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Talk about unintended consequences.

No one projects a more cool, groovy, or fabulous personal brand than Kenneth Cole. I know almost nothing about fashion, but do casually keep up with the high-profile life of Kenneth Cole since he was a fellow graduate of my Alma mater Emory University in Atlanta in the early ’70s. But his latest blog makes me question my own academic pedigree. What was he thinking?

Well, probably he was thinking that he had made another clever and oh so courant bon mot promoting his brand on one of the cutting-edge new technologies, Twitter.

In case you haven’t heard, Kenneth Cole personally posted the following tweet at 10:30 on Thursday, February 2, 2011: “Millions are in an uproar in Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online…K.C.”  This was posted in the context of violence and death, including western journalists, in Egypt.

Here are just a few response tweets:

1.  arrington – WTF is wrong with you, @KennethCole?
2.  SoullaLindo – Bad taste @Kenneth Cole. Bad. Taste.
3.  palbi-palbi – @kennethcole is the asshole of the day.

Or take PR executive Kathleen Schmidt, who goes by the user name BookGirl96. She jokes,”I wouldn’t want to be in Kenneth Cole’s shoes right now.”  Haha. Ah, Kenneth. Hoist on your own petard.

It is easy to pile on, doing back flips in an orgy of schadenfreude over the perhaps overly smug and glib cleverness of Mr. Cole. (In fairness, he has apologized.)  But, the bigger issue is, one of unintended dangers in usage of any number of exploding new apps and Internet genius. I have personally spoken with thought leaders at cutting-edge technology companies (BzzAgent,, Think Interactive, Oddcast, Didit, Blue Ribbon Consulting, Blue Wolf Group, et al), many of whom have been clients of my firm Corporate Rain International, who, to a man, speak with an almost supercilious dismissal of expressed caveats about the downside of our new technological nirvana.

I’ve  written about my personal misgivings in several  previous blogs (see 1/11, 7/27 and 7/20) and I won’t repeat the litany today, except to say there is an Icarus-like danger in insufficiently examined hubristic flights of faith in our wondrous new media. Hence, Kenneth Cole last Thursday.

To quote Ogden Nash (Verses from 1929 On), “Here’s a good rule of thumb/Too clever is dumb.” Thank you, Ogden.

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I love P.T. Barnum. Yes, he was a bit of a scoundrel and a con man. But very wise and seminal and modern in his practical thinking about business.

One of Barnum’s maxims I recently came across appeared in his essay “The Art of Money Getting or Golden Rules for Money Making” (1880). Barnum says: “When a man’s undivided attention is centered on one object, his mind will constantly be suggesting improvements of value, which would escape him if his brain was occupied by a dozen different subjects at once.” Barnum’s advice is most applicable to my present inundation-of-new-media conundrum.

One of the reasons I write this business blog is simply to clear some contemplative time for myself each week. It helps me coalesce my anomic ideas into something coherent. In a sense, I don’t know what I think till I write it down.

On July 6th I posted about the value of lifestyle and life balance accommodations for my employees. As a boss and a creative entrepreneur, clearing open-ended, spacious time for quiet contemplation without agenda is crucial for my emotional health and life balance.

Which brings me to Nicholas Carr‘s new book, “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brain.” Mr. Carr’s book sounds the alarm about the discomfiting implications of our manic connectivity, our addictive cyber hyperactivity. Carr points to significant neuroscientific evidence suggesting that the Net, with it’s constant distractions and velocity, is turning us into “scattered and superficial thinkers.” Carr states in The Wall Street Journal: “Over the last few years, I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory.” He cites extensive science in support of his thesis.

People who read text studded with links, the studies show, comprehend less than those who read traditional linear text. People who watch busy multimedia presentations remember less than those who take in information in a more sedate and focused manner. People who are continually distracted by emails, alerts and other messages understand less than those who are able to concentrate. And people who juggle many tasks are less creative and less productive than those who do one thing at a time….Only when we pay deep attention to a new piece of information are we able to associate it “meaningfully and systematically with knowledge already well established in memory” writes the Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel.

I will admit to being instinctively a bit of a Luddite. I’m not a techie, though my company, Corporate Rain International, is a cutting-edge technology-driven company. I hire technologists. I hope my instinctive caveats about our accelerating cyber-phantasmagoria are unwarranted. I try not to let the fear of the unknown interfere with a practical business reality. However, for myself it is important not to compulsively try to connect with every magic of the Internet (tweeting, texting, friending, linking, etc.)

The Roman philosopher Seneca said succinctly, “To be everywhere is to be nowhere.” I must agree. Thank you, Seneca.

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