Friday, October 2, 2009

Too Much Time Away!

We've been hard at work on our book, tentatively entitled Life Sustaining Organizations: A User's Manual, which describes how Structural Dynamics can be applied to the conscious design and maintenance of organizations that affirm the vitality of the workforce, rather than draining life out of people by demanding the fragmentation of skills, character and spirit.

The good news about this entry is that we're making headway; the bad news is that we haven't had a lot of bandwidth for blogging!

To remedy our absence from the web, we're going to try something different and more Twitteresque than what our entries have been to date, i.e., short and, hopefully, more frequent references to items of current interest. We have some concern that the graphic quality of our posts may decline, but we're willing to accept that risk for a while and hope that you will still find some relevance here to your interests.

1. The NYT continues to be one the great information bargains available, as far as we're concerned. People at this institution have spent generations thinking about how to organized huge volumes of data across a wide range of categories and present it in a compelling way to people like us. It is full of useful information virtually every day. For example, one of the lead stories today concerns the way in which MIT uses its students' blog to recruit new applicants by conveying a first hand experience of the school, rather than simply a formal presentation of institutionally vetted data.

In discussing the "blogosphere" at MIT, student Cristen Chinea exclaims: “M.I.T. is the closest you can get to living in the Internet,” and Ms. Chinea reported, “IT IS SO TRUE. Love. It. So. Much.” [Emphasis added] The concept of living in the Internet strikes us as being very important. It seems to be a vivid manifestation of someone who has transcended time and place to take up full-time residency in the cyber world. Of course, this way of being is customary to millions, but, as the article indicates, the fact that so many young people are living in (as contrasted with "on") the Web, is viewed with alarm by institutions used to more rigid boundaries of who's in and who's out.

2. Youth Magnet Cities is a recent piece from the Wall Street Journal that also explores what Creative Class young people want in the way of a home town. Richard Florida, creative class sociologist, (at right) is one of the panelists who developed the metrics that led to the selection of Washington DC as the current top destination city for charged up men, women and others in their teens and twenties. Here's a list of the panelists, all of whom are probably worth knowing more about:

Steven Cochrane, managing director, Moody's, head of the Web site's U.S. regional forecasting service and editor of its monthly Regional Financial Review.

Ross DeVol, director of regional economics, the Milken Institute, a Santa Monica, Calif., nonprofit, and researcher on technology and its impact on regional and national economies.

Richard Florida, author of "Who's Your City" and "The Rise of the Creative Class," and director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management.

Rachel Franklin, senior lecturer, public policy, at the University of Maryland; former deputy director of the Association of American Geographers, and author of a 2003 Census Bureau report on migration patterns among young, educated workers.

William Frey, demographer and senior fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program of the Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C., and a research professor in population studies at the University of Michigan.

David Plane, professor of geography and regional development, University of Arizona, Tucson; a senior editor of the Journal of Regional Science, and researcher on age-related factors in migration.

3. The influence and freedom of women is one of the key drivers of global change to which we pay attention. There is a fairly wide-spread assumption in liberal, Western circles that the political and organizational power of women is growing, and there is a lot of data to support that view. For example, the Financial Times recently published a "definitive ranking of the world's 50 most powerful and successful female chief executives," including power houses like Areva's Anne Lauvergeon, a French woman who is responsible for a workforce of 75,000.

However, as the graphic below indicates, there are many continents where women play an infinitesimal role in private sector power, and only 3 per cent of Fortune 500 chief executives are women.

So, it is certainly not inevitable that women will achieve anything like full equality with men in the halls of power. In fact, some international conflict scenarios would result in significant reductions of the gains made by women, e.g., those that involve armed forces dominated by men. A force such as this, which is clearly important but whose exact direction cannot be known is called a "critical uncertainty."