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America’s Corporate Brain Drain

Each chapter unravels with a link between America’s world of business and the way the world works in China, Cambodia, Dubai (UAE), Japan, India, and Iran.

Silly Process Role #4

Any Title Containing “Support” or “Services”

Sales support, technical support, user support, customer support, operations support, administrative support, product support, field support. Are they titles you’d like on your résumé? If not, why would anyone believe that these titles would attract or retain top talent?

The human resources director and the SVP of Sales aren’t known as “CEO support managers.” The word “support” translates as “nonthinking order taker” to those with the title and those who work around them. A “support” title is insulting and signifies that the employee’s key role is to wipe the floor behind someone else, or wipe something else. If the job is important enough to get a human being to do it, give the person a title that describes what his or her contribution is. Better still, have people clean up after themselves.

The same goes for people’s titles that include “services” such as “marketing services.” Employees’ titles should not indicate that they are subservient to other employees. It’s very easy to remove the word “services” to attract an intelligent doer rather than a dumb waiter. To keep them, remove the attitude that put the title there in the first place.

A company’s political underwear is showing when it creates “support” titles. The group these people “support” has the political power. With nowhere to move up, they’ll move out, preferably where they’re wearing the pants.

Remember:  It’s better to be an athlete than an athletic supporter.

Chapter 8

Picturing the Future:  Teamwork

November 4, 1992. Wherever we went, people pointed and stared. We would never pass this way again—in a British double-decker bus, built in 1958, reconstructed into a camper. The top deck had been converted to bunk beds; the bottom level had a kitchenette among the seats. There was no toilet. The world was our toilet. Under a bridge, behind a bush, behind the bus. Eleven of us were on the overland journey from London to Kathmandu in the diesel double-decker hotel.

On this date, we crossed the border from Turkey into Iran. Ayatollah Khomeini had been dead for three years. Four years earlier, fathers and sons had stopped dying in the Iran-Iraq war. The previous day, Bill Clinton had won the U.S. presidential election.

While in Iran, I met no other Americans. I have dual citizenship and was traveling on my British passport. So “technically,” I was a Brit. There were a Canadian and two other Brits, and the others were Kiwis or Aussies. It didn’t matter. Iranian people were warm and welcoming to all nationalities.

The warning from the U.S. Department of State was:  “Persons who violate Iranian laws such as those concerning proper dress, may face penalties that are, at times, severe.” Iranian law dictated that only a woman’s face, hands, and feet could be exposed (atypical in the Middle East). Showing any hair was a no-no. Some women gripped the chadors in their teeth to keep them from falling off their heads.

The border guards asked us to exit the bus. We women gathered up our billowing chadors and abayas in our free hands as we awkwardly descended the curving staircase from the top deck, being careful not to trip. It was our debut in Islamic dress, and while we felt incredibly silly as if going to a Halloween party, being disrespectful of our hosts’ way of life was unlikely to speed the processing of our passports. We sat in a waiting room with stale green walls and pictures of a couple of ayatollahs on the wall.

What were they doing? There appeared to be no other work for the checkpoint guards to do, yet after an hour, they hadn’t begun checking our vehicle. We soon realized that we were the entertainment. Once we left, the day would dissolve into just another humdrum day of the usual Mohammads and Asads driving delivery trucks. It wasn’t every day that a double-decker bus full of Westerners landed on this lonely station.

“Passports, passports,” called the Persian commander. As we walked to the passport control room, out a sliver of window we saw a group of uniformed officers entering the bus and some looking underneath. They went through our luggage, not really looking for contraband, but simply interested in what we brought with us. Underwear, books or magazines, underwear, toiletries, underwear, whatever.

Our passports were handed in together, and while our visa photos were in Islamic dress, our passport photos obviously were not. The Persian fellow behind the desk lifted a corner of his mouth, and looked up, directly at me. I knew why he was looking for me. I’d made a bad decision.

When I got my British passport in the 1980s, glamour photos were the rage. I’m sure you recall them. A professional makeup artist and hair stylist made you up to look like a movie star. With dangling earrings and more Cover Girl than a high-street hooker, your sultry portrait was taken against a starry backdrop. Not being photogenic, I decided to maximize the opportunity by having passport photos taking during the same sitting. Minus the dangling earrings and fuchsia organza wrap, there I was with the same sultry look. Bad idea. A bad idea I’d have to live with for the next 10 years. Worse was that it was the best photo of me there was.

