I remember the cover from Sports Illustrated a few weeks into NBA superstar Michael Jordan’s attempt in training camp to play major league baseball. The title was “Bag it Michael.” It infuriated him so much that he never gave the magazine another interview.
The stimulus for my recollection was an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “The Tedium is the Message” by Michael Moynihan (December 10-11, 2011, p. C6). In the aricle, he talks about some pooliticians who have penned novels. He includes examples from William Cohen, Jimmy Carter, Gary Hart, and Newt Gingrich.
Perhaps more than others, Cohen and Gingrich have done so with “a desire to use the novel to write ideological history.” Cohen’s newest novel (Blink of an Eye, Forge, 2011) teaches a lesson that illustrates his own moral opposition to the war in Iraq. Gingrich’s 2008 novel, Days of Infamy (co-authored with William Forstchen; Thomas Dunne Books), touts isolationism in the context of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Surprisingly omitted from the article, or perhaps simply forgotten, was a novel by former and disgraced vice-president Spiro T. Agnew. In 1976, he wrote The Canfield Decision (Berkley Medallion Books) about a wealthy, handsome, and liberal vice-president who decided to provide Isreal with nuclear arms. How many of those counts described himself?
Moynihan’s conclusion is that “politicians turn to writing novels to create braver, smarter, more powerful versions of themselves. Insisting that you’ve figured how the world works is somehow less pompous – and more easily disavowed – when done by a fictional doppelganger.”
I am unimpressed with these enterprises. Writing novels as purposeful scapegoating activity that replaces solid, visionary thinking and planning seems as if it would fool no one. In the Republican presidential candidate debates, maybe someone will remind Gingrich that he seeks to govern a non-fiction world, and that he cannot craft world affairs in the same way that he can words from the English language.
And, if they are just having fun, maybe to make a little money – that’s fine. But, is that the best use of an aspiring politician’s time and energy? Do we really want to learn what a candidate thinks and how he might govern by reading fictional accounts? Does anyone get insight into future behavior this way?
What do you think? Let’s talk about it really soon!
Books that predict the future are interesting, although perhaps preparing for it, and creating it, usually provide greater returns.
Nevertheless, a new best-seller does just that. Jeanne Meister and Karie Willyerd recently published an HR-focused book, The 2020 workplace: How innovative companies attract, develop, and keep tomorrow’s employees today. (New York: Harper, 2011). I presented a synopsis of that book at the October First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas, and it is now available at 15MinuteBusinessBooks.com.
Among the many predictions in the book is # 7 – “Job requirements for CEO’s will include blogging.” They state that: “The level of authenticity and concern that can be communicated through a CEO-level blog can’t be matched by press releases or blogs written by the public relations department….Hearing the voice of the CEO through his or her own writing, when it feels authentic, helps foster trust in an organization” (p. 220).
They suggest there are three major styles of CEO blogging: (1) deeply personal, (2) highly opinionated, and (3) product messaging.
If you live in the DFW area, you are well aware that the greatest example of the head guy being highly opinionated through blogs is right under your own nose. Mark Cuban is the Owner of the Dallas Mavericks, and popularized blogs before, during, and after his team’s basketball games. You could read his views on his players, the action, and his favorite target, the referees.
These blogs were highly popular, some of which demonstrate the problems associated with putting opinions in print. A number of the blogs led to huge fines imposed by the NBA, especially those that criticized referees. Ironically, in 2008, Cuban banned blogging from the Mavericks’ locker room. According to Deadspin: “Mark Cuban dislikes bloggers who aren’t him.”
None of that matters. I think that Cuban led the way. His blogging is highly visible. controversial, provocative, and interesting. Go to a game, concert, or even corporate meeting, and see how many people have at least one cell phone or other mobile device in their hand. Some are texting, some are sending e-mail, but some are also blogging. Cuban was the first of his type to do this.
And, if you believe this new best-seller, Cuban was ahead of his time.
What do you think? Let’s talk about this really soon!