My mother taught me about ethics and social change when I was a little girl with a simple lesson. Sometimes when I would skip stones on the beach she would talk about the ripple effect. How making decisions is like dropping stones and the consequences are ripples outward. We can’t stop the ripples once we put them into motion but we can choose whether we create a positive momentum.
What do ripples & plagiarism + the latest Twitter storm have in common? Strong emotions are contagious, for good and bad. They ignite something in us that can cause us to take action and often brilliant things happen. But just as easily we can be motivated by outrage which is pretty close to anger. With social media connecting us we can spread ideas in the blink of an eye. Every tweet is a ripple that could potentially be a tsunami. So it’s a good idea to know how you want to respond to crisis or conflict.
I have 7 basic principles I try to always apply to life, crisis, business (including what I buy & where) + parenting that relate to the ripple effect and I want to share them with you. Then we’ll play detective again and take a look at two recent stories that made serious waves in the handmade world this week.
7 Basic Principles for Life & Business:
1. Get informed.
Before you leave a comment, form opinions or act- do some research. Find out what other people think of the topic, seek reliable & credible sources and then make choices based on what feels right for you. Read carefully and extensively, but still allow your heart and personal experiences to guide you. It used to drive me nuts in university when the students would listen to a lecture then spout it word for word as if it was the truth. I would head home and do some reading! Sure it’s more work but knowledge is definitely power and worth taking the time.
2. Act, don’t react.
This goes hand in hand with number one. Sometimes in life we are forced into situations or moved by our emotions to react strongly. Taking a step back and focusing on what we really want to do or communicate is a must. You’ll still be emotional and have deep feelings but you’ll be better able to respond (and get informed), whatever the situation. A positive action is so much more effective then a negative reaction.
3. Give respect.
I really dislike the phrase “respect is earned”. Respect is given. It doesn’t matter if you are talking to a small child or your elders or someone you are furious with. Be respectful and nine times out of ten respect will be given back to you. I’m not saying to stop being angry, everybody gets angry, but I do think we can always be respectful (even on the internet). Respect also encompasses a pretty huge range of ethics including honesty and integrity. It’s not respectful to steal or lie, right?
4. Listen to and learn from others.
We are so diverse and each of us has different ways of viewing the world. I love disagreements, each one is an opportunity to learn how someone else sees an issue so I can think about how I really feel. A disagreement does not have to be an argument. Plato was all about discussion & debate as a learning tool, how can you be sure you believe something if it is never questioned? Allow yourself to question and be questioned and you will become more confident about your own beliefs while getting insight into a new way of seeing.
5. Take accountability.
Who has ever messed up? Me!!!! Oh yes. Many times. We all have, when you make a mistake owning up to it is powerful medicine. I’m not talking about apologizing, I think saying sorry isn’t worth much. Taking accountability means recognizing you’ve done a wrong and taking steps to resolve it and change a negative situation into a positive one. Defensiveness or deflection is the opposite of accountability, and usually means the person has something to hide or feel guilty about. This is the perfect opportunity to:
6. Find solutions.
Stating problems is easy, finding solutions is way harder but so much more valuable. Don’t just complain or get angry about an issue find some way to contribute or use your creativity & knowledge to find an answer (or a bunch of them!). When you offer a solution to a problem other people will often come on board and then the real ripples get started. You don’t have to have all the answers but if you’re being respectful and listening to others anything can happen.
7. Be Creative
If you are creative & original in your thinking you will be able to turn any difficulty into a chance to find the positive. That positive can be taking your own experiences and channeling them into your art or becoming motivated to find creative solutions to problems you face or that concern you.
Alright! We’re armed with some pretty fine tools and ready to go truth-seeking. Grab your magnifying glass-there have been some interesting goings on in the handmade community and now that the hype has died down we’re going to investigate just like in my earlier post on Copyrights & Copycats.
By now I am sure you have read all about the Urban Outfitters (UO) copying fiasco, if you haven’t then you probably crossed off a lot more to-do’s this weekend then I did! I followed the story with fascination and have read so many posts & comments my head is still spinning. Lots of excellent pieces have been written on this incident with UO and the rallying of the online community. I have rounded them up in order so you can do your own fact finding & opinion gathering (if I missed one you think should be included please list it in the comments).
- Stevie of tru.che shares a post about her design being used by Urban Outfitters
- Amber Karnes tweets the story and then shares some background
- Regretsy raises the question of whether the copied design was original or not
- Urban Outfitters releases a statement denying any wrongdoing
- Earl of Poppytalk responds to the UO press release & zeroes in on ethics & responsibility
- Amber Karnes follows up her first post by offering some great insight & solutions
Now here’s where things got really interesting-at the same time this conversation is going on about UO and big business copying indie designers there was a whole other discussion happening at The Long Thread and here on papernstitch about the total flip side. The Long Thread was doing a DIY knock off week called handMAYed is better & papernstitch created a DIY version of an Anthropologie necklace for it. The big debate happening here was if it’s not okay for big biz to copy small biz then isn’t the reverse true? Go get lost in the comments & the incredible number of opinions.
I think Earl of Poppytalk said it best in his post when he talks about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). I see that as giving respect, listening to others, taking accountability, finding solutions and being creative. Isn’t that what this whole handmade economy, new marketing/economy, whatever you call it, is all about? Whether you’re a micro business or a giant corporation isn’t important, don’t follow, lead-make things better, be original and ethical. Not because it’s the law or because someone told you to, but because you feel it is the right thing to do and it will create trust and community. I think both Ellen and Brittni did this so gracefully in how they responded to the conflict on their blogs. They listened to readers opinions and then made a decision/found a solution. Some big businesses could learn a thing or two there.
What do you think?
I invite you to share your opinions, solutions and ideas. How can we apply my rules to these two situations? What did you gather in your fact finding mission? Have you ever faced negative feedback, publicity or business crisis? How did you handle it? Let’s talk it out in the comments. I’ll be doing a follow up post to this one with some solutions for turning bad press into good press next month and would love to share your answers. Feel free to write your own riff on this theme and link to it here, what would you do if you were Urban Outfitters or accused of plagiarism, how would you react if your design was taken?
This is a big topic so we’ll be continuing this conversation on Twitter for our #omhg twitter chat this Thursday, June 2nd from 1-2 EST. We will also have a guest post from the Guild of Original Designers (GOOD) in June and hear how they are working to protect originality and designers rights.
I’m looking forward to finding some answers with you!