Entries in "commentary"

July 24, 2007

addressing unfair compensation in US companies

What were the managers at Goodyear Tire and Rubber thinking, when they continued to keep Lilly Ledbetter's salary lower than her 15 other peers, who were also front-line supervisors doing the same work, for years and years and years?

Apparently, they were thinking that the government would be on their side, because Ms. Ledbetter had not smelled the rat quickly enough. She did not receive any hints from coworkers until late in her career that she was not receiving fair compensation.

A jury found evidence of pay discrimination, and awarded Ledbetter back pay and damages. Goodyear appealed that judgment and it was reviewed this year by the United States Supreme Court, where it was overturned on a technicality by a 5-4 vote. The majority justices were Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas.

On June 20, CA representative George Miller introduced a bill to remove that technicality for all future workers; it has already been approved by the House Education and Labor committee. His cosponsors in the House of Representatives included Andrews, Berkley, Capps, Clarke, Davis of IL, DeLauro, Farr, Hinjosa, Hirono, Hoyer, Kucinich, Loebsack, Maloney, McCarthy of NY, McCollum, McDermott, Nadler, Norton, Sanchez of CA, Shea-Porter, Slaughter, Van Hollen, and Woolsey. A press release from the Education and Labor Committee last month provides more details about the bill.

On July 22, MA Senator Edward Kennedy introduced the bill in the Senate as well. Cosponsors of the bill include Senators Boxer, Clinton, Dodd, Durbin, Harkin, Leahy, McCaskill, Murray, Mikulski, Obama, Snowe, Spector, Stabenow, and Whitehouse.

If your district representative and senator are not both on those lists, then I join with Law Blogger David S. Cohen in urging you to call the congressional members for your district and state to urge passage of the bill. If you happen to run across a chance to ask any other presidential candidate a question, ask them where they stand regarding pay discrimination -- with employers in covering up, or with employees in seeking protection within a reasonable time period after learning about potential discrimination.

More information about the case and the proposed law is available at CorrectTheCourt, along with an easy web form for contacting your legislators. Of course, a phone call or "snail mail" letter may have more impact than a form-based email.

Kudos for Lilly Ledbetter for continuing to combat injustice and to stand up for future generations who might face unfair compensation in US companies.

June 27, 2007

an alternative to the SMART goal framework

I wrote up a post at my new blog, Work-Life Chronicles, about the alternative to the SMART goal framework that I have developed and used in the last year of teaching MGMT 250 and 251. I call it START NOW, which stands for:

Support
Temerity
Awareness
Reflection
Trying Again
Notes
Options
Wise Action


To read more about each of the labels in the START NOW framework, and some funny stories about my adventures learning to ride my Vespa, click through to read "a different take on setting and achieving goals".

Please let me know what you think of the new blog, too! I'd welcome you to add it to your blogroll, or subscribe to the RSS feed, if you find the first few posts interesting.

June 23, 2007

perhaps the iPhone is not underpriced!

On Thursday, this Wall Street Journal article by Walter Mossberg was the second-most-emailed item in the paper. Mossberg reviewed the Blackberry Curve 8300 and the Nokia N95, two alternatives to the iPhone, and raved about the N95 with its very high-end camera.

Perhaps I was not that far off base in considering the iPhone as a rival for the Blackberry in my previous post about the iPhone vs. the Blackberry and the Treo. There was another article in the WSJ highlighting how much pressure business IT managers are getting from their employees. Many current Blackberry users want to ensure that they can buy a new iPhone on their own, and still access their Blackberry-based work email when they want. Whether Apple and Research in Motion will work out a patch that satisfies security concerns is an open question... I'm fortunate that the outcome of that negotiation will not affect my ability to use an iPhone for email.

I do still want to know what the monthly charge will be from AT&T for data charges, though. That would make me think... but not for very long. I hope there are still some iPhones available in Cupertino on Sunday, July 1!

June 21, 2007

benefits of daily writing

Liz Strauss has written a neat post on reasons to write which echoes my post from a while back about why I ask students to blog. Although management is often described as primarily an oral craft, I continue to insist to my students that the ability to write well is a great ace in the whole. That skill impresses others who value critical thinking and attention to detail, helps one make a good first impression, and sharpens the ability to think analytically and critically. All this is true not just for current students, but also for those who are already in the workplace. If you're not happy with your writing skills, then take Liz Strauss' advice, and begin a daily practice -- it can only yield positive rewards!

June 20, 2007

transformative cooperation book is now available

I came in to the office today for the first time in a while, and found a box addressed to me, Ron Fry, and David Cooperrider. Immediately, I knew that it was the first copies of the Handbook of Transformative Cooperation. I'll be carrying one around all day, and I'll be surprised if my feet touch the ground again before bedtime -- I'm floating in a cloud of happiness and relief!

June 19, 2007

competing in the war for talent

Susan Cantrell has written an insightful article in the latest Sloan Management Review highlighting four rules for retaining desirable employees in this age of tight competition among employers for knowledge workers and service professionals. Worth a read! I especially like her points about making HR policies more flexible, though of course that can always raise suspicions among employees about a lack of equity.

