1 day ago
Posted by Mel the Crafty Scientist On Thursday, May 27, 2010 1 comments
(Image of the marshlands on the northeast pass of the Mississippi Delta May 23, 2010; from Reuters/Daniel Beltra/Greenpeace, via Boston.com.)
- Did anyone really know that there were problems with the Deepwater Horizon before the explosion? Did anyone realize how much time it would take to implement responses to an oil spill of this nature? And if so, where did that information go? What prevented it from being considered by those in a position to change it? Why didn't change happen?
- What kind of organizational culture or policies might be implemented to allow engineers, those on the oil rig, and others on the "front lines" to report potential problems to those in position to make changes?
- How do people respond to such national tragedies? From fake Twitter accounts to re-branding BP "Big Problem" and "Beyond Propaganda" to pleas for government resources to anger to providing help and mobilizing others to help* - what determines our responses (beyond our own stake in the matter)? Who responds which way and how?How do some use humor to cope while others find it offensive? And what might this mean about how people cope?
First, above is a screenshot of my pinboard (I made it using pinterest which might be my new favorite website... and I haven't liked a place this much in a LONG time - so get on the waiting list to get an invite if you like what you see) of helpful oil spill infographics. You can see the full thing here.
And second, these are a few of my favorite articles from around my network/blogroll of science-y blogs:
- "BP: Victim of Its Own Good Marketing" from the Harvard Business Review (Gardiner Morse) - A comparison of a Brazilian company's marketing strategy with BP's. Both have had black marks on their records as a result of oil spills and other damage to the environment, but BP's "Beyond Petroleum" campaign might actually do the company more harm now as it seems more ridiculously far-fetched to pair life and organic, renewable resources with the oil sludge beaches and dying ecosystems in the gulf...
- "Leaning Your Way to Disaster" from the Harvard Business Review (Michael Watkins) - Basically, if you start cutting corners and continue to do so, it might not make a difference immediately or one cut corner might not have an effect, but the combination or collection of these shortcuts makes a difference... and might be the reason why many restaurants fail and why the disaster in the gulf continues to happen.
- "The Gulf Oil Spill: A Classic Failure of Systems Leadership" from the Harvard Business Review (Michael Watkins) - Watkins summarizes the responses from Transocean, BP, and Haillburton in recent Wall Street Journal articles (with some good explanation of the technical explanations and decoding of the finger-pointing arguments from each side) and argues for more and better accountability as systems grow more complex and the failure to self-regulate has higher costs.
- "How to Stop the Blame Game" from the Harvard Business Review (Nathaneal Fast) - the most purely psychological of the articles, Fast reviews some studies he's worked on and published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology about goal contagion. Essentially, he argues that after one executive pointed the finger at another (in order to protect their egos), the spread of finger-pointing simply happens (and the authors of these studies discounted social learning and mood as alternative explanations). While you may or may not believe that goal contagion is (solely) to blame (especially if we're supposed to believe that the primary motivation is ego protection), the phenomenon itself is an interesting one...
- "When Should We Forgive Failure?" from the Harvard Business Review (Michael Watkins) - Based on a recent radio show the author took part in, Watkins explores when we should forgive companies and when we should punish - basically, how to respond to failure so that we continue to encourage innovation and creativity without being overly reckless. I wish Watkins would have drawn out the piece a bit better as this is the main point, but perhaps a fruitful discussion from commenters will result (though to be fair, it did make me think about the issue a bit)...
- "Are We in a State of Fear, or Resignation?" from Brainspin at True/Slant (David DiSalvo) - DiSalvo argues that collectively we've moved from a state of fear to a state of resignation, a sort of learned helplessness. He connects the oil spill to terrorism and attempts to protect ourselves from international terrorism and based on the impossibility of preventing and/or protecting ourselves from every possible threat, the American people have simply resigned ourselves to the inevitability of tragedy, disaster, and attack. While it may be a little disheartening, it's an interesting call to (psychological) arms.
So check out some (or all!) of these articles and links and let me know what you think...
*This last link is probably the best collection I've seen with "what you can do to help"-type resources and information collected... not to mention that it was posted VERY early on and so I have to give some props to Miss Malaprop for that.
Website Screenshots generously provided by ShrinkTheWeb