Daniel Radcliffe took another step away from the boy wizard last year by starring as Beat poet, Allen Ginsberg, in ‘Kill Your Darlings’. The film is due for UK DVD release this April.
Ginsberg was a controversial figure, not least for his fierce opposition to social conformity and sexual repression. Ginsberg and the other Beat poets promoted the use of hallucinogenic drugs, particularly LSD, to achieve ‘higher consciousness’ and help users find their ‘true inner self’.
Above all, he believed the mistakes of the past (he and the other Beats had grown up during the Second World War) could be avoided if we kept fewer secrets and were more open with one another, that “candour disarms paranoia”:
“Poetry is the one place where people can speak their original human mind. It is the outlet for people to say in public what is known in private.”
‘Turn On, Tune In, Check Out’ may not have become the way of life the Beats hoped it would, but is the internet, where we tune in to the world around us in a way unimaginable to the Beat Generation, nudging us towards a more candid, less paranoid world?
Time magazine last year famously branded Generation Y (the Millennials who have grown up in the digital age) as “lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents”, before going on to explain “Why they’ll save us all.” The self-obsession of these digital natives may be most visible in the sharing of selfies and their innermost feelings on social networks, a candour that can feel distasteful to older generations. But is there a connection between this openness and the fact that Millennials are ‘eager to make a difference’ to society, as the latest Deloitte report finds:
‘Millennials are also charitable and keen to participate in ‘public life’: 63 percent of Millennials donate to charities, 43 percent actively volunteer or are a member of a community organization, and 52 percent have signed petitions.’
Are they proving Ginsberg right, nearly 60 years on from the publication of his most famous poem, Howl, that greater openness, greater candour leads to a healthier society?
Leaders are having to get used to being more open in the way they communicate. Lack of candour today points to having something to hide, rather than discretion.
A recent book by David Burstein, Fast Future: How The Millennial Generation Is Shaping Our World, predicts an increase in corporate transparency. In an interview with thindifference blog he explained that:
“Millennials understand the importance of honest, authentic communication. If businesses want to succeed they have to become more open. Large corporations who wait too long to admit wrongdoing, attempt to control the story and refuse to apologize for mistakes will be seen as dinosaurs. Millennials value authenticity and that will continue to influence how they lead.”
Stuart Rose, deliberately or otherwise, captured the mood perfectly recently when asked whether he had smoked cannabis. Instead of the usual “it was a youthful indiscretion” or “I didn’t inhale”, he simply said “it was great”. The reaction to his candour was positive, and frankly ‘meh, so what’ from most people, and didn’t affect his appointment by the Government three weeks later to a senior role advising the NHS in Britain.
Leaders don’t need LSD to find their inner self and communicate more candidly. They just need to trust that their audiences will respond more positively to warts-and-all candour than dissembling half-truths. We can all benefit from being more candid.
Photo credit: Elizabeth Hahn