Gentle Giants—21st-Century Business Communication

There exists no less offensive a beast than the giraffe. It lives peaceably with its kind for the most part and bears not the slightest degree of ill-will toward other kinds of 2animals—both of which, as character recommendations, are more than can be said about the majority of people!

—Ken Stott, Jr., former San Diego Zoo curator, 1953


We need a fresh leadership model, a twenty-first-century style that contradicts the top-down management approach that hasn’t changed much in the past seventy-five years. Leaders must strive to have a positive impact on communities because we’re increasingly connected through technology. More than ever in this country’s brief 238-year history, business requires leaders who behave like giraffes do in the wild—not simply as alert lookout posts but also as nurturing herbivores, gentle giants who forage peacefully within herds with no distinct alpha male.

The failure of the Machiavellian leadership style is that employees are viewed as puppets to be manipulated. There’s little sensitivity to employee needs except for the monetary and the egotistic, which are used as negative tools for motivation, a fundamental weakness of the style since it does not bond employees to the organization or to one another. It creates a “What’s in it for me?” mentality, and when a crisis occurs, employees bail to save themselves instead of holding on to help save the company.

Business leaders need to engage various groups of people by removing their dated industrial style to fit our times. This shift requires a genuine commitment to employees and customers by taking a respectful approach that offers encouraging words and creates a calm, productive setting that embraces a teaching philosophy. Twenty-first century leadership is an option, a selection, an intrinsic value.

It won’t work if it’s veneer.

In the article “Can P&G Make Money in Places Where People Earn $2 a Day?” Jennifer Reingold reports that on the corporate side Procter and Gamble (P&G) has invested money in research and development to learn more about the world’s poor, a developing market that is increasing from 6 percent to 8 percent annually, whereas the developed world market is rising more slowly—from 1 percent to 2 percent in 2011. CEO and Chairman Robert McDonald said that P&G’s long-term goal consists of “touching and improving more lives, in more parts of the world, more completely” in a sincere effort to increase “purpose-inspired growth.”

The company had to spend more research and development money to continue to learn about the world’s poor, the underserved, and customers who earn two dollars each day. P&G researchers helped reduce stereotypes after they spent time in homes in countries such as Brazil, China, and India. They discovered that the poor don’t want simple products but aspire for access to products such as those created for the middle class and the rich. Since they spend hours outside, they need low-cost skin-care products and shampoo rather than the harsh soap they’ve used for decades. They too wish to look beautiful at that future job interview.

P&G is taking an anthropological research method instead of the historical we-build-it-and-they-will-come marketing approach. Today P&G gets a third of its sales from developing regions, up from 20 percent in 2000. CEO Robert McDonald wants to raise that percentage to 50 percent by 2020. This revenue wouldn’t have shown up on the company’s spreadsheets if P&G’s leaders hadn’t invested time and money to learn more about the needs of the world’s poor.


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The Lookout Post: Learning Organizations in the Age of Technology

The tallest animal in the world epitomizes environmental scanning, relying on its height, vision, and alertness to manage and see beyond its surroundings—serving as a reliable lookout post for the herd.1

The giraffe triggered a memory from the early 1990s when I was sitting in a packed crowd as MIT’s futurist, Peter Senge, spoke about the need for learning environments—a cutting-edge theory he presented at conferences throughout the world. Senge stood out like the giraffe. His message was powerful, his ideas stimulating. He spoke about how to run companies in the second part of the information age, a highlight that stuck with me for years and led to my focus on the giraffes of technology.

More than any other time in US history, leaders now need to serve as sturdy lookout posts for herds. Senge urged businesses to embrace the value of—and the need for—learning organizations. His ideas parallel certain characteristics I find in today’s social media, where there are no strict boundaries, where information is freely shared, and where there is less fear of failure or being condemned for what you say or share. In its purity the web is a learning environment.

