Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Somehow, I reckon he has a tenured position. I suspect his house is not about to be repossessed. I bet he's not clipping coupons. I bet he's relatively immune from the law of unintended consequences, from the inevitable wash-through from Wall Street into the lives of ordinary people. A comfort zone which makes a theory easy to hold and expound.
Ideology is a powerful force for good and evil. But it makes it hard for ideologues to differentiate between the two. The quote "in order to save the village we had to destroy it" comes forcibly to mind.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Sub brands rule
Acquired "sub" brands can often carry more heritage, authority and meaning than the parent brand, but are routinely deemed by those in charge to need to fit (as in disappear) into the larger corporate image, however drab and unimpressive. Often this is done out of sheer ignorance of what brands mean and the asset they represent, and often it is an act of political machismo, to reinforce the relative status of organisations (you're part of us now). And sometimes it is a result of a simplistic desire for consistency, as though that was of itself a good thing.
The brands that have fans, however, are rarely the engulfing conglomerate but more usually the smaller entity. [I do know there are exceptions here.] My theory is that this is because in smaller organisations the brand and the vision are nearer the coalface, more likely to have real meaning, more likely to be directly connected to what staff do and customers get. It's straight brand, without the mixer. The bigger the entity, and the more components parts the brand has to embrace, the less focussed it can be, and the more it is likely to tend to the brand-as-label rather than brand-as-essence.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
I had chatted earlier with the senior team about this, and to some extent the results were as you might have expected. Massar-ness was seen as including attributes such as - collaborative, involving, inspiring, fun, celebratory, learning. But there was one element which struck me as both different and very defining of Massar in its Syrian context - being unafraid to fail. Fear of failure, both individually and organisationally, is completely corrosive. It inhibits an essential characteristic of creativity, in which interim failure is such an innate contributor to eventual success that it has not only to be accepted, but welcomed and sought out.
In Syria, avoidance of failure is culturally embedded in young people and their parents by the very traditional school system. So one of the most important things Massar can provide for them is a space where failure is okay, where they can learn from it and recognise its value. Failure happens; it's how we go on from it that defines us. And that is true of us as a team too. We are doing new things, often they are going to be messy, and sometimes they won't work. That's fine. That's what we want. That's Massar.
Raising the money
Update 13 September: we have now received some $400,000 in pledges!
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
The French are in town
All this followed a call on Monday morning to attend immediately a meeting at the Governorate about the Old International Fairground site - no agenda, no clarification of what the meeting was for, no explanation of roles or responsibilities of anyone present. An architect called Sinan Hassan presented a design vision for the area which I was then asked to comment on. I said that as it entirely did away with the public park and created massive built forms right alongside the Massar building I was not in favour. Several people commented about the Louvre scheme, and I had to point out that I had not yet been shown it so could not say whether it was good or bad. The director of the national museum had thought the meeting was dealing with an entirely different problem, and lobbied for some emergency storage space into which to move some of his collections. The Governor replied that he should sort that out with the Ministry, not at this meeting. It was eventually clarified that the Louvre scheme could not be accepted for various reasons and that we should produce a reasoned response which put us, not them, on the front foot. This would include a commitment to the construction of an entirely new national museum! Plainly noone was leading the process, and some basic prep was allocated to Sinan and me. The following day, when all the material was put together, it was then decided that I was the best person to present it, following a short intro by the Governor. A strange choice for various reasons, not least that I would not be playing a role in the process going forward.
However, I duly turned up and spoke to the material and it all seemed to go down well. The French apparently felt that we had seized the initiative and that the thinking was well structured and suitably ambitious. So job done, but two entire days spent on this. I suppose there is benefit to Massar in quashing some bizarre proposals, but it is significant that neither in the Governorate nor in HE's office is there someone able to pick up and run with this sort of basic liaison on cultural matters.
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