drunk under the bandstand.
  • Richard Twardzik – died from a heroin overdose.
  • Chet Baker – very publicized drug habit.
  • Billie Holiday – multiple arrests throughout her life for drug possession, including on her deathbed.

If each of the people in these lists, and those who are unnamed in both categories had PR representation, would jazz be in a different light today? With the right PR pros (cough, cough, me and Nick, cough), yes.

While this could easily turn into a two-part blog or (fingers crossed) a book deal, there is so much we did not cover, we’d love to hear your thoughts. What are your impressions of jazz? Think we’re on target with our thoughts on how the whole genre could be presented differently?

Oct 28

Full disclosure was never part of Jobs’ job

Guest post by Michael Dresner, CEO of Brand² Squared Licensing, the strategic licensing division at Peppercom

Apple_steve_s_blood_683003pThe number of articles and blogs about late Apple Founder and CEO Steve Jobs have been limitless in recent weeks, and his legacy has been hotly debated. To summarize it all – many of his contributions to business, and to consumer products, can be described as brilliant.  And, many of his managerial practices can be described as toxic. Both points of view have been embellished – let’s face it. Yet one perspective has gotten a slightly less attention in recent weeks. It deserves thought.

Steve Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2003.  Five year survival rates according to the American Cancer Society are less than 6%. At the time he was the CEO of a public, high-growth Fortune 500 corporation.  Furthermore his personal and iconic status was inextricably linked to Apple brand associations.  His tenure at Apple would (and will) have a direct effect on the corporation’s longevity.

Did Steve Jobs have an obligation to disclose his illness? To the public, to his employees, or his board? This could be a matter of opinion.  And mine is:  no way.  He didn’t have to tell a soul. Ever.

Allow me to clarify.  A seismic difference exists from disclosing personal health problems (which may or may not be fatal) and proactively establishing a succession plan for high-profile leaders in such case that said leader is suddenly unable or unwilling to perform the task at hand.  The latter was Jobs’ requirement.  Long before Jack Welch retired he was vocal about possible CEOs that would one day replace him, acknowledging several by name.  Microsoft has always promoted senior managers in the press by name, long before Bill Gates stepped down from the CEO and Chairman roles.  Jobs rarely did that.  (Neither has HP or Yahoo! if you have followed those revolving doors.  Jobs wasn’t alone in that weakness.)  The press cannot mention more than five people other than Tim Cook who even work at Apple.  And that’s a shame because among the best parts of genius is ensuring it is imparted to others.  To say nothing of the fact that if Jobs was terminally ill, or if he perished in an accident, or decided to move his family to Rio, the company was at potential peril.  In terms of his personal future, this is where Jobs’ – and his board’s – responsibility begins and ends.

Jobs’ health was nobody’s business but his own.  Maybe he would beat the odds of pancreatic cancer.  Maybe he would perish in an unexpected accident.  Maybe he would suddenly resign to spend time with his family years before he did.  He had the right to do any of those things, employment agreement notwithstanding.  And who are we, as investors or consumers to expect him to tell us about his personal health?  Perhaps we should tell President Obama to quit smoking and Governor Christie to lose weight, or take away their right to pursue reelection.  Those are behaviors that can lead to fatal illness.  Heart disease is a far more common fatality than cancer among men. I’d like to take things a few steps further. Every 15 minutes someone perishes in an automobile accident. (Pancreatic cancer is far more rare.) So I think the leader of the free world, if not flying Air Force One, should be required by law to ride his bike. That’s a lot more healthy than sitting in the back seat of a limo.

This sounds absurd because it is absurd.  Obama doesn’t have to acknowledge this nonsense.  He has a back-up plan – Vice President Biden.  Let’s find Steve Jobs and any CEO of a public company at fault for not building a succession of increasingly talented managers to pick up where she or he leaves off.   Never require an individual to reveal his personal health problems to stakeholders when the responsibility is professional and fiduciary.  The expectation is invasive and offensive.

