Sony cancels plans for the film The Interview after cyber-attacks and terrorism threats

December 18, 2014

The Interview will be remembered for the wrong reasons

The story itself seems one straight out of a Hollywood movie. A comedy is planned about the assassination of a political dictator. The computer records of the production company are seriously hacked by a mysterious group. This is followed by threats of terrorism by the same hacking group on cinema audiences. The company cancels its planned release.

Fact or fiction?

The above is as they say ‘based on real life events’ which took place in December 2014. In the real-life version, according to The Telegraph, a hacking group, which uses the name Guardians of the Peace [GOP] ‘issued threats against movie-goers and cinemas and invoked the memory of the September 11, 2001 terrorist atrocities’.

The same group had caused considerable security breaches at Sony over the last few weeks, with potentially serious financial and personal consequences. The GOP group is considered to have originated in North Korea.

Cinema chains initiated their own actions in cancelling any showing of the film. This would have contributed to Sony’s actions.

Pre-release reviews suggest the film appeals at a scatological level. The Guardian commented: ‘Rarely outside the playground has there been this much giddy conversation about the digestion process. Sphincters, buttocks and all that navigate these byways should get third billing next to Seth Rogen and James Franco in this dirty Hope and Crosby-style film about assassinating Kim Jong-un’.

A Significant or trivial event?

This is a trivial event in a week when a monstrous attack on a school in Peshawar in Pakistan resulted in the butchering of over hundred school children and their teachers.

The relative triviality of banning a film is amplified by the reactions in America, which themselves illustrate the adage of the reality of fear of violence. That is not to deny some significance to the whole incident, and the sense we make of it.

December 20th 2014

US claims it has evidence of implication of N Korea which denies the accusation and proposes a joint investigation.

To be continued


Diversity and its downside

December 15, 2014

In a Newsnight interview, the Economist Paul Collier sketched out his concerns over diversity and its political implicationsThe Human Development Context: Paul Collier

The BBC Newsnight interview [by Kirsty Wark, Dec 11th 2014] was partly framed by the increased importance being attached to the question of immigration control in the build-up to the General Election next May.

The distinguished economist Sir Paul Collier was introduced as a ‘liberal leaning’ figure who nevertheless had ‘expressed concerns about immigration’ in his work, including his analysis to be found in his recent book Exodus

Unsurprisingly, Sir Paul gently evaded attempts to simplify his ideas into an ‘immigration good or bad’ discussion. He suggested that the economic consequences of immigration were less significant than might be believed from the current narrative. His own concerns were that the consequences could result in a deterioration of socially cohesive factors of generosity, trust, and willingness to collaborate.

Loss of generosity
Loss of trust
Loss of collaboration

Wark suggested that her interviewee had been reported as relying too much on anecdote rather than evidence. Collier pointed out that the use of anecdote in his work was to illustrate the technical evidence, not replace it.

I found the interview a serious contribution to a debate on immigration that has increasingly demonstrated a preference for the glibness of absolute beliefs and evocative anecdotes. The issue is not so much whether immigration is good or bad, but how leadership and citizenship deals tolerance, trust and a willingness to seek collaborative over confrontational actions.


Malcolm Gladwell attacks NFL as a ‘moral abomination’

December 11, 2014

Malcolm Gladwell displays considerable talent as a potential American thought leader in his analysis of the NFL as ‘a moral abomination’

Any lingering doubts about Gladwell’s intellectual weight are dispelled in this interview. Its primary focus is a considered response to a fine imposed on colleague Bill Simmons by ESPN for ‘calling the NFL commissioner a liar’

The wider issue The broader context was a report by the NFL on long term brain injuries sustained by its former players.

The interview by Emily Chang was reported in a video put out by Bloomberg [Nov 12, 2012]. Gladwell starts coolly, but then produces a coldly-calculated moral rant against the NFL, and secondarily against ESPN for their treatment of Bill Simmons.

I have little doubt the video will polarize opinions, and no bad thing either, but watch the three minute exchange. If you are a teacher, show it in class for discussion. You may find it has potential as an educational experience.


Uber’s image is taking a beating: How will the market react?

December 8, 2014

Uber barges ahead, picking up major criticisms of its business policies and practices. Will the marketplace result in a shift towards more responsible corporate behaviours?