June 16, 2007

iPhone takes on the Blackberry and the Treo

I am by no means a marketing expert, but it doesn't take much education on the topic to figure out that products anyone can acquire are less desirable to trendsetters. Perhaps most users of the Blackberry and the Treo are not trendsetters -- perhaps they like to just follow the crowd. They may even be required to do so. (I have certainly been told that more than one employer requires the use of Blackberry, a dubious policy for organizations to adopt if they are to recruit and retain outstanding employees in today's world of work.)

The question is, how many people want to be trendsetters? My guess is, more than the number who will be able to acquire an iPhone between now and Christmas. Probably by a factor of three or four.

I'm definitely a trendsetter-wanna-be. The demo of visual voicemail was appealing -- I hate having to wade through seven voicemails without knowing if any of them were left by anyone I'm really waiting to hear from, or if they're just lower-priority communications that should have been sent through email. Appealing, but not compelling.

It was the demo of websurfing on the iPhone that was compelling. Clearly, I'm in the target market, because the webpage being surfed is not myspace -- it's the New York Times. The demo shows that Apple has applied the same attention to human-computer interface when designing the iPhone that they have become known for with their operating systems, laptops, and iPods. This commercial is really all the instruction in using the iPhone any typical user will need.

So, I have signed up for a Cingular/AT&T cellular account, and for email alerts with both the cellular provider and with Apple directly. I'm not going to be camping outside a cellphone store on the night of June 28, but I'd love to be able to figure out how to acquire an iPhone before I attend the Academy of Management annual international meeting in Philadelphia at the beginning of August. Perhaps I would not even need to take my laptop with me! It could be a new frontier in flexible work.

How much of the Blackberry and Treo market will Apple be able to take a bite of between now and Christmas? This report from last December doesn't even show Apple as a player in the "converged mobile device" market -- and in fact, the manufacturers of the Blackberry did not hold the top market share spot. That honor went to Nokia, with 38.7 million units shipped. Nokia also holds top honors in the smartphone market segment. The unknown is how Apple's exclusive partnership with Cingular/AT&T will affect trendsetters' willingness to go with the iPhone.

The logical followup question is, how much will the converged mobile device market grow between June 29 and the end of December? The 42 percent growth rate over 2005 sounds quite impressive. My bet is that the rate will be at least sustained, if not increased, through the end of 2006. In some ways, accelerating the growth of this market segment would be just as much of a victory for Apple as stealing market share away from the Blackberry or the Treo would be.

Once again, Steve Jobs' team will be creating an entirely new stream of Apple customers, who will almost inevitably be drawn to purchasing songs on iTunes and laptops at the Apple Store. Here's hoping that the product launch on the 29th doesn't cause any riots!

June 13, 2007

Handbook of Transformative Cooperation: New Designs and Dynamics

Our handbook (which I co-edited with Ron Fry and David Cooperrider) is to be released next week, according to its Amazon listing. (The other good news is that Amazon is quoting a price almost 30% off Stanford University Press' list price.)

Here is a list of chapters and contributors:

Continue reading "Handbook of Transformative Cooperation: New Designs and Dynamics"

June 11, 2007

let 2008 be the summer when unpaid FMLA ends

I just came across a post I made a little over a year ago, which I rather grandiosely entitled "let this be the century when sexism ends." Similarly, I hope that next summer, the 15th anniversary of the original Family and Medical Leave Act, will be the summer when we see the act revised so that all working Americans are protected from job loss if they need to take time off because of temporary health issues, or to care for others with health issues. Why are so few Americans protected by this important act? Read this poignant first-person reporting by Margaret Lowry to learn the basics.

In 2004, California implemented a statewide improved version of the FMLA, which provides partially paid leave for the first six weeks of a medical or family leave of absence from work. The California Family Medical Leave Research Project at UCLA has documented some of the benefits of this expansion of protection, although the scholars are troubled at how few workers are aware of their new rights. The report also documents the high number of workers who needed to take a leave before the new CA law went into effect, and were unable to do so, because of the financial consequences of taking even a short unpaid leave.

In December, the Department of Labor issued a request for comments on the FMLA, and received many responses. The National Coalition to Protect Family Leave presents many arguments in favor of strengthening the law. Some businesses argue that the law is already too broadly applied, and ask the government to support limitations on who can be approved for leave -- see this article in the San Antonio Express-News online.

Sherrod Brown serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety. I certainly hope that he has some interns at work on analyzing the comments received at the Department of Labor. It would be wonderful to see a well-reasoned revision to the original 1993 FMLA act introduced in congress in the coming months. Perhaps before its 15th birthday arrives, the act could be given the gift of meaningful power to help all workers who need to take leave for serious health issues or to care for others dealing with serious health issues.

