They don’t sell Shakespeare at Wal-Mart. They don’t sell Beethoven either, although I could imagine Fur Elise or the 9th Symphony’s Ode to Joy appearing, almost by accident, in a seasonal collection sold at a discount in the Wal-Mart music department.

I’m not criticizing Wal-Mart for this, anymore than I would criticize a road-side convenience store for not selling health food, in the midst of their potato chips, pork rinds and industrial-sized boxes of Skittles. What our largest retailer carries is a reflection not of what they want to sell, but of what their customers want to buy. Selling Shakespeare or Beethoven would be big money losers for Wal-Mart.

So why does it matter that Wal-Mart, the store that sells just about anything we could need for our homes, can’t sell some of the most important examples of our cultural legacy?  (Lest you think I’m only considering dead, white, western males as part of our cultural legacy, I don’t believe they carry anything by Lao-Tzu or Emily Dickinson either.)

Here’s why this matters: We live in a society where intellectual discourse has become too much hassle. Too few people are willing to explore subjects deeply, use “big” words, or familiarize themselves with the historical or cultural context of issues. Shakespeare?  Beethoven? Plato? Thoreau? Ugh.That’s too much work. And it doesn’t stop here. Listen to any cable news show, or reality TV show, or talk radio show. The level of argument and polemic is usually not high enough to get a C+ in a first-year college course. In some sense, Wal-Mart is a bellwether of our national zeitgeist, and, when it comes to intellectually-charged thinking and conversation, the state of things is pretty depressing.

By way of example, just look at the health care debate. On one side people cry “Death Panels!” while on the other side people boycott Whole Foods because of a Wall Street Journal Op Ed piece on health care reform written by their CEO. The only fault of John Mackey of Whole Foods was not that he wrote the piece (which, although I didn’t agree with everything in it, seemed to me to be thoughtful, well-reasoned and well-written), but that he expected people to actually read what he wrote and think about it before reacting to it. The primary fault of the crafters of the proposed health care reform’s policies toward seniors was not that they created their policies, but that they expected the public to actually check, for themselves, what was written before reflexively agreeing with Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity’s comments on the policy. Lazy thinking is a bipartisan issue.

(I asked my cousin, economist Peter Yastrow, how many people he thought had actually read the health care reform bill. He answered, “Two.The guy who wrote it and his mom. His girlfriend said she read it, but she was lying.”)

I am tired of people being too lazy to think. We live in a golden age of knowledge, where our reserves of knowledge are expanding exponentially every few years. I get very encouraged when I read or listen to people like Ray Kurzweil on the subject of our expanding knowledge base, but then I get depressed when I think about how little most people care about this new knowledge.

I spend my work life interacting with business people, helping them improve the state of their companies. This is my unequivocal, air-tight, passionately-held belief, based on my own empirical evidence: The executives who are willing to think are the executives whose companies are most successful. This disinterest in thinking and intellectual exploration translates, directly, to sub-standard business results. Don’t agree? Please debate me on this one.

So, I’m not just making a social commentary. I’m offering my opinion on the connection between lazy thinking and business performance. It is a very strong connection.

I don’t really care if Wal-Mart sells Shakespeare. I’d just like to know that, once in a while, someone walks through the Wal-Mart book section and stops at “S” to see if their immediate craving to re-read a favorite passage in King Lear can be satisfied.


  • Dan Gunter
    Sep 07, 2009 - 07:22 am

    Perhaps this is also related to the issue of what seems to me to be decreasing popularity of “liberal arts” colleges. More and more people seem to be leaning toward colleges (both brick and mortar types) that teach only what they deem to be directly relevant to the profession they are *supposedly* preparing students for. That sort of thinking and action is widening the gap in thinking and connecting the dots between arts, humanities, culture, and even psychology and human growth and development and the human side of business and work.

    Apparently we are being driven (allowing ourselves, I dare say, to be driven) to a state of mind where business is a “by the numbers,” follow the flowchart sort of thing, totally lacking in real thinking.

