in praise of the transparent conversation

recently facebook changed its corporate mission to emphasize the role of private groups. in response a new york times reporter spent a month exploring these private groups, to see what they could tell him about the company’s future.

“after all, if facebook is our global town square, then groups are its gated subdivisions, the private spaces where people gather to share information they might not be willing to broadcast publicly, or behave in ways they might not want their friends to know about.”

i’m curious about this seeking of privacy in an always-on world. my first reaction is that facebook is nurturing caves where people can go out of shame or fear, to seek the information they really want, to say the things they really want to say, with a fair degree of certainty they won’t be challenged. But…

And here’s what triggers my curiosity: Are we losing the civility that is required to have a good, meaningful discussion? are we losing our ability to have an open conversation with people who disagree with us? Are we losing our ability to learn, and change our minds?

this back channel style isn’t just happening on facebook. it’s happening on wall street, in hollywood, and in national government here and abroad as well.

In a different ny times article the implication of what seems to me to be the business equivalent of snapchat is explored. Encrypted and self destructing texts. Cool. but what happens when regulations that have been put into place for the protection of the people are gone around?  “whether they are trying to evade the law, arrange fragile deals or just talk candidly without fear of being snooped on, business executives and other leaders have many reasons for wanting a private back channel.”

at a time when consumers are putting their money where their values are, transparency is a powerful business tool.

when collaboration and common cause are our greatest hope for a world we want to occupy, perhaps civil, transparent conversation is our greatest tool.


i write often about brands, rebrands, launches… and i’m not shy with my opinion. but i am shy about this particular launch. the trailer and gallery that i just moved over to the live portion of the site are the first step in launching a multi media novel that hal and i have been working on for years, it’s called positano

hal and i have worked together for many, many years most of them as some sort of corporate-type entity. i remember quite vividly when we started our business, sitting across the desk from an authoritative-type lawyer that explained the benefits of the corporate veil, and the risks that one ran if that veil was pieced. i’ve imagined it often, and it always seems to be a gossamer affair. there is a veil, too, between the corporate and personal work that many of us do. one of the most interesting aspects of this project has been exploring the value and the cost of that particular veil.

tribe + impact + independence = the ethics of the new luxury

pulse check: earlier this year i wrote about a shift in culture and luxury marketing, about how i thought attainment would shift to independence. about how “i’ve achieved this level” is becoming “i have the freedom to make this sort of decision, to have this impact.”

what we end up with is a formula change: tribe + impact + independence = the new luxury

two ends to this spectrum have expressed themselves… the establishment generation who has money, and then the next two generations out (gen z and millennials) who might not have the money, but have a conscience and expect to know what the agenda of any given company is, and what the implications of that agenda are.

the new luxury is creating a place where the two ends — the money and the ethics — meet.

earlier this week the ny times reported that art collector and moma president emerita agnes gund sold a 1962 roy lichtenstein for $150 million, for the specific purpose of establishing the art for justice fund. “the effort is noteworthy, not only for the amount of money involved — rarely do charitable undertakings start at $100 million — but because ms. gund is essentially challenging fellow collectors to use their artworks to champion social causes at a time when the market has made their holdings more valuable than ever.”

of gund’s game changing decision, ford foundation president darren walker said “art has meaning on a wall, but it also has meaning when it is monetized.” gund is at the forefront of a populace embracing the idea of money in service of meaning.

while the young generation may not have the money (yet), their influence on media and use of it as a tool to hold those with the money to task, may be worth more than gold. as jane buckingham of trendera has pointed out, “there are so many crises in their world, they [gen z] believe they’re responsible for helping. they feel they can help, and expect you to have a purpose in what you’re communicating.” 

ethics, continued...

there has been a swift and massive response to the trump administration’s decision to pull out of the paris agreement, and the fallout is scaling the consumer conversation globally.

we are seeing the intersection of consumerism and ethics grow wider. big brands like microsoft and apple have publicly declared staunch support of the paris agreement, not just for the sake of climate change but for the strength of the american economy. sixty-two percent of exxon mobile shareholders voted in favor of public disclosure of the impact of climate change on the business, and individuals, in the u.s. and abroad, are pledging allegiance to companies that stand with them in their belief of what is right.

people are aligning around their values, and all signs indicate that this growing population is ready, willing, and able to put their money where their mouth is.


while legions of consumers move towards more values-based behavior, some corporate giants are moving in the direction of, well, creepy.

just before the holiday weekend, google announced its plan “to track billions of credit and debit card sales to compare online ad clicks with money spent offline.”

this might mean more metrics for advertisers, but, no matter how google slices it, less privacy for everyone else.

if you feel that this may be tipping into google doing like, maybe a little bit of evil, this is how to ensure your settings don’t allow them access, courtesy of’s researchers:

“Users can opt out of the service by going to their ads setting page and unchecking the box that says: “Also use Google Account activity and information to personalise ads on these websites and apps and store that data in your Google Account”.

Users can also disable personalisation for all Google ads. And they can pause or delete their location history.”  

and to ensure that the brands you like don’t partake in this little bit of evil, write and let them know you don’t want to be tracked that way.

ford shake-up #changepositive

two years ago, i asked the question “what does it look like to be change-positive? to create with the knowledge of change?”

the question is a constant spark to my curiosity, and the recent leadership shakeup at ford fuels it. i see change-knowledge as equal parts art and science. a proactive perspective on past, present, and potential.

ford ceo mark fields was replaced with “change agent” jim hackett.

while the move is seen by some as uncharacteristic for the methodical company, a usa today article cites bill ford jr. as saying “hackett’s ability to pair a focus on the future with operational improvements was enticing.”

hackett’s change-knowledge positioned him to lead the charge as ford tries to not just survive, but thrive.

new luxury: bye bye bill

the same forces reshaping luxury seem to be reshaping television.

when it comes to ethics, network news has long been a team sport — you watch who you believe in and retain peripheral interest in the rest. maybe. (the phrase “preaching to the choir” comes to mind.) but in this brave new world where ethics guide how we spend our money and time it appears that even big brands can be forced to bend to the will of the consumer. fox was good to quietly support bill o’reilly, the show’s advertisers were not. the advertisers, luxury cars amongst them, were listening to their consumers… shaping the new luxury.