Fighting the tension between privacy and freedom of speech

Having just spent a week at South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin Texas, I heard a number of recurrent themes throughout many of the panels and sessions I attended. Two of the themes struck me as most paradoxical:

  • the right to privacy
  • defense of the freedom of speech (First Amendment)

Managing both ends of the spectrum

Somehow, we must fight for both, knowing that the freedom of speech may invade somebody’s privacy. The stories of Kim Dotcom (the founder of MegaUpload) and Gawker (the news media that revealed the Hulk Hogan sex tapes) are two cases in point. Both were the subject of premieres at SXSW (see below).

freedom of speech sxsw

In the case of Kim Dotcom, he set up a site (Mega Upload) to facilitate online piracy. He was first charged with copyright infringement (and a number of other charges); but in the quest to undo his empire, the NZ authorities (implicitly backed by the US) illegally tapped into his private life. And then wanted to quash him.

Kim Dotcom, Caught in a Web

The absurdities of this “fight” include the flip flop one makes about Kim Dotcom the Pirate, to Kim Dotcom the Crusader (for rights to privacy and freedom of speech…). He goes from villain to victim after the NZ government authorises a military-style operation to arrest him.

The film, Kim Dotcom, will be coming out on Amazon Film as of April 26.

Nobody Speak: Hulk Hogan, Gawker and Trials of a Free Press

In this film, the parallel with the Kim Dotcom film were evident: the use of excessive means to close down an “unwanted” element. The nominal topic in this documentary is the privacy of a public figure (Hulk Hogan). The real topic: the use of money by moguls to close down media and the freedom of speech. The funniest moment in the film, however, was the notion that an individual can — in a court of law — seamlessly speak about himself as a character (Hulk Hogan) when he is being interviewed, in order to deflect from his real-life identity (Terry Bollea). And what if Hulk (the character) were to commit a crime (in real life)? I’m sure his response would be: “Whoops, it was just my character Hulk Hogan doing that, not me Bollea!”

The film Nobody Speak will be coming out on Netflix soon enough! Watch this space.

America First, Me Too – Where’s Europe?

Unless you have been living in a cave, you will have noticed that many countries have responded to Donald Trump’s America First pronouncement with a rather tongue-in-cheek Me Second video. It all began with this one from The Netherlands, by the Dutch comedy show called Sunday with Lubach (Zondag met Lubach).

First, one has to laud the speedy reaction of the Dutch team. This was put up 3 days after the inauguration (Jan 20). At time of posting, it has had over 22 million views (in less than 3 weeks). Kudos!

America First, Me Too

Inspired by the Dutch initiative, there have been many copy cat videos coming from (in alphabetical order) Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iran (two versions with the second one making the distinction between Iraq and Iran), Italy, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madeira Island, Moldova, Morocco, Namibia, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Having swept through them all, it’s worth nothing that virtually all of these videos have a minimum of 500,000 views each. A good publicity stint, if nothing else. However, they certainly also do speak to the level of outrage.

There’s even been a more fanciful video made by the ever-welcoming Mars planet.

Where’s Russia?

In one the major ironies, I don’t see a China Second or Russia Second video. Why? Censorship? Or perhaps because they both believe they are first? No doubt, everyone seems to be pulling the sheet cover over themselves.

Where’s Europe?

But, there is something else that struck me about the list (of copy cats) above. Over half of the countries come from Europe. But no one represents Europe. When I wrote about Brexit in the past, I mentioned that the project of Europe is in dire trouble because there is no united vision of Europe. The affiliations are at best national (and regrettably tending toward increasing nationalism). If Europe were strong, we’d have an America First, Europe Second video, no?

It would have to go along the lines:

Here is a quick introduction to Europe. Europe is great. We love history. We love diversity. We love building walls, both physical and imagined….

Sadly, the constituent countries of Europe are so embroiled in their own problems, that no one is taking care of Europe. Any takers out there to do the Europe Second video?

Being Cyrano (Dans La Peau de Cyrano) – A Review

Last night, I attended the world premiere of the English version of a new play, “Being Cyrano.” Originally written in French, the play is entitled “Dans La Peau de Cyrano.” The play is a one-man show, starring Nicolas Devort, who plays 5 very different roles, including the ‘lead,’ Colin, who is a boy entering a new school with a rather daunting challenge.

being cyrano dans la peau de cyrano

What I liked most about this play is that it shows the power of the arts to help in our development. The Maths & Drama teacher at the school decides to put on the play Cyrano de Bergerac and, with parallel stories between actors and characters, plays out how acting and music can be most therapeutic. But the therapy isn’t just for Colin (or Cyrano). It’s for us all. Nicolas Devort spins through the different personalities with a wonderful and distinct set of accents, ticks and manners. The marvel of Nicolas is that he is able to deliver the play in both French and English. An extraordinarily tough act that anyone who is bilingual will understand perfectly.

