STOP Shaking Hands and Bow to Your CEO

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There’s something’s in the air. Unfortunately, it’s swine flu. This breakout has me thinking: God bless the Japanese! They have the right idea about personal hygiene. Japanese bow to say hello. During flu season, they wear masks on the train. Their meticulous attention to cleanliness makes me want to hug every single one of them. Of course, I can’t – unless I’m wearing a sterilized space suit. Most importantly, lots of productivity (and sometimes lives) are lost due to the unnecessary spread of germs. There is something we can do about it. Sadly, this will not involve coating yourself in latex.

Often, business developers and executives shake the most hands. Consequently, both sales and leadership structures are at risk during an outbreak.

Consider President Obama, for instance. If handshake frequency is linked to safety, his might be the most dangerous job in the world. Some world leaders seem ridden with germs or other hygiene problems. The Castro brothers probably have sweaty hands. It’s sweltering in Cuba! I’d imagine Hugo Chavez has never moisturized. His hands must feel like tree bark. The Indian premier might also have sweaty hands – it’s a 100 degrees and their food is so spicy, you’d have an easier time digesting Ebola. On the plus side, I bet Putin probably takes good care of himself. If people are dying in Russia, it’s not from Putin’s germs…it’s from the silent killers – alcoholism and investigative journalism.

Now, imagine a world without clammy handshakes, Cheetos fingers or stray mucus. Nothing to wipe or clean off. Nothing to disinfect. Imagine your employees not sharing all their germs. This is possible. 


Much like southern girls do the Electric Slide or Yankees fans fist-bump, greetings are adaptive cultural behaviors, subject to influence. All we need is one or two brave leaders to introduce Japanese-style bowing (…or the Macarena, for that matter) as their preferred greeting. Won’t be long before this ritual…infects…the entire company – and others they do business with. Within months, these bonus-hungry conformists will have us all bowing to colleagues, while simultaneously battling skin-borne epidemics. Now that’s multitasking! OK, are you with me, Salarymen?

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Provocative predictions & prescriptions on where innovation, economics & culture will take us. Fearless. Funny.