Strategic Conversations: Vital to Creative Adaptation or Reinforcers of Lazy Consensus?

MomentsOfImpactBK2014-04-24.jpg

Source of book image: online version of the WSJ review quoted and cited below.

(p. A15) “Moments of Impact” is at its best on the importance of promoting different perspectives. Businesses need to look at the world through as many disciplinary lenses as possible if they are to cope with the fast-changing threats that confront them. But day-to-day corporate life is all about fences and silos. Strategic conversations give companies a chance to examine their business models from the outside–and, as the authors put it, to “imagine operating within several different yet plausible environments.”
. . .
Mr. Ertel and Ms. Solomon argue that companies increasingly face a choice between what Joseph Schumpeter called creative destruction and what they call creative adaptation–and that strategic conversations are vital to creative adaptation. Perhaps so. But strategic conversations can also reinforce lazy consensus, as people try to justify their jobs and protect their turf. Many bold decisions are driven by the opposite of “conversations”–by senior managers deciding to lop-off functions or take the company in a radically new direction.

For the full review, see:
ADRIAN WOOLDRIDGE. “BOOKSHELF; Go Ahead, Strategize; The best ‘strategy meetings’ unleash fresh thinking and offer maverick views; the worst and dull, unstructured time-sucks.” The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., March 27, 2014): A15.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date March 26, 2014, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; Book Review: ‘Moments of Impact,’ by Chris Ertel and Lisa Kay Solomon; The best ‘strategy meetings’ unleash fresh thinking and offer maverick views; the worst and dull, unstructured time-sucks.”)

The book under review is:
Ertel, Chris, and Lisa Kay Solomon. Moments of Impact: How to Design Strategic Conversations That Accelerate Change. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014.

More Evidence that Humans May Not Have Killed Off the Woolly Mammoth After All

On April 20, 2014 I posted an entry citing research that humans may not have been the main cause of the extinction of the mammoths. The article quoted below provides further evidence:

(p. D2) Many woolly mammoths from the North Sea had a superfluous rib attached to their seventh vertebra, a sign that they suffered from inbreeding and harsh conditions during pregnancy, researchers report.

This may have contributed to their eventual extinction, say the scientists who looked at fossil samples that date to the late Pleistocene age, which ended about 12,000 years ago.
. . .
Woolly mammoths died out 12,000 to 10,000 years ago, when flowery plant covers disappeared from the tundra. Human hunting may also have contributed to their demise.
But the cervical ribs are a clear indication that “they were already struggling before that,” Dr. Galis said.

For the full story, see:
SINDYA N. BHANOO. “Observatory; In Extra Rib, a Harbinger of Mammoth’s Doom.” The New York Times (Tues., April 1, 2014): D2.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date MARCH 31, 2014.)

The mammoth research summarized above was published in:
Reumer, Jelle W.F., Clara M.A. ten Broek, and Frietson Galis. “Extraordinary Incidence of Cervical Ribs Indicates Vulnerable Condition in Late Pleistocene Mammoths.” PeerJ (2014).

Research on Dogs that Benefits Both Humans and Dogs

MooreEricaExaminesAkyra2014-04-24.jpg “Erica Moore examined Akyra, a shih tzu, in August before the dog was enrolled in Penn Vet’s canine mammary tumor program. She had surgery there.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. D6) Akyra’s mammary glands were riddled with tumors, including one the size of a golf ball. She would be hard to place in a home, and the medical care she needed would be expensive. The tumors could be cancerous.

