Previously...

12/21–The Interview: One-on-One with Kim Jong-un

8/3–VIDEO: Has time run out for Laskin?

3/16–VIDEO: G-rated list of 5 reasons to hire older workers

1/30–VIDEO: I'm Scheduled to Die August 1, 2014

11/19–VIDEO: In which Mr. Laskin takes on Mr. Lincoln

11/2–VIDEO: Rapp Story redux -- an explanation of sorts

10/21–VIDEO: The Rapp Story

9/12–VIDEO: The scariest profession in the world. Really?

7/4–VIDEO: Finally, a movie review without ever seeing the movie

4/18–VIDEO: The 7 words George Carlin would never have used

2/28–VIDEO: Sequester that credit card!

1/16–VIDEO: Don gets the word

10/31–The day social media died

8/6–VIDEO: The secret to viral videos

5/31–We all agree on this, right?

4/5–What's stealing? Really? Me? Shirley, you jest

1/19–VIDEO: The other Goldilocks story

12/11–VIDEO: Accomplishments? Or credentials?

11/7–VIDEO: A few minutes with Don Laskin on Andy Rooney

9/11–VIDEO: The hidden meaning of printer ink expiration dates

8/3–VIDEO: I am a Negro

5/24–VIDEO: It’s the end of the world as we know it

4/11–VIDEO: Return of the Avatar – with handy tips for finding a job

2/28–VIDEO: Laskin names names

2/10–VIDEO: Return of blower man

2/8–VIDEO: The threat of hippos -- and leaf blowers

1/11–VIDEO: Don as you've never seen him before

11/8–AUDIO: Hating the rich. Well, some of them, at least

10/17–VIDEO: He's not sleeping, he's making an important decision

10/1–What Amelia Earhart has to do with marketing management

8/25–AUDIO: The Mosque Ox

8/23–AUDIO: Why Meg Whitman needs to talk with Don en espanol

7/12–VIDEO: Don Laskin gets a spokes-thing

6/21–VIDEO: Why webinars are a waste of time

6/1–VIDEO: Has Don sold his soul to the Devil?

5/23–VIDEO: A message to, well, you know who you are

5/14–VIDEO: Twit, Tweet, Twitter?

5/5–Don unloads on Google

2/24–The sweatsuit answer to Kaiser, or Medicare Part The Deux

2/16–What's wrong with Kaiser?

12/4–What’s as rare as a Raiders touchdown? Laskin knows

10/19–Why Dave prefers vanilla

10/1–God's will -- and other reasons

8/17–AUDIO: Hierarchy of stupid

5/25–AUDIO: Some calm words about a world in PANIC!!

4/28–AUDIO: Why CEOs can ignore everything – except Facebook

4/6–With friends like these…

1/19–When perception is reality -- except when it isn't

12/9–AUDIO: Chased by the devil

10/29–AUDIO: Sine qua non a rant it would not be Don

10/20–AUDIO: Joe the writer, er, Don

10/2–AUDIO: Perp Walk Inc.

2/25–AUDIO: Why people put up with crummy jobs

2/10–AUDIO: Making clients money with advertising

1/2–Tiny weiners on toothpicks

12/19–AUDIO: Don improves with age, he says

12/6–AUDIO: Why telecommuting gardeners are needed

10/1–Don Laskin – Almost human?

7/8–Counting, if not connecting, the dots

5/3–Is your advertising stuck in a silo? So is Don

2/5–It's deja vu all over again for Don

9/10–Observations: Laskin faced end with courage

7/14–Observations Why Don Laskin’s ex-boss hiked up her skirt

6/16–Observations They're baaaack! And don't say you weren't warned

4/28–Be careful what you wish for

4/17–Did somebody just say something?

3/8–Laskin makes his first annual “Moron of the Month” Award*

2/15–Our man Laskin reports from a UFO

1/30–Laskin pioneers podcast idea

1/11–Veteran podcaster Don Laskin offers advice

1/3–The Logic of Illogic (Part 2)

12/16–Festivus greetings

11/15–An easy death

8/22–Autistic Cows

8/3–No

7/14–Making a Better Than Human Human

7/4–A tool of capitalism

6/26–Position Heal thyself. -- Plus: Useful information. For real. No kidding

6/25–Life is Like a box of chocolates with no “i” in team

5/15–A $1,000 fine and five days in jail

4/23–Is spending money on advertising a waste?

LETTERS FROM LASKIN

PREMIUM CONTENT

Autistic Cows

by Don Laskin
August 22, 2005

I'm not a psychiatrist. And, I’m not a psychologist – though it’s often been suggested I visit both on a regular basis. That, of course, is just crazy talk.

ANYWAY… a few days ago I came across the latest issue of Discover Magazine (May 2005). Well it was the latest one in the dentist’s office where I was having an extraction. In fact the magazine was what I was extracting. Don’t give me that. Believe me, I paid for it. You know dentists don’t call the procedure a cleaning for nothing.