P.S. The Securities Act of 1933 and Securities Exchange Act of 1934, requires companies with publicly traded securities to make fair, timely disclosures of material information to the investing public.  One can reasonably interpret federal law to require Jobs to timely disclose his pancreatic cancer to Apple shareholders.  The Office of Civil Rights enforces HIPAA Privacy Rule, which protects the privacy of individually identifiable health information.  And of course the fourth Amendment to the U.S. constitution has been oft applicable to rights of privacy.  I’m happy to weigh the integrity of HIPAA, the U.S. Constitution and the SEC on this or any matter.  The SEC loses. 

Oct 27

What a REAL Steve Jobs presentation must have been like

Wednesday's CommPR.Biz contains a blog authored by Makovsky's Gene Marbach and entitled, "The Art of the Presentation (and What I Learned from Steve Jobs).

Moses-Jobs72As might be expected, the blog contains all the smart things great presenters already know (i.e. Jobs strict adherence to The KISS principle, his not relying solely on PowerPoint slides, etc.). And clearly, in his public performances, Jobs was, indeed, a master presenter.

But, as is now finally becoming abundantly clear, the real Steve Jobs was a total perfectionist who terrorized everyone from Apple employees to hapless restaurant waitresses. By all reports, Jobs didn't suffer fools gladly; he actually pulverized the bejesus out of them.

So, knowing the real Steve Jobs for what he was, I wonder what one of his REAL internal presentations at Apple must have been like…

Scene: A large auditorium at Apple headquarters. Lights dim. Spotlight picks Jobs as he strides across the stage to thunderous applause.

Jobs raises his hand, asking for quiet: "Shut up, you worthless slugs and pay attention!" (Note: This is a superb technique with which to make an immediate audience connection.)

Jobs:  "Before I begin, there are a few ground rules even you simpletons will grasp. No talking. No arms folded or legs crossed. You in the first row, you're fired! That'll teach you to keep your legs crossed. Idiot! Now, the rest of you, listen up: you inhale and exhale on my commands only, got it? Now, slide one."

Slide One shows a classic portrayal of god in heaven with Steve's head superimposed on the body.

Jobs: "Excellent. This is just in case you had any doubts about my ultimate authority." (Note: Here's another tried and true presentation technique since Jobs establishes his credentials right up front.)

Slide Two shows an oh-so-clever, uber-cool, new type of communications device.
Jobs: "What you incredibly fortunate rabble are now viewing is the new iJobs. Quite simply, it is the greatest product ever invented. It will end war, world hunger and poverty. And it has some pretty neat apps too." (Note: A superb presentation technique. Rather than waste his precious time on features Jobs, instead, focuses on the new product's benefits.)

Slide Three shows the mushroom cloud that rose above Hiroshima in the moments after the first atomic bomb was dropped.

Jobs: "This is our competition. This is what you will do to our competition. And, if you don't, this is what your career will look like. Now, go out and sell, you morons!" (Note: What a superb way to quickly wrap up his remarks, motivate the audience and also suggest possible outcomes if they don't succeed.)

So, in just three slides and two minutes, we can see how masterful Steve Jobs was at presentation techniques. Like Makovsky's Marbach, I've sure learned something from Steve Jobs. Fear and retribution are powerful motivators and can make any presentation a total home run.

And, now, as Mr. Jobs might say if he were addressing you, go back to leading your lives of quiet desperation.

Oct 26

One is the loneliest number

One of the immediate outcomes of the just published IBM Institute for Business Value's study of 1,734 chief marketing officers is a collective sigh of relief among CMOs who have reviewed it, says Carolyn Heller Baird, director, Global CRM Research Leader at the Institute.