We must have been boring, as were the contents of our luggage. Within three hours, we were on our merry way. This part of Iran was fairly desolate. Our bus driver, Rowdy (because he wasn’t), would drive for hours without seeing a town.

Out of nowhere came the first police patrol car. The police stopped the bus and stepped inside saying, “Passport, passport,” with accents straight out of Saturday Night Live. We blobs hurriedly adjusted our headgear, while Rowdy handed over the stack of passports. (Our passports were always kept together since they were so often requested.) They asked us to exit the bus, while they filtered through the contents of our luggage. Underwear, books and magazines, underwear, toiletries, underwear, whatever. They stared long and hard at the pictures in the women’s passports, hair and all. Soon bored, they got in their car laughing together about who knows what.

A few hours later, we were stopped again. Part of the problem was that all the bunk beds were on the same floor, which meant that unmarried women and men were sleeping in the same quarters. I’m certain they imagined that the promiscuous Westerners were having wild sex parties because we noticed that after nightfall, the double-decker was stopped more frequently. Sometimes Rowdy would drive through the night and sleep during the day when we were touring the sights. We always had to sleep in our blobwear for the periodic onslaught of uniformed visitors.

At 2 a.m. on the way to Esfahan, Rowdy was pulled over again. The blobs were nestled, all snug in their sleeping bags, when out on the doorstep, there arose such a clatter, we prayed they’d be tired and just scatter. No such luck. “Passport, passport.” We all pretended not to be awakened by the commotion. We knew not to turn our faces to the window, or they’d wake us to check our identity. So we always tried to stay absolutely still with our eyes shut feigning sleep while they walked inches from us, ensuring the women were properly covered, and wondering what kind of nuts would travel across Asia in a double-decker bus (valid!).

Passports in hand, they climbed the stairs, and I knew one of them was eyeing my glamour photo. I heard the name as it appeared in my passport at the bottom of the steps: “Barbara, Barbara.” (Always with an echo.) I was being singled out. Suddenly, images of trying to outrun two Iranian policemen, in my abaya, flashed through my mind. At the top of the stairs, one started to check each bunk, trying to match the face with the passport photo. “Barrrbarrra, Barrrrbarrrra,” he half whispered. I was quickly learning the advantages of being “under cover.” He was so close I could hear him breathe. His face was close. He was definitely in my personal space. “Barrrbarra.” My eyelids didn’t flutter. I didn’t flinch. Neither did my fellow blobs. My glamour photo could have been any of us. Without makeup, covered up, we blended. No one stood out. No one was different. No individuality. Like bits of mercury that collect and soak up debris then blend into a seamless mass, we were indistinguishable. We blobs, we all looked the same. The police, maybe they were all the same too. Not enough to do. Probably looking for excitement by digging through baggage or preventing others from traveling forward. Not knowing what they were looking for, and not finding it. “Team players,” going with the flow to maintain an aura of power, while actually having none. Protected by similar cookie-cutter cutouts under cover. He strolled away, accomplishing nothing, defeated.


“He’s just not a team player,” Desmond’s coworker told the boss.

We hear a lot these days about team playing and how that’s a good thing in corporate America. To stop the corporate brain drain, the concept of “team” must be abandoned, and individualism, entrepreneurship should be reinstated within each organization.

In school, did you hear the valedictorian complaining about lack of teamwork? How often do you hear the top contributor complaining about team playing at work? Is the sole-proprietor multimillionaire moaning and stomping his feet because the other guys aren’t being “team players”?

      The only players who are advocating “one for all and all for one” are those who make the smallest contribution and need others. Team playing requires that the exceptional contributors dumb down to become average. It’s time to raise the bar….

See why Midwest Book Review said: 

America’s Corporate Brain Drain is a look

at the changing face of business

and why it may be related to

incompetent management of America's largest corporations.”



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Babs Ryan

author of

America’s Corporate Brain Drain

Why we leave, Where we go, How we can reverse the flow


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