My Top Thought Provoking but Obscure Articles from 2012

As the year is coming to an end I thought it would be good to close with a Baker’s Top Ten review of the most thought provoking articles and blogs that I read in 2012.  Each of these struck a new chord or confirmed my deeper ponderings and generally motivated me to write a blog on the topic or stash it in my “To-Be-Written” file for more or less imminent use.  As you will be able to tell, they all somehow focus on individual behaviors and how these influence “business relationships” (you’ll have to look back at my definition of “Business” to see the connection).  Here they are, in no particular order other than chronological, because that’s how they got filed.

“Jay Heinrichs’s Powers of Persuasion” (Businessweek, 15 March 2012). An appetizer about using Aristotelian rhetoric (that alone could put you into a deep sleep) to construct and deliver a compelling, persuasive argument, the art of persuasion, to get your audience to change their behavior (and THAT should waken you right back up).  The article will whet one’s appetite to delve into Heinrichs’s excellent book: Thank You for Arguing. (See also the entry in Books & Articles)

“Myth of Decline: Listen, the U.S. is better, stronger, and faster than anywhere else in the world” Daniel Gross (Newsweek, 7 May 2012). A positive look at what’s unique about America, that still makes us tick even though it’s been ignored in the declinists’ views propagated by the media:

“It’s clear that the story of America’s recovery – unsatisfying and problematic as it has been – isn’t a Hollywood tale.  Rather, it rests on an understanding of its core competencies and competitive advantages: attitudes and capabilities that, even in this age of globalization, remain unique.  Contrary to the declinists’s view, global growth has not been a zero-sum game for America’s economy.”

You can see the words that caught my attention – zero-sum game (0∑) – and my joy at reading someone who not only uses the term properly but sees beneath the hoopla to the core economic fundamental attitudes and behaviors that have been our culture and strength, and need to be recognized and supported.

“The Gentler Face of Tyranny (original published article title)” (Businessweek, 21 May 2012). (A book review of William Dobson’s The Dictator’s Learning Curve).  Face it, things have changed globally.  One aspect is that “modern autocrats are getting better as feigning democracy” as they replace older tyrants.  They’re adapting their behaviors, and one way is by co-opting forms of democracy or what appears to be democracy and using these processes to reinforce their authority by modifying their response tactics.  “Modern dictators understand it is better to appear to win a contested election than to openly steal it” (William Dobson), for instance, in the Middle East.  In China, leaders “adopt … methods of successful modern businesses, justifying their rule with their economic success.”  While operating by consensus at the highest levels, lower levels still rely upon graft and corruption to deliver services while not opening up the political system.

Shimon Peres on the New Middle East (Businessweek, 21 June 2012). Less about the Middle East than about America:

“The United States is the only power in history that became great by giving and not by taking.  I think the crisis was when the Untied States had more money than ideas.  Money doesn’t produce money.  Ideas produce money.”

We’re beginning to lose that core attitude of our culture (giving, not taking).  If we do, it’s over.

“You’re Not Special” David McCullough, Jr.’s Commentary on the response to his Commencement Speech (Newsweek, 25 June 2012). The logic was, everyone is special, all 6.8 billion of us.  But a lot of people didn’t hear the message or follow the logic, and “Sensationalizers started a wildfire.”  This is David McCulloughs’s response.  Makes me glad to recognize that I was always a teacher, no matter what job I actually had.

“A Checklist for Change” Jonathan Alter (Businessweek, 23 August 2012). A marvelous article on management behaviors and “getting stuff done;” what to DO, and what NOT to DO (such as, expecting a deus ex machina).  Sage advice, as too often when expecting a deus ex machina to save us, we grab hold of a daemon ex machina without recognizing him.  Or worse, luciferus ex machina.

“True Progressivism” (The Economist, 13 October 2012). The “Progressive Era” in the early 20th Century was to “make society fairer without reducing its entrepreneurial vim.”  The challenge for the present is for politics to “undergo a similar reinvention” (please!) “to come up with ways of mitigating inequality without hurting economic growth.”  “Economies need to attract entrepreneurs,” which is threatened when the short-term solution is to raise income tax rates on the wealthy and increase spending further.  Something in the middle is needed, and the article proposes approaches without excess rhetoric or “heat” from friction from opposing sides.  That’s the type of behavior modification that is needed, looking to healthy results, not a healthy image.

“Career Lessons from Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’ ” (Businessweek, 12 November 2012). The article is a review of the film Lincoln, and gives an overview of Lincoln as manager (or “at least the Day-Lewisification of the guy”) in five short paragraphs.  If as historically accurate as is claimed, Lincoln’s behavior as manager-under-stress is riveting.  (The movie is incredibly good, also).  This is not the only article to reference Lincoln’s management style – see the article above about Jay Heinrichs’s Powers of Persuasion.

“Business by the Bard” (online: “Shakespeare in the Boardroom”)(Businessweek, 3 December 2012). How can an article that states “Corporate leadership programs are boring” and “they show you a bunch of PowerPoint slides, and then you return to work and everything just washes away” not be attention grabbing.  By drawing upon Shakespeare’s insights into the human condition through scenes from five plays, Olivier Mythodrama confronts attendees with lessons of corporate leadership that are proving to be adept at helping change human behavior.  My middle school English teacher would start to roll over in her grave, but then roll back and say, “Tell me more.”

“Urging Economists to Step Away From the Blackboard” (Businessweek, 3 December 2012). A 101 year-old Nobel laureate says economists only study abstractions and numbers and have not moved beyond Adam Smith’s efficient-market theory (1776).  They need to study firms and people, and he wants to start a new journal called Man and the Economy.  Gives support to my sense that all of our everyday interpersonal interactions are fundamentally based on principles that are normally call “economics” but that we each have insufficient grasp of.

“10 Reasons Why Your Top Talent Will Leave You” Mike Myatt (Forbes, 13 December 2012). There is an old saying: “Employees don’t quit working for companies, they quit working for their bosses.”  If you are an employee and that statement resonates with you, rest assured you are not alone.  If you are a boss and have decided that since you are the leader, you get to make up the rules that others have to follow and you get to decide how things will be executed, then don’t worry, you are not actually reading this blog right now.  But if you are a boss (or an employee) who understands that it is not about you but about how you manage your work environment, resources, and people to add value and achieve organizational goals and are interested in how you can adapt your managing behavior (or better understand what behavior to expect) to accomplish these, then read on.

These are my Baker’s Top Ten (= 11) influential articles that I have come across during 2012.  Granted, many are obscure and not trending, but we do need to read other stuff also, don’t we?


About Jim Edmonds

I am a husband, father, mentor, who once was a chemist turned physicist turned marketer turned executive turned missionary turned professor. And survived it all.
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One Response to My Top Thought Provoking but Obscure Articles from 2012

  1. Ray Martin says:

    I also liked the thougts discussed in the current issue of Businessweek’s article titled “What we can do about guns.” All the rhetoric in the headlines and from various special interest groups after the CT murders don’t begin to address the realities of imposing any “solutions” in our culture. If we don’t get this one right, the future in this country will not be a pretty one.


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