GBS_IBVhero_930x300“The CMOs with whom we've shared the results tell us they're relieved to know they're not alone in helping their organizations cope with the fundamental shifts we're seeing in business,” observed Baird. “While we're still sifting through the data on an industry-by-industry basis, the CMOs are remarkably similar in terms of how they manage data, deliver value, foster lasting connections and measure results. In reviewing what their peers say, the CMOs feel validated and inspired.”

I can relate to that. As the CEO of an independent, midsized communications firm, I often feel alone in making decisions. So, I can empathize with the pressures that must weigh on the CMO of a Fortune 500 company.

And, while Baird says there are no dramatic differences between CMOs in the business-to-consumer and business-to-business spaces, she does see distinctions between chief marketing officers in emerging markets (i.e. Kenya, Croatia and Peru) vs. those in mature ones (i.e. The U.S., Germany and Japan).

“CMOs in emerging markets have fewer legacy issues and more flexibility. In many ways, they're starting from scratch,” Baird says. As a result, they can wear multiple hats and make multiple decisions. And, that has to be liberating.

Regardless of whether they find themselves in the Czech Republic or the United Kingdom, though, I have to believe every CMO wants to avoid the gaffe just made by their peer at Netflix. In fact, The New York Times says the corporation “…made a classic business mistake. In its reliance on data and long-term strategy, the company underestimated the unquantifiable emotions of subscribers who still want those little red envelopes, even if they forget to ever watch the DVD's inside.”

IBM confirmed that managing what they call 'the data explosion' was the top concern of CMOs and that many “struggle to develop customer insights because they primarily focus on understanding markets rather than individuals.”  I believe far too many marketing and corporate communications executives depend solely on data to drive their decisions. The smartest ones know a mix of gut instinct and intuition are just as important in deciding their marketing mix; as is the elementary, but often overlooked, solution of simply putting oneself in a customer's shows and experience the brand from the outside in.

I don't know if the Netflix CMO felt alone when he made a huge decision relying solely on data and yesterday's strategy, but he'll most certainly be alone in resurrecting his career. Before he starts the journey, though, he might want to read the IBM report. It may prevent a similar mistake down the road.

Oct 25

If I knew then what I know now…

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Dandy Stevenson.

My home state of NC has launched a “Tobacco-Free Me” pledge program to poised to keep kids from ever trying a cigarette. I applaud that initiative, vote in favor of sky high taxes on cigarettes and praise lawmakers around the world for every bit of legislation that makes it hard for anyone to smoke. And getting to the kids before they start is, I think, maybe the most important of all. I know all too well.

Smokning I was born in the tobacco capital of the world, Winston-Salem, to a family with deep ties to the industry— a great-grandfather sold the first train load of RJ Reynolds products.  As a RJR stock-holder, I got free samples of new cigarettes in the mail— when I was all of 10 years old. I wasn’t smoking then, but the heady sweet smell from the factories, mixed with the smoke from the finished product implanted in my Dad’s hand, was already doing a number on me.

I had my first cigarette at 14. Martha Ann Young’s older brother fell asleep on the sofa watching Bonanza and we fingered a couple like the sneaky kids we were.  (Martha Ann also introduced me to wild boys, so you know the kind of friend she was.) We were so impressed with our sophistication – impossibly cool with heads cocked and arms gracefully arched, showcasing our cigarettes for all the birds to see—  as we knelt under the magnolia behind her garage.

I bought my first full pack at 16, for a whopping 20 cents and the clerk no more asked for my ID than for me to jump straight up. (I sold individual butts to my little brother for a quarter— made him slide the coin under my bedroom door before I’d roll the cig back to him. I was hooked on supply and demand too.) 

My sister smoked, my teachers smoked, my dog smoked.  I graduated from RJ Reynolds High school and in college preferred my papers rolled with tobacco rather than the grass my roommates introduced me to.  I never worried about smelling like smoke, because everything in my world smelled like smoke:  my friends, my car, my Cheerios.