Okay. I read a piece about Dr. Temple Grandin, with whom I have much in common. She is also not a psychiatrist or a psychologist. Dr. Grandin is an Associate Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. Considering the people I deal with on a daily basis, I guess you could say animal husbandry is something else we share in common.

But, it’s what Dr. Grandin and I do NOT share that’s most interesting. You see, Dr. Grandin is autistic.*

As an associate professor, she is a very, very high functioning person with autism. I, on the other hand, am a very low functioning person without autism. But, academic achievements aside, the differences between us may account for attitudes that have perplexed me and a lot of other “creatives” for a long time.

If you’ve been in business for more than a month and have had anything at all to do with advertising or marketing, it would be rare if you were NOT witness to at least one of the following.

The explanation

To explain how the new product works and plan how to market it, an executive takes the floor. He also takes the chalk and, going to the chalkboard, begins with a circle. He then draws another. Then a box. Then another and another. Boxes and circles are joined to each other by lines; some dotted, some curved, some just plain straight. Suddenly vector arrows are darting in every direction as comments come in from other managers of equal or greater rank. When the explanation is at an end, the chalkboard is crammed with rambling scribbles wrapped around formulae representing ideas. The meeting adjourns after several hours of hard work. Virtually everyone taking part in the process is pleased and satisfied and everyone in the audience understands – only not the same thing. But, there is always time for another meeting.

What the hell happened?

The campaign

An ad or PR agency or an internal marcom group (doesn’t matter who) puts together a new campaign… or maybe a radio or TV spot… or re-designs the Website. Monday afternoon, it’s reviewed by decision-makers and praised to the heavens. Tuesday morning the decision-makers decide it stinks to high heaven.

What the hell happened?

The brain storm

A brain-storming session is called to address messaging; what message the name for a new product should convey. Materializing as if by magic appear dictionaries. Syllables start bouncing off walls like bullet ricochets in a Jackie Chan movie. The session about messaging degenerates into name calling as one name after another is tossed out, for a moment deemed brilliant, then fizzles in favor of the next.

What the hell happened?

Collateral damage

Corporate brochure copy is presented for approval. On first blush, it’s accepted and draws compliments. Then word by word, line by line it is dissected and re-done and re-re-done. Like carrion after vultures feed, what’s left are unrecognizable skeletal remains. So much attention has been paid to detail that the whole is no longer greater than the sum of its parts. It is not even equal to the sum of its parts.

What the hell happened? Indeed.

At one time or another, all the above happened to me -- and everybody else I ever knew who did “creative stuff.” The question is why. Why the tendency to focus in on every insignificant detail, honing it, arranging it, rearranging it, then rearranging the rearrangement while missing the bigger picture; while blowing deadlines that render the work unusable?

Like everybody else in the business, I thought it had something to do with the fact that there is no right or wrong in advertising; whatever works is right -- whether it’s right or not. You can’t know whether creative stuff is right until its in front of an audience. Unless you factor in intangibles like taste and experience, till it reaches the target market, everybody’s opinion is equal.

And, the guy in charge of the money has an opinion that’s a LOT more equal. So, decision-makers with budgetary control and no fear of contradiction can mark their territory with impunity. Which is marginally better than what cats use to mark their territory.

ANYWAY… Like everybody else, I put down the “what the hell happened sturm und drang” to arrogance and stupidity… or hubris and stupidity… or narcissism and stupidity… or just good, old-fashioned stupidity. But, after reading the article about Dr. Grandin, I am not so certain.

WARNING: If you are a devoted vegan, please look away until after you’ve read this section.

Dr. Grandin designed the “’Stairway to Heaven’… the section of a meat-packing plant where cows climb to their slaughter,” explains Susan Kruglinski in Discover. She continues, “Every element is designed to keep [cows] calm and impel them to move forward. Before Grandin’s innovations, cows would panic, bellow, and refuse to move on their way to their deaths. Now they walk silently and contentedly.”

By making the slaughter of cattle more humane, Dr. Grandin revolutionized the beef industry. What’s most intriguing is she comes by her unique understanding of animal behavior because she’s autistic. According to the Discover article and Dr. Grandin’s Website www.grandin.com, individuals with autism and animals lack the ability to think in abstractions.

Says Discover writer Verilyn Klinkenborg, “A cow sees everything in detail and responds to details. Like an autistic person, its fears are hyperspecific because its perception is hyperspecific…. We’re used to the idea that human thought is abstract. But what Grandin points out is that even the sensory perception of ordinary humans is abstract as well. ‘Normal people,’ she writes, ‘see and hear schemas, not raw sensory data.’”

