Posts Tagged 'work'

Top Secret: Selling Weapons of Mass Protection

I’m delighted to have a piece published on Work Stew about my first job after business school.

Work Stew

By Jan Devereux

JanDevereuxTwenty-five years ago I had what I jokingly referred to as “a very absorbing job” working as an associate brand manager for a market-leading consumer product sold in grocery and drug stores in over 100 countries. My brand’s name, like “Kleenex” (but not), had become synonymous with the product itself, so much so that our corporate legal department dictated that every single use of the brand name, from print ads to packaging to coupons, be followed by the registered trademark symbol. Headquartered just outside New York City, the Fortune 500 company, long ranked in the top five for its return on equity, was spending about $12 million annually in the U.S. alone to advertise a product that was already a household name in several languages, albeit one that proved a conversation stopper every time someone asked me where I worked.

By all rights, I had every reason…

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Writing as Social Enterprise

Attending the 11th annual Social Enterprise Conference (SECON) last weekend at Harvard, I was surprised when one of the guest speakers quoted E.B. White. I doubt White is often (ever?) cited in lectures at Harvard Business School, and I wondered if the international students, a significant portion of the audience, even recognized the name.

Jointly organized by students at the Business School and the Kennedy School, SECON 2011 drew about 1,200 students and professionals seeking inspiration and ideas on how to “sustain impact and live change.” Sunday’s keynote speaker, Robert S. Harrison (CEO of the Clinton Global Initiative) reminisced about how, as an idealistic young law school grad, he was advised to defer pursuing a career in public service until he had some real world experience under his belt. After two decades on Wall Street, first as a corporate attorney and later as an investment banker (at Goldman Sachs…), he finally found his way into the public sector when former President Bill Clinton recruited him to lead the CGI, a high-profile offshoot of the Clinton Foundation. Alluding to the professional calculus many of the ambitious and idealistic audience members were doubtless making, he displayed a slide with a quotation he attributed to E.B. White:

“I get up every morning determined both to change the world and to have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning the day difficult.”

Warning bells rang in my head. The phrasing and the sentiment simply did not sound like White.

Social Enterprise Conference 2011 at Harvard Business School

Continue reading ‘Writing as Social Enterprise’

Just Paint

I’ve often wondered why so many contemporary artists seem to exhibit signs of OCD in their work. Admittedly, I am neither an art critic nor a psychologist, but this “diagnosis” springs to mind whenever I see work in which the artist has spent countless hours reiterating a single motif.

One case in point: the recent Charles LeDray exhibit (workworkworkworkwork) at the ICA in Boston. I mean, what does making thousands of itsy-bitsy ceramic vessels (each one unique) say about the artist’s mental state? The LeDray show brought to mind an overstock sale in a dollhouse supplier’s warehouse.

Charles LeDray vessels

So I was primed to slap the same OCD label on Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist responsible for the ill-fated installation of 100 million (!) hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds at the Tate Modern in London this fall. The exhibit hall was quickly cordoned off after concerns were raised about the respiratory dangers from the silica dust kicked up when visitors walked through the seeds. Reading about this snafu in the New York Times, I initially thought Ai had merely one-upped LeDray in the “miniature ceramics taken to extremes” contest.

Ai Weiwei "Sunflower Seeds" at the Tate Modern

But then I watched Ai’s “making of” video and was by turns intrigued and charmed by his creative process and its result. I’ve watched the 14-minute video several times now, and its effect is as hypnotic as the questions it raises about work, tradition, community and art are profound.

Continue reading ‘Just Paint’


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