The Prince (previously titled De Principatibus or About Principalities) was written five-hundred years ago by Italian diplomat Niccolo Machiavelli, following his imprisonment under suspicion of conspiracy. He suffered torture on the rack and afterwards, being disillusioned by injustice and confined within his study under house arrest, he wrote his unapologetically cynical pamphlet. It was to revolutionise the way people think about human behaviour – influencing generations of politicians, military leaders, businesspeople and even global institutions. Published five years after Machiavelli’s death, The Prince now sits among Collodi’s Pinocchio and Dante’s Divine Comedy as one of the most translated Italian texts.
In The Prince, Machiavelli explains how to gain power by any means, and how to hold onto it. He did not feel threatened by notions of hell and judgement or divine wrath; instead he believed that sins can be excused if they have an outcome that is beneficial to society. He regarded success as a strategy game based on strength and cunning, so it is unsurprising that Mussolini wrote his dissertation on The Prince, that politicians are frequently referred to as Machiavellian, and that one of Machiavelli’s most famous pieces of advice is that it is more advantageous to be feared than to be loved: love can be conditional, but fear is ever-present in those who feel intimidated.
Although first recorded five-hundred years ago, Machiavelli’s observations are studied and applied even today. Intimidation tactics are widely used in warfare and, in battle, morality is rarely the primary consideration. In business, it is well known that productivity can be increased by maintaining emotional detachment. It is usually the most ruthless businesspeople who reap the highest returns, and successful global corporations looking to minimise competition often buy out their nearest rival or find a means to crush it. According to Machiavelli, survival is key: in order to thrive in a world where people are deceitful, fickle and underhand, it is necessary to dominate, to be fortunate, and, ultimately, to be feared.
Although Machiavelli’s outlook on society is a bleak one, the lessons in The Prince offer a way for individuals to control their lives, to influence others and to succeed in their own chosen pathway. Machiavelli was ruthless, selfish, underhand and immoral; he encouraged five generations of tyrannical thinkers. But, crucially, he believed that by emphasising your ‘higher purpose’ and always showing your best side, you were more likely to succeed. And it’s hard to argue with that.
Find out more about Machiavelli’s seedbed for controversy in our modern-day interpretation of The Prince, and take a look at this BBC documentary, created to celebrate the five-hundredth anniversary of Machiavelli’s original text.
On 23rd November 2013 the BBC will air the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who, Day of the Doctor, and it’s interesting to read how various publishers are producing apps – to cash in – as Dr Who fever sweeps the nation (see the Guardian article here).
You wonder how many people will spend £1.99 on the Sonic Screwdriver app from Useless Creations (what a fab name by the way). While it sounds like a lot of fun – we’re Tom Baker and Louise Jamieson junkies at Infinite Ideas – you have got to ask: Why? Are people really going to be walking around waving their virtual Screwdriver in the streets in order to emit various Dr Who themed noises? I suspect they’ll get some strange looks if they do.
The article also mentions the Random House Dr Who Encyclopaedia app published a couple of years ago to coincide with their printed edition of the same. This seems to be the way that most conventional book publishers have been approaching the app world of late – using apps as promotional tools to enhance print copy sales. The big name TV chefs (Jamie, Nigella et alia) all have apps, usually free, which promote their various TV series and the accompanying books. So, as the price of developing apps plummets, iStore and other app platforms are becoming an important part of book publishers’ marketing activities.
But can publishers create their own apps from content that they own and generate serious income streams? Our experience at Infinite Ideas is very much that they can. We own a database of great consumer content and creating apps is a logical extension of our long-held ambition to be able to deliver great content at the very point the user needs it. We’ve worked with top app developer Mobifusion on a range of lifestyle apps – check out our Better Body series: Abs, Dance workout and Total body workout, all of which have done very well for us.
The app market is maturing and up until very recently, developers have been concentrating on games – just think of the colossal success of Angry Birds, Stick Cricket, Candy Crush Saga and others. But as apps become mainstream and the user demographic widens, app platforms will become a serious source of revenue for book publishers prescient enough to own their own content and clever enough to repurpose it.
Publisher Infinite Ideas is delighted that one of its best-selling authors, international management consultant Fons Trompenaars, has yet again proven himself one of the world’s most influential management thinkers by ranking among the top fifty business men and women to be selected for the excellence and originality of their work, including top-rated Harvard Business School innovation expert Clayton Christensen, two strategy professors boasting a record-breaking bestseller, and an unprecedented number of female thinkers.