“When my husband called and said they were going to leave one of the dogs behind because she had mammary tumors, I said, ‘No, you’re not!’ ” said Bekye Eckert, 49, a dog lover who lives outside Baltimore and has cared for several animals with mammary cancer.
Ms. Eckert arranged for Akyra to be enrolled in an innovative program at the University of Pennsylvania, where veterinary oncologists are learning about the progression of human breast cancer by treating mammary tumors in shelter dogs.
. . .
Generally, two sets of tumor samples are taken from each dog, one for the pathology lab and one for Dr. Troyanskaya to use for molecular analysis. Astrid, for example, had tumors in seven mammary glands that were mostly benign. The largest proved to be malignant.
Such a large set of samples is a gold mine for Dr. Troyanskaya, who is looking for changes in the expression of a specific gene or group of genes, or pathways linking groups of genes as the tumor becomes malignant.
. . .
In the meantime, stray dogs are getting free cancer treatment that makes it easier to find them permanent homes, and they are promised care for any recurrence. More than 100 dogs have been through the program; several have been adopted by women who also survived breast cancer.
For Akyra, there was good news. She had surgery in August, and veterinarians removed the large tumor and three smaller lesions. The pathology report gave her a clean bill of health: None were cancerous. She was adopted by Beth Gardner, a relocation consultant in Devon, Pa.

For the full story, see:
RONI CARYN RABIN. “By Treating Dogs, Answers About Breast Cancer.” The New York Times (Tues., April 1, 2014): D6.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date MARCH 31, 2014, and has the title “From Dogs, Answers About Breast Cancer.”)

Government Wire Inspectors Only Showed Up to Get Their Pay

(p. 121) Edison had originally planned to offer service to the entirety of south Manhattan, south of Canal Street and north of Wall Street, but engineering considerations forced him to carve out a smaller district, bounded by Wall, Nassau, Spruce, and Ferry Streets. Still, his company had to place underground some eighty thousand linear feet of electrical wire. This had never been attempted before, so it should not have been a surprise when H. O. Thompson, the city’s commissioner of public works, summoned Edison to his office to explain that the city would have to be assured that the lines were installed safely. Thompson was assigning five inspectors to oversee the work, whose cost would be covered by an assessment of $5 per day, per inspector, payable (p. 122) each week. When Edison left Thompson’s office, he was crestfallen, anticipating the harassment and delays ahead that would be caused by the inspectors’ interference. On the day that work began, however, the inspectors failed to appear. Their first appearance was on Saturday afternoon, to draw their pay. This set the pattern that the inspectors followed as the work proceeded through 1881 and into 1882.

Source:
Stross, Randall E. The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World. New York: Crown Publishers, 2007.

One Way to Appreciate All We Take for Granted

TheKnowledgeBK2014-04-24.jpg

Source of book image: http://knowledge.dsruptiv.net/en-gb/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/The-Knowledge-Full-Cover_lowres.jpg

(p. 8) Over the past generation or two we’ve gone from being producers and tinkerers to consumers. As a result, I think we feel a sense of disconnect between our modern existence and the underlying processes that support our lives. Who has any real understanding of where their last meal came from or how the objects in their pockets were dug out of the earth and transformed into useful materials? What would we do if, in some science-fiction scenario, a global catastrophe collapsed civilization and we were members of a small society of survivors?

My research has to do with what factors planets need to support life. Recently, I’ve been wondering what factors are needed to support our modern civilization. What key principles of science and technology would be necessary to rebuild our world from scratch?
. . .
. . . there are the many materials society requires: How do you transform base substances like clay and iron into brick or concrete or steel, and then shape that material into a useful tool? To learn a small piece of this, I spent a day in a traditional, 18th-century iron forge, learning the essentials of the craft of the blacksmith. Sweating over an open coke-fired hearth, I managed to beat a lump of steel into a knife. Once shaped, I got it cherry-red hot and then quenched it with a satisfying squeal into a water trough, before reheating the blade slightly to temper it for extra toughness.
. . .
. . . , it needn’t take a catastrophic collapse of civilization to make you appreciate the importance of understanding the basics of how devices around you work. Localized disasters can disrupt normal services, making a reasonable reserve of clean water, canned food and backup technologies like kerosene lamps a prudent precaution. And becoming a little more self-reliant is immensely rewarding in its own right. Thought experiments like these can help us to explore how our modern world actually came to be, and to appreciate all that we take for granted.