In 1999 the Journal of Business Strategy named Senge “Strategist of the Century.” He’s the definition of a lookout post that continually scans the horizon. In 1990 he wrote The Fifth Discipline, a book that predicted that business was entering a time of quickening pace where there no longer would be a stable environment. Society would be bombarded with ongoing change and need to be more alert through intensive, ongoing learning. Senge suggested that when encountering rapid change, only companies that were “flexible, adaptive, and productive” would excel.

He argued that companies must begin to see their employees as people, as assets to develop and feed through learning. The industrial-age terms “human resources” and “personnel” would shift to “human capital.” To keep up with change, companies would need to become sincere learning organizations and decentralize the power of the old industrial-age hierarchy, bringing human characteristics such as the ability to adapt to a changing environment. Senge viewed companies as organic entities that needed to adopt behavior that emulates learning. In The Fifth Discipline, he writes about “organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together.”

Senge tapped into values from my Elmira upbringing, ones I hadn’t fully connected to a business setting. Like the child who learns, adults also become energized. The educational act inspires passion, moving individuals beyond the industrial-age cliché of “Come to work early, work hard, and achieve.”

More than ever, leaders and employees need an inviting setting in which people come early and stay late because the setting is one where they can be loyal to themselves and the company. CEOs must create inspiring environments of learning where everyone feels the freedom to take risks and fail, learn and succeed. A company sincerely designed to nurture and expand the number of lookout posts within its culture will have a vital mechanism to spot hidden opportunities as well as looming threats.

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The Discovery of the Giraffe

In the year of the millennium, I moved to Atlanta to start a challenging position at the largest consulting firm in the world, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The globalAICPAHDGBOD (1) accounting firm hired me to lead one of their subsidiaries, where I would manage more than two hundred people throughout North America and Europe.

S0on a striking motif stood out: Giraffa camelopardalis.

The giraffe’s image was everywhere, depicted in plates and paintings, masks and sculptures. I spotted them as souvenirs in art stores and flea markets. There were giraffe themes for blankets, spoons, and statues—even T-shirts. When I asked friends why they collected giraffes, the response was always that they were cute or a symbol of Africa.

Needing more specifics, I researched the exotic animal, learning that giraffes had been paraded through Rome in 46 BC, were eradicated from Egypt in 2600 BC, and once roamed through many parts of Europe and Asia, where fossil remains have been discovered. From classical antiquity the giraffe’s image was depicted on vases, rock carvings, ancient tombs, and even the handles of ivory combs.

Physically the giraffe’s frame is structured for the broadest vision. The unique herbivore epitomizes environmental scanning, relying on its height and vision to manage and see beyond its immediate surroundings. Giraffes serve as lookout posts for the herd and other mammals that graze in the wild. They roam in open areas, avoiding the jungle, where they can’t see their main predator, the lion.

The tallest of all land-living species, giraffes range in height from fifteen to nineteen feet. As they graze, they stand tall, moving forward, walking with dignity, keenly aware of their surroundings. They rarely sleep; a typical rest period lasts about five minutes. Their Superman-like senses, coupled with their dominant height, serve as a natural surveillance system, a comprehensive set of sensory tools to protect the herd.

“Little gets by giraffes,” writes Jane Steven in International Wildlife. “Their huge eyes, the size of golf balls…offer a 360-degree color view of the world. From their vantage point at the second-story-window level, they can spot a cheetah two miles away.”

The sensitive hearing of giraffes enables them to detect the noises of predators approaching. Many research scientists believe giraffes’ petal-shaped ears help them communicate at decibels that humans, and their key predator, the lion, can’t hear, offering giraffes an additional defense mechanism to warn herds and other herbivores that graze nearby. When giraffes sense that danger is approaching, they turn their necks in a manner that serves as a warning sign. The signal enables the herd to react and guards against looming threats, even dangerous weather conditions.

Jennifer Margulis writes in Smithsonian that these “statuesque animals” are also social and affectionate. When they aren’t nibbling on moisture-rich foods such as acacia leaves, “they’re weaving their necks in and out and rubbing up against each other—just constantly physical and touching each other. It’s almost like they’re doing some kind of intricate ballet.”

