In which Dr Aust hails a vintage piece of Corporate-balls.
One of the occasional pleasures of blogging is the unexpected emails you get offering tip-offs or material, relating to something you have blogged about. For instance, my friend David Colquhoun, having written extensively about bogus B.Sc. degrees in Unreality, often gets plain-brown-envelope anonymous deliveries of material relating to such – usually, one assumes, from academics with an actual sense of responsibility who are ashamed of what their own institutions are doing.
Dr Aust, not being in the same celebrity skeptic bracket, does not get the same level of mole-mail, but nonetheless, things do appear from time to time. They sometimes come via people I know, but just as often from people I don’t.
Now, Dr Aust is a long time collector of vintage manager-bollocks, so it is a special pleasure to post the following photos, which arrived a few days ago, relayed on by a friend of a friend from an anonymous source somewhere deep in the bowels of Big Pharma.
Take a close look at these two pictures.
You might think this is a picture of a simple packet of sunflower seeds.
But you would be wrong.
The corporate PR-speak is unmistakeable.
“delivering benefit to our patients”
[Funny – I never knew that drug companies had “patients”. I thought that was doctors. Silly me]
And in case you can’t read it, the smaller lettering in the top left hand corner reads:
“Inspire to Innovate”
I don’t know about “Inspire”, but it certainly caused me to take a large breath in. After I’d spent half a minute speechless with laughter.
Anyway, the answer is that it IS a packet of sunflower seeds, but it is also much, much more.
According to the accompanying email, this is a key part of a campaign to reinvigorate the innovative-ness of a Large PharmaCo’s Worker Bees.
The idea, I gather, is that the Worker Bee should plant these seeds in their garden, or window box, and then, as the sunflowers gradually emerge and grow, they will remind the Worker Bee to ignite their passion to “grow” new ideas from small seeds of innovation.
Now, sunflowers are nice things to have in your garden, no question. But when you see stuff like this you do have to wonder if the company management think all their workers are completely brain-dead.
And as for the slogans….
“Inspire to Innovate”, in particular, is one of those meaningless exhortatory mantras, dreamt up presumably by a PR consultant, that cause such eye-rolling in the sort of broadly cynical milieu that Dr Aust works in. Not that that means Universities are immune from the enthusiasm for such slogans, of course. One of Dr Aust’s former Faculty Deans, a genuinely nice and usually impeccably down-to-earth bloke, once had a rush of blood and told a Faculty meeting in apparent seriousness that he thought our new Faculty watchword should be:
“To Infinity – AND BEYOND!”
[This was many years ago now, when the movie Toy Story was just out].
A spate of alternatives soon emerged in the corridors and tearooms, as such things will:
“To Inanity – AND BEYOND!”
“To Insanity – AND BEYOND!”
And finally, one which comes back to mind especially in these latter days of uncertain University finances:
“To Insolvency – AND BEYOND!”
Now, it is one thing when the Boss dreams up one of these little bon mots half-way through a dreary meeting. It is another when a company has a PR department doing it, or pays a PR consultancy good money to “strategize” or “vision” or “futurize” and then come up with this sort of platitudinous nonsense. Do they really not have anything better to spend their money on?
Personally I find it almost impossible to imagine that anyone’s reaction is REALLY some variant on:
“Great. Super. I feel SOOOO STOKED to innovate!”.
I would be predicting something more like eye-rolling, followed by complete indifference.
Though perhaps the PR folk will be doing an impact assessment for their campaign? I can see the MCQ now:
When you received your “Innovation Pack” did you feel
E all of the above
Because most people can see through vapid slogans.
Finally, whenever I see a slogan which has the form:
“[Imperative] [Verb]” (like “Inspire to innovate”)
I am reminded of this wonderful movie scene from my all-time favourite Clint Eastwood western, The Outlaw Josey Wales:
So perhaps there IS a message there, after all.
For if your employer is treating you to this kind of stuff, I sincerely hope that you, too, will endeavour to persevere.
PS Getting serious for a moment, perhaps you may think that I am being a bit too negative. There is, dare I say it, little doubt Dr Aust is a grumpy old so-and-so, and he usually feels even grumpier in the Winter. Anyway, the question of whether there actually IS a way to encourage people to be more “innovative” is sort of interesting. There is a bit of discussion here, and some ideas in a video that Dr Grumble posted over here.
The not terribly startling message seems mainly to be to leave your more innovatively-inclined employees alone to get on with it. This is, of course, rather what Universities traditionally did until the Govt and University managers had the idea that it would be a good thing to start micro-managing everything. And having lots of “campaigns” and “initiatives”, of course. Anyway, watch the video if you are interested.
Suffice it to say, though, that sunflowers are not involved.