The Uber story is heading for business case stardom. It started in 2008 as a brilliant ‘why didn’t I think of that’ idea of using new technology to revolutionize personal transport arrangements. The smart phone car service is now valued at $18 billion and rising.

Success factor no 1. Clever use of IT

The basic proposition is easy to understand. Personal travel could be revolutionized by the use of information technology.

Success factor no 2. The creative leap and ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’

The creative leap is easy to communicate if the initial AHA insight triggers the admiring and envious response ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’

Success factor no 3. ‘It’s so obvious. Why didn’t I do anything about it?’

Maybe the reception to its early adaption is the stronger if the now-obvious insight was already widely considered. Most of us might have speculated of using IT car-sharing. Über acted on the idea.

Success factor no 4. The founder and named executives are tennis nuts

Only partly true. The corporate web site introduces its team of dynamic young thrusters as sporting enthusiasts to a person.

The thumbnail sketch of CEO Travis Kalanick lists his achievements as founder of the first P2P search engine, and as someone who ‘racked up the second highest Wii Tennis score in the world’. It seems somewhat less keen to reveal that Travis is approaching 40, a rather ancient codger among the Wii-wielding juveniles of California’s Venture community.

No brainer or roller coaster?

Like all radical innovations, Uber looks to be thriving in crazily dangerous conditions, more roller-coaster than no-brainer for market activists.

The matter of corporate social responsibility

A highly damaging story is bubbling up [November 2014] over errors of corporate social responsibility. The whiff of near adolescent energy and self-confidence in the web-site is being linked to an apparent pride in a corporate skill at accessing information of potentially valuable but illegal kind from its customers. As such tracking is part of the Corporate USP, the story at very least suggests insensitivity to its CSR implications.

Maybe in the dash for growth, any publicity was good publicity. That has been the slogan of more than one successful entrepreneur who later modified the approach for pragmatic or ethical reasons. Meanwhile the Ubervolk continue their search for global success for a powerful idea.

Tuesday December 9th

Über ban in Delhi by Transport Authorities after an alleged rape in a Uber taxi, Friday December 6th.

To be continued

[Comments and suggestions from Uber users and leadership students are particularly welcomed]


Mr. Turner’s charismatic charm

December 5, 2014

Fighting TemeraireBefore viewing Mr Turner, I had read and heard almost universally positive views of the film. What was it that produced such unconditional praise?

Partly, I suspect, because the film appeals through visceral rather than intellectual means. That is not to deny an exceptional level of intelligence behind its creation and delivery. My point is that we risk being dazzled and beguiled perhaps in ways similar to those produced by close encounters of a charismatic kind.

Charismatic lettuce and tomatoes

Charisma remains a fascinating concept. It has become over-used in popular culture. In his excellent book on the subject, John Potts gleefully reported the description of a charismatic lettuce, which presumably resulted in charismatic sandwiches. [I was reminded of the recent headlines in which Ed Miliband was confirmed as lacking in charisma because of the way he ate a bacon sandwich in public.]

The review of reviews, Rotten Tomatoes, confirms my point about the charismatic effect that Mr. Turner has had on its critics. Not so much rotten tomatoes, symbolizing artistic abuse, but veritable vegetable accolades.

Mr. Turner’s charisma

The film oozes charisma. there is a self-confidence in its visual impact. The demonstrations of sky- and sea- scapes were stunning and dog-whistle evocative. Reading the reviews is a humbling experience of dimensions of technical excellence which go unnoticed by amateur critics like myself.

The central performance by Timothy Spall as Turner was utterly compelling. This was the charisma of the physically near-grotesque yet ultimately endearing character. It also celebrated the notion of the disregard for convention of the creative genius. Does that sound like a cliche? If so, is it my cliche imposed on something subtler intentions?

Mike Leigh and distributed leadership

Over the years, Leigh has earned high regard for the integrity of his work, characterized by his unique improvisational style permitting artists to co-create characters. In leadership terms, this proves opportunities for distributed leadership.

The outcome is a set of performances mostly of high-quality, but inevitably individualistic. This has creative impact at the level of the individual and at the dyadic relationships with Spall’s Turner. What the approach gains in differentiated performances it loses in a lack of cohesion at the wider level of a narrative.