April 03, 2007

benefits of welcoming work environments for all

Two quick links to recent studies suggesting that work environments where members of demographic minorities are welcomed and fully integrated into work culture yield positive performance benefits for all workers:

benefits of welcoming work environments for all

Two quick links to recent studies suggesting that work environments where members of demographic minorities are welcomed and fully integrated into work culture yield positive performance benefits for all workers:

April 02, 2007

Case Western Reserve, highest quality education at a great value

I was pleased to read that Kiplinger's rated Case Western Reserve as one of the top 50 best values among comparable universities last week. (See the table for the full list of 50.)

I was surprised, though, to see the university's press release about our inclusion on the Kiplinger's list mentioning the other "peer" schools that we outranked on the list. I thought the point of the list was that these schools are not our peers, at least in the eyes of the people who compiled the Kiplinger's list. (why give the other "peer" schools another page to generate hits for them on the web?)

The table shows that only 15 of the top 50 schools have better student-to-faculty ratios than Case Western Reserve. Of all the private universities Kiplinger's ranked, only 15 do better than the 9 students per faculty member ratio at Case Western Reserve.

Also, only 5 of the universities on the list accept a higher percentage of their entering class. Case Western Reserve accepted 68 percent of applicants, according to the table. From an academic rankings perspective, a lower acceptance rate would improve our standings compared with other schools; however, from an applicant's perspective, a high acceptance rate is desirable, because it makes the investment of time in a college application less of a gamble.

At Case Western Reserve, we meet the total financial need of 92 percent of our students. The majority of that financial aid is in the form of grants, rather than loans. (Only 3 of the 50 schools provide a higher percentage of students with financial aid sufficient to meet their financial need.) Case Western Reserve is right in the middle of the top 50 universities in terms of the average debt of new graduates, at just under 21 thousand dollars.

March 26, 2007

"wasting time" at the office

As an update on my entry from early last Friday morning, here's a link to the WCPN podcast of last Friday morning's 90.3 at 9 show during which I was one of the guests to speak on the topic of "wasting time at the office".

My "maiden" experience on the radio waves as a guest was quite enjoyable, particularly because I had the pleasure of meeting the Friday host, Regina Brett. The show's producer, Paul Cox, and assistant producter, Marie Andrusewicz, both helped me to settle in at the studio. I even learned how to use a "cough" button!

Here are some background links to information I mentioned during the segment:


The piece on wasting time at the office is in the second half of the podcast, and the first half is also worth listening to, with guests commenting on population loss in Cuyahoga county and how we can take action to counteract the current trends. One of the guests recommends this report, The Vital Center, from the Brookings Institute. The guest who was in the studio with Regina Brett and myself, Mark Rosentraub, has a number of worthwhile pieces published on the topic of urban and regional renewal, also worth reading:

February 28, 2007

telecommuting and the neverending workday

One of the themes in my course on workplace flexibility is the need to push back against corporate demands for a 24/7/365 workload. Doctors carry pagers, managers carry laptops and cellphones. How do they fight back when their coworkers or bosses seem to expect them to be available constantly?

There's a good blog entry at Web Worker Daily on 5 ways to get work under control. They are the basic tips, of course, and yet not practiced by many.

During my recent medical leave, I was off the computer entirely for about 10 days, and then checking email only intermittently for another few weeks. I was amazed by how much new time opened up in my day! In particular, about 40 percent of my email could be deleted unread if it was more than 48 hours old. So now that I have returned to health, I have resolved not to chase after the ephemeral, the seemingly-urgent, or the request-of-the-moment. I now check email only once I day (or at most, twice) -- and never after dinner.

While it is wonderful to have the flexibility that carrying my new laptop anywhere allows, it is important to use that flexibility to my benefit as well as my employer's.

Anyone who needs me more urgently knows my cellphone number. (And I do turn that one off, sometimes, too!)

So, how do others manage against the neverending workday?

December 30, 2006

where will you be on January 4, 2007?

The president of NOW invites us to witness the swearing-in ceremony for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, and lays out an agenda for the next session of Congress. I have not followed NOW for a while, and I'm impressed that the agenda is not narrowly focused on Roe vs. Wade... it really is targetted to better the lives of women in America, in equitable ways.

Will you be watching Pelosi's swearing in? What are your hopes for the next session of Congress?

December 12, 2006

cheaper is not always better

Every entry-level marketing course emphasizes that price is not the only feature that attracts buyers to a product or service -- there's also quality, availability, etc. So perhaps it shouldn't be so fascinating to learn that when choosing between colleges, students prefer going to one with a higher tuition, as long as they receive some financial aid.

Here's the story, in today's New York Times.

November 03, 2006

the journey toward perfection: a status report

On Sept. 1, I posted a blog entry about the speaker at Fall Commencement, entitled food for thought. In it, I discussed speaker Michael Ruhlman's words, both during his speech and in his book, which was assigned as a common reading for all entering first-year undergraduates in August of 2007. The book is entitled The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection. One week later, an article about Fall Commencement was published in the Case campus newspaper, the Observer -- Soul of a Chef Author Addresses Case.

