Caring is the new "competitive advantage"

So why is caring the new “competitive advantage” ? (which is now an outdated phrase since it implies needing to beat someone else in order to do well).

  1. You can’t fake it.
  2. It comes from an honest place.
  3. If you truly care about what you’re doing, then you can keep on doing it. It becomes humanly sustainable.
  4. It’s the thing that is the opposite of what “corporate” now culturally means.
  5. It’s what is working about all the “web 2.0” or live web businesses and media vs corporate media.
  6. It’s what works about working governments.
  7. It is linked with our empathy and vulnerability. That’s the channel that allows energy and ideas and action to flow quickly between people and entities.
  8. It’s what makes things relevant and sometimes viral.
  9. In the exploding number of media options, it stands out and cannot be manufactured by formula.
  10. Your caring is unique to you (or the group of people making up your company) and it cannot be duplicated but can be joined.

It is hilarious to watch people used to coming top down (Michael Eisner was rumoured to be at SXSW, taking notes. try to take the form of the change without the genuine caring underneath. That means vulnerability and self-awareness. Chevy tried a “write-your-own-ad” campaign recently (can’t you hear the pitch meeting? “It’s very Internet, very grassroots”) only to find out that the grassroots had things to tell em they didn’t want to hear. The result? Hilarious ads. Why? They’re true. Chevy can listen to the truth and respond (ie change) or put just keep trying to perfume the pig. I think it’s gonna be the latter judging by this NYT piece. Do we want the story we tell ourselves or our actual story? Just ask frustrated advertisers, branders and designers all hired to do the former. Comedians tell the latter .
Here is my belated SXSW wrap-up. I had a fabulous time, as I always do. I’d hoped to post much earlier, but it took me a while to get my media online and to get over my desire to have everything thought out perfectly before I started blogging.

I did my first Open Source Management panel at SXSW, which is the beginning of my offering to help business get more honest and human. The core idea behind Open Source Management (OSM) forums is that if business started to apply some things it likes about its code (inclusive, open, transparent) to its human interactions, people would be happier and business would be more honest and therefore more sustainable and productive over the long haul. The goal is for people to be vulnerable with one another. But given how scary and that word seems to some business folks, I’m using OSM too. An acronym! That must be practical!

Systems eventually fail when they serve themselves and not people. It’s people who make these systems in the first place. We forget ourselves in our disenfranchisement and become resigned to the idea (not reality) that there’s nothing we can do. Then corporations seem to be evil blobs that showed up from outerspace and took over the commerce of the world, rather than an extension of what we accept.

A good starting place is people talking and listening to each other. The Cluetrain Manifesto is great in theory but how do business people really get vulnerable enough to be open and listen? How do you bring people together and tell the truth? Comedy. I decided to apply some of my performance techniques to a business meeting and that’s how OSM was born.

I ran the panel like a talk show, although I ended up on the floor for much of it since I couldn’t walk out of the range of my table of panelists without giving off crazy mic feedback. The irreverence only helped and though it was the last session of SXSW the audience jumped in immediately with tons of great ideas for our volunteer first client Ruckus Wireless. It was so great to see business without the bs, and to see just how much incredible brain power there is in a random room. Ok. it wasn’t completely random. But at any company there are lots of smart, competent people who would probably be able to help their management solve lots of problems if they were listened to and given genuine input. And creativity is impossible without fun. (Though most companies will say “can you please just Fed Ex in part of your left brain, leave the messy rest of you at home. Now, be creative and passionate!”)

I learned a lot from the audience and will keep adapting the technique. Many thanks to the audience and my panel, Jerry Michalski, Mark Glaser, Cathy Brooks , Giovanni Rodriguez and David Callisch. Listen to the podcast, post your ideas below.

Here’s how to be a caring, open company:my interview with flickr’s George Oates.

From the trends I’m seeing in major media and on the Net, It’s time for caring. Very exciting! Come out of the closet humans, come out! Your caring will not harm but support your livelihood.
Other SXSW goodies

Here is video from the “early beta” of my new show The Law Project, which I did at The Vortex Rep, along with a night of Cookie.