Passion and Teflon

There are a couple of blogging discussions I see going on that have their own merits and are completely unrelated,  yet rattling in my brain this week.

1) the Rory/Dare/Eric discussion I'll roughly call "Your passion underwhelms me/enthusiasthma " about the use of both buzzwords and attitude around Microsoft or other such afflicted companies in order to terrorize everyone into feeling peer pressure to care.

"As long as employees feel pressured to constantly overflow with passion, they’re going to be terrified to speak when it’s time to address what isn’t going so well. I’ve watched projects continue, and not with any great success, fueled mainly by passion. In those cases, yeah, people are being passionate, but they’re putting all this passion into things that aren’t really helping. They’ve been fooled by their own passion."

And this is happening company-wide. It’s like open honesty and skepticism are getting brushed aside for passion. It’s spreading thanks to that other often celebrated social disease, the meme. It’s everywhere. And the word is used so often that it’s losing its meaning.."


2) the back and forth that's been going on between the Naked Conversations bloggers (Shel Israel, Robert Scoble) and the CTO of Amazon Werner Vogel. There's a bunch of passion going on about the two authors' visit to Amazon and the critique by Vogel is that there's no revenue-generating meat to the blogging evangelism, ala "where's the  beef?"

The cheap and easy way to tie these two together into a blog post would be to take a shot at Scoble and Shel, say they were too passion-powered and had drunk too much of the blog Kool-Aid, and when they went to Amazon, maybe were too unchecked and passionate to convince the skeptic. I wasn't there so it would be easy to make up some sort of interpretatioin. :D

But actually, I think something deeper just happened . Corporate blogging - when done in a progressive Cluetrain way - is actually a platform by which to be skeptical and challenging. Mini-Microsoft keeps Microsoft on its toes and I think that's entirely healthy. Scoble has had his fair share of unpopular stances which at other companies would be euphemistically called "career limiting."  If no one in the Amazon  Blog Triangle had been skeptical (of each other, or the blogging movement) there would have been no dialogue that as a bystander I found profoundly interesting.

I'm kinda asleep in my corporate executive tracking; I didn't know much of Vogel before this exchange. Now I'm interested in him and his thoughts and how the dialogue progresses. It's a passionate skepticism that I'm seeing unfolding as both sides fence and debate.

Don't get me wrong, I've seen the people Rory warns us about, who substitute passion for brains,hard math, or reality - but you've known that kind of person since high school and your mom warned you about them. :)

What has led to the low points of my career morale hasn't been being surrounded by the passion credo zombies, who are easy to spot, but by the actual zombies...people who don't have the energy to even pretend they have passion, and instead use what little energy they have on just teflon. The people that Mini-Microsoft wants to fire but hey - surprise - they aren't just at Microsoft. These are folks who frankly need some sort of peer pressure passion system to "make" them even appear to care.  (Sort of like a barometric pressure, storm front or something).

For many of them, that's called "money", but money and passion don't always go together (as your Mom told you about that guy the starving artist). The people who care the most about their work often say they would do it for less, just don't tell their boss that. :)

And the thing is, left in their natural state, the Teflons' apathy is catching. Pretty soon you have an environment where no one is accountable, and everyone does the minimum to get by and/or spends energy finagling so someone else gets the blame/task. You'd be stupid not to Teflon in that system - the first one to care has to do all the work piling up. :P

What's refreshing about the Amazon Blog exchange is that Vogel, Scoble and Shel are not asleep. All of these folks are holding both themselves and each other accountable. If they didn't, we'd have yet another mealy-mouthed exchange, full of passive-aggressiveness, and full of reasons why it's ok that something is not done or is ok the way it is.

The reason I dug my old team at and my new one at MSN/Windows Live is that for the most part I see people around me who really give a darn. Whether they agree with me or not - and believe me not everyone does, I am insufferable - they care enough to talk about it. In case you guys didn't know it, the reason I am cheered to come into work each day is you. And of course the customers who care enough to tell me I am full of it or not. :)

Cheers all, live it vivid!