While giraffes are not predators, they do defend and fight when necessary. Their weight ranges from 2,600 pounds to almost four thousand pounds, so if they kick a lion with a hoof, the thrust and impact can be lethal. Often giraffes elect to run, reaching speeds of more than thirty-five miles per hour in seconds, but they cannot sustain such speed for long periods, which is why they live in open country, where they use their height, vision, and other keen senses to reduce conflict and protect the herd.

Not only are other herbivores attracted to graze near the giraffe, but humans also find themselves drawn to this unique animal. Out of Africa author Isak Dinesen describes herds of giraffes as “giant speckled flowers, floating over the plains.”

In the “Kisii community of southwestern Kenya,” cites National Geographic, “giraffe sightings inspire great excitement…[and giraffes] are encouraged to remain within the village lands because the Kisii believe that their great height allows them to see approaching good and bad omens.”

While I was living in Atlanta, giraffe-inspired artwork, photographs, and ongoing research led me to think differently about leadership—especially at the start of the twenty-first century, a complicated setting due to the dramatic increase in technology that continues to trigger uneasy change in all of our professions.

Giraffes of Technology: The Making of the Twenty-First-Century Leader is rooted in six herbivore-inspired leadership traits that CEOs and managers must embrace over the next decade. Today’s technology triggers a business environment that requires adapting to untidy change. The six chapters in this book are rooted in unique themes of the metaphor of the giraffe.

  • Acting as a lookout post: the ability to see farther down the plains than most with a keen focus on long-term (rather than short-term) problems as well as opportunities.
  • Communicating with others as gentle giants: a leadership style that engages rather than dispirits the herd.
  • Dealing with a violent birth: the dramatic fall after which the infant giraffe struggles to rise, as a new business does.
  • Moving forward to feed (engaging in ongoing learning): the art of creating much more freedom in work settings to generate creative ideas that help employees adapt to ongoing, messy change.
  • Understanding that the lions of change endlessly attack to maintain static work environments instead of embracing authentic change.
  • Blending into new herds, a twenty-first-century environment in which diverse groups of people instinctively work together to deal with complex problems, thereby reducing last century’s emotional work environments, which inspired conflict.
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Tom Hood’s excellent review of Giraffes of Technology and interview with Dr. Glover (new edition of the book with giraffe illustrations will be published near Feb. 15, 2014)

One of the top reasons I love my job is that we get to hang out with some really smart people as we build our portfolio of learning designed to keep CPAs ahead in this rapidly changing and complex world. We know that the core technical tax, accounting and auditing will always be needed but more and more, the differentiators for organizations and individuals is in the “soft skill” areas (we like the term “success skills”) that include leadership, communication, collaboration, strategic thinking and being technologically savvy (See the Top 5 Skills for CPAsfrom our research for the CPA Horizons 2025 Project).

Just last week I got to sit down with one of our newest BLI thought leaders, Dr. Hubert Glover and his insights about how giraffes can teach us a thing or two about leadership. 

Hubert talks about the giraffe in his book in this way,

“The most obvious trait is the giraffe’s dramatic physique, which provides a sweeping vision across the plains of Africa.The giraffe’s frame is structured for the broadest view. The tallest animal in the world epitomizes environmental scanning, relying on its height, vision, and alertness to manage and see beyond its surroundings – serving as a reliable lookout post for the herd.”

Check out these six herbivore inspired leadership traits:

  1. Acting as a lookout post for your community (not just other giraffes).
  2. Communicating as a gentle giant with humility or as we like to say humbition.
  3. Dealing with a violent birth and learning to get back up – resiliency.
  4. Moving forward to feed (your mind) by keeping your L>C.
  5. Dealing with the lions of change.
  6. Blending into new herds (diversity = innovation and growth).

Link to full review and interview with Dr. Glover on MACPA blog:


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Speech by Dr. Glover and Jim Niemes about Giraffes of Technology Leadership at BLI Pilot Program in Maryland, January 2014

Dr. Hubert Glover and Jim Niemes teach us how to be like giraffes and lead with vision, care, collaboration and willingness to take risks to promote innovation.

