Saturday, March 28, 2009

It’s surprising when…

The professor blogs the final. 

Sutton In my course "Organizational Behavior: An Evidence- Based Approach," I give the students the final exam question on the first day of class, and it is due the last day.  It is, "Design the ideal organization. Use course concepts to defend your answer."

It is really a hard question, but the best answers knock my socks off.

I wasn’t one of the best, but the question really made me think about the qualities I would like to create in the companies I set up.  It’s an interesting tension between getting work done with high quality and process compliance, yet still making it an enjoyable, rewarding, and motivating workplace.  I want things to be congenially flat and informal, but I still want the important things to get done well and for everyone to feel a sense of urgency and commitment. 

Translating those qualities into structures and rules for real workgroups is a difficult challenge: I spent weeks thinking about it and drawing diagrams of answers, trying to play-act and simplify.  It was a thoughtful class and a worthwhile set of exercises.

I agree with Tyler Bruhle.

 image At Brussels Midi rail terminal a fresh set of questions started swirling around. Who the hell designed this facility? It’s poorly signed. Traffic flow is dreadful. And the lighting is cold and far too dim … Tiles were coming off the floor and the whole place offered a series of first impressions that suggested Belgium’s not that interested in warm welcomes and isn’t too fussed about what visitors might think about the place.

I’ve been there, and Tyler, my favorite FT columnist, is exactly right.  Unfortunately, this holds equally well for the Brussels airport, above: both are outdated, unkempt, dark, and forbidding facilities.  Uncharacteristically for the Swiss, Geneva suffers the same shortcomings.

These should  be gateway cities welcoming large populations of international visitors and diplomats.  It’s curious that they don’t take more pride in their appearance and attitude.

My favorite Western movies get dissed.

Oklahoma 69Many “action” westerns of the late 1970’s reduced classic Western plots to amoral sagas of violence and greed. The demise of cowboy heroes and the cynical presentation of the heritage of the West frequently resulted in shorter lines at the box office.

I always thought that my favorite westerns, including Jeremiah Johnson, The Unforgiven, Dances with Wolves, and  other recent Westerns put a more realistic perspective and an intriguing moral ambiguity onto the genre, adding depth and drawing in new audiences.  It was a bit surprising to find that the keepers of the flame at the The National Cowboy & Western Museum in Oklahoma City credit them with destroying the genre.

The only recent films celebrated in the museum were some by Tom Selleck (who will always be Magnum PI to me) and the Lonesome Dove series.  How can Clint Eastwood or Paul Newman really be left out?

Then there was their take on Europeans…

Oklahoma 67

Comedy echoes real life so well.

image The Onion gets this one exactly right…Franz Kafka International Airport is someplace every traveler has been.

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