Fast forward a few decades.  I emerge from a nicotine fueled haze and found the world had changed. The smoke-free zones had spread as fast as ice in a frying pan, and included not only restaurants, airplanes and offices but also my sister’s garage, my son’s boat and my boyfriend’s bed.  I could still smoke in my apartment, and presumably behind Martha Ann Young’s garage.  But that was about it.

And finally I had enough. So four years ago I put the patch on my arm and took the monkey off my back.  I had a relatively easy time with it because I viewed it as not quitting something I liked, but becoming something I wanted to be: a non-smoker.  I didn’t want to smoke for a number of reasons, including of course, my health. But the lock-down on places to smoke and the pressure to not partake in such an un-cool, un-sophisticated and un-healthy habit certainly weighed heavily on me. 

I didn’t know that not doing something could be so joyous. Usually pleasure comes from action…  riding a horse, having a glass of wine, going to the movies.  Every day I am  happy to not have to light up after a flight, with a cup of coffee or when I am stressed. I don’t have to bum a light, try to hide a coughing fit or interrupt a nice dinner to go puff.  I have more money, fewer colds and less droopy skin.

When I was growing up society did everything but light the cigarettes for me. And then finally society demanded that I just-for-heaven’s-sake-go-ahead-and-quit-already.  I am thrilled that the charge against this dreadful drug is not losing any steam.

I am not ashamed of my family’s heritage and connection with tobacco.  But it was a way of life that thankfully is going up in smoke.

Oct 24

Do You Truly Want to Be a Leader? Listen to What’s Happening in Pop Culture

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Sam Ford

For marketers and communicators, especially those working at agencies, staying on top of what's truly shaping communication is vital. But, as an industry, we've never really been all that good at it. Sure, we can see trends happening once they are prevalent and react to them. But it's been tough for agencies to truly innovate and drive our clients toward where they should be headed.

 Foent
Even if you prioritize constantly challenging the way you think, it's hard to figure out how to do that. At Peppercom, we put a great deal of emphasis behind challenging our own status quo: from our internal Innovation Mill launched by Peppercommer Lauren Begley–which highlights the latest innovations and experiments in the marketing space that we might learn from as an agency–to collaborating with new partners and making hires from outside the public relations space. (After all, that's what brought me–now an "in-house" media studies academic–to the firm.)
 
But beyond that, I wanted to share a bit of advice I've learned over the years as to the best way to stay on top of what's happening in the world: keep up with what's happening in culture. That's the gist of Grant McCracken's Chief Culture Officer: that marketers who pay little attention to the world around them will both miss out on business opportunities and find themselves at risk.
 
I'll take that one step further and say that PR, advertising, corporate communication and marketing pros who want to truly stay abreast of what's happening and what's coming need to watch the entertainment space.
 
For the past several years, I've been fortunate to help organize an annual conference called the Futures of Entertainment. The event brings together media industries practitioners, marketers, and media scholars to talk about what's happening in the entertainment world. And, through my years of research, I've often found that new modes of engagement, developments and challenges that eventually affect companies and governments have, in some ways, often been "previewed," in a way, among media audiences over the years.
 
After all, many of the ways citizens today talk about the news, rally the government, or petition companies–particularly through online communication–was once considered the strange and marginalized space of "the fan" or "fanatic," people who had nothing better to do with their time than to become obsessed with what they watch, create media that responds to it, share media amongst each other, etc.
 
Each year, I look at the issues that end up getting planned for the conference as a barometer of the things I should be keeping in mind and the issues I should be thinking about how to bring to bear on our agency and our clients. And I'm especially proud this year that Peppercom's events division, Peppercommotions, is helping plan the conference.
 
To Repman readers, whether you work for an agency or "in-house," I highly recommend you come up and join us at MIT Nov. 11-12 to talk about pressing issues like "spreadable media," crowdsourcing, location-based technologies, audience/producer collaboration, and privacy issues. In particular, we'll look at the innovations taking place in journalism & documentary filmmaking, music, serialized storytelling, and children's media. And I promise there will be many implications to come from these issues in the marketing world. Rather than waiting for them to happen and playing catch-up, I hope you'll consider joining us.
 
