How To Write Better Harvard Business Review Articles: Have Cormac McCarthy Do Your Editing - "I really enjoyed this anecdote about the writing of W. Brian Arthur's classic article on increasing returns from 1996." (via) [more inside]
GrowUp: the future of food - "The new concept of commercial aquaponics, argue Hofman and Webster, has a much-reduced environmental impact. Companion farming fish and crops dates back to the Aztecs, but it took until the 2010s, in Chicago, to move it indoors at any scale. In the UK, only eco-smallholdings have so far attempted it, and the only European aquaponics farms of note use purpose-built greenhouses. GrowUp's model, by contrast, is to fit out empty urban buildings, use no chemicals, employ LED lights, source 100 per cent renewable energy and, crucially, be based within five miles of its customer base in a dense urban area."
Six months after we first discussed Zappo's planned move to a Holocracy, how is it going? When the deadline arrived on the last day of April, 14 percent of the company, 210 people, took the [severance] offer. Twenty of them were managers, I was told, out of a total of 246. It was a difficult day. Tear-stained faces replaced the typical smiles on the Zappos campus. [more inside]
Mike Bulajewski on the war between labor and management in the software industry, as manifested in the rise (and possible fall) of the Agile development: From this subset of principles, it’s clear that although Agile positions itself as a software development methodology, a closer inspection reveals clues to a greater ambition: to protect the interests of software engineers at work. [...] With this agenda, it is possible to characterize the Agile movement as a labour union.
In a new study from researchers at Columbia University, of nearly 22,000 full-time workers (from a dataset from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions), they saw that 18 percent of supervisors and managers reported symptoms of depression. For blue-collar workers, that figure was 12 percent, and for owners and executives, it was only 11 percent.
When hackers take millions of records from the Office of Personnel Management, clearly the solution to the problem is more online surveillance. (Reuters)
Stephen Fry announces in an exclusive interview that Jony Ive has been promoted to Apple's Chief Design Officer (CDO). Ive becomes the third C-level executive at the company, a step up from his former position as Senior Vice President of Design. Tim Cook followed up on Fry's announcement with a company-wide email detailing all of the changes to the management structure of the design department.
In 2013, Zappos founder Tony Hsieh announced plans to reorganize the company as a holacracy, or a management structure that replaces job titles and hierarchical relationships with self-organizing units. The move has generated resistance from Zappos employees; so much so that, in a long memo, Hsieh says he is going to "rip the bandaid" and give employees until April 30 to either get on board with holacracy or take a severance package. Meanwhile, Hsieh and his close associates are having difficulty saying what the principles of holacracy even are. Commentary on the memo from Andrew Hill and Kim Nash.
A few years ago, I had lunch with the head of a major motion picture studio, who declared that his central problem was not finding good people—it was finding good ideas. Since then, when giving talks, I’ve asked audiences whether they agree with him. Almost always there’s a 50/50 split, which has astounded me because I couldn’t disagree more with the studio executive. Pixar President Ed Catmull on the culture that generates Pixar's artistic and commercial success.
"His breakthrough insight was that the best terror cells work a lot like a big nonprofit group. Like the Boy Scouts of America." From studying the scouts, he determined the best way to stop terrorists is to target their bureaucrats – not top leaders. “The reason I like the Boy Scouts,” Atkins said in an interview, “is they face a lot of the same management challenges that al-Qaeda does.” [more inside]
The Economist examines the cult of the genius GM.
In sports, just like the rest of life, the rich keep getting richer. Anyone who saw or read Moneyball knows that the deck is stacked against small-market Major League Baseball (MLB) teams. Their only hope of competing, Michael Lewis’s story goes, is to acquire brilliant, innovative general managers (GMs) like his protagonist Billy Beane, who have mastered the “art of winning an unfair game” by outmaneuvering wealthier clubs. The problem with this narrative is that there is nothing to stop the sport’s plutocrats from hiring the finest minds money can buy, just as they sign the best athletes.The deep-pocketed Dodgers have lured away small market Tampa Bay's heralded GM Andrew Friedman to find out what happens when a man who consistently builds winners with one of the smallest revenue streams in the game can do with a payroll in excess of $200 million.
"Draft Day," "Moneyball," and the rise of the sports management movie. There’s a new breed of sports movie in town, one that does away with all that pesky team building and ersatz democracy. These films celebrate the real heroes of sports, the real heroes of any workplace: the bosses.