One week before, Mano Singham had also written about his reactions to the book, as a professor who teaches first seminars here at Case. He tells a bit of the story of how Ruhlman's book was selected as a common reading for Case first-year students, and outlines how he dealt with his initial lack of enthusiasm for reading the book. Professor Singham makes two important points which may be helpful reminders for students in MGMT 250: (click through to read more)

Continue reading "the journey toward perfection: a status report"

October 20, 2006

Mena Trott evangelizes personal blogs

This is a quick, reflective post in the role of the web in general, and blogs in particular, in how adults learn, make and keep connections to friends and family, and get things done (both for heir hobbies and avocations and in their paid work).

Yesterday, I taught a MGMT 250 class session on the training design process. Twelve different student teams prepared and delivered 3-minute impromptu speeches on different training methods. The list of 12 different methods included: distance learning, learning portals, and at least one other method that involved the use of technology in some way. I was really struck by how differently this semester's group of 40 students respond to the different training options, in terms of their perceived advantages and disadvantages, than the group of students I taught back in 1998 or 1999 when I first came to Case Western Reserve.

I think I first started using blogs as one way of getting students to capture and share their reflections with me and with their classmates sometime around 2002 or 2003. Lots more students, this fall, have some previous experience with blogging. But there are still some who don't blog, and may not read any blogs on a regular basis. At the other end of the spectrum, there have been a few students in my class who were very internet-savvy in high school, learned to do web design for fun, and then converted their new skills into a way to make money. Things are clearly changing.

And yet, our local paper of record still seems to portray the dominant culture image of blogs -- they're just personal diaries on the web, they're not worth reading, they aren't going to change the entire media industry.... all while developing their own site for the newspaper, which now includes blogs by a few reporters.

I just came across Mena Trott's blog recently (click through to read more)

And will someone please post a comment on this entry, so I can be reassured that the Blog@Case spamfilter isn't overfunctioning again?

Continue reading "Mena Trott evangelizes personal blogs"

October 17, 2006

back from hiatus

Argh! I thought I had posted this blog entry weeks ago, but I only saved it as a draft!

Please read about Meran's experiences in the orphanage in Kenya. I'm getting ready to do a wire transfer, and possibly to ship her some items as well.

I'll be back to blogging regularly soon, as well, now that the transformative cooperation book is in typesetting stage, and I'm through with the first wave of grading student papers.

September 01, 2006

food for thought

NB: This blog entry was redistributed with permission in the CoolCleveland eNewsletter, also available online.

Yesterday I attended Convocation, drawn by the promise of ritual and the prospect of hearing Michael Ruhlman, author of Case's Common Reading for this year, speak. He wrote The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection more than 5 years ago, and so I hoped that his speech would go beyond the book into more elaborated thinking about what it takes to become an expert in one's chosen field. He did not disappoint.

He addressed head-on a criticism he has probably heard many times about his writing on cooking: Isn't it frivolous to write about fancy food in a time when there is so much serious stuff happening in world politics? His answer started with this assertion:

"Great cooking, in the end, has such power because it allows us to connect with our past, our future, and all of humanity, if we let it. I believe that America's insatiable appetite for food and cooking know-how is really the beginning of a spiritual quest for the bigger things: a search for meaning, order and beauty in an apparently chaotic and alienating universe."

President Eastwood looked quite comfortable listening to Ruhlman's speech up until that point, but when Ruhlman made his next main point, suggesting that sharing what he learned about master chefs brought into relief how all of America has become a culture of mediocrity, the President started to look a little nervous...

Continue reading "food for thought"

July 08, 2006

what is an organization?

David Pollard says it is "an instrument for doing something a particular way."

This is a great definition, very similar to the one I use in my introductory classes in organizational behavior. (I talk about an organization as a group of three or more people, working toward a common goal or set of goals, in a consciously coordinated way, on a more-or-less continuous basis.)

Pollard goes on with a provocative argument:

Organization does not mean order or structure. When we say "let's get organized" we are not saying let's decide how to structure ourselves, we're saying let's make ourselves an instrument to do something specific. The fact that the first step in so many new organizations is establishing a hierarchy shows how well we've been brainwashed to believe that 'anarchic' self-management is impossible, when it is the natural order. This is perhaps why Open Space is so subversive and unaccepted in the political and corporate mainstream -- if frees people from the false belief that they need someone else to impose order and structure on them in order to be an effective organism, an instrument of action.

What do you think? Can groups of people organize themselves organically, without hierarchy? Do you question that assumption that self-management is impossible in larger groups, or do you accept it unthinkingly? Do you believe that you can be effective outside of an authority structure imposed by others?

Be sure to click through and read the rest of Pollard's entry on the meaning of words, including community, family, freedom, and wisdom.