    My primary living is earned by running a video production and website development firm. Oddly enough, I spent yesterday building a camera jib crane. Sure, I could have bought one for around $2,300, but I decided to build my own. I did so using skills I just happened to learn in the 7th grade while taking a metalworking class. Thus, I build it for a total cost of about $125. I share that to stress the point that diverse learning has its benefits. In this case, about $2,175 in benefits for me and a new tool to make even better videos for clients. Similarly, the things I learned studying about graphic design, color schemes, etc. for the purposes of website and sign design also pays off when I think about colors I’m seeing in the camera viewfinder. All the various types of books I like to read give me a richer base to draw upon when helping a client figure out how to better word something when describing their business or service. My years in health care pay off huge for my video and web clients that are doctors, because I can speak their language and do a lot of necessary translations to layman’s terms without them having to coach me.

    My overall point is this: despite the exponentially growing knowledge base you describe — which these days is more readily and cheaply available than ever — we are cutting ourselves off from it, as though there is no place for it in our lives and the busy-ness of business, and robbing ourselves and our clients of a lot.

    I have to make a WalMart run sometime in the next day or two. I sure could use some Ella Fitzgerald music for a special little project. Do you think I might be able to find THAT in their music department? Only if someone ran a really hot TV commercial like (I believe it was Memorex) back in the 80’s with their “Is it live? Or is it Memorex?” ad campaign, would the American public be reminded of her contribution to our culture.

    Sad state of affairs, isn’t it?

    • Steve Yastrow
      Sep 07, 2009 - 07:59 am

      Dan – not surprisingly, you totally got the post. This is not just a question of people knowing the classics, it’s about people being willing to know.

      My undergraduate degree is in music composition and philosophy. Then I got an MBA in marketing, finance and economics. I know that the music and philosophy degrees are as valuable, and sometimes more valuable, than the business degree during the course of my work, in business.

      On your point about liberal arts education vs. people being trained for a profession, here’s an article by Daniel Gordis that, while primarily about another topic, includes his views on that same issue for Israel. He’s doing something about it, and is involved in creating Israel’s first liberal arts college.

    • Amanda Cullen
      Sep 07, 2009 - 12:52 pm

      Interesting comment, Dan. It made me think back a few days to when my husband asked me an interesting question, “When we’re 80, what do you think we’ll look back on as silly?” He, of course, also had an answer prepared.

      He asserted that we’ll find it absolutely silly to manage solely with metrics. He’s in software development, and there is a certain managerial element that leans towards purely quantifiable data as a measure of performance: How many bugs did you fix? How many lines of code did you write? Those metrics leave unanswered the more important questions. How well did you fix the bug? How efficient is your code?

      That trend is a great example of managing-by-number, sticking only to what appears to be relevant and general lazy thinking.

  • Judith Ellis
    Sep 07, 2009 - 07:24 am

    Good piece, Steve. Thank you. A few points:

    1. Walmart knows its customer and, thus, what will increase its profit. Walmart is in business to make a profit. So, what you’re asking for is non-value added. It’s like asking Walmart to provide health care to its workers who work just up to the legal limit that would require it–say, 39.5 hours, or whatever the limit is. Profit is not necessarily moral or cultural. It’s typically about itself. It often takes a by any means necessary approach. Beethoven and Emily Dickinson are not means of profit for Walmart.
    2. It is not up to Walmart to educate consumers. It is up to our families, schools and other institutions. It is up to the culture at large. We shop for what we desire. It’s like those who prefer a Big Mac regularly to fillet mignon, even if money was not a consideration. If those who shop at Walmart have never heard of or listened to Beethoven, Toni Morrison or Emily Dickinson why would they ask for such? You mention Shakespeare and Beethoven as a part of our culture. Have they ever been generally? European immigrants brought their love of European music and literature to this country. But was it heard in salons or read at home? Perhaps a version of such music could have been heard in salon as a bastardization of the greats. I must say, Steve, that there is a touch of snobbery to this piece. What you are referring to here largely seems to be a matter of style and taste of which I am not wholly opposed. My PhD concentration is in English and philosophy and I have been an opera singer since the age of 10. I am an African American female entrepreneur who has been in business for 12 years, having worked with Fortune 500s and governments as a management consultant and trainer.
    3. Regarding your question about the lack of intellectual pursuit and sub-standard business pursuit, are you suggesting that because I studied Shakespeare that this will enable me to be a better businessperson? This correlation probably cannot be made. Our most successful businesspersons have never been to college and many have dropped out. Most probably have NEVER even read King Lear. Study of the classics do not readily translate into success in business. Otherwise, the whole of Europe would be great businesspersons. When I lived there many PhDs were unemployed. Often intellectualism can be a major hindrance to business, causing over thinking and the lack of doing while precious time escapes. My European friends racked their brains and twitted their thumbs, THINKING AND THINKING of what they lacked: initiative, innovation, and gumption. While everything begins in the mind, not all things are translatable.
    4. You make a point about knowledge being vast. I beg to differ. There is a difference between knowledge and information. What is vast is information. Knowledge requires a funneling through our own cortexes. This is the missing link. Knowledge is the funneling of information and experimentation that can be applied. Knowledge goes beyond information. Even if knowledge changes, as it has for centuries in science and medicine for example, it is not merely information. What made Da Vinci so great was his intellect, intuition and initiative. It’s funny. I have recently written posts on Da Vinci, knowledge,, and Walmart.
    6. The health care bill is much too long. It needs to be simplified. More people will then read it. After all, the bill is for the people and it is the people that should be considered, not only in content but it explanation.