Link to feedback and photos from the event:


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YourTube: The Internet Is Changing Television Habits

What’s coming in every tiny area of our 21st-century lives? Artificial Intelligence and dramatic–not subtle–change. Alexandra Suich recently wrote an article published in The Economist about television in our new age.

In some ways television-watching will become more social thanks to the internet, with people tweeting about what they watch online. But it will also become less so, since fewer people will watch the same shows in the company of others. Families may still gather in the living room but they will be absorbed by different screens, with adolescents watching programmes on their mobile devices while parents gaze at the television. With the exception of live sports and a few big television programmes, the era of nations tuning in to a weekly show at the same time, and talking about it the next day, will wane–if not in 2014 then soon after. Colleagues will still discuss “Homeland” or “Downton Abbey”, but they are unlikely to have just seen the same episode.

Link to complete article:

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Strategic Finance Review of Giraffes of Technology: 21st Century Leadership by Jeff Thomson, CMA, CAE

Published in Strategic FinanceNovember 2013

 “At one of our first meetings, I deliberately sat on the floor and asked the seated staff to rise—a simple yet symbolic gesture. I wanted them to understand that I wasn’t standing above them, glaring down, commanding. My leadership would be focused on supporting them to become leaders themselves, so they could advance their professional lives during a frightening period (that bump) in their careers.”

That quote from Giraffes of Technology: The Making of the Twenty-First-Century Leader, by Hubert Glover and John Curry, is Glover describing a pivotal early experience from his time heading up a subsidiary of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) that had been through three CEOs in nine months. Employees were fearful of losing their jobs, trust and motivation were at minimum, and the moment called for a nurturing and authentic symbol of the leadership style to follow. Opening a book review with a quote from the book might seem an unusual way to begin, but this quote succinctly expresses all that I found provocative, symbolic, relevant, and inspiring about Glover and Curry’s book.

Why did they title it Giraffes of Technology? In 21st Century business, especially in the United States, organizations and their leaders often embrace a top-down, autocratic style in the quest to achieve short-term gains (e.g., quarterly profits for shareholders). Yet many studies in the area of servant leadership show that a nurturing, empathetic, and values-oriented approach creates greater business value in the long run. According to the authors, the giraffe is the least offensive beast in the wild. It bears no ill will toward any other animal. They view the giraffe as a metaphor for a leader with a unique lookout post—one who incents followership rather than intimidating others in the herd to behave in a certain manner.

Glover’s symbolic yet authentic leadership moment at PwC epitomizes another behavior of the giraffe. At birth, the calf is dropped from its mother’s pouch six feet to the ground, building speed that severs the umbilical cord. All of us, in our personal and professional lives, fall from the womb, from the security of our homes and loved ones, or from the safety zone that often defines our day jobs. At that meeting with his staff, Glover not only showed he would be a genuine leader who would help the team work through a difficult period, but he also demonstrated that, by picking himself up, he would pick up the rest of the team and rise above the disruption from constant leadership changes and stress.

Glover and Curry organize Giraffes of Technology using six herbivore-inspired leadership traits the CEOs and managers must embrace over the next decade to create and enable sustainable organizations that enrich society. Today’s technology triggers a business environment that requires adapting to untidy change—change that isn’t easy but is necessary. The six chapters in the book are rooted in unique themes, or metaphors, centered on the behaviors of the giraffe in the wild: acting as a lookout post to focus on the long run vs. the short run; communicating with others as gentle giants; dealing with a violent birth; moving forward to inspire a never-stop-learning mind-set; dealing with the predator lions who seek to disrupt change; and blending into new herds to enable diversity of people and thought.

It’s an inviting, engaging read. Glover and Curry combine a touch of Back to the Future with a sense of Animal Kingdom to provide an inspiring look at the kind of leaders businesses need to succeed in the 21st Century.