Featuring in the 2011 and now also the 2013 Thinkers50 ranking (read: ‘Oscars of management thinking’), Fons claims that his enduring success may be a result of an ‘increasing need for knowledge of intercultural management’, and he’s probably right – cultural differences are becoming alarmingly apparent with the intensification of globalisation in twenty-first century business. And as foreign business escalates within corporations and SMEs alike, there is a growing demand for intelligent observations that will help managers to succeed fully in their chosen markets.
The Thinkers50 awards ceremony, taking place every two years and revered by the global business community, followed a day of discussions with some of the top business school leaders and high tea with 2011 ranked thinkers, with intimate discussions on topics such as innovation, capitalism, work and sustainability.
Fons is the co-author of Innovating in a global crisis, Servant leadership across cultures and The global M&A tango, all published by Infinite Ideas. In April 2014 Infinite Ideas will publish 100+ management models, in which Fons and his co-authors present an expert analysis of the most important models for tracking, measuring and forecasting business solutions.
Another really good article on Publishing Perspectives here (we do love this site).
McDonalds, as you will read, are giving up at least temporarily their position of being the world’s biggest producer of toys and becoming the world’s most prolific children’s book publishers. In two weeks alone, they anticipate giving away some 20 million books to children. The books are being published exclusively for them and each carries a strong nutritional message. Sadly Ronald McDonald and the Hamburglar don’t feature in any of them, presumably as a move away from their association with full fat food of, shall we say, arguable nutritional value.
‘We think that this is a fun and engaging way to give a nutritional message to kids,’ said Ubong Ituen, (what a fabulous name by the way), VP-marketing for McDonalds USA. ‘This is really the first step in a larger book strategy, and our intent is to continue over several years.’
So they’re in it for the long haul. One wonders whether they will ever return to the ubiquitous supply of plastic toys that used to make Happy Meals so appealing to youngsters.
I guess McDonalds should be applauded and if the books are actually of value and truly engage with their consumers then it is bearing out an argument that we’ve pursued over many years at Infinite Ideas – physical books are a great way for brands to connect to and remain connected with their customers. Books have a perceived value that goes way beyond other pieces of sales promotion. Papa Smurf (I’m probably showing my age there) or whatever other figurine they supplied in the past ends up at best in the toy box, un-played with after a week or so. But a book – a good, well written and produced book? Well, that could end up something that stays with the child for a long time, read and re-read over the years and that means that the McDonalds brand remains with the child and the parent for a long time.
James S Murphy of The Millions is a little less enthusiastic, harking back to the period in the 70s when McDonalds produced children’s classics such as Tom Sawyer, Robinson Crusoe et alia as a giveaway. And you can see his point from a cultural perspective. Many of these classics are ignored by the current generation, often cited as being ‘too difficult’ for modern kids to engage with (a glance at texts studied in this country at GCSE English over the past few years bears this out, too.) But after all, McDonalds are in the business of selling more fast food rather than educating the next generation in great literature. That’s a pity but you can understand their point.
So if one of the biggest brands in the world recognizes the power of the physical book we’re very pleased. Having worked with some pretty big brands over the years and produced some fabulous books with them to enhance their consumer engagement, it’s something that is close to the hearts of all at Infinite Ideas.
There’s another great article from Marketing Week here, this time about curated content.
The article starts with some amazing numbers. We all know that the Web is rather big, but the actual scale is somewhat breath-taking. According to this article the indexed World Wide Web is estimated to contain nearly 4 billion pages. At the end of 2012 there were some 634 million websites, 51 million of which had been added that year. Every minute, one hundred hours of video are uploaded to YouTube.
So, in something quite so massive, it’s very easy for your website – and therefore your business – to simply disappear. Brands in every sector of business are faced with the challenge of engaging with their consumers through strong, pertinent content to compete effectively for consumers’ limited attention.
One way brands are engaging is through personalisation – learning about their customers’ browsing habits, usually through cookies, then delivering bespoke content based on that information. The result is often that a brand’s home page will vary depending on the customer accessing it.
But content remains at the core of successful online brands, whether it’s user generated, celebrity endorsed or simply authoritative because it is written by an acknowledged expert in the field. By engaging with content through these experts, the consumer’s experience is greatly enhanced.
