Is there a 'Beauty and the Beast' of Business?

Posted by David John Ellery on March 31st, 2017

Beauty and the Beast is part of our folkloric DNA that has been traced back 4,000 years with over a thousand versions of the story appearing in myth and fiction from around the world. It began its literary life in 1740 with French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, who used the tale to explore themes of romantic love, a woman's marital rights and...Television?

She discovered what she had seen were not the actual objects but a reflection of them by means of this crystal mirror...a master-stroke in optics to be able to reflect from such a distance. ~ The Beauty and the Beast imagines television in 1740

The progressive themes of the original Beauty and the Beast were discarded along with the intricate backstory that explains Beauty's royal-fairy lineage in the more famous Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont version of the tale. Madame de Beaumont shortened and simplified Beauty and the Beast and turned it into an instructional story for children imploring them not to trust appearances. As a result, countless girls have grown up with the belief that their love could transform the beastly into something princely.

Each new generation sees something previously unseen in Beauty and the Beast. The latest Disney version has some people questioning whether the beautiful heroine Belle is Melania trapped in a gilded Mar-a-Lago, or a victim of the Stockholm Syndrome. Emma Watson insists that her character is not a hostage and will collect many millions for entering into a beautiful bargain with Disney Studios. Some say the tale is a story of female empowerment; others argue it is one of the most pernicious fables in the princess industrial complex. But what if the real Beauty and the Beast is the story of Jeff Jones and Travis Kalanick?

Once upon a time there was a Chief Marketing Officer named Jeff who lived in Targetland surrounded by red circles and the expectation of more with the payment of less. One day as he was pondering if Lilly Pulitzer was in fact a neon sorceress, King Kalanick of Uber approached him with an offer to move into his billion castle in the enchanted forest where unicorns frolic beyond the prying eyes of public markets.

Jeff knew that Travis had a reputation for being a party animal, and Travis knew Jeff knew how to dress like a grown up.

It was an odd coupling of a pugnacious man whose favourite book is The Fountainhead of cruel individualism with a peaceful man whose favourite book is Obvious Adams, the story of a successful marketer. But Jeff thought he could tame the beast that Travis created and Travis thought that Jeff would have a beautiful steadying effect on his rambunctious Uber empire.

Neither Beauty nor Beast got what he wanted and the Uber kingdom is much poorer for it. You see, Jeff Jones has much more than a beautiful taste in apparel. He has a beautiful heart that he has exposed in his LinkedIn writings for all to see.

Jeff wrote about his love for his two daughters and implored them to pursue their goals without worrying about how women ought to act.

Don't let people tell you who you are or what you're best suited for--especially when their opinions are based on old-fashioned gender stereotypes.

It must have pained him to read the disturbing reflections of former Uber engineer Susan Fowler.

He wrote of the power of momentum to drive meaningful change.

The key to building momentum was going to be how we created, championed and cherished a series of individual moments.

He must have watched in horror as an encounter between Travis Kalanick and an Uber driver degenerated into moments of abuse, and how the momentum of recent moments was driving the company in the wrong direction. In his post entitled The Truth Hurts, Jeff Jones writes about a similar crisis of culture at Target.

He told us about the lesson of Obvious Adams.

Ideas we sometimes deride as obvious can have enormous power.

And he told us to listen.

Demonstrating we have ears as well as a mouth will be crucial to Uber's long-term success.

Jeff Jones traveled around the world listening to Uber drivers, and opened his Facebook account to their feedback. Drivers told him again and again that they wanted the Uber app to allow for tipping. Jeff advocated for drivers, taking the desire for a tipping feature back to Travis Kalanick along with his belief in a cashless system that would protect drivers from being targets of theft or worse. But his statements of the obvious were ignored. One can only imagine how disillusioned Jeff Jones had become to have given us this...

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David John Ellery

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David John Ellery
Joined: June 28th, 2016
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