With Super Bowl XLIX (how many Americans can quickly translate Roman Numerals?) just days away, the sports pages (even some science and editorial pages) are passionately afroth with Deflategate chatter. Was the football intentionally underinflated during the first half of the Patriots/Colts game? Hands are wringing! The world trembles with the possibility that an NFL team might be cheating!
In 1957, C. Northcote Parkinson, British naval historian and author of over 60 books, published the international best-seller, Parkinson’s Law, a series of trenchant and oft-humorous essays, which made him a name in public administration and management. The eponymous adage explained in the titular essay as Parkinson’s Law is: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Less well known, but just as pithy and important, is Parkinson’s Law of Triviality.
After a terrific cioppino lunch at Duarte’s Tavern in Pescadero (the huge quantity of crab paired extremely well with the wallet-slimming price), my wife and I motivated south on California’s Highway 1. She was driving. I was marveling at guano-encrusted rocks jumping up from the seabed. It was a bright blue day, and we were in our Prius, on the way to Santa Barbara for a long weekend.
“I think we need gas,” she warned.
I leaned over, glanced at the gauge, and gave my mathematically confident reply. “We have 125 miles before empty…give or take ten.”
As a Harvard Business School MBA, I learned that the leading edge of knowledge about the American psyche can be found in the back rooms of Madison Avenue. Other than the NSA, probably no group is more in tune with American desires than advertisers. They survey, they run focus groups, they look at what’s trending and what’s actually generating sales…and they put their bullets in the marketing guns that will win the battles for their clients.
In light of the recent JPMorgan Chase $3B trading loss and the unrestrained chaos that was the Facebook IPO, I am republishing a blog post from 3/7/09. Over three years have passed…and it appears no lessons have been learned. What was trenchant then is just as relevant today.
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AIG is saved once, and then resuscitated again, because it is judged “too big to fail.” Billions are pumped into General Motors because it also is “too big to fail.”
I say step back and look at what “too big to fail” should have suggested long before the current financial cliff edge was reached: If it is too big to fail, it is too big to exist.
The following, in Shonnie Brown’s “Neighbors” column, appeared in The Healdsburg Tribune, our local weekly, on February 9, 2012. [Most of the images were not in the original.]
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Ann, born and raised in Casper, Wyoming, has the dubious distinction of attending high school with both Dick and Lynne Cheney and participating in student government with Dick. Dick, who Ann recalls as being “good looking” back then, wrote “I’ll be your friend forever” in Ann’s yearbook.