Avoid the Niagara Falls Reaction

How many times have you been in a situation where you’re in the midst of a discussion and suddenly after one comment you find yourself going over the top?

American politics and organizational life seem to be dominated by such trigger phrases. They occur in our personal lives as well. There’s always one phrase that elicits a reflexive reaction that makes you frustrated.

The challenge is not to overreact when you encounter these trigger phrases. Smart leaders make adjustments, but they don’t overreact. Often, discussions are destroyed by emotional reactions.

I was recently having a discussion with one of my neighbors. We were casually sitting by a creek on a fairly lackadaisical weekend and I, being the somewhat liby academic, made reference to the strength of socialized medicine.

Now I was only trying to make a point about collective responsibility, but the word ‘socialized’ elicited a reaction and a series of generalizations which took the discussion nowhere. After the generalizations we went straight to accusations.

I notice that if I say the names George Bush or Richard Nixon to one of my colleagues with a sociology degree–I’m  likely to incite an over-the-top reaction. One colleague of mine went as far as to say, George Bush was a lousy cheerleader at Yale…and so ended our conversation on Iraq.

In a discussion about Richard Nixon, my friend was only able to give the man credit for his trip to China and, begrudgingly, give him posthumous credit for the ultimate exercise in socialism; price fixing.

Globalization. Gun control. Free market. Guantanamo. Welfare. Free trade. Fracking. Nuclear waste. Single provider. Immigration. These expressions are all up there with Nixon and Bush and, in some sections, Obama isn’t far behind. Point in fact, there are trigger words that trigger overreactions that stifle discussion.

There are expressions that send us all over Niagara Falls in a barrel. If you don’t know what the Niagara Falls reaction is take a few minutes, grab your kids, and enjoy the video below.

The Niagara Falls reaction does not advance the debate; it stifles the debate. And though not as crude as Lou Costello’s cellmate, it is equally stifling and should be avoided by all. Have a nice weekend.

Leadership On the Edge Social Media

10 Must-Read Social Media & Leadership Stories From December 1-3

1. The Gap enters the China market–tripping, stumbling, and over charging. Their signature 1969 jean doesn’t evoke dreams of the decade of sexual liberation for the Chinese. Instead it may evoke memories of the cultural revolution.

2. It’s a pleasure to be ranked #23 on Evan Carmichael’s Top 50 Leadership Blogs. Thanks for the hat-tip Evan!

3. Learning to think like Zuck. Great post with interesting examples.

4. Forbes has come up with a great hook (and an annoying slide show): The Biggest CEO Screw-Ups of 2010.

5. The inherent risks in social media.

6. Fun list: “7 toxic coworkers you have to avoid.” If the characters mentioned come uncomfortably close to home, I’d suggest running.

7. Here’s a simple but effective method of selling new ideas to your boss.

8. How do you solve the North Korea problem?

9. Kids these days are…wired for distraction. Overreaction or the tip of the iceberg?

10. The truth behind tasteless in-flight meals.

BLG Leadership Insights Leadership On the Edge

10 Must-Read Social Media & Leadership Stories From June 1-4

1. Breaking bad news to the boss or a colleague can be hard. Thankfully (and with humor) Nicole De Flanco gives us 5 easy steps to follow.

2. A great (and easy to follow) guide to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and how it relates to management.

3. Leaders have to control their ego in order to lead effectively. Here are 10 ‘red flag’ warning signs that narcissism might be looming.

4. Social media recruiting: looking for work and networking on Facebook just got easier with Simply Hired.

5. Great ways cloud computing can help small businesses (cheaply and easily).

6. WikiLeaks fights for transparency. A great example of a visionary leader under pressure.

7. Using social media to bridge the Baby Boomer / Gen Y generation gap.

8. Location can shape the quality of a person’s work. This post explains four reasons location can be a big factor for leaders and teams.