July 02, 2006

evolving notions of a mother's place

Societal expectations of mothers have evolved dramatically since the 1930s. Remember the old chestnut that women should be "barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen"? Gone the way of the dodo bird, right? If it were, the Ohio state legislature would not have had any reason to pass a law last year, stating that "a mother is entitled to breast-feed her baby in any location of a place of public accomodation wherein the mother is otherwise permitted." That's why a group of mothers and babies held a nurse-in yesterday at Crocker Park in Westlake. I attended to support their rights to breastfeed in public. The event is covered on page B1 of the July 2 Plain Dealer (which is now available online).

This right has been frequently challenged in recent years. Lots of people still think that mothers with nursing babies should stay home, or go home to feed their babies. Breastpumps, bottles, and artificial baby milk make it possible for anyone to feed a baby, and once that is possible, there's more room to argue that a mother should conform to notions of modesty that have been applied to all women equally in our society. This view privileges the sexual appeal of breasts to men, and argues that mothers should not appear in public when they are using their breasts to feed their babies. It's expressed by comments such as this one, responding to news coverage of a Milwalkee nurse-in:

"Honestly think somethings are done better in a private place and why on earth would anyone want to breast feed in a dressing room, working in retail I can agree with the employees most malls set up family restrooms for this purpose. You take away from business."

Obviously, this is not a view with which I agree. Restrooms are noplace where anyone should be eating. Family restrooms in malls are great places to change diapers, but they do not have a comfortable spot to sit down and nurse.

There's a lot of work still to be done before our society broadly accepts that a breastfeeding mother's place is anywhere...

Continue reading "evolving notions of a mother's place"

April 25, 2006

developing a career, growing a family...

How can one develop a career and grow a family at the same time? Especially in academia, this is a sticky question. The Tomorrow's Professor blog recently explored the question of whether there is a global warming trend toward women in academia, but concludes that in many traditionally male disciplines, the climate for women is still chilly. And in all this focus on women, the broader point about how men in two-career marriages can play more egalitarian roles in their growing families while moving into academic careers sometimes gets lost. (This is a more specific version of the broader question which I addressed yesterday in my post on what fathers want.)

I was particularly struck by this series of posts at Mommy Ph.D....

Continue reading "developing a career, growing a family..."

April 07, 2006

more musings on role models, in fiction and in history

The twelfth Carnival of the Feminists is up at Ragnells (ah, I mean, Star Sapphire's) blog, called Written World. It includes a link to my earlier post on Kim Possible and Wonder Woman (and ElastiGirl), along with several other posts on the same theme...

Continue reading "more musings on role models, in fiction and in history"

more musings on role models, in fiction and in history

The twelfth Carnival of the Feminists is up at Ragnells (ah, I mean, Star Sapphire's) blog, called Written World. It includes a link to my earlier post on Kim Possible and Wonder Woman (and ElastiGirl), along with several other posts on the same theme...

Continue reading "more musings on role models, in fiction and in history"

April 04, 2006

is MacDonalds socially responsible, or is it marketing greenwash?

The Carnival of the Capitalists is up for the week, and one of the highlighted posts is about MacDonalds. Steven Silvers offers mocking commentary on the blog that MacDonalds makes available to consumers with the tag line "Open for Discussion". His teaser summary asserts that "If McDonald's thinks selling salads constitutes social responsibility, they must figure clean bathrooms deserve the Nobel Prize."

The potential that companies might just appear to change their behavior, when in fact all they are doing is disguising themselves as socially responsible, is what makes me skeptical about buying products marketed as supporting particular values, like the Reebok breast cancer eradication sneakers that I wrote about last week when I asked how company values affect consumer behavior. It is why I think new portals like Alonovo which empower consumers with a deeper analysis about whether companies are walking their talk are going to be forces to reckon with in the future.

What do you think about the MacDonald's blog? Is MacDonald's a company you admire? Or do you boycott it on principle?

April 02, 2006

a song for a hopeful spring Sunday

Today at the UUSC, we sang this beautiful lyric by Lloyd Stone (1934) to the melody of "Finlandia" which was originally written by Jean Sibelius in 1899:

This is my song, Oh God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my sacred shrine.
But other hearts in other lands are beating,
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

Continue reading "a song for a hopeful spring Sunday"

April 01, 2006

female role models, then and now

When I think back to the influences that made me into a feminist, one of my first memories is of watching Wonder Woman with my younger sister. (We never read the comic strip series but watched the tv series which starred Lynda Carter. In case you want to estimate my age, let me out myself -- I was ten when this show finished production.) I still remember running around the backyard pretending that I had bullet-deflecting armbands and could protect the world from bad guys. All too quickly, though, I learned that not even quick wits and a sharp tongue could always protect us from the painful criticisms that teenagers can inflict on one another.

Now, my daughter watches Kim Possible, and I've noticed that the message being sent about what it takes to be a "super woman" has not changed that much over the years.

Continue reading "female role models, then and now"

March 31, 2006

lectures via iTunes?

Jeremy Smith writes that Case has been accepted into Apple's iTunes University program, which sounds exciting... as long as it doesn't mean that students stop coming to my class.

