Anything but ordinary

Today I finished reading “Anything but ordinary”, a book by German authors of management literature Anja Foerster and Peter Kreuz. I had seen a presentation on the internet by the same two people and there was a link to the book I’m writing about, and luckily, my English teacher gave it to me. To be honest, I did not like the book that much. However, there where a few good ideas that appealed to me, and I think could be applicable not only in the field of management.
The authors are supporters of the idea that in order to be successful, you have to be innovative and venture in fields that others haven’t, or apply unorthodox methods in managing your business, in order your company/business/etc to be running efficiently. (…how original)
I liked the topic about market research. Basically, the idea revolves around the notion that you can’t simply ask what the people want from your product, because they simply can’t know what potential value could be hidden behind it. You have to experiment and present ideas, more or less extravagant and outside the box, and expect that at the beginning, they most probably would not be accepted well, but with the course of time, the benefits, if any, will become obvious. A pretty convincing example given in the book was this short sentence:

“Do you think that the client has asked Steve Jobs to create the iPod?” (Translation might vary from the original, for the book I was given is written in Bulgarian)

Another idea I liked was that in order to get successful, you have to offer the customer a pleasant experience; you have to invoke emotions in him/her. By making that person happy, you would almost automatically be sure that he/she would be willing to use your services once more. He/she would be waiting for an opportunity to enjoy the same experience again. An example in the book described a customer’s feelings about going to Starbucks; how the interior makes him feel relaxed, kind of like at home, the politeness of the neat staff that takes his order, the convenience of placing an order online, and definitely not in the last place, the pleasure of having some first class coffee. I have never visited a Starbucks store, but I have two memories in support of the idea for pleasant experience. I remember being eager of going to the super-market called “Metro” – in that time (1999) it was the biggest store I have ever visited, and there were so many products I didn’t have the chance of seeing often in the small town were I live. Just the mere mentioning of potential going to “Metro” made me excited. However, there has been one event that made me even more exhilarated, and that “event” was going to McDonald’s. For a seven-year-old child, going to a place that is visually appealing, being served extremely tasty food, and in addition to the food receiving a pretty toy, all wrapped in the colorful box with a handle representing the company’s logo, were “events” more than capable of bringing me happiness.
Other than the ideas mentioned above, to me the book did not seem to be anything special, or “…but ordinary”.


1984/Sanity Is Not Statistical

The setting takes place in the fictional state of Oceania in the year 1984. All countries have ceased to exist and are parts of the three super-states: Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia. Oceania’s territory consists of North and South America, the southern part of Africa, Australia and the British isles. Eurasia’s territory consists in Russia and Europe (of course except the UK), and Eastasia controls the territories of the non-Russian part of Asia, including Japan islands. Northern Africa and Antarctica are disputed regions.
In all three super-states the prevailing political philosophies are totalitarian, respectively “Ingsoc”(English Socialism), “Neo-Bolshevism” and “Obliteration of the Self”, and are very much alike. We are mainly presented with the structure of Ingsoc – it consists of inner party and outer party and the leader is called Big Brother. Both the inner and the outer party represent fifteen per cent of Oceania’s population, and the other eighty-five per cent are people called “proles”. The governing of the state is carried out by the four ministries: the Ministry of Truth, Ministry of Plenty, Ministry of Love, and the Ministry of Peace. Contrary to its name, every ministry deals with a different kind of affairs. This is to say that the Ministry of Truth deals with falsification, Ministry of Plenty – with shortages of supplies, Ministry of Love – with preventing people from having feelings for each other, and the Ministry of Peace, more or less surprisingly, deals with war.
The official language is English, but all documents and official paperwork are written in “Newspeak”. Newspeak is a language that derives from today’s English (which in the book is referred to as “Oldspeak”) and consists of stunningly less words. For example, lets take the words ‘good’ and ‘bad’. In Newspeak, if there is a word that describes something, the completely opposite word should be formed from that particular word with a prefix, in this case the prefix being ‘un’, and we get the word ‘ungood’. The situation is similar with the adjectives, were just the suffix ‘-wise’ is added, so we don’t have the word ‘well’, we have ‘goodwise’. Also a distinctive feature of Newspeak is that it is the only language that annually shortens its vocabulary. Words like freedom, liberty, science, etc. do not exist anymore. The main objective of the shortening of the language is to eliminate every chance of dangerous ideas and thoughts out of those the party needs. After a few generations, it is considered, the people will have forgotten about the ideas of freedom, equality, own opinion and free speech and thought.
The whole society is placed under surveillance, and everything someone says or does is being observed through devices called “telescreens”(the telescreen can not only detect what a person is doing, but also can be used for broadcasting important messages.) The surveillance continues constantly and the telescreens cannot be shut down, but only the sound can be lowered.
The main protagonist is Winston Smith, a member of the outer party of Oceania working in the Record Department of the Ministry of Truth. He is conscious of the misdeeds of the party and the falsification executed and starts to write a diary where he shares his daily experience. He has gotten the diary from a shop in a quarter where proles live and afterwards he goes back to buy some useless objects which, for him, carry information about the real past, not the forged one. Later he falls in love with another member of the outer party, Julia, who works in the Fiction Department. After having seen each other for several months, their relationship is revealed and both are taken to the Ministry of Love were they are tortured in order to confess their crimes against the state and the party, either real or made up. We are presented only with what Winston has experienced there, revealing the goals of the party and the perception it has for reality. After some time Winston is brainwashed to believe in the methods of the party, but still hates Big Brother. In the end Winston is set free, knowing that in the not-so-distant future they will arrest him again. After hearing the news of the “glorious victory” of the Oceanic army, he is arrested because the goal has been achieved – he finally loves BB.
The book left really nice impressions in me about its unique and defended ideas about organizing such a society. I mainly liked the idea for the new language and its purpose – to restrict people from thinking and wanting something that is not in favor of the state. I like it as a nicely formulated idea with real possible results, not in the way that I think it should be practiced in reality.
After all, there is something that I didn’t like. In the part where it is described that the three super-states have no interest in conquering each others territory, because members of the outer party and the proles will definitely see that they have been lied to, and would cause the whole political ideology to fall. Also it is said that science wasn’t further developed because it would cause people to think, and therefore have personal thoughts out of the party’s interest, which would be undesirable. So, in my opinion, there could be established a society in some of the disputed areas, which cherishes the ideas of freedom and improvement, and wages war with some of the super-states in order to really conquer it. Thus the technological advantage would be on the side of this hypothetical society and the totalitarians systems may be overthrown.
However, there is a thing I couldn’t understand. Why the people from the Ministry of Love put so much effort in persuading the “criminals” that the party is in the right, before having them executed? If they are caught and the information needed is extracted from them, why are they persuaded that the party is right, when they simply can be killed, without anyone noticing?