More information on the conference is available here: http://convergenceculture.org/futuresofentertainment/2011/
 
Grant McCracken's book referenced is here: http://www.amazon.com/Chief-Culture-Officer-Breathing-Corporation/dp/0465018327

Oct 21

The Sixth Question

Silverpop, which says it provides 'e-mail and marketing automation that's complete, not complex,' just sent me an unsolicited, 15-page report entitled, '5 Questions Keeping Marketers Up at Night — and 5 Experts with All the Answers'.

For the record, the five questions are:
- Are you as social as your prospects?
- Are you as strategic as you want to be?
- Can you automate the tactical?
- Do you wish you could do more with less?
- Can you prove your value?

ImaghhhhesIn quickly scanning the document, it became readily apparent that Silverpop's experts forgot to add a sixth, more fundamentally important question that pre-empts the others:

- Have you placed yourself in your customers' shoes and experienced your brand as they do?

A marketer really shouldn't bother addressing Silverpop's other questions until she's experienced her own brand.

But, far be it from me to wax poetic on the importance of what we call Audience Experience. The IBM Institute of Business just published a highly readable, in-depth study of the wants and needs of 1,700 CMOs in 16 countries.

In it, the IBM experts said, “…look at the organization through your customers' eyes, as they progress through the full relationship lifecycle. While you may believe you already capture this information (take note Silverpop types), all the data in the world cannot replace the personal experience of walking in your customers' shoes.” To which I say, amen.

This outside-in way of thinking now pervades Peppercom's go-to market strategy (as well as the way in which we now think about client relationships and business development).

Yet, far too many marketers remain content to stay sequestered in their corner offices and have a Silverpop tell them what the data means. Considering most CMOs have the lifespan of a May fly, one would think they'd take The Sixth Question more seriously.

Oct 20

Humor is a strategic business weapon

I was shocked, but not surprised, to read a recent CommPRO guest blog authored by Robert Geline of 144 Media entitled, 'When, if ever, is the right time to use humor in a presentation?'

Slide1The author said he thinks it's “…O.K. to go for a laugh, but the joke or story you're telling must have a direct connection to the major point you are making. Even if the material is relevant to the content of your talk, you are still taking a potentially unacceptable risk.” To which I replay, 'Balderdash!'

In fact, Geline's antiquated, stultifying POV is precisely WHY so many business presentations are as dull as dishwater.

To support his 'funny as a crutch' viewpoint, Geline cited the case study of a cardiologist who addressed a group of peers and used a highly inappropriate joke that bombed and undermined his credibility. Fair enough. It is absolutely critical to understand one's audience before injecting humor but, when properly applied, it's a game changer.

Here's a case in point: I just shared an Inc. Magazine panel with two other successful entrepreneurs. We were speaking in front of 75 or so other entrepreneurs and asked to address the subject: Creating a great workplace culture.

Not surprisingly, the other panelists cited the usual perks such as spot bonuses, extra days off and holiday parties. I spoke about similar topics, but also admitted I'd shamelessly stolen a great idea from Google called Dream Day. Not only did the audience appreciate my honesty and laugh at what Geline may call a joke, but they began listening much more intently to what I had to share.

Later on, one panelist boasted that he plied his troops with liquor each and every week. That, he said, sure seemed to improve their morale.

Because I embrace humor and use it as a strategic business weapon, I immediately escalated the conversation. I interjected, “You think that's cutting-edge? We've converted our kitchen to a crystal meth lab. You wouldn't believe the increased productivity.” After a second or two, the audience roared its approval.

So, Mr. Geline, guess which of the three panelists was besieged by audience members afterwards? The question’s rhetorical of course, but my use of humor made me seem more genuine and approachable to audience members. And, that’s a huge advantage in business.

