Entries in "on the planet's future"

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 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"

November 10, 2006

a noble profession

Which is the most noble of professions? Certainly, medicine is a top contender -- and one of the reasons is the Hippocratic Oath. In the next 100 years, though, it's possible that management will give medicine "a run for its money", so to speak. Here's a quote from my colleague, Julia Grant:

"all business schools are under an imperative to try to get better at teaching strong ethics, at teaching strong business values that do have to do with creating a better world. Business cannot be just about profit."
(from Peter Krouse's October 28 article in the Plain Dealer, "Honor among managers")

The dean of Thunderbird, the Garvin School of International Management, told the story of Thunderbird's new oath during the BAWB conference in Cleveland last month. Some are skeptical about the ability of a voluntary oath taken by students at one management school to change the practices of managers around the world. Normally, I'm known for my skepticism. In this instance, though, I believe it's more important to match the high intent of those students with practical actions which will reinforce their intent.

I'm lining up beside those recent Thunderbird graduates who signed their oath, and beside any Weatherhead students who will draft and then sign our own version. I will do whatever I can to make management practice more ethical, day by day, so that we can truly say, 100 years from now, that management is a noble profession.

October 01, 2006

management skills save the world, one orphanage at a time

One of my former students, and a recent alumna of Case Western Reserve, has been blogging about her experiences as a volunteer in Kenya. I have found her entries touching and inspiring.

"Each time someone stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope." -- Robert F. Kennedy

Continue reading "management skills save the world, one orphanage at a time"

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"

August 07, 2006

Saving Peter's leg

Be sure to click through and read Kelly’s blog entry about Saving Peter’s leg. Such good work she is doing in Uganda!

See also my post from back in April about the Global Night Commute and the demonstration of support from Clevelanders. It includes links to a DVD and bracelets you can buy to support the work of IC's work in Uganda. I own a copy of the main DVD, and would be happy to lend it to anyone I know.

August 04, 2006

why reducing unsustainability fails

From John Ehrenfeld, a just-released Change This manifesto:

Beyond Sustainability: Why an All-Consuming Campaign to Reduce Unsustainability Fails

After a quick skim, this looks like a must-read. What do you think?

April 26, 2006

reinventing jobs, careers, and the w

"Reinventing Jobs, Careers, and the World of Work"

It's a good sign when three posts emerge in the same morning of blog reading, all ready to be packaged up in a theme. It probably indicates that all the cultivation I have been doing of online relationships -- reading blogs, adding some to my Bloglines so I can read them again later, commenting, making my own posts -- is starting to yield fruit for intellectual enjoyment.

Click through to read on if you'd like to learn more about Diane at Zaadz, Miriam Peskowitz, and David Pollard, and how the different social movemnts they help to advance are converging.

Continue reading "reinventing jobs, careers, and the w"

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?

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 13, 2006

the work rhythms of academic and professional life

In this 2001 essay, Heather Menzies (with Janice Newson) asks why academics are not more concerned about the move to online education, and suggests, in her answer, that they are too overworked to speak up.

"Just how many hours a week are we actually working, not just on campus but catching up on e-mail and e-committee work at home in the evenings and on weekends? (In what seems to be the only study of its kind, the Association of University Teachers in the U.K. found that the average work week for academics had risen to 59 hours by the mid 1990s, with women clocking an average of 64.5 hours a week.)."

Reading this made me wonder whether it is a good thing that I can now read the Plain Dealer online before dawn.

Continue reading "the work rhythms of academic and professional life"

February 21, 2006

problem solvers wanted

In a faculty meeting yesterday, one of my colleagues argued that we could measure our degree of success in developing our students' skill levels by assessing the difference in their salaries before they entered a degree program and after they left. He asked a rhetorical question, something along the lines of this: "Isn't anything we do that will have value for students going to get translated into more money for them after they leave here?"

I could not help myself. I bellowed, from the last row, "NO!"

I feel quite strongly that an MBA is not just a ticket to corporate success. It should also be a ticket to superior problem-solving skills, and an understanding of how businesses can be used as vehicles for solving world problems. When I ask my students what their top 5 values are, relatively few of them say "getting rich"... most of them talk about things like honoring their family, enjoying time with friends, and pursuing meaningful achievements. The value of our degree programs must lie in the extent to which we develop the skills that students need to live noble lives, acting in accord with their values.

James Cascio at Worldchanging makes an impassioned argument that environmentalists need to be working on solving the poverty problem, and I would argue that businesspeople should be working with them. CK Prahalad argues in "The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid" that pulling those in poverty out and into a class of entrepreneurial consumers is the next great challenge for business. I would argue that pulling all of us into the status of sustainable producers and consumers is fundamental to the question of whether our global society will remain healthy, or implode within my daughter's lifetime.

CK Prahalad's book argues that working at the bottom of the pyramid is profitable. I'd assert that even if it yields lower lines of financial return than other types of work, it's still worth pursuing. There are more important things in life than making more money, and solving the problems of poverty and environmental degradation are two of those most important tasks for my generation and those that follow.

More information about companies pursuing this strategy is available here and here and here, and I'd appreciate receiving links to other similar collections of information, as well.