Link to Strategic Finance review of Giraffes of Technology leadership (page  23):

–Jeff Thomson, CMA, CAE, jthomson

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Academia Should Embrace Open Access Scholarly Publishing

Academia Should Embrace Open Access Scholarly Publishing 


Hubert D. Glover

Dept.of Accounting, LeBow College of Business, Drexel University, Philadelphia, USA

Received July 15, 2013; revised August 21, 2013; accepted September 1, 2013.


Dear Editor,

During the early part of the 21st Century, AT&T and Verizon noted that revenue from traditional residence based land lines had been surpassed by wireless revenues. Likewise, Amazon noted just a few years ago a similar milestone when e-books surpassed paper books’ revenues. PC manufacturers such as HP are seeking declines in sales while mobile phone manufactures such as Samsung experience significant sales increase as more consumers globally access the internet via mobile connections. Similarly more and more of the millions of students enrolled around the world today take courses in some form of online education or Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs).

When I was working on my doctorate at Texas A&M University I represented my department at the annual accounting doctoral student symposium hosted by Deloittein 1991. During that symposium the late Alvin Arens noted that the emergence of information technology was closing the gap between larger and smaller academic institutions. Arens notes that the inherent resource difference is mitigated by technology such as electronic databases with journal articles or financial information. Thereby, allowing faculty and doctoral students to conduct similar lines of inquiry despite the size of the institution.

My co-author in a recently published book “Giraffes of Technology: The Making of the Twenty-First Leader” notes that technology provides a democratization of information. In other words from the most rural and lower socio economic level to the most developed and affluent groups, information is equally available.

Finally, I recall submitting a proposal regarding the consolidation of university resources into one central electronic database and the elimination of paper subscriptions in 1994 at my first academic institution. The proposal was soundly rejected as it was premature. However, today, many colleges have reorganized their libraries to be part of the their information resources group, eliminated or greatly reduced paper based subscriptions and replaced with enterprise or bulk electronic subscriptions and access to mainstream and proprietary databases are a priority if not the norm.

The economy has become clearly global as the recession that began in 2007 had an effect throughout the world as markets due to technology and trade are interconnected as never before. Just look at the US stock markets that ebb and flow on the economic reports from China to Greece. Today more than 100 companies have adopted International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and many more will adopt in the future. The former G2 is now G20 and growing.

Our scholarly activities should mirror the global market trends. I have sat on the boards of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) who now have significant global strategies. I am also serving on the finance committee for the American Accounting Association (AAA) which has more than a third of its membership as international.

Thus, I am excited about the latest trend in academic publishing which is open access. Some of our leading and prolific business scholars are now paying for open access to their articles. Despite their publication in tier one journal, I asked one of these leading scholars in accounting why he elected to pay thousands for open access and he noted “our goal is to advance the profession by contributing to the body of knowledge… hence   it is essential that as many as possible access this contribution to generate an organic and dynamic response….”

The launching of the Open Journal of Accounting is an innovative step to facilitating the requisite exchange of ideas, contributions to the body of knowledge and the access to best practices in research, pedagogy and other key issues facing our profession. Leading scholars are willing to expend financial resources when they have no incentive from a promotion and tenure perspective to ensure access to their information. We should formalize their pioneering steps to share their research by offering a medium for scholars around the globe to contribute to advancing the profession. 


The business and academic landscape will continue to change and the underlying message access to information must be free or a reasonable cost and the ability to access must be efficient and effective.

* * *

Copyright © 2013 Hubert D. Glover. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Copyright © 2013 SciRes.                                                                                   OJAcct


Open Journal of Accounting, 2013, 2, 95-96:


Published Online October 2013 (

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Predicting Rapid Change in June of 2000

Dr. Glover’s review of Who Moved My Cheese? in June of 2000–an analysis that led to the Giraffes of Technology metaphor and advice for how to deal with our new century of untidy change.

* * *

PHENOMENAL ECONOMIC EVENTS AND CHANGES have occurred in the last few months, not to mention the last decade. Recently America Online and Time Warner announced a merger. The Wall Street Journal called the move an example of rapid change and noted that AOL is a company that is not old enough to purchase beer but had the financial strength to acquire one of the nation’s largest media and entertainment enterprises. Rapid change and adaptation to it is the theme of Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, M.D. He is the coauthor of the bestseller The One Minute Manager.