    Thanks again for the post, Steve. It’s thoughtful and appreciated.

  • Steve Yastrow
    Sep 07, 2009 - 08:14 am

    Thanks Judith. I always love it when I see you’ve been here!

    On your points 1 & 2, of course it would be unprofitable for Wal-Mart to sell Shakespeare or Beethoven, and of course it’s not up to them to teach us. I say that in the post; Wal-Mart is for me, clearly, just a bellwether. The fact that it is so absurd to imagine Wal-Mart selling these things is part of my point.

    And, it’s not a matter of style or taste … as Dan’s comment indicates, it’s about stretching the boundaries of what you know. I’ll guess that because your parents exposed you to opera singing at age 12 you learned that knowledge isn’t just the superficial, and doesn’t just come from TV and People Magazine.

    Your point 3: It isn’t that if you study Shakespeare you’ll be a better business person. It’s that you’ll be a better business person if you are not a lazy thinker. Sorry, thought I made that pretty clear.

    4: I’ll leave that question of ever-expanding knowledge up to Ray Kurzweil. There is a wonderful two hour CSPAN Ray Kurzweil interview you can download for 95 cents on iTunes. Highly recommended. He specifically says it is knowledge, and not just information.

    6. The health care bill may be too long and complicated, but I wonder if people are even reading the synopses that are available. It seems like a lot of people would rather get a caricature of the whole health care debate from their favorite MSNBC or Fox News commentator, and then say, “Did you hear what Obama wants to do?” or “Did you hear what the Republicans want to do?” The debate is so shallow, and, even worse, what people say often assumes that the listener is willing to swallow something shallow.

    • Judith Ellis
      Sep 07, 2009 - 11:24 am

      Steve – The point you make about not being a lazy thinker and therefore choosing Shakespeare as an example when talking about Walmart shoppers points directly to a kind of elitism. I could be wrong. But it is this kind of elitism that is used on the SAT test which does not point to whether one is a thinking human being but to whether one can think in a way that is pleasing to a particular kind of thinker. I remember taking that test and thinking “what are they asking here?” I bombed it big time. My IQ is well above average and I have had successes in various fields.

      Your post has various facets and a prevailing tone. It is not only that you address lazy thinking, but there is a dichotomy drawn between rich and poor and the college educated and those without such. Your analysis of Walmart and Whole Food shoppers makes this clear, although written to distinguish the two stores and later made to distinguish between executives who are thinkers and those who aren’t. But the distinction to me seems based on a kind of liberal education that you think marks success.

      Most great businesspersons have succeeded because they have limited their research and concentration to very specific fields. Does a brain surgeon need Mozart to be better? Should Apple produce writings on molecular biology, though perhaps the technology produced enables the technology in hospitals? Computer programmers’ knowledge of biology may have no bearing on whether she can produce such that would be helpful to doctors performing surgery. I well understand that these examples also distinguish certain specialized professions and therefore categorize people. Education is indeed a distinguisher. Of course, what we do with it matters most.