I think this is great for large lecture classes, where students might not always get a chance to ask questions. For discussion oriented classes, though, nothing can really substitute for being in the room as the discussion happens. That's why I disagree with the highlighted principle in this teaching manifesto", which asserts that professors should not force or blackmail students "into coming to class through devices such as sign-up registers, pop-quizzes, unavailability of class material in print, etc. Design the course such that students who prefer so can follow the course without attending any lectures." I would argue that the way around that dilemma, at least in classes of under 50 students or so, is simply to avoid lecturing. Instead, work on problems, discuss cases, let students ask questions... then it is worth their while to come to class, and the incentives that you give them just provide some encouragement for doing so.

March 29, 2006

how do company values affect consumer behavior?

I've noticed some interesting tidbits lately about how we respond to corporate actions that communicate social responsibility, and I'd welcome a chance to generate a dialogue about these issues. Take this poll, in the right sidebar of the Case (family) Foundation Spotlight, for instance: it asks, when is a company's commitment to a social issue most important? and suggests that the company's values might influence the products we buy, where we work, or how we invest. Which would you choose?

(Go ahead, click over there, and then come back and tell me! And if you have a hard time deciding, check out these Reebok sneakers, and let me know if you would be more likely to buy them because of the cause you'd be supporting....)

Another datapoint: the online shopping portals that are springing up to allow consumers to donate a portion of their purchases to worthy causes. The latest one I've come across is Alonovo, which allows each user to indicate which social and environmental issues are most important, and then get data about the companies which supply books, music, computers, electronics, etc. that you might want to buy. For instance, you can choose to buy products from companies which share their profits with employees, or which have a better representation of women and ethnic minorities on their boards.

A third datapoint: businesses which have fully embraced sustainability, like the ones that students in the green MBA program visit on field trips, or like Cleveland's own Great Lakes Brewing Company and nearby Wooster's Hartzler Dairy. Will the new business ideas emerging from the Entrepreneurs for Sustainability network in Northeast Ohio find that they are favored by consumers because of the values which guide their business development?

What do you think? Is this a blip, or a genuine trend?

March 04, 2006

standing behind the President

After the meeting on Friday afternoon, I'm still feeling a bit uninformed about the point of view of the Arts and Sciences faculty. As I wrote on Thursday, I think more dialogue is needed, but it is certainly my impression that President Hundert and Provost Anderson want to facilitate that process.

The fact that Professor Krauss' initiative was inspired by Harvard concerns me -- it's not clear how our university will benefit from this apparent case of "me-too-ism". There are significant differences between Harvard's faculty of arts and sciences and our College of Arts and Sciences. Harvard has over 940 faculty in Arts and Sciences. In contrast, our College of Arts and Sciences numbers only about 220 professors. Their arts and sciences faculty have sustained the reputation of the entire university in past decades, while Case's reputation comes primarily from engineering and medicine.

I understand that faculty are disappointed that we have not achieved what we had hoped according to the plan launched three years ago. I know it has been and will be very difficult to continue to implement changes when we have not been able to afford as sizeable an investment as we had hoped to support the changes that are underway.

What I do not understand is why the Arts and Sciences faculty feel that the surprises we have experienced in NIH research funding and development are exclusively the president's fault. The course of action he is proposing now, to cease the planned draw on working capital a year early, seems the most responsible course of action. I don't believe that a change in leadership would result in any different decisionmaking. What has happened must be faced, and a change in leadership would only slow down the process of getting back on course.

P.S.: At least one student is standing with President Hundert as well... and don't miss the reasoned comments from Glenn Starkman on this entry. I hope that we can continue to have continued dialogue about these issues (though not necessarily via the blog).

March 03, 2006

the unfolding story of a challenge to leadership

The common wisdom is that any publicity is good publicity, and clearly recent campus events have the local community buzzing about Case and its President. In the season of the year when admitted students are making decisions about where they will enroll next fall, though, I'd rather have the publicity about our campus focusing on positive signs instead of internal discord.

I have not written anything about this story because I feel very uninformed. The best reporting I have found on the no-confidence vote here on campus yesterday is the story in the campus paper. Much like the members of the Undergraduate Student Government, who called earlier this week for faculty to postpone the vote, I think caution is appropriate. Clearly, more dialogue is needed. Weatherhead faculty meet with President Hundert late this afternoon. I'm hoping that something concrete and constructive will emerge from that conversation.

February 13, 2006

hope amidst hostility

I certainly support free speech, but I've never thought that name-calling or other schoolyard taunting rituals were worth participating in, and so I find it hard to understand the rationale of the Danish journalists who published cartoons of Mohammed with a bomb in his turban. Amidst all the variety of reactions to their decision in past weeks, I found two that were especially encouraging about the possibility that through dialogue, we might reconcile our differences.

The first is a post by Jill Miller Zimon quoting Tariq Ramadan about differences in freedom of expression laws in different countries.

The second is a post by Yasan Badran at Global Voices Online summarizing reactions in Syria to a recent anti-Danish demonstration, and reporting on a recent initiative called Bridge the Gap in Blogspace, which aims to promote intercultural understanding.