If you get a chance, check it out. It’s 1h15 in length. Well worth the visit en famille. Here’s the trailer with subtitles en français.

dlpdc-v05 from Marc Kawam on Vimeo.

The show is in Brussels on Tuesday next week (in French). Book here. Then the show moves to Casablanca on the 14th Jan! The show will be coming out in English officially in March 2017. Contact the team directly to find out about dates.

Heroes of the Second World War – Discover Rishi Sharma’s Amazing Project #WWII

Interview with Rishi Sharma

Since mid-October, I have essentially been on tour, launching my new documentary film and book, The Last Ring Home. In case you had not come across it yet, here is the trailer:

I am now back in the saddle and working on the next chapter of the story, including hopefully getting the film on national public television in the US. In the interim, I wanted to bring to you another story that needs to be told. It’s the story of a 19-year-old who is on a magnificent mission.

Rishi Sharma Heroes of WWIIBelow you will find my podcast interview with Rishi Sharma. His ambition is noble and entirely consistent with my own. His mission and project will undoubtedly make a meaningful mark in our world: to capture the stories of the remaining combat heroes of WWII before they all pass.

Below, you’ll find the show notes and, of course, you are invited to comment. I hope you will be equally inspired by Rishi’s commitment and purpose.

To connect with Rishi Sharma:

Image credit: JUAN CARLO/THE STAR

Image credit: JUAN CARLO/THE STAR

PS if you’d like to know more about my own film, please head over to TheLastRingHome. I’ll be doing a couple of screenings in Paris over the Christmas holidays (see here for details).

Brexited… Now What Should Europe Do?

Brexit Europe VisionAfter the surprising BREXIT vote by the people of the United Kingdom last Thursday, we have since certainly all been involved in heated debates regarding this topic. Amongst my Parisian friends, the conversation kept coming back to the English. And like in the “Journal du Dimanche”, the first two pages of a dedicated BREXIT segment were entirely focused on the UK.

The reactions on the continent have revolved around: the British are going to suffer; they are crazy; they do not understand the consequences; they are racist … But, I think, in these expressions, Europeans are mistaken in their conclusion. It would be better not to act as a jilted lover.

I personally feel more European than French (naturalized citizen). And, I think that Europe has a unique opportunity in this moment and must act resolutely.

Another friend opined that she was scared of what it meant. Here, I want to say that we need to move from fear into action.

In this context, I felt the urge to pen my point of view.

My advice to pro-Europeans: do not focus on the UK and the impact on them. Certainly, the reasons that motivated the vote are distressing; certainly, the UK may see the pound weakened and their economy struggle … but the real issue is:

 What to make of Europe?

brexit chinese-symbol-for-crisisAs the Chinese* would say: in any crisis, there is danger and opportunity. The requirement on the European side is not to draw up the best retribution possible against the Brits, but instead to focus its energies to find its own way and take care of itself. Angela Merkel rightly said: “Do not make fast conclusions about the British decision…”

Europe needs to understand – in a deeper way – why the Brexit vote happened. Sure, it was the 50+ year-old lesser educated English person who voted LEAVE in a bid to restore British sovereignty. But, in reality, the problem is that the British have not found enough reason to belong to Europe. Nicolas Sarkozy, for whatever he may be worth, is right in saying, “The British are gone: it’s their choice. We must now act fast and strong. “(JDD p6).

The risks

The three biggest risks BREXIT poses for Europe are:

  1. A wave of nationalism takes over Europe (e.g. France, Austria, the Netherlands…), driven by fear of immigration and a need to regain lost national pride. We should keep a beady eye on the presidential elections in France and Germany next year. And one should not forget the risk (and the need for a robust response by Europe and the US) of the resurgent near-despotic Russian nationalism.
  2. The European economy does not reboot, leaving an unhealthy level of unemployment, the younger generations in a precarious position and a stagnant intra-European movement of population. Note: the destabilizing effects of a non-harmonized tax system and uncoordinated state expenditures render the Euro currency totally flawed.
  3. That the people in European countries feel increasingly trapped in a Europe in which they do not recognize themselves; and, do not find a net benefit versus the apparent cost. So we’re bound to see other European countries embark on their own EXIT. We are already talking about similar votes in several countries. This all points to the fact that a strong anti-European sentiment existed well before the vote in the UK.

