Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

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What-are-you-reading-Wednesday: Leadership and the New Science

September 23, 2009

By  Larry Rowland, Chair of the Indiana Humanities Council’s Board of Directors

It has been said that the only things that will always exist are “death, taxes, and change.”  Our world has seen a tremendous amount of change in the last year; declining stock markets, wars, elections, and the U.S. government taking an active role in bailing out major companies.  It is perhaps the rare and undiscovered individual who predicted all of these changes. The speed of recent change has created a sense of disquiet among many, and who among us would not like to once again see the reasonable predictability of market growth? 

For centuries, we have built our expectations, and our companies, around the precepts of Newtonian physics.  We, and our companies, have worked hard to control our environment, our markets, and our workforce.  Top management’s responsibility in this model has been to set the corporate direction, and demand that the rest of the corporation fall in line in pursuit of the senior leader’s goals. Yet in spite of all of the corporate command and control structures we have built, we have painfully learned that equilibrium does not exist.

Dr. Elizabeth Wheatley, in her book, Leadership and the New Science, suggests that we should be building our companies and our leadership styles using the principles associated with quantum physics.  Quantum physics suggests that there is an interrelatedness of organisms with their environment.  Dr. Wheatley makes the case that leaders should listen to each employee, and develop cooperative teams to focus on the challenges facing their company or organization.  This new focus also encourages the free flow of information throughout the organization rather than using the “top down” strategy used by corporations for decades.  Focusing on the values of the individuals and aligning them with corporate goals, she postulates, can enable an organization to more quickly and flexibly respond to rapid changes occurring in the environment and markets.

Most of us for years have worked for leaders who have taken their leadership cues from Newtonian physics.  What results do you think could be achieved if leaders began listening to their colleagues more, encouraging the free flow of information, and aligning the goals of the individuals with the goals of the company?

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Hoosier Cabinets “freed the housewife”

June 11, 2009

 By Molly Armstrong Head, producer and development director of Hoosier History Live!

Hoosier Cabinet

An example of a Hoosier Cabinet. Photo courtest of Wikipedia.

I never knew people could get in such a tizzy about Hoosier Cabinets. After I heard Nancy Hiller, author of The Hoosier Cabinet in Kitchen History (IU Press) and a Bloomington cabinetmaker, talk about the social history of the Hoosier Cabinet with Nelson Price on Hoosier History Live! radio show this week, I called my friend Glynis, who has a “Sellers” in her 1920s era kitchen. Her kitchen is so crammed with stuff that you can hardly realize that there is a valuable antique in there. Glynis had listened to the show sticking her radio out the back window; she lives in the country about 50 miles from WICR’s radio tower. (Modern humans can hear the show online anywhere it airs, but Glynis is no-tech.)

As I learned on the show, these marvelous inventions were marketed in the early part of the 20th century as “a boon to women.” And they sold like hot cakes. They had spice racks, storage bins, a built-in flour sifter, a pull-out counter. And you could sit down in front of them to do your work. They centralized the food storage and preparation area, saving many steps.

More than two million Hoosier cabinets had been sold by 1920, meaning that they could be found in one in ten American homes. One old ad exclaimed, “Lincoln had freed the slaves, and now the Hoosier has freed the housewife from unnecessary drudgery!” 

Now, I reflect that, for the last fifteen years or so, designer kitchens, food prep, gardening, kitchen gadgets, and haute cuisine seem to be absolutely the yuppie, upscale thing. 

Although the Hoosier kitchen sure has changed, I think our society will always believe that having all the right stuff in your kitchen tells people that you have “arrived.” (Where, exactly, I’m not quite sure.)  

Next week (June 13), join Hoosier History Live! at 11:30 a.m. on WICR FM (88.7) to hear 90-year-old P.E. MacAllister reflect on civic history.

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Friday: (B)Lincoln (B)logs

May 30, 2008

Lincoln was not just a great problem solver but he had a hawk’s eye for spotting new opportunities. I’m specifically thinking of his unrivaled ability to take advantage of new technologies in their infancies and utilize them in ways unintended by their creators.

My colleague Nancy has already mentioned (in the comments section) the book she’s reading on how Lincoln was an early adopter of the telegraph and how he used that technology to improve the logistical structure of the northern army (setting the pattern for continued American excellence in military logistics).

Equally savvy, and more in line with our mission as a state humanities council, Lincoln understood the increased intimacy created between candidate and voter when the latter could view the former in photographs. During his campaign for president in 1860, 35 photographs of Lincoln by Matthew Brady were circulated, making Lincoln the first president to use the new medium for political means. This political and artistic genius culminated, in Lincoln’s own mind, in his eventual victory. As Lincoln would say afterward, “Make no mistake, Brady made me President!”

The image here is not a Matthew Brady image but was taken by Alexander Gardner to use as a model for a portrait of the president he wanted to paint and is one of several works offered through Picturing America, a collection of iconic images from throughout American history.

(Click on the image to see a larger version of it on the Picturing America website.)

Over 600 Indiana schools and libraries have received the Picturing America prints.

This entry was posted by: Jim