February 20, 2006

Global Discover Contest

The Weatherhead School of Management’s Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit (BAWB) has partnered with Net Impact to develop the Global Discover Contest, which invites people to offer suggestions on new ways for business to live in mutual benefit with the earth’s ecosystems and world’s societies. The deadline is April 1. Learn more at this URL.

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.

October 08, 2005

An entire country, networked without wires...

David Pollard shared a link to a press release from Rogers Communications and Bell Canada announcing a plan to install high-speed wireless networks in all the populated areas of Canada within three years.

That raises the ante a bit on OneCleveland's efforts to wire downtown, doesn't it? What if we didn't think of ourselves as in a race with Philadelphia, but as part of a relay-race team with them in the competition with the country to our north?

Of course, it won't be free; not with Rogers Communications involved. And I can't figure out from the press release if the network will allow internet access at the same kind of ultra broadband speeds that OneCleveland argues are the infrastructure on which high tech development must be based. Still, it's intriguing. I wonder if businesses will see this as a reason to base themselves in Canadian cities? It might give cities like Toronto an edge in attracting immigrant entrepreneurs or joint ventures. Time will tell...

September 01, 2005

The fury of nature

Until yesterday, I had limited my exposure to news and information about Hurricane Katrina for my daughter's sake, since she is still young enough to be very frightened by a garden-variety thunderstorm. Then I received an email from the dean's assistant reminding me that our former dean, Scott Cowen, is now president at Tulane University, which was in Katrina's path. Here's a link to his messages to the Tulane community. Their campus does not seem to have sustained as much damage as other areas of the city, but note that his last message was on August 30; yesterday, on August 31, Tulane University Hospital was evacuated due to flooding from the levee breaches (according to CNN).

Of course, these are not the only effects of Hurricane Katrina; they're just the ones that happened to hit home the hardest for me. I was drawn into reading firsthand reports yesterday when I came across this collection of links in my Bloglines folder.... and I eventually had to wrench myself away, because the tales were too vivid, too raw.

At Worldchanging, there was commentary yesterday on the human drives which lead people to build the port of New Orleans on shifting mud; indeed, it seems to be built into the American DNA to choose short-term financial gains over long-term safety and sustainability. Nevertheless, at least the devastation of Katrina helps to underline this pattern, which has been identified before, but which has negative effects that are now powerfully underscored.

I'm reading a book called The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths Toward a Moral Economy, which gives me some hope that we may be able to reprogram ourselves, no matter how massive an undertaking that seems right now. It will be interesting to see how decisions are made about rebuilding vs. relocating.

July 29, 2005

voluntary collaborations on the web

Every time I run across an example of a large-scale voluntary collaboration on the WWW, my optimism for the future is reinforced. These types of projects often have the feel of an open source computer programming effort, in that their aim is to produce a collective good by involving anyone who wished to be involved in the production process. In many cases, they also aim to make the product or service available to all for free. They are not always focused on computer programs, though -- Wikipedians, for instance, are focused on building a storehouse of knowledge for future generations, in over 200 different languages.

The desire to share knowledge with others, accurately, and from a neutral point of view, embodies a set of values that are close to my heart (and are shared by most university professors, I would hope). Indeed, the challenge of teaching individuals how to distinguish between established facts and research conclusions on the one hand, and hypotheses and opinions on the other, is central to a university's teaching mission. Sorting through those hypotheses and opinions and making judgments about which can be moved into the category of facts and conclusions is central to a university's scholarly mission.

I'm thrilled and inspired by the idea of a Wikipedia, and even the idea of Wikibooks is appealing. When I encountered the fledgling Wikiversity, though, I realized that the publishers of encyclopedias and books must be somewhat less than thrilled by these potential free competitors. What will become of universities if the Wikipedians are able to expand their success with their online encyclopedia into the realm of university courses? Will everyone choose to pursue their higher education online, rather than attending courses in person on an old-style university campus? I doubt it, based on my belief that many things (particularly in my field, the study of human interaction in organizations) cannot be understood merely by reading about them.

I do wonder whether anyone in organizational behavior is studying what makes these open source efforts work. Efforts like Drupal, for instance, combine long periods of work coordinated via the web and email with face-to-face conferences, and my hypothesis is that when online communication leads to face-to-face communication, the effort will be more likely to sustain itself and achieve goals for progress defined by the participants. Understanding how these voluntary collaborations which make use of the web work would help contribute to our understanding of transformative cooperation more generally.

I'm off to work on the introductory chapter of our forthcoming book, A Handbook of Transformative cooperation: New Designs and Dynamics, to be published in the traditional mode next year. (I'm not sure my colleagues would consider something published on Wikibooks to be a valuable contribution, yet!) Still, I hope that my colleagues in the blogosphere will let me know if they run across any research about what makes open source collaborations effective!

July 07, 2005

my heart goes out to Londoners

The story about the terrorist attacks in London has held my attention for much of the day. I have vivid memories of distracting Julia, only 9 months old, from the television coverage of the 9/11 attacks. The Madrid attacks last year brought equally horrific images. It would appear that we have entered the age of terror, and for the good of humanity, I hope the age will be brief. Perhaps I have been reading too much Octavia Butler recently, but I'm finding it hard to be optimistic.

Why can't we resolve our differences through dialogue?

My heart goes out to the victims and their families today.

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...