I hope that out of efforts such as these, we will see more uses of humor to unite, rather than divide.

Postscript: Just after I made my post this morning, Mano Singham made a post on the same topic. As usual, Mano provides valuable background to the story, and demonstrates how bloggers can complement and deepen stories as told by the mainstream media.

January 05, 2006

Academic job searches

One of the great ironies of the past 7 years I have spent advising doctoral students is that they turn to me for job search advice. There seems to be an assumption that since I graduated from the University of Michigan Business School, and got a job at Case, I must know what I'm doing. The full professor who hired me likes to say that I was a tough negotiator, which amuses me, since I accepted the job offer within 10 days of receiving it, and the only negotiation of substance that I remember was about my desire to receive a laptop instead of a standard-issue desktop computer. Perhaps, like many professors, I used to have wisdom on this subject and have merely forgotten it.

The fact of the matter is that I don't have much experience. I interviewed for 13 different job openings at the Academy of Management conference in August, 1997, and had received signals from 2 schools by mid-November that they might invite me to give a job talk. Case pre-empted the market by inviting me to give a job talk in November instead of January or February (which is the typical interview time in my field) and made me a job offer almost immediately. I decided to take it, and never went on those other 2 potential job talk trips.

Of course, I probably have more experience than most of my colleagues, since many of them haven't been on the job market (to my knowledge) since the late 1980s. MBA enrollments were booming then and it was easy to get a job teaching in a business school, even without a completed dissertation (or so I've been told). The hard part was getting a job at a "good school" -- which is, of course, defined differently depending on who is looking for the job.

Perhaps I make up for the experience that I lack by reading essays like this one by "Barney Rogers" (a pseudonym) in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Perhaps it is healthy that I consider testing the market to see what is out there for someone like me, with a strong research focus and publication record 7 years after earning my Ph.D. Perhaps it is not only good for me, but also for my current school, that I generate interest in my research by giving talks at some good schools... even if it means that the school must take on the risk that I might actually be enticed away from Case and Cleveland.

Still, it has always seemed a bit odd that Deans rely on job offers made to their professors by faculty at other schools to gauge a professor's market value. Why would we trust a relatively unknown group of people at a "prestigious school" more than we trust senior colleagues in the professor's home department? I guess I may be learning more about this process over the next year or two. Maybe when I'm finished with my own mid-career job search, I can write a column for the Chronicle under my own pseudonym.

Academic job searches

One of the great ironies of the past 7 years I have spent advising doctoral students is that they turn to me for job search advice. There seems to be an assumption that since I graduated from the University of Michigan Business School, and got a job at Case, I must know what I'm doing. The full professor who hired me likes to say that I was a tough negotiator, which amuses me, since I accepted the job offer within 10 days of receiving it, and the only negotiation of substance that I remember was about my desire to receive a laptop instead of a standard-issue desktop computer. Perhaps, like many professors, I used to have wisdom on this subject and have merely forgotten it.

The fact of the matter is that I don't have much experience. I interviewed for 13 different job openings at the Academy of Management conference in August, 1997, and had received signals from 2 schools by mid-November that they might invite me to give a job talk. Case pre-empted the market by inviting me to give a job talk in November instead of January or February (which is the typical interview time in my field) and made me a job offer almost immediately. I decided to take it, and never went on those other 2 potential job talk trips.

Of course, I probably have more experience than most of my colleagues, since many of them haven't been on the job market (to my knowledge) since the late 1980s. MBA enrollments were booming then and it was easy to get a job teaching in a business school, even without a completed dissertation (or so I've been told). The hard part was getting a job at a "good school" -- which is, of course, defined differently depending on who is looking for the job.

Perhaps I make up for the experience that I lack by reading essays like this one by "Barney Rogers" (a pseudonym) in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Perhaps it is healthy that I consider testing the market to see what is out there for someone like me, with a strong research focus and publication record 7 years after earning my Ph.D. Perhaps it is not only good for me, but also for my current school, that I generate interest in my research by giving talks at some good schools... even if it means that the school must take on the risk that I might actually be enticed away from Case and Cleveland.

Still, it has always seemed a bit odd that Deans rely on job offers made to their professors by faculty at other schools to gauge a professor's market value. Why would we trust a relatively unknown group of people at a "prestigious school" more than we trust senior colleagues in the professor's home department? I guess I may be learning more about this process over the next year or two. Maybe when I'm finished with my own mid-career job search, I can write a column for the Chronicle under my own pseudonym.

November 23, 2005

A British news story dismissed by the White House

Blair may have talked Bush out of bombing Al Jazeera's offices in Qatar.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I'm grateful for the internet and for journalists, who I trust will get to the bottom of this even if the White House refuses to cooperate.

Oh, and in case you missed this other story about the runup to the war in Iraq... from the National Journal: Bush was told 10 days after 911 that Iraq had no links to the incident and the evidence linking Saddam to Al Quaeda was scant.