      In thinking of Da Vinci, Renaissance archetypes are rare indeed, as well as the inquisitiveness and intuition that bring about such. You seem to delight in others who have gotten your point and I want to be one of these. 🙂 So, let me be clear. I am well aware that you are not talking here about Renaissance archetypes, but rather our limited knowledge or inquisitiveness that doesn’t make it profitable for Walmart to sell Beethoven or Dickinson. I understood this from the first read. It still does not negate my point, however, about what gives pleasure or what one desires. Do you listen to hard core Hip-Hop regularly? Does Whole Foods sell pig feet? Have you even tried these?

      What would be the impact of Walmart shoppers not listening to Beethoven CD or reading a book of Dickinson poetry? Would this make them better family members, citizens, or workers? But your greater question to my understanding was concerning the lack of expansive knowledge and how it negatively affects businesspersons. You seem to bemoan a time gone by where classical music and poetry enhanced daily business by requiring a kind of expansive thinking process. But I’m not sure if this was ever the case.

      This reminds me of an exceptionally wealth friend in real estate who I cannot drag to an opera or symphony. She could probably outbid any number of those in attendance on a Rembrandt as she would probably be a more successful businessperson than those in the symphony or opera hall. My question to you is why would Beethoven or Dickinson matter to her? It’s not her thing. She prefers country music and quilting and a thinker she is. And, I recognize that you have written that’s it’s not about Shakespeare literature itself, but I wonder if the tone of the post negates this.

      By the way, Steve, the will for knowledge can be linked to what Nietzsche calls the “will to power.”

      • Amanda Cullen
        Sep 07, 2009 - 12:43 pm

        “Does a brain surgeon need Mozart to be better?”


        A brain surgeon needs Mozart or A Tribe Called Quest or Hank Williams to be better. Surgeons (and indeed everyone) need their own equivalent to Mozart to remain thinking, passionate beings. A surgeon will be better if she has passion and connects her profession with the rich experiences of her life.

        To to be better businesspeople, people need to engage with their life experiences and apply those to their professions. I believe Steve’s emphasis on liberal arts colleges are in contrast to the alternative college type: trade schools that teach you how to “do” instead of “think.”

        I value my liberal arts college experience, but there are many paths to becoming an active instead of lazy thinker. For instance: Dan actively applied his metalworking skills from the 7th grade.

        I’ve enjoyed reading this discussion. It’s been a fruitful post for exploring thoughts.

  • Judith Ellis
    Sep 07, 2009 - 12:56 pm

    Amanda – I LOVE Mozart. I suppose there is scientific study to support your brain surgeon theory, eh? If not, I might even go for surgically implanting those who do not so appreciate Mozart in the EXACT SAME WAY that I do with the EXACT SAME PASSION as I with a chip. Just kidding! 🙂

    • Amanda Cullen
      Sep 08, 2009 - 10:57 am

      Wow, I take a break for a day and have all sorts of comments to catch up on!

      I don’t have “scientific proof” that brain surgeons who have a passion for music are better than ones who have no passions at all. But I wasn’t making a scientific point. I only meant to say I’d prefer a thinking brain surgeon to a non-thinking one (and in my estimation, true passion requires a thoughtful base). I explain it more in-depth in this article:

  • Judith Ellis
    Sep 07, 2009 - 13:37 pm

    “I believe Steve’s emphasis on liberal arts colleges are in contrast to the alternative college type: trade schools that teach you how to ‘do’ instead of ‘think.'”

    Hmm? What’s wrong with the “alternative college types?” Can it be assumed that these are those who shop at Walmart? Does this mean that mean that trade schools do not teach one to think or to solve problems? Or, is it simply a matter of what the object of thought is, an engine or equation? I gather that many executives or liberal arts majors need to better learn how to do and not merely think. Maybe a stint in a trade school will do them some good.

    I was at dinner last night with a senior executive engineer friend with one of auto companies here. When he was explaining the process of a new model and the distinction made between the mechanic who forms the engine and the engineer who develops it, I was fascinated by the exchange. My friend has two masters and an MBA from my alma mater, the University of Michigan. I asked him of the importance of this mechanic. He said that they could not do without mechanic generally, and this mechanic specifically. I also asked him of this mechanic’s education level. He has a high school diploma, but has served in the army as an airplane mechanic. He’s 68.

    The mechanic, who actually “trained” my executive friend and had been with this company for 40 years, shops at Walmart. My friend shops at Whole Foods. Both have been indispensable in their jobs for the same company. Both are valuable thinking human beings. But the mechanic taught my friend how to “do” and challenged him directly when he began with this company on what is applicable. He has averted many catastrophes on the plant floor that engineers have designed in their heads. Doing is important. And I know this is not new thought on this blog.