So it is particularly gratifying to read that content remains King – it’s the idea that has underpinned our business all these years. Our authors are acknowledged experts in their fields, and they’ve been briefed to write in a friendly, accessible manner that readers (i.e. consumers) relate to and trust. We don’t believe in ramming messages down people’s throats and our authors certainly don’t preach (they wouldn’t dare!) That’s why, over the years, our ideas database has provided many top brands with great content in order for them to engage successfully with their customers. Take a look at our Wordgen tab if you’d like to find out how you can harness the power of our inspirational ideas.
Here endeth the first lesson (what was that about preaching again…?)
By Michael Lee, founder of the Institute of Futurology (www.futurology.co.za)
The royal baby is not the sign of a progressive long-term future for the United Kingdom: a futurist’s perspective.
The monarchy is probably bad for Britain’s long-term social future. Human societies evolve towards increased degrees of freedom and equality before the law. Feudalism is gone. Slavery is proscribed. Women’s equal rights have reached many parts of the globe, as has education for all. Democracy is spreading throughout the world. Free access to information has accelerated under the impetus of the internet. In the long run, the world is heading, through painful struggle, for increased freedom and equality. It is in striving for social progress that countries and societies stay vital and adaptable to changing global conditions.
But the monarchy, which diminishes both freedom and equality with its system of hereditary, unelected power, remains in control as constitutional head of state in Britain and its Commonwealth realms. If social cohesion is built on a foundation of freedom and equality before the law how can it be beneficial for British society to preserve into the twenty-first century a medieval institution the political principles of which plainly contradict those of democracy? Since Queen Elizabeth II is also the sovereign, or supreme governor, of her Commonwealth realms, including Canada, Australia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, and Jamaica, this issue is international in scope.
While the media fawn over the Royal Family because it constitutes a source of endless news copy that, like stories of celebrities, increases sales, the underlying fact is that the monarchy is an antiquated political system which fosters ideas of human subservience and inequality.
It’s ironic that the nation which pioneered the modern concept of democracy, with its historic seeds in the Magna Carta of 1215, should have ended up as the world’s leading exponent of the modern constitutional monarchy. It was the rise of merchant power in Britain which provided a new political constituency demanding ever-greater parliamentary freedom from monarchical rule and aristocratic domination.
While Britain today has a demographically ageing population, which favours the survival of the monarchy in terms of ongoing electoral support, given that older societies tend to be more conservative and change-averse, there are already pressures on the country to reinvent itself as a highly diverse, globally competitive society which can halt its global decline. These growing pressures are likely to produce a new political class which may see the monarchy as an affront to modern-day freedom, equality and diversity. I imagine a new political party may arise in Britain in the next decade which will strive to create a freer, more cohesive society and one of its ideas will be to hold a referendum to decide on the future of the monarchy.
The rise of the movement for Scottish independence provides a model for this kind of wide-ranging constitutional sea-change in British politics. In September 2014 Scotland will choose whether or not to opt for independence and rebirth. From the birth of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in 1934, it will have taken 80 years to reach next year’s national referendum. That’s a lengthy trajectory to make progress in bringing about fundamental constitutional change.
My home country, South Africa, opted to control its own national destiny when the Republic of South Africa was constituted on 31 May 1961. Looking back now, this was an important moment in our national evolution. In 1994 an internationally acclaimed political miracle ended apartheid and inaugurated the presidency of our nation’s founding father, Nelson Mandela. We were once again choosing our own destiny and pushing our evolution as a society and a people in the direction of freedom and equality.
Constitutional change is measured in decades, not years. It is also measured in the political courage required to embrace a new future. Given that in the information age, the germination and spread of ideas has greatly accelerated, I would suggest it would take a new political republican party in the United Kingdom at the very least a full generation to arrive at a realistic chance of winning a referendum in Britain to abolish the monarchy. The British monarchy has long outlived predictions of its demise. In his ground-breaking 1901 book Anticipations, pioneering futurist H. G. Wells forecast the demise of the monarchy. This institution is still going strong in 2013, well over a century later.
The Queen herself is a person of great stature, extraordinary dignity and admirable personal qualities but the institution she heads perpetuates a subtle form of oppression by enshrining the rather toxic idea that unelected political power and privilege, allied to the social inequality of an aristocracy of elites, is acceptable in a progressive and progressing twenty-first century society.
Michael Lee’s book Knowing our Future – the startling case for futurology is available at the publisher or on Amazon.