Thursday, June 24, 2010

Apples and Oranges and Bananas

How to compare these two problems: the Gulf oil spill and the Haiti earthquake? On the surface, it would seem as if the Gulf oil spill is the result of a particular problem, which is itself the result of certain failures. Corporations are easy to blame, and in hindsight, shortcomings easy to identify.

But in a case like the Haiti earthquake, a natural disaster, placing blame is more difficult. However, what this piece on This American Life does so well is examine how the fallout from the earthquake is part of a systemic failure to improve a country over long periods. Listen to Part I and find out why.

On a lighter note, if you’re in search of finding out what you know and what you don’t know, take this short survey offered by PEW Research, and let us know how you did.


Friday, June 18, 2010

The Big Guns

An interesting examination of the Toyota recall was aired on CNBC. You can check it out here. Business communication, crisis communication, corporate social responsibility, and corporate personhood are all players in the story.

The other famous crisis communications case that came to mind was the 1982 Tylenol recall, which you’ve probably heard about. Find out more here.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Field of Battle

An interesting side-effect of the BP oil spill is raised in this article. It feels like a no-brainer to blame Britain-based BP and to demonize them, as oil spreads across the Gulf. But the British say Halt! Thou forgetteth my pension!

I suppose I might have more complicated feelings on the matter if I stood to lose a portion of my retirement. Rather than ratchet up international tensions, it’d be a lot easier if these matters could be settled on the football field of battle, but alas.

Did you know that you can use hair to clean up oil? Hair! Well, actually, hair won’t resolve this particular spill, but something to keep in mind.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

When the Going Gets Tough

I love this article. Maybe it’s because I’m not a quantitative person, but it makes the case for the humanities, the soft majors, which are slipping in interest during this economy. It also highlights that while being a deft accountant might get you far, the ability to effectively communicate your findings to the CEO will get you farther.

I think the general feeling is that when push comes to shove, the hard disciplines will and should win out. We often hear politicians talk about the need for our country to be producing more engineers and scientists to ensure our competitiveness. Rarely do we ever hear anyone argue for the critical role of sculptors, philosophers, or Victorian lit experts.

So, is what David Brooks argues here idealistic? Can we really make the case that we should be taking a class on Ulysses over Accountancy 101 or Calc? What evidence do we have that when the going gets tough, the tough need Kant?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Big Brain

This article, published in the Harvard Business Review several years ago, suggests that brainstorming doesn’t work. At least not in the way that we often think about it. It reminded me of my first job at big PR agency. The entire account staff spent a day at a loft in an industrial area of Chicago brainstorming.

The loft looked like Pee Wee’s Playhouse, and we had to take off our shoes and walk around in our socks while coloring, throwing Koosh balls around, and brainstorming. At the end of the day, we did karaoke. No big idea came out of it, probably because the session failed to adhere to the rules that this article suggests a good brainstorming session should adhere to. (As a side-note, after that session, our office spent a great deal of money designing and building a room where we could go to have official brainstorm sessions. It also looked liked Pee Wee’s Playhouse.)

As I’ve already blogged, the vast majority of us soon got the can because of the tech bust, which made me wonder if anyone had a brainstorming session about whether it’d be a good idea to invest in brainstorming sessions and a dedicated brainstorming room.

The point of these brainstorming sessions is to pinpoint the moment of innovation. On a semi-related note (not really), here’s a story about another kind of innovation, called tinnovation. It’s cool, check it out.

On an even more unrelated note, this article in The New York Times suggests you become happier the older you get. Who knew?