October 13, 2005

The M&M Phenomenon

In catching up on some newspaper reading today, I noticed two stories of interest.

The first appeared in Sunday's (10/9/2005) New York Times and focused on groups of friends joining together and forming "giving circles," clubs in which friends pool their money and make donations to charitable causes.

The second was addressed all over the media today when Google made good on the initial installments of getting its charitable foundation up and running. In their prospectus for going public, Google indicated it planned on investing 1% of its shares in philanthropic efforts. The value of those shares approaches one billion dollars.

These two ends of the giving contiuum are prime examples of the larger M&M phenomenon at work in our world today. Everything it seems is gravitating towards opposite ends of the scope/scale contnuum ... or going M&M, micro or macro. You're either WalMart or boutique.

The danger zone appars to be the ambiguous middle ground. In my sport, tennis, we call the middle of the court "no-man's land" because it is the exact place where you don't want to put yourself. Either move into the net and be aggressive or stay in the back court and try to win points with deep, penetrating groundstrokes. Hovering in no-man's land, trapping yourself in the middle, is essentially a noncommittal strategy. And lacking commitment, you are sure to get passed ... in tennis, in life, and in business.

Yet when I look around at many of the organizations I am working with, the middle ground appears to be their preferred destination of choice. Perhaps it seems safer to be "centrist." In reality, it too often ends up being experienced as bland and lacking distinctiveness.

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