The stakes are high and the risks are real. But, it is important to stress that they existed before the BREXIT vote. In fact, these topics were fully discussed before; but, the 28 members at the table were nowhere near finding a solution, stuck in endemic bureaucracy and consensual decision-making. The problem is that nobody (in Brussels, in particular) has ever felt enough urgency. It’s like running a business with an over-populated Executive Committee. An ExCom of 28 27 people is just unmanageable.

The Opportunities

The opportunities for Europe – or even unintended consequences – are:

  1. To define the vision (aka its NORTH) of Europe, something that could be made easier without the presence and the nit-picky point of view of the English. Firstly, one would have to imagine a future in which Europe has a definite place in the world, and with which members can identify themselves. Secondly, we should agree on the de facto shared values. To date, neither the vision nor the common values are clear.

    brexit ideal europe

    The Ideal House by Claude Nicolas Ledoux, 1770

  2. To address how to mobilize the European economy from the inside – instead of focusing how to repulse or ensnare the new entrants (e.g. Google, Facebook and Alibaba); to encourage entrepreneurship and the free movement of people between countries; and to collaborate on strategic projects (not just Airbus). N.B. High taxation and bureaucracy are not favorable conditions for business.
  3. With a well-defined North, Brussels must be prepared and able to make tough decisions. For example: to clean Europe of members who do not play by the rules. Consensus – as a process – is not friendly with making difficult decisions.
  4. Not forgetting that if Europe acts appropriately, Scotland and Northern Ireland could decide to join the EU …

In the vision of the Europe of tomorrow, there is a need to identify one or more values that are held in common.* This must be an ideal and/or a behavioural trait that is shared de facto by the people living there. Europe needs to take decisive and joint action that demonstrates a clear ambition and that unites. One would need to streamline the decision-making in Brussels to become fleeter of foot. Will there ever be an alignment of tax policies and, even more complicated, over the role of the state (e.g., level of expenditures) within each country?

REDEFINING EUROPE

Although many repudiate the idea, Europe would perhaps need a real orchestral conductor. Is there an appetite on the part of citizens (and their governments) to give up more power and sovereignty to a meta-structure, with a European president? But, even imagining it were accepted, would there be a person up to the task? Angela Merkel would present the best (only?) option.

Many questions and concerns. But these issues should have been debated and resolved much earlier. Now, it’s time to take the bull by the horns.

WHAT IF BREXIT WERE THE RIGHT DECISION … FOR EUROPE?

Brexit or Breaks It

If, as a result of the UK’s decision, Europe undertakes radical changes that will ensure the future of Europe, BREXIT would have had a happy unexpected intention: Europe will have received the necessary kick in the butt to provoke the change. But, if Europe implodes, this would indicate that the UK had good reason to withdraw. Perhaps, the UK’s departure will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, but, in my opinion, the proverbial camel was already heavily overloaded.

Either way, I maintain that Brexiting was the right decision, even if the reasoning that underpinned this vote were unfortunate.

As a first (small) act of the new Europe: At the time of Euro 2016, I would propose to create a European team for each sport (not just golf)!

Europe: Now’s the time for us to act together!

* Although the United States are far from exemplary on many points, there exists a common shared value – across the 50 states – a fundamental belief: every individual has the right to build his/her own future. This kind of shared value binds and transcends all the American people. May the EU find its own!

 

*My friend, Takuya san, pointed out that the ideogram I had originally posted was wrong (it meant “storm wind”). So, I have replaced it with the correct characters! Arigato Takuya san!

PS Here was the post I wrote before the Brexit vote.

Is There A Win-Win Case In The Brexit Vote?

brexit euro 2016Isn’t it ironic that the BREXIT vote is happening in the midst of Euro 2016? With good fortune (or planning?), there are no matches on Thursday 23rd. I am not particularly fond of football, but I feel like such tournaments are the best way to get out our atavistic nationalistic tendencies. May they remain there.

I have lived two-thirds of my life in Europe. I love Europe. I love Europe for its diversity of food and language; for its culture and history; for its proximity; for having the Alps and the Mediterranean; and much more. And, yet for Europe, I believe a BREXIT Leave vote will be best. Here’s why.

BREXIT – Business Angle: Short or Long-Term?

Taking the viewpoint of businesses in the Brexit debate, I have to state that there is little incentive for the UK to bust out of Europe. Businesses in general, and the stock market, in particular, do not like uncertainty. However, those vying to Remain based on financial matters, are doing so with no better assurances than those clamouring to leave. The difference is that the Remain camp is focusing on the negative shorter-term impact, while the other (leave) camp is more concerned about the longer-term impact.

