It’s still early enough in the New Year I think to post a “Baker’s Dozen” (or thereabouts) overview of the most thought provoking articles and blogs that I read in 2013. Each of these struck a new chord or confirmed deeper ponderings and generally motivated me either to post on the topic or stash it in my “To-Be-Blogged” file for future use.
The articles tend to fall into a narrower range of topics that impact individual behaviors and how these influence our relationships, whether they are in business or in life in general. I’ve organized this year’s list into six topics, for the simple reason that this might permit me to include more articles and blogs and lead to a single ‘Best Articles and Blogs’ post.
Unfortunately, not so. So here is Topic 1 for 2013, the more unusual posts.
“The Dunbar Number” (Businessweek, 10 January 2013). How many friends can you have? Or better asked, how many meaningful social connections can you maintain? Research has led to a rough grouping of about 150, which coincides with historical measures of hunter-gatherer societies, western military history, communes of Hutterites, and the offices of the W.L. Gore & Associates (renown for its radically nonhierarchical management structure).
The concept is currently of interest to Silicon Valley (the social photograph sharing network Path is based upon it) if for no other reason than while we live on an increasingly urban and Twitter/Facebook connected planet, we still have Stone Age social capabilities. The article raises issues on the importance of family, friends, our clan, and tribe, and their influence on our lives.
“Global Cooling: When the Climate Changed Astonishingly Fast” (CNN.com, 19 November 2013). A short review by David Frum of Geoffrey Parker’s book, “Global Crisis,” a look at the last great climate shock experienced by human beings, the Little Ice Age during the 1600s.
Discussions on climate change often focus on only a small number of many separate but important issues: Is climate change occurring? If so, is it changing because of human activity? (These two issues are often mistakenly treated as one and the strong passions surrounding economic issues raised by the first question lead to prejudgment concerning the second question.) Built into the first question are two further sub-questions equally important on their own: How harmful is climate change? and How rapidly is the change coming?
The Little Ice Age was obviously not man made and was more significantly influenced by the sun emitting less energy in the 17th century. The latter influence on our climate, the energy from the sun over which we have no control, gets lost in the focus over contributions we can indeed try and control. Parker’s lesson is that what matters most about climate change is not how it is caused, but how fast it takes place, and how adept we are in preparing for it.
“David Stockman Against the World” (Businessweek, 27 June 2013). A pseudo-book review of David Stockman’s The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America.
Any book must be good that is denounced by “the Republicans, the Democrats, and the Keynesians, and the monetarists, and the supply-siders, and Wall Street, and Bay Street, and the military-industrial complex, and also the neocons and the social-cons and the just-cons” (and to learn who the ‘just-cons’ are, please read the article).
There’s a whole legacy of personal post-“Damascus Road” experiential revelations that Stockman shares, including new money pumped into Wall Street that isn’t making it to Main Street, a potential American future zero-sum (0∑) austerity, and the unforeseen dangers of too much risk and too much debt (from a personal as well as a national standpoint). There is also a perceptive observation about the differences between current governmental policy making versus that during the Reagan White House when “policymakers didn’t obsess about the vicissitudes of the markets and attempted instead to ‘make policy based on criteria that had some longer-term view to it, and some kind of national perspective.’ “ (Sounds like a description of policy wonks who are currently in danger of ending up under the bleachers under the Zamboni). These are sharp lessons shared by someone who learned from being taken “to the woodshed.”