October 18, 2005

tangling with critics of the democratization of knowledge

I had read a while back that some academics were hostile toward Wikipedia, but I had not encountered it myself till this weekend. I attended an academic retreat on worthy puzzles in the field of organizational studies, and in between formal sessions, had several conversations in which I suggested that Wikipedia was a fascinating example of self-organizing that was worthy of study. In response, I encountered derision from two faculty who advanced the first two on Wikipedia's list of criticisms of Wikipedia. I found myself motivated to become an evangelist for Wikipedia, countering their criticisms so that they would consider exploring the community from my point of view, as a potentially interesting phenomenon to study.

Continue reading "tangling with critics of the democratization of knowledge"

September 21, 2005

the illusory trend to return to traditional women's roles, and what we can do about it

Poor Louise Story. The young Yale graduate who wrote a story for yesterday's New York Times which landed on the front page is getting pummeled throughout the blogosphere (even in the comments), in Slate, and probably, by "many" of her friends. Yes, I pity her, even though I know that the critics speak the truth, because I remember being just out of school and having the sense that the trends among my peer group were newsworthy, without realizing how circumscribed a peer group I had constructed around myself.

I do not remember talking much with my college friends about our plans for marriage and family. I just assumed that I would work and raise a family with my husband. I knew that I needed to stay employable, in case of divorce or an illness that might incapacitate my husband. I had the sense that my mother had not been happy when she was not employed (she returned to the workforce part-time when I was 10 or 11), and I couldn't imagine living a life without a public role of respect. The problem is that parenthood is still not seen as a role of public respect in our society.

Continue reading "the illusory trend to return to traditional women's roles, and what we can do about it"

July 18, 2005

internet soap operas and academic integrity

I have not been involved in new student orientation this year, for the first time in several years, and it feels strange to be denying myself the pleasure of advising incoming first-year undergraduates about course selections. So it is that I learned by reading my RSS feed of Planet Case that incoming students like Colin Slater are being introduced both to Blog@Case and to conversations about academic integrity by watching tv or movie excerpts (48 Hours for Colin, and Cheaters for one of the other new students who commented on Colin's post).

I came across Colin's post on Saturday, and when I came back to it this morning, it was after reading this old Wired article from May 1997 about the internet soap opera that was the early years of the WELL. The article is looooong, with hints of the essence of more recent internet phenomena like Meetup, Livejournal, and delicious, and it made me long for the same kind of rich insider history to be written about the Cleveland Freenet, which was a part of my online initiation back in the late 80s when I was a Case undergraduate. (There's a brief history of CFN here.) What I realized is that the history of another online community is being made as you read and comment -- the history of Blog@Case, which allows a management professor to welcome a new freshman to campus without even meeting him in person.

One of the premises of the early life of the WELL community is that electronic conversation flows better when the people engaging in the conversation online occasionally meet in person also. I hope that Colin and I will run into one another on campus sooner or later... we might discuss academic integrity, or what it takes to make a healthy blog community. Perhaps he'll share his opinion on Bruce Katz's statement (commenting on his firing of a prominent WELL employee) that "I do not believe that everyone knowing everything about everyone is a necessary condition for community." I expect that the incoming class of 2009 can teach older generations like mine a fair amount about the finer points of participating in the blogosphere and other online communities.

I am pleased to learn that we are introducing our newest students to the principles of academic integrity via a conversation, rather than a simple statement of expectations. This choice makes clear that there is more to academic integrity than avoiding plagiarism or cheating. It suggests that students are our partners in upholding a key value of our academic community -- the value of honoring the contributions that others make to our learning, by giving credit to them for the ideas they have authored, and not claiming authorship for ideas that are not our own. I hope that students will also learn that part of demonstrating academic integrity is refraining from expressing ideas as your own if you do not actually believe them. Holding onto a dissenting opinion and elaborating on it in a constructive way is part of how knowledge grows... saying what you think the teacher wants to hear just to get a good grade is not.

March 31, 2005

is it possible to plan beyond one lifetime?

I find it interesting that people in my social class in the US spend a lot of time thinking about whether they have enough money to bring a child into the world and get him or her through college, and so much less time thinking about whether there will be any natural resources left to buy by the time that child is an adult. It reminds me of a book I read back before I became a mother, in 1999, called Maybe One. Perhaps I need to reread that book, along with the BBC science article I linked to above about the scarcity of natural resources, and an ongoing free subscription to Dave Pollard's How to Save the World...

March 10, 2005

an online conversation about academics who blog

I'm posting a link here to my livejournal entry about the value of scholarly blogging because my livejournal doesn't allow trackbacks, but this journal does, and I want to note for Professor Lucas and Ms. Lilith that I have quoted their writing, which was inspired by a post on scribblingwoman by Professor Miriam Jones. Professor Jones might also want to point out to her tenure committee that she has 15 bloglines subscribers to scribblingwoman, including myself.

I'd be curious to hear the thoughts of professors from Case about whether blogging constitutes a scholarly contribution that should be recognized by appointments committees. I am in particular wondering what Professor Singham's opinion might be...