The opium dens of today

You cannot make much sense of this post if you do not know what an opium den was. Put in today’s terms, it was a recreational establishment where people smoked opium, the most addictive of drugs at that time that  few professionals warned of its dangers. The opium dens devastated China’s population. 

Recently I myself have noticed dens all around me. Mobile phone dens; not opium dens. It does not matter where I am: on trains; in meetings; in the restaurant; in the movie theatre; in concerts; in lectures. Everywhere. There is a sickening stench of addiction.

Amir was reviewing the soaring prices that vendors were now quoting,some justified but many unjustified. The cost of doing business was threatening their profitability existentially. As Amir spoke, Bob was texting his wife. Sima was texting her new girlfriend. Fatima was watching a new you-tuber from Lebanon; Shuki was reading the news. Freddy had turned his phone face down but kept checking it. Yisrael had to leave the room because his son called him from the pool that he had a stomach ache. Tina left the room because her daughter had nausea. Ilan learnt that his new car would be available in two weeks.

The level of discussion after Amir spoke was as shallow as piss on a plater. I was asked by Amir what I had noticed during the meeting, and I said that “people were fucking around on their phones and not listening”.

Amir told me “not to be too old-fashioned”. Sima told me not to be vulgar, and mentioned that I always spoke in the masculine form, which is “correct Hebrew but not politically correct Hebrew”. Fatima was still watching the You Tuber.

The week after I addressed this team about opium dens-with slides and with pictures.They listened and decided to leave their phones outside the room.

And no, it is not the way to do business. It is not that I am old fashioned. It is a severe addiction, with lots of money driving the loss of cognitive and emotional abilties downhill into a pit of disrepair. 


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Organizational Frailty as a Strategic Advantage

In 1998, DWD came out with a product that conquered the market. Almost every police department, internal security ministry, and sleuth agency was quick to purchase the product as well as  pay the large monthly service fee. In 1998, DWD’s product division had 20 engineers and by 2014, they had 8977, scattered in 6 development sites!

DWD knew that their account management division was weak in Russia, Germany, Australia/NZ and Japan. They had lost HUGE key clients in all four areas, which tarnished  their reputation, albeit not severely. CEO Arthur Laurier told me in 2001: “I want you to focus all your attention on the quality of account management. It’s the most frail part of DWD”.

HR manager Nicole Abd and I worked together to recruit the very best acccount managers we would find. Nicole would recruit them, and I would ensure that they learned to work well with the back office, which was Israeli, French and Dutch. Even when all was going well,the CEO grilled Nicole and me monthly about “what’s going wrong with the key account managers?” Until the bitter end, DWD retained the best of its account managers.

In the meantime, the product division, convinced that their product was “built to last”, recruited hundreds of mediocre engineers to keep their product afloat. Feedback from the field that their product was getting clumsy and too “stand-alone-ish” was ignored. In 2017, in a massive AI-based paradigm shift, DWD lost 60% of their clientelle to a new suite of products developed in Taiwan. The senior engineers in the product division bolted and the next generation of managers were B grade at most. By 2022, DWD’s products were uninstalled everywhere except for Cuba, RSA and Romania.

The perception of what was “frail” and what a major pillar of success had focused all the attention on the wrong place. What is strong today is weak tomorrow, and if you work on your weakness with vigour, they won’t remain your weaknesses for long.

So always question what issues your client asks you to ignore.



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Dorit and I would go to adult education/open university lectures in the early evening. She always carried a thick notebook, and after the lecture ended, she wrote copious notes about the main points  as well as  things she “needed to think about.” Everyone had left the lecture room-as I waited patiently until Dorit finished her detailed notes. If you ask me why  she took notes in an adult education class, then you don’t know Dorit. She was as studious and diligent as they come.

Dorit was a very smart lady, actually probably the smartest person I ever knew. She had a larger than average forehead, and I used to ask her if she stored all her brilliance in her forehead. She had no sense of humour,  but she loved mine.

True, she was only truly interested in clinical psychology-but whatever issue she addressed, she did so with depth and brilliance. I used to love just listening to her analyse people and situations. I could listen to her talk for hours…and I am not a patient person.

Yet she was so serious all the time. At least that is what I thought.

One night, she suggested that we go to Florentine and (one of us) can get drunk. She was the “one”. Three tequilas, and that was both the source of her new nickname as well as the beginning of our romance.

Every Thursday night, we would take either my car or hers, depending on who was driving, and go to an Indian restaurant cum bar in Florentine. Once in a while, Tequila  would ask her friend, an artist, to join us. On the way to Florentine, she was Dorit, and after the first drink-she was Tequila.

We were in Paphos, Cyprus, Tequila and I, on an evening cruise and we saw a couple who must have been in their eighties. They were holding hands and drinking wine. Tequila asked me where I think they were from and I told her that I had heard them speaking Hebrew. Her observation was that they were so “serene and at peace with themselves.” One week after we returned from Paphos, we read in the paper that the couple we had seen on board had committed suicide, as they were both terminally ill. Their trip to Paphos was a farewell cruise.

Dorit had lost her only brother in one of Israel’s wars.

One day, Dorit  asked me to help her mother move out of her home and into an old age home. When everything was in the truck and ready to go, Dorit and her mother asked me to take her brother’s military cap to the moving van. The cap he had worn during service was neatly folded in a sealed plastic bag. My knees shook and my hands trembled as I took Dany’s cap and brought it down into the moving van. Dorit almost never talked about her brother. But she let me carry his cap.

Things eventually turned sour between Tequila and I and we parted.

I had been invited to the university to critique a certain cirruculum in order to provide an “external’s view” of what should be taught. In the hallway, after the meeting, a professor who apparently knew who I was approached me and asked “aren’t you the late Dorit L’s ex boyfriend.”

That is how I learnt that Tequila was dead. I was devastated. It had been 9 years after her death.

I can hear what she is saying to me now, “we had a great time in Florentine, didn’t we my Shevaty”. (שבטי שלי)

The artist and I are still friends, and we often remember the boundless wisdom of Tequila.







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