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Apple, Foxconn, Journalism, Perception and Reality

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Imagine you’re a factory worker. You earn a competitive wage, and are saving for the day when you can start building a better life for yourself and your family. Your employer is busy—really busy—and offers you almost unlimited overtime, with pay. You take on that overtime.

Now imagine your employer is Foxconn, an impossibly large manufacturing business employing over a million people, mostly in China, and the company is Apple’s primary assembly partner for the iPad and other devices Apple markets and pushes out by the boatload to all corners of the globe.  And imagine further that so-called “human rights” activists are saying that you’re being abused by Foxconn.

What happens next?

Once perception and reality align, we can only hope the answer is you’re allowed to do that overtime if you choose to. Now the question becomes how we align the meaning of business change in one part of the world with what business change means elsewhere.

One of the things that the Internet-ified environment we now operate our businesses in hasn’t accounted for is the reality that identical things are viewed differently from one locale to another. So despite questions about whether people like Mike Daisey—an entertainer—took liberties with “the truth about Foxconn”, we ultimately come back to whether the question even matters.

Oh sure, outposts of “real journalism” need to do a better job than was done before, for example, fact-checking stories like Daisey’s. But lost in the worldwide media hub-bub that’s popped up around the Apple/Foxconn/Labor Practices story is the real message:

Perception is still reality

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has defended Daisey, choosing to perceive a reality where getting information out to the world, even colored by editorial stance and the desire to attract attention, is more important than pure factual accuracy. Once again: Daisey isn’t a journalist, and I don’t remember ever hearing him claim to be one.

Henry Blodget at Business Insider put this well over the weekend. I often find myself disagreeing with Henry’s simplistic view of the world, but he hit it on the head this time around. Business Change means seeing things from different angles than you might be naturally comfortable with.

So Mike Daisey is no more a journalist than MG Siegler. Who cares? He got us talking about a subject that needed to be discussed, and because he took artistic liberties we’ve started discussing it in ways that are far more meaningful than the simple spouting of indignant colloquialisms.

I see parallels to a couple of stories I’ve told here, recently. What People DO is the New SEO, and Linsanity’s Chink in the Armor of Journalism. Neither story is likely to have a huge impact on your life, until it does. And the issue is that you think about the stories, talk about them, and act to create business change—not whether you agree with what I’m saying or the way I’ve said it. And here, want a new spin that Forbes has revealed just today? Interns at Foxconn are Better Paid Than Many American Interns.

Go ahead: Discuss among yourselves. And if you want to discuss perception, reality and business change with me directly, << Click the Link.

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  1. Freakonomics: You Need to Pay Your Employees A LOT More - [...] Reality? Foxconn overworking and underpaying employees in their Apple iPad sweat shop? Funny; their employees don’t see it that …

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