For the full commentary, see:
LEWIS DARTNELL. “OPINION; Civilization’s Starter Kit.” The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sun., MARCH 30, 2014): 8.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date MARCH 29, 2014.)

Dartnell’s commentary, quoted above, has been elaborated in his book:
Dartnell, Lewis. The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch. New York: Penguin Press, 2014.

Bill Clinton Says U.S. Control of Internet Protects Free Speech

(p. A11) . . . , Mr. Clinton, appearing on a panel discussion at a recent Clinton Global Initiative event, defended U.S. oversight of the domain-name system and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or Icann.
. . .
“I understand why the reaction in the rest of the world to the Edward Snowden declarations has given new energy to the idea that the U.S. should not be in nominal control of domain names on the Internet,” Mr. Clinton said. “But I also know that we’ve kept the Internet free and open, and it is a great tribute to the U.S. that we have done that, including the ability to bash the living daylights out of those of us who are in office or have been.
“A lot of people who have been trying to take this authority away from the U.S. want to do it for the sole purpose of cracking down on Internet freedom and limiting it and having governments protect their backsides instead of empower their people.”
Mr. Clinton asked Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia: “Are you at all worried that if we give up this domain jurisdiction that we have had for all these years that we will lose Internet freedom?”
“I’m very worried about it,” Mr. Wales answered. People outside the U.S. often say to him, “Oh, it’s terrible. Why should the U.S. have this special power?” His reply: “There is the First Amendment in the U.S., and there is a culture of free expression.”
He recalled being told on Icann panels to be more understanding of differences in cultures. “I have respect for local cultures, but banning parts of Wikipedia is not a local cultural variation that we should embrace and accept. That’s a human-rights violation.”

For the full commentary, see:
L. GORDON CROVITZ. “INFORMATION AGE; Open Internet: Clinton vs. Obama; The former president strongly defends the current system of oversight by the U.S.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., MARCH 31, 2014): A11.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the shorter title “INFORMATION AGE; Open Internet: Clinton vs. Obama.”)

Little Estonia Prepares Defense Against Russia’s Evil Empire

IlvesToomasEstoniaPresident2014-04-23.jpg

Toomis Hendrick Ilves, President of Estonia. Source of photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A13) Perched alone up in eastern Baltic are Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Their fear of Moscow propelled them to become the first and only former Soviet republics to seek the refuge of NATO. But now doubts are appearing. The West has responded tepidly to the Crimean aggression. Military budgets are at historic lows as a share of NATO economies. The alliance, which marked its 65th anniversary on Friday, has never faced the test of a hot conflict with Moscow.

In this new debate over European security, Mr. Ilves plays a role out of proportion to Estonia’s size (1.3 million people) and his limited constitutional powers. A tall man who recently turned 60, he has the mouth of a New Jersey pol–he grew up in Leonia–and wears the bow ties of a lapsed academic. Americans may recall his Twitter TWTR -0.15% feud two years ago over Estonia’s economy with economist Paul Krugman, whom Mr. Ilves called “smug, overbearing & patronizing.”
. . .
Estonia managed on Thursday to get NATO’s blessing to turn the brand-new Amari military airfield near Tallinn into the first NATO base in the country. This small Balt tends to be proactive. While European governments axed some $50 billion from military budgets in the last five year amid fiscal belt-tightening, Estonia is only one of four NATO allies to devote at least 2% of gross domestic product to defense, supposedly the bare minimum for security needs.
“It lessens your moral clout if you have not done what you have agreed to do,” Mr. Ilves says of defense budgets. His barb hits directly at neighboring Lithuania and Latvia, which both spend less than 1% of GDP on their militaries.

For the full commentary, see:
MATTHEW KAMINSKI. “THE SATURDAY INTERVIEW; An American Ally in Putin’s Line of Fire; Estonia’s president, who was raised in New Jersey, on how Crimea has changed ‘everything’ and what NATO should do now.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., April 5, 2014): A13.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date April 4, 2014.)