“'[Animals] act like they see everything.’ New things not only register to cows, they positively throb with significance…. [A] Styrofoam cup … lying in an alleyway will stop cow traffic dead because it worries the cattle,’” explains Dr. Grandin. “Normal humans are good at seeing the big picture but bad at what Grandin calls ‘all the tiny little details that go into the picture.’ For normal humans, the big picture isn’t created by accumulating lots of sensory details. It’s created by filtering out detail.”

What I am about to offer is conjecture. But, I believe it’s rather plausible conjecture. What if there were a spectrum of abstract thinking in the same way there is the spectrum of IQ (idiot to genius)? What if at one end of the abstract-thinking spectrum were people with autism who had zero ability to think abstractly. At the other end were conceptual thinkers, such as composers, writers, inventors, etc?

What if all those changes and modifications and inability to grasp the big picture -- noted in “What the hell happened” examples above -- were NOT the result of arrogance or stupidity? What if they were merely the result of being closer to the autistic end of the abstract-thinking spectrum? What if they plain, flat-out “couldn’t see the forest for the trees?”

*According to the Kaiser Permanente Web site:

Autism is a brain disorder that often interferes with a person's ability to communicate with and relate to others.… The severity of autism varies. Some individuals need assistance in almost all aspects of their daily lives, while others are able to function at a very high level and can even attend school in a regular classroom. While this is a lifelong condition that typically results in some degree of social isolation, treatment can make a major difference in the lives of people with autism. Early diagnosis and comprehensive treatment has resulted in increasing numbers of people with autism being able to live independently as adults.

What causes autism?

Autism tends to run in families, suggesting a genetic link. Because people with autism can be vastly different, scientists suspect a number of genes are responsible. Ongoing research is targeted at pinpointing these genes. Some experts also believe that environmental factors may play a part in causing autism, although scientists have studied several factors, including vaccines, and have yet to identify such a cause.

Brain scans of people with autism have shown abnormalities in several areas of the brain, including those responsible for emotion and social relations. Other studies suggest that people with autism have high levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, a chemical that sends messages in the brain. However, these findings are preliminary, and ongoing studies seek to explain the brain and autism.

What are the symptoms?

All people with autism have difficulty with social interactions and relationships. Parents often describe their child with autism as preferring to play alone and making little eye contact with other people. Other symptoms of autism include:

• Difficulties with verbal and nonverbal communication. Language development in children with autism is almost always delayed.

• Limited, repetitive, and overused (stereotyped) patterns of behavior, interests, and play. Many typical behaviors—such as repetitive body rocking, unusual attachments to objects, and holding fast to routines and rituals—are driven by the need for sameness and resistance to change.

There is no “typical” person with autism. Although autism is defined by the above characteristics, people with autism can have many different combinations of behaviors in mild to severe forms.

