I've been preoccupied with moving up to Washington D.C. for a summer internship (one of the many joys of graduate school - the moving and temporary housing for internships!) and I haven't had time to craft the next genius entry on an entirely new topic. So until then, I've decided to spotlight a few more interesting pieces on the oil spill - from the management/judgment and human decision-making perspectives - that I've found in the past week or so. Enjoy and let me know what you think!
- "Drilling for Answers: What can the BP oil spill disaster teach financeexecutives about risk?" by Kate O'Sullivan on CFO.com (posted May20, 2010) - I actually found this article because Ioften read Professor Michael Roberto's blog (he's a management professor at Bryant University) and he's interviewed and quoted here. O'Sullivan explores the ingredients of disasters like this one - including increasingly complex systems andaggressive cultures that discount risk - and how management professionals can use many of these lessons to better manage risk.
- "Anchoring" by Jonah Lehrer in his blog ("The Frontal Cortex") on ScienceBlogs (posted May 26, 2010)- from the brilliant author of How We Decide and Proust Was a Neuroscientist, this article discusses how errors and biases inhuman judgment and decision-making have influenced some of the decisions in this crisis and other failures of management/business, specifically anchoring and adjustment. Basically, because the chosen anchor in the oil spill was the belief that the spill was not too bad, solutions were generated to deal with a much smaller problem - it's taken some time toget to the point where officials and problem-solvers are examining how to fix an enormous mess. While I might not lay as much blame on anchoring and adjustmenterrors as much as I'd blame the "cover your ass" and "if we don't tell, no one will know"-type thinking, it's an interesting connection between JDM and the current crisis.
- "Nuke That Oil Well" by Robin Hanson on Overcoming Bias (posted May 30, 2010) - an economist writes about the reasons why using a controlled nuclear blast to stop the oil leakage is not being used or even considered... the comments show some interesting ideas and perspectives that make me question whether the blast would be an acceptable solution here in this situation, but still an interesting idea about how public opinion can bias public policy decisions.
- "The Primary Reason Businesses Fail: Focusing on the Wrong Bottom Line" by RonaldRiggio on his "Cutting-Edge Leadership" blog on Psychology Today (posted May 1, 2010) - this article isn't exactly focusing on the BP oil issues, but Riggio points out that by focusing only on profits, BP fails us and the plant.
- "BP: Why can't they say they are sorry and trying to make sure it will never happen again?" by Robert Sutton on his "Work Matters" blog on Psychology Today (posted May 25, 2010) - the title really says it all... Sutton references BP's own statements and press releases and shows why they defy research on how best to handle PR nightmares... it's hard to imagine how BP's image and reputation could be in worse shape right now...
- "From 'Top Kill' to 'Dead Man's Switch': What BP's Oil Spill Lexicon Reveals About Its Brand" by Jeremy Boiter on Fast Company (posted May 27, 2010) - not exactlyamanagement-type article like the others, but an interesting essay about the names of the varies strategies and plans that BP has.... and how insensitive it is to have names that include "kill" and "dead man" when the accidents have been deadly.
- "Journal makes oil-related studies available free" - from the Futurity vault, Rice University news - the genius here is less in the article and more about the common sense brilliance of opening up all of the scholarly research and literature on oil spills, including lessons learned from Exxon Valdez and published in peer reviewed journals, so that anyone can use it to problem solve.
- 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?
- "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.
The first entry of any good blog seems to be a good introduction, perhaps including a good statement of purpose or goals for the adventure. So, after countless hours attempting to design this site and make it as user friendly as possible while still aesthetically pleasing, I'll get to the point and explain my goals...
I'm starting this site because I've noticed a sizable gap between the academician, the real research and the public. If you've ever tried to read a scholarly article, it's easy to see how this gap has formed. If most newspapers are written at a fifth grade or grade school reading level, these scholarly articles are closer to college and doctorate level. They're not easy to read, the main points are often easily lost along with the practical implications... not to mention, who really has time to read an entire journal article when you only need a few main points? And who knows where to look? Once you lose access to a university library, it's hard to know where to find the important information.
My goal here is to help bridge that gap, to highlight important and interesting findings as well as shine the spotlight on some practical, useful resources for getting this type of information.
I'll also try to avoid choosing topics or ideas solely based on my own interests and research, but on the "About Me" page I've listed some of my interests (professional and beyond) so you can get an idea of what I'm particularly fascinated by.