My daily readings 09/16/2009

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  • tags: Startup

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    • The problem is that all too frequently, change for change’s sake is harmful or worse for organizational performance. You need to know the data: although there is a lot of emphasis on the benefits of change and innovation in much of the popular press, the evidence shows that change is most often bad for all concerned. First of all, most new ideas — like most new products — aren’t very good, which is why there’s such a high failure rate for innovations in virtually every industry. Second, change, even change to a better way of doing things, is inevitably disruptive to existing routines and demanding of new competencies and skills. While a company is making the transition, things can go wrong and costs increase, literally threatening the survival of the organization.
    • Baron and Hannan found that companies founded with a commitment model for managing their people were more likely to reach an initial public offering or be acquired at a good price and were much less likely to fail than companies managing their people using other approaches. But — and this is what’s important — companies that shifted to this more effective way of managing people were actually more likely to fail than companies than had begun with a different, less effective way of managing but stayed with it. That’s because the benefits of changing to a better way of doing things did not outweigh the disruptive consequences of the transition. There is a great deal of evidence in this intellectual tradition — the population ecology of organizations — showing the same thing: change, in leaders, in strategy, or in organizing models, almost always leads to a higher risk of failure.
    • Since employees know that management approaches come and go as leaders transition in and out, they don’t take the new initiatives very seriously. At a large bank Bob Sutton and I studied, branch managers and other executives knew that new initiatives would pass as leaders moved to new positions — so they never bothered to implement anything. Why should they, when the next person to take over would just undo it and try something different?
    • hey focus on changing only what needs to be changed because it isn’t working — the recipes that aren’t up to snuff or the product features that bother customers — and they keep what works, even if it’s a legacy from the past. Second, they understand the costs and risks of change and losing focus, so they don’t overburden the company by trying to do too many new things at once. Every business has a few core elements that make it successful, and the shrewd leader focuses on the minimum amount of change needed to improve those things, not making a bunch of other disruptions in activities that matter less.
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    • THE LATEST fad to sweep K-12 education is called “21st-Century Skills.’’ States – including Massachusetts – are adding them to their learning standards, with the expectation that students will master skills such as cooperative learning and critical thinking and therefore be better able to compete for jobs in the global economy. Inevitably, putting a priority on skills pushes other subjects, including history, literature, and the arts, to the margins. But skill-centered, knowledge-free education has never worked.
    • Proponents of 21st-Century Skills might wish it was otherwise, but we do not restart the world anew with each generation. We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. What matters most in the use of our brains is our capacity to make generalizations, to see beyond our own immediate experience. The intelligent person, the one who truly is a practitioner of critical thinking, has the capacity to understand the lessons of history, to grasp the inner logic of science and mathematics, and to realize the meaning of philosophical debates by studying them.

      Through literature, for example, we have the opportunity to see the world through the eyes of another person, to walk in his shoes, to experience life as it was lived in another century and another culture, to live vicariously beyond the bounds of our own time and family and place.

    • Proponents of 21st-Century Skills might wish it was otherwise, but we do not restart the world anew with each generation. We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. What matters most in the use of our brains is our capacity to make generalizations, to see beyond our own immediate experience. The intelligent person, the one who truly is a practitioner of critical thinking, has the capacity to understand the lessons of history, to grasp the inner logic of science and mathematics, and to realize the meaning of philosophical debates by studying them.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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