Friday, 25 February 2011

Crime - And Punishment

Today’s guest blogger Chris Nickson, author of our latest eCC eBook title, “The Broken Token”, which publishes today.

It’s a convention of crime fiction that the bad guy will be punished in the end. For a long time (at least under the American film code) it had to be that way, as evil could not be allowed to triumph. It is, if you think about it, the natural order for a crime novel anyway, as the hero will almost certainly be on the side of right. That means he has to come out on top. Even the hard boiled crime authors understood this, although they tried to hide it under a veneer of cynicism.

Over the last couple of decades, possibly longer, the convention has been questioned, and even flouted. Not just in caper books, where everything is done with a wink and a sly grin, but in more serious fiction. Writers have realised that justice is something that can arrive in many ways. This expands the possibilities and actually becomes far more realistic – as does the idea of justice not arriving at all (although that, in many ways, defeats the purpose of the crime novel).

But it’s always been that way, for as long as there have been criminals and those trying to catch them. I won’t give anything away about the climax of The Broken Token (after all, I want you to buy it and see what happens), but even historical crime novels can be dark and veer away from convention (or possibly not, just to keep you guessing).

In fact, if more historical crime did this it would be a good thing. The population wasn’t comprised solely of the gentry, with servants there solely as the extras. The ordinary working people and the middling classes were in the majority. Their lives might not have glittered so brightly, but they mattered. They lived and died, broke laws, enforced laws, and paid the price on both sides. The reality might lack glamour and have more dirt, but it comes in as many ways as justice. - Chris Nickson

Friday, 18 February 2011

Risk Communication - Dodging the Bullet in Controversy and Crisis

In an excerpt from “The Lowdown: Dodging the Bullet – Effective Risk Communications”, Dr. Andrew Powell and Dr. Andrew Roberts give an example of how real or perceived concerns can have consequences when not dealt with effectively.
“One health controversy is infamous as an illustration of how concerns, real or perceived, can have very real consequences — a catastrophic high profile communications failure that brought a corporate giant to its knees.
Dow Corning had been making silicone implants for breast augmentation since the early 1960s without major incident. In 1990, concerns of a link between silicone gel implants and various illnesses were brought to national attention. In 1992, the FDA banned silicone gel breast implants for cosmetic purposes. Then came the lawsuits. With over 400,000 women in a class action suit, Dow Corning filed for bankruptcy in 1995.
During the height of the controversy, two key situations came together: high concern with emotions running sky high, and low trust in corporations. 
CEO of Dow Corning at the time, Richard Hazleton, had the difficult job of steering his company through the lawsuit tsunami. In 1996, producers of the Oprah Winfrey Show approached Hazleton to appear, to bring the implant controversy centre stage again. Hazleton thought appearing on the show would raise the profile of breast cancer victims, whom he thought had been ignored. However, the decision to appear on the show was controversial — and the episode would certainly be one to remember, but not necessarily for the right reasons. 
A woman in the audience spoke movingly of the suffering she has endured due to, she believed, having had implants. Hazleton lounged in his chair, his expression impassive, arrogant even. His legs were crossed; he appeared less than interested, and certainly very defensive. He questioned a statistic: the alleged number of deaths that had arisen through breast implants. Hazelton was corrected on the number of deaths from the audience — it is 92, not 72 they exclaimed. “92, 72, whatever,” retorted Hazelton. The audience gasped in horror and there was uproar!
Here is a classic example of industry spokespeople, operating from a position of low trust, facing a controversy, showing little or no empathy with the concerns of key stakeholders — distressed sufferers looking for a cure. Whether these concerns were real or not was irrelevant. In trying to defend themselves by coldly referring to what they viewed to be the pertinent facts, they failed to deliver their message, failed to enter into a constructive dialogue, failed to convince people to look at things from their perspective. Whatever they said, it simply was not heard. Not only did they come into the debate with low trust and credibility, they did nothing to gain any by their performance.
They broke nearly all the rules of high stakes communications. Had they handled the situation without trivialising the number of deaths on such a massive stage, and had they opened the door to engage the sufferers in a dialogue towards finding a solution, they may have delayed many of the lawsuits. This delay may have been enough so that more credible and trustworthy supporters, such as the New England Journal of Medicine that later published several studies supporting Dow Corning’s position, could have made their point earlier.
Had Hazleton communicated better on national TV, he may have garnered more support and accelerated the process of getting support from the scientific community, not just to save his company, but also to help find a solution to what was a real problem.” – Dr. Andrew Powell, Dr. Andrew Roberts

Friday, 11 February 2011

As the Chinese New Year celebrations draw to a close, we publish an excerpt from our very first business title, "The Lowdown: Business Etiquette - China". Here author Florian Loloum talks a bit about the importance of new year celebrations and what to be aware of if you're doing business in China...