    • Steve Yastrow
      Sep 07, 2009 - 17:42 pm

      Judith –

      As always, discourse with you is enriching. Thanks.

      I know that you know that this is not a post about Shakespeare, Beethoven or Wal-Mart. I could have chosen different examples to make the point, and I’m sorry you find these examples so culturally loaded.

      The post is about the difference between sharp, deep thinking and lazy thinking. That’s it.

      Do you agree that a business person will be a better business person if he/she is a deeper, sharper, more discerning thinker? I am unequivocal in this belief.

      Your friend who won’t go to opera and the 68-year old mechanic are probably good thinkers, and probably managed to become good thinkers without the classics. As you also know, the use of a specific example to make a point does not limit the point to only those examples. As my friend author Karyn Kedar says, there are many paths up the mountain. As Bronson Alcott, father of Louisa May, said, knowledge is spherical; he meant that we can look at things from many different perspectives, and each of us can find a perspective that suits us. The important thing, from my vantage point, is that we actually choose to take a path up the mountain, or choose to look at the sphere from an angle that suits us.

      Wal-Mart, as the single retailer that gets the most money from Americans, is a bellwether of what we want for ourselves. They are a barometer of the zeitgeist, and therefore, I think, Wal-Mart offers a wonderful view into our society.

      I also don’t get this “elitism” thing. I bristled every time Obama was criticized, during the campaign, for being elitist, just because it’s easy to see that he’s really smart. (I’m sure you did too, Judith!) I like being around really smart people. It’s invigorating, and I learn stuff. You’ve mentioned who some of your friends … I know you like being around smart, deep thinkers too!

    • Amanda Cullen
      Sep 08, 2009 - 11:12 am

      What’s wrong with trade schools is that people, generally, don’t need them. I’ve known (and known of) too many people who spent their savings or got loans to go to school just to get a job. Then, that job never materializes. My problem with most trade schools is that they deceive people for profit. Your 68-year-old mechanic didn’t need Kaplan University.

      However, people, generally, need a university education to learn advanced calculus, economics, etc. These theoretical subjects lend themselves to being taught. For instance, I wouldn’t just teach myself the formula for calculating the value of a bond.

      And you are completely right that an education without action and decision-making is useless. Who cares what you know if you don’t do anything with it?

      P.S. I shop at Wal-Mart, although I prefer Sam’s Club for their mega-humongous deals. Who wouldn’t want 10 pounds of skittles?

      P.P.S. Although Whole Foods is not in my market, I shop at equivalent stores. Who wouldn’t want frozen naan that tastes like it was just served from an Indian restaurant’s kitchen?

  • Judith Ellis
    Sep 07, 2009 - 20:12 pm

    Steve – Words are all signifiers and our use of them are not merely how we mean them, but how they are perceived in the culture at large.

    I accept you explanation here.

    Regarding elitism and Barack Obama, there was a different signifier used, that of being an uppity negro. And, yes, he’s really smart; of this there is no doubt.

    You’re not too shabby too. 🙂 I loved Brand Harmony and We. This you well know. I also responded to this post because I received it, as well as all others, in my inbox.

    Thanks for the post and discussion. They were thoughtful.

  • Steve Yastrow
    Sep 08, 2009 - 00:18 am

    Judith – You’re right, that words such as Shakespeare, Beethoven and Wal-Mart are powerful signifiers that can perceived in so many ways. It’s really interesting … I’ll admit, I knew they were each powerful symbols, and I sensed that bringing them together might be a bit incendiary. But hey, it generated some good conversation, which is what I really like!

    Is it possible to have a conversation about a topic like this without using signifiers that can be inferred in so many ways? It would be interesting to try … but, then the conversation itself may not be very interesting! Stories, examples and metaphors make things more interesting, don’t they?



  • Judith Ellis
    Sep 08, 2009 - 08:39 am

    Steve – Since you used Dickinson in your example, please allow me to mention another one of my very favorite poets, the great Gertrude Stein. Stein strung seemingly illogical sentences together which to many readers had no meaning–one word here and another there– evoking meaning from rhythm and the silence in between, forcing you to make sense of her text. When I performed the opera, “Four Saints in Three Acts” by Virgil Thompson with the libretto by Stein, the challenge was to make something seemingly illogical logical among the cast and for the audience. Thinking (how meaning applied with each performance) and doing (acting and interacting on the stage) were essential.

