Search: Tempests in Teapots
The InfoPosse -- Inc's team of crack corporate librarians -- reports each month on what's good, bad, and ugly in the world of corporate information.
TEMPESTS IN TEAPOTS: Just as Darwin cataloged the exotic flora and fauna of the Galápagos Islands, so management professors study the behavior of distinct organizational species. In a fascinating new book, Tempered Radicals (Harvard Business School Press, 2001), professor Debra E. Meyerson takes a look at one particular breed that is having a profound impact on the business world. Tempered radicals are "people who want to succeed in their organizations yet want to live by their values or identities, even if they are somehow at odds with the dominant culture of their organizations," writes Meyerson. Typically distinguished from their fellow workers by their race, age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, values, or beliefs, tempered radicals set out to change the course of the mainstream while standing on its banks. In their efforts to bring about transformation without resorting to outright rebellion, such employees emerge as unorthodox leaders. InfoPosse member Genevieve Foskett found Tempered Radicals "very well researched, very readable. Anyone who feels they don't fit in or who manages those who don't fit in will want to take a look."
"When [tempered radicals] push back on conventional expectations, challenge assumptions about what is 'normal,' and revise work practices to meet unaddressed needs, they push others to learn and force systems to adapt to impending challenges."
YOU GET WHAT YOU DON'T PAY FOR: The new-economy saw has it that information wants to be free, but most database services won't accede to that desire. But then along comes FindArticles.com , a collaboration between LookSmart and the Gale Group. FindArticles isn't as content rich as competing services like Nexis.com (it provides access to 300 publications as opposed to 30,000), but users don't have to pay one red cent for it. Some of the majors -- Forbes and Newsweek, for example -- aren't available on the service, but others -- like Nation's Business and PR Newswire -- are. And, points out InfoPosse member Lisa Zwickey, FindArticles boasts publications "not found in some of the more comprehensive databases, such as Latin Beat Magazine, Selling to Kids, and the ever popular Bowling Digest. Zwickey observes that the A-to-Z index lists publications like The Chicago Reporter and The Sciences under T for "The." But, she concedes, "that's probably only amusing to librarians."
OLD WINE, NEW BOTTLES: You can read dozens of books and magazines devoted to new management ideas. Or you can read a single article that argues -- quite convincingly -- that most management ideas aren't new at all. " Whose Ideas Are They, Anyway?" by Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove ( Across the Board magazine, November/December 2001), rips into management as a "magpie science" that cobbles together well-worn thinking from a variety of disciplines and then mass-markets it under the aegis of some glint-eyed guru. The authors' intellectual-history lessons are a treat, says InfoPosse member Christine Klein. Reengineering, for example, "was similar in substance and technique to an old practice from the 1950s called brown papering, a process previously discovered by Frederick Taylor and later rediscovered in Harvard professor Benson Shapiro's 1992 article 'Staple Yourself to an Order,' then rediscovered yet again by Jim Champy and Mike Hammer in Reengineering the Corporation," write Crainer and Dearlove. They conclude that the best place to look for good business information is not in bookstores and seminars but rather among real practitioners, "on the factory floor and in the humdrum office suites." Now that's original thinking.
InfoPosse members are Genevieve Foskett, corporate librarian at Highsmith Inc.; Lisa Guedea Carreño, library director at Goshen College; Christine Klein, director of knowledge and information management at LifeCare Inc.; Jean Mayhew, director of information and learning at United Technologies Research Center; and Lisa A. Zwickey, senior research specialist at J.J. Keller & Associates.
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