9. Great resource: The Top 50 HR Blogs to Watch.

10. Doing business in China is a challenge. We’d do well to learn form how different corporate leaders deal with the hurdles.

Picture Link: Heisenberg

BLG Leadership Insights

Twitter’s Leadership Promises The Impossible

Twitter’s website doesn’t work in China. It’s been placed outside of China’s great fire wall along with Facebook, Youtube, numerous blogging platforms, and potentially Google.  But, Twitter’s founders, Jack Doresy and Evan Williams, are optimistic. They see a in the near future. In fact, they promised one.

Doresy, in a recent ReadWriteWeb panel discussion in New York, stated that he hopes to start a Chinese Twitter once the company can iron out design and legal questions after being pressured by Chinese artist and social activist, Ai Weiwei. Ai was rightly skeptical throughout the conversation. Ai argued that social media, while akin to “air and water” in the West, is restricted, limited, or banned in China. He hoped that Twitter could get around China’s firewall and also offer a translating service that would allow Chinese users to read tweets from around the world.

Ai stated that 140 characters, Twitters maximum tweet length, might give Chinese officials pause, because it would allow China’s netizens more room to talk and express themselves. 140 Chinese characters can say more than 10 or so English words paired with a shortened link.

Did Twitter’s Leadership Promise the Impossible?

Even when Myspace, Facebook, and the rest were easily accessible in China they weren’t even near competing with China’s own social networks like TenCent, the parents of China’s popular QQ sites. In fact, TenCent is the most valuable social network worldwide, with over a $1 billion dollars in revenue. Compare that with Twitter’s small band of 25 million users.

China’s 384 million netizens don’t need Twitter in the same way you don’t need another social media site to update. They already have their favorite social networking sites bookmarked and backlogged. While Twitter’s worldwide scope and real time news might appeal to social activists like Ai Weiwei it certainly won’t have the same draw to users in China who already use similar platforms.

If Twitter does get its foot in China, it would be pressed to limit search results much like Yahoo and Google do now. Twitter’s international scope would have to be pared down and filtered, giving the platform no real edge over its Chinese competitors. Having a Twitter account in China would be like having a really fast car without having a license.

Earlier this month at SXSW Twitter Co-founder Evan Williams said, “The Internet is a tidal wave that is going to be impossible for anyone to keep out.” He went on to say, “In places like China it is hard to say how long those firewalls will be able to hold up.”

Like his partner Doresy, Williams seems to share the same misconceptions about jumping into China. It’s not just a question of ironing out legal problems  and making a new website. China’s firewall isn’t a joke that will inevitably fall and crumble in the face of web services that can be easily copied. While mainly acting as a large censor, China’s firewall is also a tool that protects Chinese businesses and encourages Chinese web development. It’s not simply a censorship device–it’s a form of protectionism. China is helping its internet businesses and services compete with Silicon Valley. China’s firewall isn’t necessarily viewed as a bad thing or an annoying road block by Chinese netizens.

Promising The Impossible

Twitter’s promise to enter the Chinese market is well intentioned, but it will require a lot of work and a lot of compromises. Not only will they have to juggle legal and governmental negotiations, but they’ll be forced to compete with a huge network of established social media companies. Even if Twitter does launch in China, there’s a chance that it will be severely white-washed or limited. Twitter might have promised the impossible.

Photo Credit: / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
BLG Leadership Insights Leadership Videos

Proactive Leadership Lessons From a Chinese Classroom [Video]

pleasevoteformeDemocracy, summing up the OED, is a “government by the people…”

In Mrs. Zhang’s 3rd grade classroom in Wuhan, China democracy mirrors a talent show that allows for vote rigging.

In Please Vote for Me (2007), a documentary directed by Weijun Chen, three students from Mrs. Zhang’s 39-student class are selected to compete for the honor of becoming the “class monitor”–a enviable position that is responsible for connecting the student body with the teacher. The journey of the three candidates, lasting around a week, draws on their popularity, creative energy, intelligence, and family connections…