High on artistic values with a whiff of the didactic

The film manifests high artistic values. We are drawn to the scenic beauty and accompanying existential anguish which inspired Turner. We are invited to appreciate his innovative techniques he brought to his art.

For me, at times, the overall impact had rather too much of the earnest and didactic about its treatment of Turner’s artistic and moral integrity. This is rescued by a non-judgmental insistence on its ambiguities and contradictions.

Beyond Worthy

The result is an experience that is visually engaging and intellectually stimulating, this is a film beyond worthy, if not quite the masterpiece implied by critical comment. Which, come to think of it, is another way of interpreting Mr. Turner.

Image

The Fighting Temeraire [creative commons via Wikipedia]. One of many wondrous paintings by Turner weaved into the film.


Amanda Staveley, celebrity broker

December 3, 2014

Network Activator

Network Activator

Paul Hinks

The celebrity entrepreneur Amanda Staveley is involved in a consortium of investors bidding for three leading London hotels: Claridge’s, The Connaught and The Berkeley

One report suggests that the bid is from Middle East investors.

An earlier LWD post traced her background and rise to business success. Staveley, a former girlfriend of Prince Andrew, and one-time beauty model as student at Cambridge University, has a credible reputation for broking billion dollar deals through her networking skills. In 2008, she was instrumental in negotiating a £12 billion investment in Barclays Bank using money from Abu Dhabi and Qatar, before helping broker the purchase of Manchester City Football Club by Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour .

Doing well what bankers do badly

Members of her network of wealthy contacts invest not only their cash, but also invest their trust in Staveley’s council and advice. The London Evening Standard speculates on important qualities that help her to deliver successful outcomes for her clients:

So how does she do it? As a woman, Staveley is negotiating uncertain terrain. She attributes her success to luck and an ability to assess and evaluate information quickly. “I can see an opportunity or a problem faster than any lawyer,” she says. “I can see a document and find a hole in it, or I can understand what I can put in to make the contract work.”

Private-equity veteran Guy Hands, who has known Staveley for years, says: “Amanda acts as a confidante to some very wealthy individuals and funds in the Middle East. She finds opportunities for them, which fit what they are trying to do. She has a very good track record and she realizes what her place is; she doesn’t tell her clients what they should want, instead she distils their wishes for them. She does what most investment bankers are bad at — she listens.”

Courage in adversity

The enviable story of success conceals personal misfortune. The Daily Standard also reports that Ms Staveley has been diagnosed as carrying the gene for Huntington’s disease, a degenerative condition which will progressively restrict her career. She has responded with courage and determination:

“It definitely gets me to the gym every day. When I have done all my exercises, I work with a therapist doing balance exercises, and I inhale antioxidants. I also shout at God occasionally.”

The author

Paul is a regular contributor to LWD on sporting, business and technology stories. His post on Apple Foxconn is the most visited, since its publication in 2012


Black Friday battles become a test of Corporate Social Responsibility

December 1, 2014

England’s leading retailers embraced America’s Black Friday sales strategy violently as November drew to a close

Images of mob-battles in search of bargains suggest this will be a test of how companies will respond to a challenge to their claimed code of ethical practices. As this was our first serious attempt in the UK to import this innovation, corporate planners may have assumed that it would be greeted by the tolerance always displayed by the English citizen queuing for services.

Hand to hand combat

What happened was a display of desperate consumerism. As the doors to the supermarkets opened, patient hours of waiting ended as hand-to-hand combat broke out in the battle for plasma televisions.

Like a desperate struggle for famine relief supplies

It was like a desperate struggle for relief supplies you see in famine relief films, one observer said.

Minor battle, few casualties

There were surprisingly few reported injuries, perhaps fewer than during a Manchester United training session. One shopper was reported as bombed by a television, and a few cars were damaged on the fringes of the battle, but the casualties were light.

Social media quickly showed not dissimilar scenes from America. No shoot-outs were reported in the struggles to secure the last iPad on sale. The first martyr celebrating Black Friday has yet to be chronicled.

For students of leadership

For students of leadership there are several matters for reflection. Will leaders show any convincing commitment to their claims of putting the customer first and displaying high ethical values? The social media storm seems to have caught them unprepared.

To be continued


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,609 other followers