Weak ties – S17.4

Read Only Connect, by Pamela Pavliscak, which examines the link between weak ties and strong relationships. The article is an interesting blend of the technical and the social.

I look forward to reading your comments.

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Servant leadership – S17.3

Read Mindvalley Authors’ article Why Servant Leadership is the Best Way to Lead Others, and share your thoughts below. Don’t forget to come back in a few days and comment on another student’s post.

I hope you enjoyed the course, and I hope you found a topic that interests you for your final essay.

I look forward to reading your comments on this post.

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Meeting humor – S17.2

Read Sarah Cooper’s 10 Tricks to Appear Smart During Meetings. While these ten items are meant to be funny, they each contain important insights into some aspect of human nature and collective human behavior. Building on what you have learned in organizational behavior, leadership, and the current course, as well as through your own life experience, comment below on one or more item, describing what you see as the insight behind the humor.

Remember to return in a few days and comment on another student’s remarks.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

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Tragedies – S17.1

Click on the title of Rob Leathern’s article Escaping the Tragedy of the Commons, and read what he has to say about overfishing and internet adblockers. Come back to this post and make a comment below on some aspect of his ideas. Then, return to this post in a couple of days to comment on a comment made by one of the other students in the class.

Your comments should reflect your thoughts on an issue raised in the article, based on your own prior learning and experience, as well as on the material we have covered in class.

If it is the first time you have replied to an article on this blog, then there will be a time delay before your comment appears, in order for me to give approval.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

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Economic development and development economics


Economic development and development economics are related concepts that refer to our efforts to understand and eradicate the economic disparities that exist between nations, as well as between regions within individual countries, and even between neighboring communities. While socioeconomic inequality has existed since the establishment of human settlements, our current understanding of these concepts emerged after World War II, primarily as a result of the American perspective that part of its post-war obligation/mission was to modernize the so-called underdeveloped nations of the world. This initiative became the mandate of the so-called Bretton Woods organizations (World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and what would later be known as the World Trade Organization).

Economic development is the action of increasing the socioeconomic status of a group, as a result of the establishment of enabling policies, or through community-based initiatives. Both the mechanisms and the products of development can include such aspects as increasing…

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Crises of Noise – S16.4

In the last few pages of my book, Governance and Social Leadership (CBU Press, 2014), I discuss the impact of noise on the development of governance and leadership. We did not have time to cover this topic at length in class, but it is an area that I think is of critical importance when it comes to developing an understanding of why we are continually hearing about crises in governance and leadership in all areas of human activity. Rather than restating my remarks, here is the central portion of that text.

We have become so accustomed to a noisy world, that our ability to be quiet has all but vanished. In fact, it is likely that for many people, the few moments of genuine quiet they experience induce as much, if not more, anxiety than the normal cacophony to which they are exposed. We are barraged with so much visual, sonic and tactile data that our overloaded senses shut down out of exhaustion. On the rare occasion when we are immersed in quiet, we fidget and fuss, searching for distraction – no longer knowing how to cope. Applying this notion more broadly, I would suggest that the current problems we are encountering with our systems of governance and leadership are best viewed as crises of noise.

Communications experts speak about the signal-to-noise ratio of a transmission. What this concept expresses is the extent to which the meaningful and intentional part of a message can win out against the interference that it encounters. Advances in information and communications technologies have provided media gurus, politicians, marketers and special interest groups with the means to flood the environment with noise. Some of this effort, of course, is designed to drown out the competition – a futile exercise that results in nothing but escalation. Some of it, however, is designed to prevent discussion that would lead to understanding and, beyond that, to evaluation, condemnation and the initiation of alternative courses of action. In the absence of quiet, and in order for social interaction to be constructive, individuals must learn to filter out noise. (pp. 197-198)

We spent the whole course talking about building the capacity to act in organizations. Many organizations exert a great deal of effort trying to design and implement effective governance structures, and even more time is often spent on the training and development of leaders. However, perhaps we should be more interested in learning how much effort they are expending on eliminating, or at least limiting, the incapacitating effects of noise.

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It’s Who You Know – S16.3

One of the essential aspects of a governance system is how information is gathered and shared in an organization. When systems are viewed as hierarchies of reporting relationships, it is easy to assume that information will flow along the paths represented in the organization chart. However, a network approach to understanding governance demonstrates the critical importance of informal lines of communication that exist among members of an organization, based on a variety of criteria, such as similarities in age, educational background, ethnic heritage, hobbies, musical tastes, and many other factors. These criteria not only form the basis for relationships  that can reinforce or undermine formal reporting relationships, they also tie organization members to a number of social groups outside the organization – places where essential values and world views are established and maintained.

Back in 1973, Mark Granovetter introduced one of the key insights into the often counter-intuitive way in which networks actually operate. When individuals are seeking new information, Granovetter demonstrated that your immediate family, friends and co-workers are not the best source. Rather, it is people outside your network, who may be linked to people you know through some common element that you do not share. So, for example, if you are looking for a new job, your close associates share a common stock with you, and so are unlikely to be aware of opportunities that you are not aware of. However, perhaps someone they play sports with, for example, may know of potential opportunities in an area outside your sphere of normal activity. This phenomenon is known as the strength of weak ties.

More recently, other research initiatives have shown that in situations where change is rapid and information is complex, utilizing strong ties will actually result in more efficient access to what is new. In some areas (e.g., scientific research, financial markets), it is extremely difficult for any one individual to keep track of everything that is going on, let alone have time to figure out precisely what recent developments might mean to them. Consequently, individuals must rely on the group to collectively monitor and interpret the flow of information. It is the ability to access and build upon a collective stock of knowledge that will provide the opportunity – the strength of strong ties.

If our objective is to establish governance systems that are sustainable, and that facilitate the expansion of capacity to act, then it is important for members of an organization to learn to accept and work with these two seemingly contradictory characteristics of networks. If too much effort is put into solidifying existing ties, a type of collective closed-mindedness may develop. Similarly, if the focus is always outward, then the ability to build a resilient critical mass of knowledge and skills may be jeopardized.


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