Brexit Euro 2016

Obviously, no one knows for sure what would happen if Brexit goes through, except to say that it will cause a distinct amount of chaos. We know that there will be a major impact with the mobilisation of resources to reorganise (adjusting the legal and constitutional framework, redefining European political and trade relationships…). Another major thorny issue: what to do with the 3 million EU nationals living, working and/or studying in the UK, or the 2 million UK nationals spread throughout the EU?

Remain = Status Quo

Yet, to remain is to accept the status quo. Things I personally appreciate about the EU include the ability to travel without having to change monies or get visas and/or my passport stamped every time I cross a border. As a French national, I have the opportunity to settle wherever I would wish in Europe. Last but not least: the general peace Europe has enjoyed, regardless of the gross misfortune of the radical Islamic terrorism.

The one thing of which we do have a better understanding is if Europe stays as is, i.e. the UK votes to remain. Pretty much everyone everywhere knows that Europe is sickly. Even on the Remain camp, there are many who agree. What does the future hold with Europe continuing with the status quo?

Europe is ill

Europe is suffering on many layers, not least of which is its economic health. The European economy is systemically handicapped. The list of illnesses range from the systemic to the temporary to the cultural. The list of problems includes (but not limited to):

  1. the lack of fiscal harmony
  2. the hideously bureaucratic (and consensual) decision-making process in Brussels
  3. the lack of a harmonised vision of Europe across the 28 member countries of the EU
  4. the legacy feelings of entitlement
  5. the continuing divisions within the countries (Catalonia in Spain, Flemish in Belgium, Scotland in Britain, and an enormous laundry list of other active separatist or autonomy movements in Europe courtesy of Wikipedia)
  6. the risk of further pollutive immigration from the IS ranks

A chief argument for the Remain camp is that it will be easier to change from within… But, change hasn’t exactly been easy to forge in the past (especially over the first sixteen years since the introduction of the Euro). The UK’s half-wedded status has perhaps not helped them or Europe in this regard. Why will remaining in the EU mean that change will come any faster or better considering the poor record?

Vote for Radical Change?

My personal opinion underlying my position on the Brexit vote is that Europe needs to find a way to heal, and to do so quickly. I don’t believe gradual change will be good enough. In a democratic and consensual process, any change has been laborious to push through. Europe needs a real wake-up call to understand that staying as is will be like the proverbial frog in the (gradually) boiling pot. If a Brexit Leave vote will be painful for Europe, it will certainly be more painful for the UK, at least shorter term. But short of a Brexit, I do not see how or why Europe will take the necessary and hard decisions that need to happen to fix it. For this reason,

It won’t be pretty, but it would provide the best chance of forcing Europe’s hand to bring about necessary radical reform. Staying “within” will mean that any such change will come only with major compromises that bring Europe down to its lowest common denominator. Given the obvious stresses that the immigration issue will continue to provoke, much less the continuing slide of the European continuing faced against much more competitive players, Europe in its current incarnation seems destined to hit the wall.

I thus support Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.

Your thoughts and reactions are welcome.

Can Good Parenting Skills Be Transferred To Management?

parenting skillsWhen I was first asked the question whether parenting skills were transferable to the work place (in terms of management skills), I shrugged off the idea. But, with some further reflection, I think it is entirely appropriate. Maybe it’s about letting the inner child within flourish? Maybe it’s about letting more emotion into the workplace?

Parenting Skills 101

Here are some of the good parenting skills that I believe are absolutely relevant at work:

  • Staying young at heart
  • Fostering curiosity
  • Learning to learn again
  • Encouraging creativity
  • Promoting the risk of experimentation (within defined limits!)
  • Learning to fail
  • Working on non-verbal communication skills
  • Dealing with the unexpected
  • Empathy and heightened emotional intelligence
  • Modeling the behavior you would like to see implemented (walk the talk)
  • Linking behavior to values
  • Putting the most important things first…

When I finally put the list together, I was floored by the depth of applicability. There are probably many more, but it’s a good start. What other ones would you have? Which is your favorite? Any you disagree with?

And, there may even be a strong benefit to the business if we can better relate to our children, as they are, after all, representative of our future employees and customers.

#ParisAttacks Aftershocks – And The Urge to Find Meaning

Paris Republique MeaningfulnessI think it is finally dawning on all of us that we are living in a radical new era. It seems that little by little, methodically interspersed with several months and country by country, we find a new date to mark on the calendar as a day of memorial, of grief and of spine-chilling angst. This Wikipedia entry — documenting all types of terrorist actions in 2015 alone — shows how frequent the acts of violence have become. In 2015, we may be living in times when there has never been more progress in medicine, technology and science. There may be great ambitions to send manned missions to Mars and the other side of the moon.There may not be a world war as history books tend to write about them. However, I am sure I am not alone in feeling that there is also good reason to review what we all doing, ponder why we are doing it and, pressingly, how we are spending our time and resources at work.

