Having been inoculated against corporate gobbledygook, I was not sure what Kevin Plank meant the other day on CNBC when he said he admires people who "publish and iterate" rather than think too much. So I thought about it too much, and asked around, and my associates and I came up with these three definitions for the term:
Shoot first, and keep shooting.
State your position and persist.
Do stuff, and keep doing stuff.
I think that gets us close to what "publish and iterate" means. But you can get even closer if you listen carefully to Plank's widely reported and even-more-widely criticized interview on CNBC's "Halftime Report." During the show, the CEO of Baltimore-based Under Armour gave away what he meant by this strange expression.
At a time of severe political polarization, with a robust anti-Trump movement and boycotts of companies that in some way support the 45th president — and with Under Armour having been bruised by a sharp drop in its stock price on Jan. 31 — you'd think Plank would have been guarded in his comments.
Instead, he sounded tone-deaf to all the noise in the street about Trump, and oblivious to the #GrabYourWallet consumer backlash.
Perhaps a more neutral statement — even one rehearsed in front of a mirror — would have better served his company, its employees and shareholders, not to mention the future of the city of Baltimore.
Allow me to publish and iterate what Plank might have said: "Look, I've been asked by the president to sit on his manufacturing advisory panel. It's an honor to be called by any president to serve. It's my duty as a citizen. But I also think it's important that we tell the president where he's right and where he's wrong."
Some people think Plank should not be associated with Trump because he lends credibility to a blowhard who tweets lies and insults. And anyone with a sense of Under Armour's global market probably wonders why Plank would want to even mildly praise a president many — I'm guessing most — of his customers found repugnant.
It's worth noting that in addition to being in a position to influence Trump's approach on manufacturing and taxes, Plank might think it's a good idea to play nice for the following reason: He needs federal funds.
Plank's humongous $5.5 billion Port Covington redevelopment project, on Baltimore's post-industrial waterfront, needs a bundle of federal money. For a second time, the state of Maryland has applied to the U.S. Department of Transportation for a $76 million grant to widen ramps between Interstate 95 and what will become Under Armour's new corporate campus.
The feds already turned down this request once, and it was just last year, while Plank's Caves Valley golfing buddy, Barack Obama, was still president.
So now Plank has to hope that Trump's big plans for infrastructure investment hold up better than his big plans for a Muslim ban, and that his administration smiles on Port Covington.
Baltimoreans who opposed the city's big underwriting of Port Covington — a half-billion bucks in tax increment financing for infrastructure — probably relish Plank's problems of the last two weeks. A new city councilman, having his own moment of "publish and iterate," even accused Plank of furthering "white supremacy."
But given all that Plank and Under Armour have given to the community, and given the company's commitment to the city generally, it's self-defeating for any citizen to be gleeful about UA's current problems.
I am no fan of big tax breaks and subsidies for developers. Baltimore civic leaders have been rolled like rubes in various financing deals over the years.
But the Port Covington development is big and bold, and the final deal includes serious givebacks from Plank's development company: $100 million in citywide benefits, including $39 million for six neighborhoods near the project; a new job training center; $10 million for no-interest loans or other funding for minority- or women-owned startups; an agreement by the developer to hire at least 30 percent of all infrastructure construction workers from Baltimore and pay a wage of at least $17.48 an hour; and a commitment to build 20 percent of housing units for poor and middle-class families. Port Covington is expected to generate thousands of new jobs.
That's why it's important that Plank succeeds, and why he probably ought to drop "publish and iterate" for "think, think, think, think, think."