Sean Blanda asks, "Do We Really Need Managers?" He interviews one of the founders of Treehouse, a startup company which has transitioned to a structure with no one in a traditional management role. To show that such an approach can work in the long term, Blanda refers to Gore - managerless since 1958. [more inside]
The Myth of the Visionary Leader. "But just knowing that great leadership is not always going to look great, or even make us feel inspired, could help gird us against the power of big personality and encourage us to make more sober choices."
A series of BBC News Magazine articles on the office as workplace: (i) How the office was invented; (ii) The ancient Chinese exam that inspired modern job recruitment (previously); (iii) The invention of the career ladder; (iv) The arrival of women in the office; (v) Do we still need the telephone?; (vi) Are there too many managers?; (vii) The era of the sexually charged office; (viii) The decline of privacy in open-plan offices; (ix) How the computer changed the office forever and (x) Why did offices become like the home?—by columnist Lucy Kellaway. [more inside]
It hit me this morning that perhaps all of my endless toil and hard work has landed me here. I've transferred so much within the company that all paperwork on me has been long since misplaced. I exist only in a computer program that spits out a 4 digit paycheck to my bank account every other Thursday - just another tick on the underbelly of the corporate warthog. Too senior to be fired, too misunderstood to be bothered, I am truly the forgotten employee.
Boston taxi cab drivers, often cheated, work in a world where risk and reward are a mismatch. [more inside]
The credit card processor Stripe has an interesting policy of email transparency within the company (previously).
The African King With A Multi-Billion Dollar Empire RBH functions as a communitybased investment company whose primary investment aim is to generate the income required for the funding of sustainable projects. Income generated from RBH’s commercial interests is invested in infrastructural development, as well as in the members of the Nation itself. Over the past decade, more than R4 billion ($475 million) has been spent on roads, utilities, schools, clinics and other public amenities. This has benefited not only the Bafokeng, but other people living in the North West Province of South Africa, the area which the RBN calls home.
"We have little trouble recognizing that a chess grandmaster’s victory over a novice is skill, as well as assuming that Paul the octopus’s ability to predict World Cup games is due to chance. But what about everything else?" [Luck and Skill Untangled: The Science of Success]
From the mid 40s to the mid 50s Coronet Instructional Films were always ready to provide social guidance for teenagers on subjects as diverse as dating, popularity, preparing for being drafted, and shyness, as well as to children on following the law, the value of quietness in school, and appreciating our parents. They also provided education on topics such as the connection between attitudes and health, what kind of people live in America, how to keep a job, supervising women workers, the nature of capitalism, and the plantation System in Southern life. Inside is an annotated collection of all 86 of the complete Coronet films in the Prelinger Archives as well as a few more. Its not like you had work to do or anything right? [more inside]
The Sponsor Effect: Breaking through the Last Glass Ceiling (pdf) Women aren't making it to the top. Despite gains in middle and senior management, they hold just 3 percent of Fortune 500 CEO positions. In the C-suite, they're outnumbered four to one. What's keeping women under the glass ceiling? High-performing women simply don't have the sponsorship they need to reach the top. The study found that women underestimate the role sponsorship plays in their advancement. And those who do grasp its importance fail to cultivate it. It's also a classic catch-22: a woman's personal choices, whatever they may be, brand her as not quite leadership material. What will it take to promote sponsorship?
In 2003, the BBC reported that a population explosion of Great Gerbils had destroyed more than 4 million hectares of grasslands in China's north-western Xinjiang region -- an area about the size of Switzerland. By 2005 the damage covered 5 million hectares, and the Xinjuang Regional Headquarters for Controlling Locusts and Rodents were reported to be breeding and attracting pairs of golden eagles to curb the gerbil population. So McSweeney's Joshuah Bearman was assigned to the story. His report: An Investigation Into Xinjiang's Growing Swarm of Great Gerbils, Which May or May Not be Locked in a Death-Struggle With the Golden Eagle, With Important Parallels and/or Implications Regarding Koala Bears, The Pied Piper, Spongmonkeys, Cane Toads, Black Death, [and] Text-Messaging..
The current system of corporate governance is bunk. Capitalist corporations are on the way to certain extinction. Replete with hierarchies that are exceedingly wasteful of human talent and energies, intertwined with toxic finance, co-dependent with political structures that are losing democratic legitimacy fast, a form of post-capitalist, decentralised corporation will, sooner or later, emerge.An analysis of the management and organizational style of Valve Software.
“Someone who is exceptional in their role is not just a little better than someone who is pretty good,” Mark Zuckerberg said recently. “They are 100 times better.” Bull hockey, says Bill Taylor in the Harvard Business Review: great people are overrated. See also Great People are Overrated, II and Malcolm Gladwell's 2002 take on the same theme, The Talent Myth.