I'm glad there are so many marketing and PR executives like Robert Geline who take themselves and their work far too seriously. It makes it that much easier for cool, casual and collegial firms such as mine to build rapport (and win business).

Geline is right about one thing, though. It is fundamental to first understand the audience and, second, to 'read' their non-verbals the way a comedian or actor trained in improvisation would. I'd never use the crystal meth line in a meeting of, say, CFOs, CMOs or even cardiologists. But, it was spot-on for the high-flying, take no prisoners mentality of the average entrepreneur. And, how did I know that, Mr. Geline? Because I understood my audience.

So, have you heard the joke about the marketer who took himself too seriously? He cried all the way to the bank.

Oct 19

So, was the media hype nothing more than a snow Job(s)?

With each passing day, it seems more and more revelations of the dark side of Steve Jobs are emerging. Exactly, why did the media anoint Jobs as a cross between Mother Theresa and Thomas Edison in the immediate aftermath of his death? And, should the now well-documented abusive behavior of a true genius be overlooked because, well, he was a genius who changed the world?

Click below to join Repman Steve Cody, his co-host Deb ‘The Kangoo Kid’ Brown and their special guest, licensing stalwart, Michael Dresner, as they discuss the image and reputation of the legendary Mr. Jobs.


Oct 18

Don’t be a jerk; innovate!

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Carl Foster.

Castanza7I was sad to note the passing of FT Tilt last week, the recently launched paid-for emerging markets blog from the Financial Times. Sad, not because it’s one less news outlet for us to pitch but sad because an innovation failed. In today’s globally competitive economy innovation is mission-critical to long-term success. But bravo to the good people at No. 1 Southwark Bridge for trying. This one might have closed down 10 months after starting up, but it seems there is a culture of innovation at the FT (its subscription model, Alphaville blog, etc.) that will ensure it’ll be just fine in the future.

When I heard the news I couldn’t help but think about Steve Jobs. Despite the recent hero worshiping from many quarters, some have taken a more balanced look back at his career. In an excellent article on Gawker, Apple’s authoritarian corporate culture is examined and the response to one particular failed innovation told:

Steve Jobs: "Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?" Having received a satisfactory answer, he continued, "So why the f*ck doesn't it do that?"

"You've tarnished Apple's reputation," he told them. "You should hate each other for having let each other down."

Jobs ended by replacing the head of the group, on the spot.

That doesn’t sound like a management culture that engenders innovation. This might be an odd thing to say about Apple, one of the most innovative companies around, but I guess we’re about to find out how much innovation came direct from the brain of Steve Jobs and how much filtered up from below. The same critique of a culture that suffocates innovation can be made of many other companies, especially those without a creative genius at the helm. Carol “F*ck You” Bartz at Yahoo, for example.

There is an interesting discussion developing on Fortune, with Gene Marks saying Steve Jobs Was A Jerk. Good For Him. Gene’s fellow contributor, David Coursey has posted a response Steve Jobs Was A Jerk, You Shouldn't Be. Coursey says:

My concern is that Gene might have hit a nerve among managers who haven’t found themselves and are willing to try whatever the business press declares to be the flavor of the moment. I can imagine headlines like “Are You Jerk Enough to be the Next Steve Jobs?” or “Want to Be Like Jobs? Be a Jerk!” or “Think Different: Like a Jerk!” or whatever will sell a book or magazine.

I am with Coursey on this one. I once heard from a Silicon Valley entrepreneur that an idea is the most fragile and precious of things. An idea can be stamped out and lost forever if someone doesn’t own it, nurture it and champion it. Being a shouty jerk might be the modus operandi for some managers, but it doesn’t lend itself to people in your company stepping forward with risky but potentially excellent ideas. We need to innovate to get ahead, so here’s hoping that innovative companies like the FT outweigh those where jerks rule.