August 4, 2006
News & Opinion: Get Back In The Box - Rushkoff on other books
This is the final post in a series on Doug Rushkoff's Get Back In the Box.
In my last installment, I thought I would highlight his mention of other business books. Rushkoff has no hesitation about calling people out. His first swing is at HBSP's Got Game (John Beck, Mitchell Wade):
In a classic misunderstanding of play culture, a Harvard Business School Press book about how "the gamer generation is reshaping business forever" contends that kids who grew up with videogames need to be treated differently in the workplace. True enough, but the authors but the authors surmise that game play has made young workers more competitive "because the object of all of those games is to win." They couldn't be more wrong. Beyond technology, the main difference between video games and those that came before them is that many videogames have no winner. That should be a clue: the real difference in creating a work environment for the gamer generation is finding ways to allow them to participate actively and consciously in the evolution of the enterprise itself.
I would say he goes a bit further with Clotaire Rapaille, author of The Culture Code. In this section, he is referencing his Frontline documentary The Persuaders where he spent time with Rapaille (watch section four The Science of Selling):
I've watched another consultant, an eccentric French former psychologist named Clotaire Rapaille, utterly transfix the CEOs of dozens of Fortune 500 companies by claiming to have a system through which he can discern "the code" underlying each of their industries. Through focus groups and hypnosis sessions , Rapaille uncovers people's earliest remembered associations for anything from coffee to jet planes, in order to help clients redesign their products, packaging, and promotions in accordance with the buried archetype or "code".
One Boeing executive I interviewed fully believes that the new Dreamliner aircraft will achieve its success with customers primarily because of Rapaille's input. "It's not enough to make bigger baggage compartments. They have to be 'on code.' " Of course, the executive could not tell me Rapaille's code for the Dreamliner, for it I released it, the competition would be able to redesign its aircraft using the same secret formula.
An interesting feature of Rapaille's work is his insistence on hypnotizing not only random focus groups, but also key executives involved in making decisions. His combined role of hypnotist, psychologist, and brand guru puts his clients in a particularly passive--what Freud would call "regressed"--position The net result is to make these executives more dependent on his advice and support. From what I've witnessed at baronial estate in Tuxedo Park New York, his clients are quite under his spell. They drink champagne, marvel over his car collection, and listen with rapt attention as he explains that women's experience bearing children makes them more conscious of automobile interiors, or that a luxurious air travel experience is undermined by aggressive search routines at the gates. His insights are either absurd, obvious or both, but his audience of executives focus on his every inflection with their jaws slack and eyes glazed over.
By hypnotizing this clients, Rapaille also gains insight into their true personal and business aspirations. The information about airplanes he gets from airplane executives is just as, if not more, important than what he gets from their customers. For those who have forgotten how to get back to the source of their passion and expertise, a hypnotist and psychologist like Rapaille might be useful--at least in the short run--as a form of psychotherapy or internal inquiry. The problem is, of course, that, unlike a course of therapy where the patient learns to solve his or her own problems, here Rapaille ends up receiving credit for insights gained and retains the exclusive ability to mine for more.
If you stuck with me on this post, the first thing I like about the book is Rushkoff's challenge of other people's thinking. It is often too polite in the world of business thought and we don't get to work really works.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.