Saturday, May 30, 2009

Are leaders above ethics?

Business people often think that they are above ethics. They often pride themselves in how they can deceive a customer. Politicians also often see rules as meant to be bent rather than lived. What these people are doing is relying on the other people to be ethical, and taking advantage of a general ethical understanding in society, and thinking they can get ahead by bucking the system.

If everyone started bucking the system, then the system would collapse, society would crumble. You would not be able to trust a word anyone said. The moment you turned your back, you would be stabbed. The moment the police were not looking, you would be robbed in broad daylight.

Why do certain people think that they are better then others, that they do not need to adhere to rules like the masses? They think they are part of a superior class. Machiavelli sees that he can turn on and off truthfulness as he chooses to accomplish his own ends. These “superior” people see that ethics are for the simple people. Simple people need rules to live by, they need to be told what to do, herded like sheep. But the leaders, they are not bound by the same code. They make the rules, they do not have to live by them.

But if the leaders continue to not live by ethics, how can the ‘simple’ people be expected to continue to uphold the ethical code? And if the ‘simple’ people do not hold the ethical code, then chaos breaks out. The whole world begins to look like Beirut or Rwanda.

In Canada, we have just come to assume that our leaders will be un-ethical. We do not see a political leader as a person that could improve the country. Rather, they are the one with the most tenacity to fight the political games, cut down enough of their opponents and climb to the top.

It is interesting that people see Barak Obama in a different light. People see him as genuine and consistent with the concept of an ethical leader.

Maybe the reason society needs to be cleaned up by substantial events such as the enlightenment and waves revivals is because the leadership in society is continually trying to shirk their ethical responsibility and thus slowly bringing down the ethical climate of society. Only by having these occasional cleanings can society get a renewed ethical perspective and continue to function rather then descend into anarchy.

What would ethical leadership look like?

I am seriously trying to understand this as I am currently teaching a course on ethics. One of the roles of a professor is being an ethical role model. It is not a question of how I can scam the system. Rather it is a question of doing what I believe needs to be done to care for my students and ensure they get the best possible learning experience I can deliver. It is actually a refreshing way to look at the world. There is cleanness to it. I can get excited about it. It is a consistent framework that makes sense. Sure, it is not easy, but in the end I feel like I have done something.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Would you pay $599 for this vacuum cleaner

The Dyson ball is a monument to what can be accomplished by marketing. While a person could easily go to Walmart and purchase a vacume cleaner for $50, people are marching out and spending $599 and telling their friends that they have to have one also.

How can Dyson charge such a premium for their product while also taking over the market share? They have figured out how to appeal to something which other home appliance manufactured have ignored. I will call it the techie factor. All the other home appliances we buy like fridges, stoves, freezers, or washing machines are in nice white packages, completely hiding their functionality.

Dyson products broadcasts their functionality. Buying a Dyson is a lot more then buying an home appliance, it is buying a statement of technological progress and innovation. Think of the conversation starters when your friends are over at your house and you can pull out your Dyson and show how it works.

The marketing of the Dyson with is transparent cyclone and all the visible moving parts appeals to a generation that has a new attraction with technology. They do not want things in nice packages where all the working components are hidden from view. They want to feel like they understand what is going on inside the machine. These are the same type of people the buy computer mice made with transparent plastic so all the electronics are visible. They are also the same type of people that bought the original hummers which declared functionality (low center of gravity, wide wheel base, high ground clearance) above pleasant looks.

Dyson has done an excellent job at identify this "techie" market and selling a premium product which is taking over market share.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Lawnmower that Cannot Die

My dad loves to tinker with mechanical things and has a car that is 22 years old and he keeps it going. I joke about it that he keeps the car on life support much past the car's natural age. He should just perform euthanasia on the car and allow it to gracefully die.

Well, I guess I am the same way with my lawn mower. I have a 22" Lawnboy that I got used for $25 dollar, 14 years ago. So I figure that the lawn mower is actually 30 years old. Every spring when I start it up for the first time, I wonder if will actually come to life. And sure enough, it sputters and coughs and comes to life. Over the years, the steel deck on the mower has been slowly rusting apart. I have re-welded on supports around the back wheels and last summer I bolted extra supports along both sides of the deck from the back wheels to the front wheels. (the deck was rusting so much that when I would push down on the handle to lift the front wheels, I would hear the blade hit the underside of the deck.

When I started my mower this spring, it took a significantly longer time to come to life, and I found that I needed to keep shaking it to keep it going. I suspect that sediment had built up in the carburator and that by shaking it, it loosened up the sediment and eventually enabled it to pass through the engine. Even through I finally got it to life, it is getting louder every hear. So much so that I am actually considering getting a quieter lawn mower.

Then I found out that my friend down the street had given up using her LawnBoy. She said that it would die on her in the middle of cutting the lawn. She was planning on getting another lawn mower so she was quite happy to give the LawnBoy to me (since she was also convinced that it did not work). I took it home, squirted some Rapid Fire into the carburetor, filled up the tank with gas and gave it a few yanks. Just like that, it started. But then after 2 minutes, it died. So I tried my shaking trick. I got it started again then I kept shaking it for a couple of minutes. Sure enough, it ran smooth after a couple of minutes of agitation. So after about 15 minutes of playing with it, it works as good as new. I felt guilty about taking a perfectly good lawnmower from her, so I gave it back to her.

I guess in my own way, I like to keep machines living much past their natural lives.