Skip to main content

9-11 and Kaizen

Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Like most other Americans, I remember exactly what I was doing when I heard the news; I was having breakfast at Denny’s delivering a cause marketing proposal to a local official of the US Golf Association (USGA).

I have many friends/family in New York and Washington D.C. both who were personally affected by the attacks.

After a paroxysm of watching 9/11 memorials and television specials this last week or so, and reading about the attacks from every possible viewpoint, I've concluded that Americans are still struggling to understand what it all means. Was it just a terrorist attack? A wake-up call? A finger of indictment pointing back at America?

My wife and I have children who were unborn when the attacks took place. And so it falls to us to explain to them what it means us in ways they can fathom. Frankly, we’ve struggled with that.

There are bad people in this world who mean to do harm to other people. That part of the story is easy enough tell. But that chapter doesn’t have much of a moral. And memorial services and commemorations alone don’t settle it either or offer more profound life lessons.

Instead, here’s where my wife and I are coming to, I think.

We live in parlous times. Bad people do bad things to good and bad people alike. And like Irishman Edmund Burke famously said, “all it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.” We can and should grieve for those who died, celebrate their lives, keep fresh the memories, and venerate the many who acted so heroically on that day. All are right and proper responses.

But good people must do more.

Tragic moments like the attacks of 9/11, and important anniversaries like yesterday represent inflection points. They remind us that life is short. Times like these are a chance for those of us who remain to look ourselves in the mirror and ask, ‘am I the person I should be?’ And if the reflection in the mirror answers no, then we must make every effort burnish the “better angels of our nature,” as American President Abraham Lincoln so eloquently put it.

Kaizen, the Japanese word often used to describe continuous process improvement, isn’t just for business. My dictionary says the word means ‘change for the better.’

My family and I are people of faith. We believe that God would have us love our neighbors as ourselves and that our neighbor is everyone else who draws breath. Like the Sunday School song goes, "all are precious in His sight." But you don’t have to believe in the Decalogue or Jesus or Sunday School songs to draw the same moral conclusions.

What’s the proper way to remember man-made disasters like 9/11 or natural disasters like the earthquakes in Turkey, China, or Japan, or the hurricane in Haiti, or the tsunami in Asia, all of which have taken place since 9/11? By embracing the idea of kaizen. By continuously improving yourself and working to improve our world, too.

One place to start right now is with famine relief in East Africa, where hundreds of thousands of precious lives are currently threatened.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Pimping for Constant Contact

OK, not pimping really. More like a gentle noodge to nonprofits and the companies that love them that it’s time to start email marketing. I was invited to a local presentation on email marketing from Constant Contact, the Waltham, Massachusetts email marketing outfit whose target market is small businesses and nonprofits. They offer a cause-related marketing campaign called Care4Kids meant to benefit children’s causes. Constant Contact customers are invited to nominate worthy 501(c)(3) children’s charities to receive a free account along with the training to create an effective email campaign. Non children’s charities are probably still eligible for charity discounts. If you’re outside the United States you might be able to induce Constant Contact to consider your cause. Alternately, you could suggest a similar program to email marketing vendors in your home country. It goes without saying… I hope… that every nonprofit needs an email marketing component. Email marketing is a good dea

The Alden Keene Cause Marketing Stock Index Dramatically Outperforms Other Indices

There are stock indexes galore; the Dow, S&P 500, the NASDAQ Composite, the Wilshire 5000, the FTSE, and hundreds more. But how would an index of the stocks of companies that do a meaningful amount of cause marketing perform compared to those well-known indexes? Pretty well, as it turns out. I first floated the idea of a stock index that would track companies that do cause marketing back in 2009 . I tried to figure out Yahoo Pipes so that I could put the feed right into this blog. But alas sometimes the geek gene does fall pretty far from the tree. So I talked to programmers to see if I could find someone who could do the same, but it was always more than I was willing to pay. Finally, last week I hired a MBA student to do it all in a spreadsheet, and what do you know but that over the last 15 years a basket of 25 cause marketing stocks dramatically outperforms the Dow, the S&P 500, the NASDAQ Composite, and the Wilshire 5000. The index, which I call the Alden Keene Cause Marke

'Free' and Cause-Related Marketing: Part I

Of a sudden one of the hottest marketing concepts around is ‘free.’ But is free sustainable or even possible for organizations that are already not-for-profit? I’ll tackle that question in Thursday’s post. But first, what is ‘free’? On a recent show, Oprah told her viewers that Suze Orman’s book Women and Money could be downloaded for free from Oprah’s site for 33 hours. During that time 1.1 million copies were downloaded in English and another 19,000 in Spanish. The graphic above… from TitleZ via the blog longtail.com … shows that sales of the book on Amazon improved dramatically after the giveaway. That example comes from author Chris Anderson, who says that Free is being driven by the declining costs of digital processing, storage and bandwidth. Anderson, who is the editor of Wired magazine and the author of influential book “The Long Tail,” has another book coming out soon on the business value of giving it away for free . What other examples are there? Google, which gives away