    I post poetry on my blog often. Stein’s beautiful words got no comments. LOL! It was reminiscent of the reaction by my colleagues when hearing “Four Saints in Three Acts” for the first time. There was dead silence. I was in college and it was with the Aspen Opera Theatre. I performed the role of Saint Teresa. It was one of the most interesting in my life on the stage for its sheer oddness and search for meaning.

    While I accept your explanation of the post, let me offer a reading. The post is not like Dickinson or Stein, to say the very least; the parallels evoked are clear and the signifiers hitting their marks. Those Walmart “potato chips, pork rinds and industrial-sized boxes of Skittles” eaters who don’t listen to Beethoven or read Dickinson can clearly be seen as indicators of a malaise in the culture that affects business.

    The culture allows this malaise through our lack of discipline and rigor and it is this allowance that spills over and negatively affects many executives. They haven’t read Shakespeare, Plato or Thoreau and the dialectic is all but non-existence. How do we expect that business will be better? These Walmart idiots could barely pass a first year college course. The masses affect executives; the culture at large is in a dismal state.

    You write:

    1) “the lack of deep thinking Too few people are willing to explore subjects deeply, use “big” words, or familiarize themselves with the historical or cultural context of issues. Shakespeare? Beethoven? Plato? Thoreau? Ugh. That’s too much work…The level of argument and polemic is usually not high enough to get a C+ in a first-year college course. In some sense, Wal-Mart is a bellwether of our national zeitgeist, and, when it comes to intellectually-charged thinking and conversation, the state of things is pretty depressing.”

    2) “This is my unequivocal, air-tight, passionately-held belief, based on my own empirical evidence: The executives who are willing to think are the executives whose companies are most successful. This disinterest in thinking and intellectual exploration translates, directly, to sub-standard business results. Don’t agree? Please debate me on this one.”

    The gist of the post deals with culture and its negative link to business. Culture and economics are forever linked as culture defines us. (Or, is it that we are defined by culture? It’s sort of like which comes first the chicken or the age when they seems so inseparable.) This, I think, is your point about Walmart as a bellwether. But I wondered if Shakespeare or Dickinson, or that ability you ascribe to deep thinking, which the lyrics of a country song or hip hop could never compete, when listening or reading the above, is translatable to business. I wonder if my love of Gertrude Stein enables me to be a better entrepreneur. My belief is not necessarily. As I’ve said, the best entrepreneurs do not hold MBAs nor do many have graduated degrees of any kind, let alone have delighted in a liberal arts education even if a degree from such an institution was received.

    “Sub-standard business results” are caused by sub-standard thinking, the lack of not studying the classics. My “friend who won’t go to opera and the 68-year old mechanic are probably good thinkers, and probably MANAGED to become good thinkers without the classics.” Most executives have MBAs and graduate degrees why can’t they MANAGE to turn their companies around and be good leaders.

    This was my point about my European friends when I lived in Italy studying Renaissance art and Italian. They were highly educated but had no initiative or innovation and could not see business beyond the current state of what they believed the country and economy allowed. Education is important, but how it is used matters most. I dare say that in many cases formal education may be a handicap. Leadership, problem solving and innovation include engaging the prevailing mindset and offering solutions.

    In confronting the issues you address regarding the lack of deep thinking, I wonder if how we deal with this as consultants matter most. I wonder if our negative outlook on the culture could also be a part of the problem. Of course, it is one thing to recognize shortcomings and it is quite another to address them. It is also one thing to rant and another to confront. This I am well aware you know.

    Finding innovative means of inspiring and interjecting enthusiasm is our job as consultants and working to change culture daily if needed. I do this daily on my walk, as I shop, or in my church. Just yesterday at breakfast at my favorite nook, I was enjoying myself with my feet on the bench. There was a kid of 10 sitting opposite of me. I removed my feet. It might be perceived as a small thing, but I thought a necessary one. The famous Gandhi quote comes to mind: “Be the change you wish to see.”