Why Amazon Can't Make A Kindle In the USA. Does It Really Matter That Amazon Can't Manufacture A Kindle In the USA? Amazon & Kindle Part 3: It's Not Just Manufacturing! A cogent look at why today's prevailing approach to cost and manufacturing is wrongheaded.
"Taylor always said that scientific management would usher in a "mental revolution," and it has. Modern life is Taylorized life, the Taylor biographer Robert Kanigel observed, a dozen years back. Above your desk, the clock is ticking; on the shop floor, the camera is rolling. Manage your time, waste no motion, multitask: your iPhone comes with a calendar, your car with a memo pad. "Who is Schmidt?" journalists wanted to know, a century ago. Vell, ve are." [The history of management consulting]
No hierarchy, no supervisors, no managers, no bosses. How does the philosophy that "authoritarians cannot impose commitments, only commands" translate into a successful company? [more inside]
How to feed 9 billion people: The global food supply is starting to get tight, with increasing sensitivity to droughts and floods causing price spikes and food shortages. The UK commissioned a report to examine how to feed a planet with a population that is set to increase to 9 billion by 2050. [more inside]
Wondering at the route US vs. German unemployment has taken, I found some clues here and there, but the overriding factor seems to be the German model and works councils. [more inside]
This will be helpful if crossing out to-do lists and calendars work for you when you want to get organized... [more inside]
How to Save a Dying Ocean - "New England fishermen have mixed feelings about a programme designed to allow overfished species to recover. Mark Schrope reports on how catch shares have scientists fishing for answers." (via) [more inside]
The G-Cans (warning: mind-blowing photos inside) water collecting system in Kasukabe City, Japan is a massive underground silo network (more photos) in the greater Tokyo area designed to control flooding (note: this site is in Japanese with English tour link) from typhoons. [more inside]
A series of studies conducted at GE's Hawthorne Works in Cicero, Illinois in the 1920s remain some of the most important in social science, with a lasting impact on the working lives of almost everybody. Before the Hawthorne Experiments, the approach to work was to treat humans like machines, optimizing their movements and time. But the researchers in Cicero discovered that any change in the workplace, even dimming the lights, increased productivity, because the plant workers reacted to being studied. The "Hawthorne Effect" launched a management revolution, suggesting that worker's feelings and attitudes might actually be important. Except, according a new paper by the author of Freakonomics, the results of the Hawthorne studies "proved to be entirely fictional."
calibre is a free and open source e-book library management application developed by users of e-books for users of e-books. [more inside]
The Gervais Principle, Or The Office According to “The Office”. Warning: link may evoke baleful despair!
"The most important of the all-too-human functions of consultants is to sanctify and communicate opinion. Like ministers of information, consultants condense the message, smooth out the dissonances, unify the rhetoric, and then repeat and amplify it ad nauseam through the client's rank and file. The chief message to be communicated is that you will be expected to work much harder than you ever have before and your chances of losing your job are infinitely greater than you ever imagined."If you've ever known a management consultant, this explains why they always seem to have that "outrageously unjustified level of self-confidence." A fascinating insider's look into the anthropology of business consulting -- Masters of Illusion: The Great Management Consultancy Swindle
Netflix's awesome vacation policy -- famous for crowdsourcing, Netflix is now making waves with its employee handbook. (via fs)
On the role of MBA-based management culture in the current credit-crisis. Downloadable audio and transcript of a radio show that presents some strong opinions on MBA oriented management culture. [more inside]
Where Is Bob? We have a manager — Bob. Bob is incompetent, overweight, unattractive, uncouth, socially awkward, and generally, not a very nice person at all. For a while, we were convinced that Bob had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. But then, something happened — Bob stopped showing up for work on a regular basis. Sometimes he wouldn’t even bother explaining his absence, acting as if spontaneous five-day weekends were simply the norm. And that is how everyone came to wonder — where is Bob?
"Your anger just earned you a car wash, ma'am." Gas prices in California are hovering around an upsetting $4.58 per gallon. One gas station in the Bay Area is offering stress relief: a chance to dunk a Shell employee and an Express Rant for an Express car wash. The owner, Bobak Bakhtiari, tells NPR: “Cashiers are trained to really encourage all forms of expression during the rant. Well, except for throwing a chair through the window.”
The head of a small company may still choose to be a tyrant; a large organization is compelled by its structure to be one
In an artificial world, only extremists live naturally. Or: You weren't meant to have a boss. On the other hand, maybe you are.
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