Reach Mr. Laskin at (408) 406-3574 or e-mail him at lonewriter@comcast.net












  • How to compete against Wal-Mart
  • Stockton mom turns a need into a business
  • The entrepreneur is in
  • Writing her own success story
  • Growing a small business the family way
  • The future pencils positive for this company
  • Niche marketing -- Italian style
  • Sipping success with niche marketing
  • Roasting a business out of his passion
  • Success as an independent consultant takes more than expertise
  • Avoiding the traps of employee law violations
  • Cracking the voice-over market
  • The American Dream realized, one package at a time
  • Female winemaker plunges into business
  • A new take on nurse education
  • Family sees moving business success
  • STEM thrives in pockets of education innovation
  • STEM goes solar in Stockton
  • Quick! There’s a robot in my pool
  • Retiring seniors can mean new business
  • Predawn biotech class trains next generation of science workers
  • Staying ahead of the competition the old fashioned way
  • Central Valley sees mismatch between high-tech jobs and job seekers
  • STEM starts young
  • Get ready – the future is here now
  • STEM Education: Growing the Valley's Future
  • They’re low power in wattage only, not ideas
  • Thinking success spawns Successful Thinkers
  • Small business success can mean finding the right niche
  • This franchise has real muscle behind it
  • Getting the scoop on small business success
  • Reshoring could rebuild America's manufacturing
  • Marketing that’s deliberately anchored to the past
  • Guitar artist plays his way to success
  • Paralysis no handicap for this entrepreneur
  • Boost sales with better communication
  • Making sandwiches sexy with a franchise
  • Going solar without spending a lot of money
  • They’re cute and cuddly. But are they a business?
  • Opportunity sails forth in the Delta
  • How bad etiquette on the job could kill your career
  • Growing their way out of hunger and poverty
  • Finding small business success from floor to ceiling
  • Why he’s public enemy #1 – for gophers
  • Running a home-based business successfully
  • Your boss needs a vacation – really
  • Couple makes transition from big corporations to small business
  • Carving a small business niche with a better idea
  • Calm is the goal of computer service and education franchisor
  • Developer squeezing new life into downtown with juice franchise
  • Signs of a recovering economy
  • How to keep a family business in the family
  • Ford dealership expands despite the Great Recession
  • Utility Telephone connects with customer service
  • Crowdfunding basics
  • The roar from crowdfunding is getting louder
  • California water wars’ bulldog
  • Water wars heat up in California
  • Helping businesses grow with a stronger STEM
  • How to retain your best employees
  • Small business runs success up the pole
  • Winery expands in Lodi
  • Lodi wineries tapping into growing Chinese market
  • Has the jobs picture brightened for the Valley for 2012?
  • The right education will be needed for 21st Century jobs
  • Where new jobs for San Joaquin will come from
  • Developing jobs for San Joaquin – Part 2
  • Developing jobs for San Joaquin
  • Fruits of his labor
  • Helping grow food security in the Valley of plenty
  • Doing a business turnaround despite the recession
  • Keeping customers loyal helps build her business
  • Expo exposes businesses to utility contracting ideas
  • Drink mix maker taps expertise to blend success
  • Entrepreneur finds success in a basket
  • Tips for catching resume fraud
  • There’s no checking out for this small business owner
  • Entrepreneurs take Valley sports play-by-play to the world
  • Starting a winery from scratch
  • Job hunting tips for the long-term unemployed
  • In the Central Valley, opera isn’t always the Grand Ole Opry
  • Branding ideas for small businesses
  • The ump’s not blind, but the players are
  • Finding success by tapping your brain in a new way - Part Two
  • Finding success by tapping your brain in a new way
  • Machines talking to machines is the future
  • Getting involved in the fight against AIDS
  • Franchised divorce says it’s a better way
  • Small business owner is brewing a success story
  • To beat the Great Recession, they’ve expanded
  • Taking a swing at strokes
  • Alert your taste buds – here comes Taste of San Joaquin
  • This franchise has real muscle behind it
  • Passion for his city drives him
  • Vicente Fox speaks out on U.S.-Mexico relations
  • Give your support staff recognition and reap top performance
  • Central Valley baker gets top honors for Royal Wedding pie
  • Asparagus Festival ends on high note
  • Stockton close to annual ‘tipping’ point
  • Framing small business success
  • Small business sees Affordable Care Act helping its bottom line
  • What you eat – and when – helps local restaurants
  • Coping with the aftermath of foreclosure
  • How to raise charming children
  • Central Valley grad school goes all-iPads
  • Solution to Delta water wars voiced
  • Making sure your personal bottom line is covered
  • Small California winemaker is all family
  • Small winery relies on family and innovation to compete
  • Central Valley company says it has a better way to store solar power
  • What’s wrong -- and right -- about local TV news
  • What planning means to small business success
  • Making the leap to small business
  • Out of work at middle age? Experts offer advice
  • Small business marketing, one article at a time
  • Congress on your corner as it’s supposed to be
  • Central Valley city’s heritage rediscovered
  • Central Valley school is building students’ foundations
  • Job tips from the expert
  • Long-term jobless worker re-invents himself
  • Building a new power plant means jobs for Central Valley
  • Sacramento reaches for the stars with new science center
  • Lodi Chamber opens China’s doors to small business
  • Writing books for fun – and sometimes profit
  • Black Friday shopping? How to protect yourself from scams
  • California winemakers can find added rewards overseas
  • Wine makers tap overseas markets from Lodi
  • A new revenue stream for Central Valley small businesses
  • Food bank seeks more business support
  • Tips for finding a job in the Great Recession
  • State may solve some of its prison woes with new Stockton facility
  • A solution to underwater mortgages
  • Should public libraries be managed by private firms?
  • Central Valley moves ahead with critical water project
  • Dee Dee Myers and the increasing impact of women on small business
  • How women are growing their small businesses
  • A market with a mission
  • Retailer 'paints' solutions to cash flow challenge
  • An answer for the unemployed – return to school
  • A ‘golden’ small business success story
  • Central Valley winegrapes blessed
  • Rubbing out the recession with a franchise
  • Surviving the recession as a small business
  • It’s personal, union says of Stockton fire cuts
  • How old it too old to start a new business?
  • They've found the recipe for small business success
  • MBA students help revive Central Valley farmers market
  • Classic wooden yachts anchor in Stockton for weekend
  • Foreclosures, short sales – a bank president comments
  • The strength of family helps this small business compete
  • Festival spears success in Central Valley
  • Social media helps keep family business prospering
  • Central Valley students get training in ‘green’ futures
  • Knives readied as Valley cities slash services
  • Central Valley jobless picture still grim
  • Delta residents told to ready for water war
  • Opportunities outlined for Central Valley small businesses
  • Rewiring your brain for success
  • Central Valley no longer ‘shell shocked’ by recession
  • To fix California’s government, look to London
  • Taking your sales pitch to the next level