Justice and order

Over the weekend, I was mulling a few different concepts over, and one got stuck and wouldn’t go away until I wrote it out. In the news, we see lots of stories about police brutality and the police state. We see lots of stories on social media about companies that rule over their employees with an iron hand or berate customers that step out of line. We see the United States government intruding on personal rights and privacy in countless ways, from NSA spying to the dispensing of military equipment to school districts.

Why do we see these patterns? It’s easy to blame politics, race, and a variety of other surface factors, but there might be a bigger concept to pay attention to. When we see behaviors that we identify as unjust, what we are seeing is the triumph of order over justice.

Order and justice can sometimes be correlated, but order does not necessarily mean justice. In small communities, justice is implicitly built in. In a small town, justice occurs to some degree because everyone knows everyone else’s business; you can’t hide for long. In small companies, it doesn’t take long to ferret out the people who are not pulling their own weight. (and yes, this can be perverted – a white community can behave unjustly towards black citizens, and vice versa).

Once a community, an organization, a company, or a country grow beyond a certain size, justice gives way to order. People want order. They crave order, because order begets stability and predictability, even at the expense of justice. Most importantly, the average man on the street cares less for justice than he does order. Order means the market is predictably open, even if it’s not well stocked.

Ideally, justice and order work together, but very often, they diverge. This occurs because beyond a certain point, one sub-group’s concept of justice is not the same as another sub-group’s. Order becomes the priority, and justice takes a back seat.

When police are buying military hardware to patrol schools, order is in the driver’s seat.

When peaceful dissenters are spied upon, harassed, and even harmed or killed, order is in the driver’s seat.

When a minority is oppressed even when expressing a just viewpoint, order is in the driver’s seat.

Dr. Martin Luther King speaking against war in Vietnam, St. Paul Campus, University of Minnesota

When you look at the news today, you are seeing the triumph of order over everything else. Those who are at the top of the pile, those who are in power (regardless of party or perspective) will champion order, because the current conditions are what brought them to power, and they’d like to stay there.

If that’s not okay, if what’s in the news isn’t just and you want justice, you have to be willing to accept disorder. You have to convince your fellow citizens to accept, embrace, and even foment disorder, because only through disorder can you re-emphasize justice. (obviously, being a practicing Buddhist and a lawful citizen, I strongly recommend peaceful, non-violent disorder)

Disorder means the trains may not run on time. Disorder means that people aren’t where you need them to be. Disorder means that things don’t run as well as they should, and that emotions run hot. Disorder means heated disagreement. But disorder is essential in order to re-organize around a more just order.

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What do Pinterest, Tinder, and the shopping mall have in common?

Here’s a fun thought exercise for you.

Question 1: What do Pinterest, Tinder, and the shopping mall have in common?

If you said image-driven marketing, you’d be partially correct.

Here’s the flip side of the coin.

Question 2: What do WhatsApp, Google, and your GPS have in common?

A tougher question to answer.

The answer is that the items in question 1 are serendipity engines. They provide serendipity, a sense of discovery, a chance to stumble upon something that you didn’t intend to look for. Pinterest is masterful at this, at presenting all kinds of content that is tangentially related, but with lots of different rat holes to run down.

The items in question 2 are the norm in the digital world, items that provide you focus. You talk only to the friends you explicitly want to talk to on WhatsApp, and no one else. You find exactly what you’re looking for with Google (or that’s their hope, anyway). Your GPS finds you the most direct, most effective route to your destination.

If it feels like the world has lost of a bit of its wonder, a bit of the magic of life, it’s because we’ve made the sorts of services in Question 2 the norm. Cortana, Google Now, and Siri never say, “Oh hey, I know you were looking for the nearest coffee shop, but there’s a really cool one that’s further away and harder to get to but might be a lot of fun”. That doesn’t happen. Our GPS doesn’t have a “intentionally get lost” button (though certainly apps like Roadtrippers can help).

I love America's highways

When we do have the opportunity to avail ourselves of serendipity, we sometimes enjoy it. We pick a new dish on the menu, or we ask a new acquaintance where to eat in an unfamiliar city. The sommelier brings us a different kind of wine. We meet someone unexpected at a conference.

So here’s the marketing angle for you. If your company provides a focus-based service or product, consider what it would take to offer a parallel serendipity offering. Amazon has figured this out to a certain degree with the “things other people also buy when they buy X” but those are algorithms around your theme. You generally don’t get something completely from left field in those recommendations. What if you offered something even more extreme?

Imagine even adding a “surprise me” button to the search box of your website, or a special series of tweets on a Friday afternoon that have nothing to do with your brand (but are obviously not brand-damaging) of cool stuff you’ve found.

How else can you introduce serendipity for those folks who are looking for it?

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Will your speech be a success?

Lots of different public speaking programs claim the ability to help you be a successful speaker, to be able to make people love you and adore you. With the exception of Oratium (which is more about presentation architecture than on-stage charisma), I’ve not found any that address the fundamental flaw in most speaking programs.


The fundamental flaw goes back to a direct marketing concept first created by Bob Stone in 1967. Stone simply said that direct marketing was a matter of three things in descending order of importance: list, offer, creative. If you don’t have the right list, your campaign will fail. If you don’t have the right offer, the list won’t respond. If you don’t have the right creative, the offer will not be noticed.

Let’s take Bob Stone’s framework and apply it to public speaking. Who is the list? It’s your audience. It’s who is in the room. If you have a canned talk, a topic that you’re known for (or want to be known for), you have to figure out whether the people sitting in the room even want to hear about it. If it’s not deeply relevant, it doesn’t matter how good a speaker you are or how good your speech is, they won’t care. Choose your audiences with care! Some audiences and some shows, no matter what the speaking fee is or how important the attendees are, simply are not good fits, and you should pass them up. If your topic is relevant to the room, then you’ve cleared the first and most important hurdle.

The offer in Stone’s framework is the content, which in the speaking world is the content of your speech. The best speakers I know adapt their talks heavily to who the audience is, to who will be in the room. Jay Baer is a master of this – he even rewrites entire books for specific industries. I recently delivered a talk to SpiceWorld, an IT developer (and now IT marketer) conference, and it was written expressly for the IT marketer, filled with nerd references, and tailored to the audience so that they would understand the relevance of what I was saying. Make sure that your speech feels like it was written for the crowd you’re with, and that crowd only.

The creative in Stone’s framework is the delivery in the world of speaking. As is the case in direct marketing, the delivery, or how you speak, is the least important of the three areas. It’s still important, but if you’ve got the wrong audience and you’ve got the wrong content, how well you delivery it will be irrelevant. Conversely, if you have the right audience and fascinating content, people can excuse mediocre delivery. This is where speaking programs that focus on tonality, umm and ah counting, etc. can come in handy, to add some polish to your delivery, but a good voice lessons class or acting class can do just as much good (and probably be significantly less expensive). Much of how I learned to speak came from modeling my martial arts instructors.

Audience. Content. Delivery. Get them right, in that order, and your speech stands a much greater chance of being a success!

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