    By the way, I believe that there is a link between lazy thinking and business performance. (Do I hear you saying…finally? 🙂 There may also be a link between too much thinking and business performance.) The question is the means by which we address this problem in the workplace specifically and in the culture at large.

    Wishing you the very best, Steve.

    • Steve Yastrow
      Sep 08, 2009 - 21:38 pm

      Judith – All I can say is that you are a gem, and I really appreciate your ideas. Thank you for your thoughtful reading and thoughtful responses. I have learned something from all of your comments. Keep ’em coming!

  • Brad Haan
    Sep 08, 2009 - 10:19 am

    In my just-plain-wonderful industry of Advertising, we call it the effect of the Bean Counters. (Of course, I, being on the creative side, would take this position!)

    When the Wal-Marts stop carrying those Shakespeare “books”, it’s because the direct product profit formulation for the shelf real estate demonstrates that the ROI from the inches occupied by, say, William, can be better realized by, say, Lindsey Lohan’s memoirs. Or a life-harrowing exposé by Brittany Spears.

    And our fabulous computers (!) can now track the incremental sales benefit of a five-tiered coupon placement in 17 key markets, increasing incremental sales by .0136% over the aggregate, a demonstrative success for a multi-billion dollar brand!

    Shall I compare these to a literate tome?
    You are more lovely and more commonplace:
    Rough words do pain the knowing eyes of age,
    But summer’s read hath all too hot a face:

    I dunno. I just won’t shop at Wal-Mart.
    I’m Learning…

  • Ed Markey
    Sep 08, 2009 - 11:43 am

    Steve, the post really resonates today as the president makes his televised address to school children. It appears that the outrage and resistance to the speech by some is precisely ironic. While Obama is attempting to encourage school kids to pursue dreams, don’t quit, work hard and learn to think for yourselves (don’t let others tell you you can’t succeed) some don’t want students to think for themselves. They’ve pre-emptively decided that whatever is going to come from the mouth (and head and heart) of the president is somehow going to be bad.

    Like UCLA’s John Wooden once said, “When everybody thinks alike, nobody thinks.” Wouldn’t Obama’s opponents have been better off saying, “Fine. Make your speech and we’ll decide.”? Even the president couldn’t argue with that.

    But you’re right. It’s too hard to think…too much work to be open, inclusive, and considerate of other points of view and experiences.

    (And I interpreted “Shakespeare” and “Walmart” merely as examples…not literal weeds to get tangled in…)

    • Steve Yastrow
      Sep 08, 2009 - 21:42 pm

      Ed – Thank you for pointing that out. The thinking person, whether Republican, Democrat or Independent, is outraged at the outrage over Obama’s speech. He’s the president. He wants to talk to American school children. That’s really cool, and if you don’t agree, stop whining. Stop trying to skew important issues due to your personal political needs.

      These crazy, vituperative nay-sayers thrive on lazy thinking. If their audiences were willing to think for themselves, they’d have to shut up.

  • Judith Ellis
    Sep 18, 2009 - 17:10 pm

    AMEN, Steve! Now, I shall promptly go look up the word vituperative. 🙂

  • Judith Ellis
    Sep 18, 2009 - 17:13 pm

    “Shall I compare these to a literate tome?
    You are more lovely and more commonplace:
    Rough words do pain the knowing eyes of age,
    But summer’s read hath all too hot a face:

    Shall I compare these to a literate tome?
    You are more lovely and more commonplace:
    Rough words do pain the knowing eyes of age,
    But summer’s read hath all too hot a face:

    Nice, Brad. Thank you.

  • New Diarist
    Sep 29, 2009 - 20:00 pm

    I read the health care bill. It has a lot of good and bad in it. Of course, the big sin is not that the members of AARP haven’t read the bill. The bigger sin is that most of the legislators haven’t.

    We operate as a republic. We elect senators and representatives and we expect them to serve our best interests. Of course, they can’t really do that if they don’t know what the heck is in the bills they vote on.

    The most egregious evidence of this is the PATRIOT Act. Less than a quarter of our elected representatives read the bill. Now we wonder why the FBI can demand our public library tell them what books we’ve checked out. Or why George Bush thinks he can ignore the existence of the foreign wiretap laws to allow the NSC to listen in on phone calls of American citizens.

    We not only need to think. We need to demand that others do likewise.

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