In contemplating November 13’s tragic events in Paris, I came away with three thoughts.

  1. It is evermore critical to do things that are meaningful. Did anyone else notice how hard it was to get any work done in the aftermath? Granted it was the weekend, but everything non essential seemed to be stripped away. Unless our activity has a deeper purpose, one can literally feel the reservoir of energy running out. I am sure that many people around the world who have trudged into work this Monday morning are scrubbing their brows.
  2. As much as we might now know that change is every day — evermore so recently than ever in the past — that doesn’t make the change any easier. If we all have to gear up for systematic perturbations, that heightens the need for a strong, shared and meaningful NORTH heading. This is true for us as individuals. It is true for us as entrepreneurs, business leaders and employees. And, of course, most emphatically for our society. With all these changing winds, we need a strong compass to help guide us in our professional and personal lives.
  3. Lastly, on a rather more banal level, I could not help but feel upset at the mundane tweets and messages that floated out on Friday evening and over the weekend thanks to a cue of pre-programmed communications using one or other marketing automation service (Buffer, Hootsuite, etc.). I thought I’d made sure all of mine were closed, but I still missed one tweet. Marketing automation is possibly a necessary evil for business, but when you pre-program all your communications, you lose the context and can end up with some awful mistakes – that come off as total callousness.

Your thoughts and reactions are welcome.

 

How to Become the Titan of the Industry – Buy Me To the Moon!

Over the last week, we have seen a host of announced mergers and acquisition. Taken together, in my opinion, these would harken some scary conclusions.

Buy me to the moon?

Merger titan of industryIn the last week alone, we saw three acquisitions announced that show how fiercely these companies want to be bigger. It all seems about becoming the titan of the industry. If NASA and Roscosmos (Russia’s space agency) are both looking to fly manned missions back to the moon, these different corporate management teams are looking to buy me to the moon.

  • Allergan and Pfizer merger would make a combined entity with over $300 billion in valuation (WSJ) – 29 October. This comes on the heels of Pfizer’s acquisition of Hospira earlier this year (for $15 billion – Guardian)
  • Hyatt ($7 billion valuation) is apparently targeting the acquisition of Starwood Hotels (c $13.5 billion valuation) – 28 October via CNBC
  • Walgreen to buy Rite-Aid ($17.2 billion) – October 28 via USA Today

Earlier in the year, we had many other huge merger & acquisitions announced or completed: Continue reading

The Craft of Storytelling – Practice Makes Perfect, But It Can Also Drive Your Closest Allies Nuts

Storytelling ArpeggioWhat makes for a great storyteller? I have to believe it’s an alchemy between talent, content and practice. Like a musician doing repeated scales and arpeggios, it is true that for those who live in close proximity, the practice can also drive one a bit nuts. The craft of storytelling is as old as the ages. It is the human condition to need to share and listen to stories; stories that move us. Some people are more gifted storytellers than others; but practice can make up a lot of the difference.

Crafting Your Stories…

It struck me, the other day, that people who have lots of friends probably have a better chance to become great storytellers. At the very least, they will be able to practice a good deal more with a live audience. If you only had a few friends, you won’t be able to repeat the same story too many times. Someone who has many friends can practice the storytelling across his or her network.

Friends & Family

Friends and family are often indicated as the first round of seed financing. They also serve as your first (core) level of fans; if they don’t want to talk about you, then you’ve got a problem. Friends and family are, naturally, the first (and most important) audience for your own storytelling. In my case, I know that I am no comedian. My (few) jokes need a lot more work. 

But when it comes to being a storyteller, it is important to be able to tell them repeatedly and in different situations. When practicing them, you can’t abuse your intimate family and friends with the same story over and over (that’s what Grandpa will do at dinner, glass of Scotch at hand). Thus, it is useful to have a wider circle of friends to refine your story and the storytelling. People’s reactions are the best feedback. If they say too often, “Yeah, Minter, that was interesting”, more than likely I need to go back to the drawing board. 

Develop Your Strategy to Practice More

Even if one doesn’t have a large network of friends, one needs to find an appropriate strategy to practice more. For the introvert storytellers, who might have a smaller (but tighter) group of friends, one will need to find alternative avenues. Depending on the personality, one such strategy is to write up the stories or record them on a private link and have the web friends give feedback.