Who Moved My Cheese? is a friendly, humorous, and succinct guide to adapting to change. More important, it helps you to realize that change is imminent and a part of life, and you must embrace and in fact relish and savor the opportunity to successfully navigate through a maze of change.

A simple parable, the book reveals profound truths about change. It’s an amusing and enlightening story of four characters who live in a “Maze” and look for “Cheese” to nourish them and make them happy. The cheese, of course, is a metaphor that can apply to our professional lives and can represent our careers or our companies’ position in the marketplace. For finance professionals the cheese might symbolize our traditional focus of counting beans and providing numbers, and the movement of the cheese parallels the pronounced changes in our profession or careers where our value today is based on strategic contributions to organizations.

Dr. Johnson deploys two sets of characters, two mice named Sniff and Scurry and two humans, who are “little people” named Hem and Haw. A maze represents our environment, illustrating the challenge of surviving through ongoing changes. Faced with unexpected change–no cheese–Sniff and Scurry effectively anticipate and respond by looking for it elsewhere. In denial, Hem and Haw continue to look for the cheese in the same place. Haw finally acknowledges change and also finds the new location. He becomes a prophet and writes what he has learned from his experiences in pithy aphorisms, which form the book’s central message: Adapt to change or die. The book is available in hard cover, paperback, and unabridged audio book formats. The physical book provides a basis for easy future reference, but the audio book, which is only one hour in duration, offers an opportunity for hosting group discussion sessions. Companies are using this audio book for retreats, and this may offer an opportunity for consulting with clients to help them navigate through their respective changing environments. Once you read this book, your perspective on change will change, and that is where growth begins.

Citation Details

Title: Who Moved My Cheese? (Review)

Author: Dr. Hubert Glover

Publication: Strategic Finance (Refereed)

Date: June 1, 2000

Publisher: Institute of Management Accountants

Volume: 81 Issue: 12 Page: 23

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New Herds—Blending into Diverse Communities

Listed below from our book’s final chapter are selected books and articles that support the metaphor of the giraffe and the herbivore’s unique ability to work productively with other animals from diverse herds.

New Herds is the 21st-century leadership style. Top-down leadership in business, government, and non-profits is diminishing due to hyper-connectivity with others around the planet in the age of artificial intelligence and swift-arriving technology.  Today the customer has become equal to the CEO. New leadership must engage customers authentically and learn from their unique ideas and needs to be successful in the 21st-century.DiversityofNewHerds

  • The global shift in higher education via online education is explored in the article “Why Stanford’s Free Online Education Experiment Is Booming,” by Liz Dwyer (
  • A cutting-edge view of marketing in the knowledge age: “Marketing 3.0: Expert Discusses Paradigm Shift and the Now of Marketing” by Chrystal Houston (
  • One of the best essays written about this century’s leadership, a lecture delivered to the plebe class at United States Military Academy at West Point: “Solitude and Leadership” by William Deresiewicz (The American Scholar, March 1, 2010). The speech is also connected to the novella Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (first published in 1902).
  • A lookout-post idea that’s coming: The Mesh: Why the Future of Business Is Sharing by Lisa Gansky (New York: Portfolio Penguin, 2010).
  • Written by the founder of the Freelancers Union, a nonprofit that represents the growing independent workforce: “Occupy Big Business: The Sharing Economy’s Quiet Revolution” by Sara Horowitz (The Atlantic, Dec. 6, 2011).
  • To learn more about twenty-first-century social media, see The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World by David Kirkpatrick (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010).
  • Two smart articles that examine the impact of educators, business, and government working together to produce the West’s top educational system: “How Finland Became an Educational Leader” by David Sirota (Salon: July 18, 2011) and “What Americans Keep Ignoring about Finland’s School Success” by Anu Partanen (The Atlantic, Dec. 29, 2011).
  • To read the unique short story “Bread” by Margaret Atwood, visit
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