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I think I shall never see...

Geography-of-michigan3How much polling is too much?

How about when they start asking about the appropriate height of trees?  

 Believe it or not, that was one of the questions Public Policy Polling asked in a May survey of voters in Michigan.

The headline of the news release the pollsters issued was that Obama didn't have to worry too much in Michigan -- he apparently leads Romney 53 to 39 percent in the state.

But Question 8 on the survey -- right between "Do you consider Mitt Romney to be a Michigander or not?" and "Who did you vote for in 2008?" -- is the fateful question:  

"In Michigan, do you think the trees

are the right height, or not?"

Not to build too much suspense, more than half (55%) of Michiganders aren't sure, more than a third (38%) think they're the right height, and a small minority (8%) think they're not.  

The real kicker is that people who voted for Obama are much more likely than McCain supporters to think trees in Michigan are the right height, 44% to 27%.

What's that say about Obama supporters?  Thanks to the Drudge Report and Fox News, I suspect we'll all find out soon enough.


We're all somebody's other

OTHER.026I just found out the release date for OtherWise has been moved up to May 30.

I'd love to say it's due to popular demand, but I've given up trying to figure out the ways and whys of publishing.

In any case, if you ordered a copy, it should arrive in a couple of days. And if you've been waiting to order a copy, the wait is over. 

My excitement about the book's imminent release led me to send a blast email to anyone I've ever worked with. I don't know if that produced any orders, but it did result in some lovely responses. Some former colleagues even took the initiative to promote the book within their communities.

One email also reminded me why I wrote the book in the first place. Recalling some of the training we went through together at AT&T, she wrote:

"I recall being in a conference room and participating in an exercise in which we divided ourselves into groups of 'us' and 'them' repeatedly (male/female, white/of-color, etc.), and the surprising thing to many of us was that at some point in the exercise, each of us was a minority—the 'other.' We were asked to consider how we felt being in the 'other' group when we are usually thought to be in the majority group. That simple exercise has come back to me many times and helped me be more sensitive to others who are not 'like' me."

I know some people scoff at the whole notion of "sensitivity training." And it clearly can be overdone, devolving into the silliest kind of political correctness.

But anything that can help people assume the perspective of someone unlike themselves, even for a few minutes, could pay dividends in this fractious world.


The danger of being right

Never wrongWay back in the late 1960s, when we all thought the world was coming apart at the seams, a good friend of mine was in the position to underwrite a short animated film by Lee Mishkin.

The title was "Is It Always Right To Be Right?" It's not exactly Pixar-quality animation, but it was pretty stylish for its time. In fact, it won an Academy Award for best animated short in 1971.

I don't think my friend got to walk the red carpet outside the awards ceremony or I'm sure I would have heard about it by now. I actually only became aware of the film this afternoon.

But it's a gem, as relevant today as it was back then, when we were all more naive and less jaded. Remarkably, it's available on YouTube.  


If you believe in the message of OtherWise, which I have been hammering on for over a year now, you'll see some familiar themes.  

The female other

Women-suitsIn OtherWise, I specifically didn't focus on women as "Other."

A ream of statistics suggested that women had made great progress in terms of acceptance in the workplace and overcoming hackneyed stereotypes.

To be sure, we still have a long way to go before achieving a truly gender-neutral society. Women still make about 30% less than men doing the same work. And they are still under-represented in top management.

But there are also clear signs that they are gaining ground. After all, my very book was inspired by a woman who was one of the top officers of one of the country's top companies.

Apparently, I was too optimistic.  Lauren Stiller Rikleen's piece in the Harvard Business Review cites a study that offers an unexpected reason women's progress has stalled -- the marriages of the men to whom they report.  

As Ricklin put it, men with wives who don't work outside the home " (1) have an unfavorable view about women in the workplace; (2)think workplaces run less smoothly with more women; (3) view workplaces with female leaders as less desirable; and (4) conside female candidates for promotion to be less qualified than comparable male colleagues." They're also half as likely as women to see gender bias in the workplace. 

And the kicker? Those men are in the company's most senior ranks and control the careers of the women who work for them.

Apparently many women -- especially in the workplace -- are still "other" to the men who are their bosses.



OtherWise P&G

P&G ChinaP&G is one of the most OtherWise companies in the world.

It demonstrated that again today by announcing that it will move the headquarters for its personal care business to Singapore, where its baby care business is already headquartered.  

Only about 20 people will make the actual move, but it's another sign that the company's future growth is outside the U.S., particularly in Asia.

P&G was relatively late to foreign markets, at least compared to its chief competitor, Unilever. But it quickly learned that it couldn't simply peddle products designed for the U.S. market in other countries.

In fact, P&G built its market leadership in countries like China by sending researchers to live with local families, observing how they did the dishes, changed the baby, washed the laundry, etc. Then it reformulated its products to meet local needs, tastes, and customs.

Today, almost every global consumer company knows that it must take that OtherWise approach to foreign markets.

But few have reduced it to such an art as P&G.

Frank-ly speaking

Barney Frank CartoonA friend just put me on to an interview Barney Frank gave New York magazine.  This one paragraph made the whole thing worth reading as far as I'm concerned:

"The main reason for the increase in partisanship is Newt Gingrich and the success of his decision [as Speaker] to demonize the opposition as a way to win. That was reinforced by the right-wing takeover of the Republican Party.

"And finally, modern communications: Twenty years ago, people had a common set of facts that they read. They read opinion journalists, but they got their information generally from newspapers and from broadcasts.

"Now, the activists live in parallel universes, which are both separate and echo chambers for each. If you’re on the left, you listen to MSNBC, you go to the blogs, Huffington Post, et cetera, and you basically hear only what you agree with. If you’re on the right, you watch Fox News and the talk shows, and you hear only what you agree with.

"When we try to compromise, what you find is not people simply objecting to the specific terms of the compromise, but the activists object even to your trying to compromise, because they say, “Look, everybody I know agrees with us, so why are you giving in?”

Congressman Frank is exactly right. I'm sure he would agree that the left's tendency to demonize conservatives as unfeeling, rapacious capitalists just as damaging. And he has some great thoughts on the role the media played in all this.  The whole interview is worth reading.

I've become increasingly convinced that political polarization exists because we all put up with it.  Let's make demonizing your opponents -- calling them un-American or socialists or fascists -- as unacceptable as picking your nose in public. Let's not put up with it anymore.  

OtherWise Home Page

Everybody and everything has a home page these days.

Otherwise Home Page.001

My new book, due out in June but available now for preorder on Amazon and Barnes & Noble is no exception.

Thanks to my friend Michael Kwan, OtherWise has a home page. You can reach it at

Once there, you'll find an overview of the book, some excerpts, a discussion guide, and a couple of surprises.

Many thanks to Michael and to another friend, Jonathan Struthers, who introduced me to him. Comments and suggestions, as always, are welcome.Signature