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Out of Our Minds
Monday, April 05, 2004 10:27 AM
Beyond Britney and Justin
Anita Sharpe on Making a Difference

While I was having coffee last week with the former head of one of the world's largest consumer products companies, he remarked that few of his former colleagues were interested in using their global power to make a difference in the world.

Contrast that with this: I also spoke to a group of 13-year-olds -- who are this company's prime market -- at a school Career Day last week. When I asked how many wanted their work to make a difference in society, every hand (except one) shot up. And these kids had passionate thoughts about the mark they want to leave on the world.

Idealism lives. But many of the world's most powerful companies are missing the boat.


Andrew Denny - 4/6/2004 10:50:53 AM
You said that your businessman friend rued that few of his former colleagues were interested in using their power to change the world.

You didn't ply the same question to the kids. You asked the kids what they themselves wanted to do.

I suspect that if you'd asked the businessmen direct what they wanted to do, they'd have said the same as the kids - they really did want to make a differnce.

And if you'd asked just *one* child what he thought of his classmates, he'd have probably said they didn't care as much as him.

That's the trouble with human nature. We none of us believe that other people care as much as we do, about what *we* feel is important.

I suspect you won't care as much as I do about my point of view on this! :-)

anita - 4/6/2004 9:54:27 AM

Good comment. And it goes to the heart of what we're trying to do with Worthwhile. Thanks.
John Porcaro - 4/5/2004 11:33:18 PM
As a 40-year-old, I struggle with the fact that the best of my energy and skill is going into marketing products to consumers, not changing the world. Then I realize three things: 1) some of the stuff I'm working on has the potential to change the world (Encarta comes to mind); 2) My work allows allows my company, its founders, and me to contribute to causes that are changing the world (in some very real ways); and 3) probably most important, my job allows me time and money to change the world for my own four kids, and the 25 foster kids we've had live in our home.

Thanks for the post. Remonds me that there's more than finishing up the PR Plan or budget scrub that's due next week...
Carson McComas - 4/5/2004 5:34:51 PM
Anita, with all due respect and stuff to Tom, I suspect everyone but him got it.

A rather effective subject line actually.

On another layer, you made the point that kids care about more than 'Justin and Britney' -- their ideas are bigger, their interests deeper, and their attention spans longer than MTV gives them credit for.
Anita - 4/5/2004 5:14:51 PM
Hmm, guess this didn't work as a headline. Britney and Justin, as in Spears and Timberlake. It was going to the point that big companies often think the best route to a teenager's wallet is through a celebrity.
Nick - 4/5/2004 4:57:06 PM
Is this another example of corporate missing the voice of it's prime market?

What if the head of the company instead pursued a consumer product that tapped into this desire in his 'prime market' to impact society.. and build on it.

Would it fill a vacuum?

Michele Miller - 4/5/2004 2:59:53 PM
As I sat waiting for a plane in the Phoenix airport the other day, a young woman of about 20 sat down next to me with a large button pinned to her jacket that read, 'BEAT BUSH.'

It started a conversation between the two of us that never did delve into politics, but rather her desire to make a difference. Just one more encounter to remind me that this up and coming generation wants it real, wants it unfiltered, and wants action.
Bert - 4/5/2004 1:47:09 PM
This reminded me of an old adage variously attributed to many thinker/writers. I always liked to think that it was a Winston Churchill gem. The saying: 'A young person who is not a liberal(idealist)has no heart, an older person who is not a conservative(realist) has no brain'! Since I still think of myself as young at heart I continue to want to make a difference. But I must fight off creeping cynicism.
Tom - 4/5/2004 1:31:16 PM
Who are Britany and Justin and what do they have to do with this article???
Halley Suitt - 4/5/2004 1:01:21 PM
Anita = I love this post. It opens up that can of worms about being PROUD. As a mom, I notice I often praise my son with the words, 'I'm so proud of you.'

Seems like we have seen little to stand tall and be proud of lately in business. What a true satisfaction that would be -- to have that feeling of pride about what we do and also proud of the company we keep. Yes, I said, the 'company' we keep and of course, I mean the company we work for.

I wonder how it felt for all the hard-working honest people at places like Enron, WorldComm, Anderson and now Tyco to be brought down thanks to the unethical practices of their leadership.


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