"Speaking of time and making decisions, it might be worth mentioning that most Chinese people take important decisions only at the most opportune time – times which are usually associated with the Chinese traditions and festivals. Festivals in China are based on the Chinese lunar calendar. 

The most important celebration of the year is Chinese New Year – which I’m sure you’ve heard of. This usually falls sometime in February. People get together with their families at this time, and very few businesses remain open. So you might want to avoid arranging a business trip at this time of the year. However, it’s a very good idea to send cards with your good wishes to all your contacts in China at this time.  The 7th lunar month is also noteworthy.

The date is different every year, but it’s usually sometime between August and September. You can do an internet search to find out exactly when it is in any given year.  The 7th lunar month is associated with the notion of death, and during this month, most Chinese will burn paper money on the streets and light up firecrackers for the Ghost Festival.  But it’s not a good idea to organize a negotiation or a business event during this period. 

The only events where a foreigner is invited to give money are weddings and Chinese New Year. For New Year, the money should be given in red envelopes (called ‘Hong Bao’), and they should only be given to people lower in the hierarchy – for example, older to younger, manager to subordinate, supplier to clients, and so on." - Florian Loloum

Photo by AnnieGreenSprings

Friday, 4 February 2011

Happy Chinese New Year!

We hope the Year of the Rabbit brings you everything you wish for! Our guest blogger this week is Maria Darling, well-known voiceover and author of our latest titles, "The Lifestyle Lowdown: DreamCatching". Here she talks about the inspiration behind the series.

Ok, the bad things about “New Year” are: those ear-splittingly noisy parties where you can’t have a conversation, causing you to get drunk in a corner.  Waiting for a night bus in a freezing deserted unfamiliar urban wasteland.  The expectation and pressure to feel something special that always ends in anti-climax. New Year Resolutions, harbingers of your failings that rebound on you each year, adding to a growing list. And, those January sales advertisements for humungous brown squidgy shiny sofas that remind me of something my uncle’s Labrador recently deposited. Why? Nobody wants them! 

But good things really can come out of New Year. I met someone over the banana counter in my supermarket that I hadn’t seen for years, bringing many happy memories of my teens, when life was properly beginning! It was on the identical spot the previous New Year that I met an old school friend whom I hadn’t seen for more than twenty years!  We’ve been joyously re-united ever since.

This local supermarket holds magic for me, and not just for their terrific bargains on Irish Cream! You may say it’s not unusual to meet your past in a home store!  Well, perhaps, but it reminded me of some good advice; “expect good things to happen at all times, know in your heart that a lovely surprise awaits around the corner, even in times of adversity, and you will be sure to attract grace and joy in your life”. I know it’s hard when you are having a black dog day - your chops dragging in the gutter somewhere. 

This was the thought behind creating DreamCatching. I thought that being depressed or trapped in a problem is like being stuck in a bad dream you can’t wake up from. What if you could flick a switch and wake up with a totally fresh positive thought. That would be just brilliant!  My meditation practice taught me that you are what you think. Many people find it a difficult discipline, I know I did and still do sometimes, but I began thinking what if I could make meditation attractive and fun like reading a book or playing sport or going on a holiday!

Last year I researched the benefits of daydreaming and how it facilitates a break from over-thinking. I attended talks on psychology and researched mind therapies over some months and became increasingly fascinated and inspired. I put my findings and my experience of meditation together and, presto - DreamCatching was born. I wanted to create a meditative story to lift the spirit and, if necessary, turn around mood whenever desired, as easily as flicking a switch. 

Meditation practice makes you conscious that something is wrong with your Kama, but the difficult part is acting on it. The basic idea for DC is that when your mind is overloaded with stress, the past, overwork, or not enough work, you can literally plug into a structured “day dream” designed to relax and cleanse your mind of codswallop – replacing all that mental crud with something positive, inspiring, fun and entertaining.   

This is what I have tried with all my heart to do in Dream Catching.  You can only know if it works if you try it. If it works for you, I have some exciting new dreams already in the making for those who want more!  I love creating them. So next New Year who knows what might be around the next aisle pushing a shopping trolley? Happy New Year and happy dream catching!

Photo by herocakepops