Archive for the ‘research’ Category

Let Us Turn Our Thoughts Today To Martin Luther King

The centennial of the Civil War was being commemorated in 1962. Nelson Rockefeller was New York’s governor. Racism was matter-of-fact for most white American, whether overt or unconscious. So it took a certain amount of political courage for the Republican governor to select a controversial African-American like Martin Luther King, Jr. to deliver Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

No one had heard Dr. King’s speech for more than 50 years until last Fall when staff members of the New York State Museum in Albany discovered a long forgotten reel-to-reel tape.

You can listen to it here

Video Content Is Revolutionizing Learning

We Baby Boomers are “digital immigrants”. We’ve had to learn to adapt to computers, email, digital downloads, smartphones, texting, tablets, etc. The Millennials are “digital natives”. To them, the constant stream of rapidly changing media tools have always been a part of their lives. Here’s an interesting infographic about “digital natives” and learning courtesy of KZO Innovations:

How video content is revolutionizing learning

Presented by

Thoughts On Thomas Jefferson And Making History Come Alive

I’ve just finished Jon Meachan’s biography, “Thomas Jefferson-The Art of Power”. It reminds me of the inadequate job that our education does in making history interesting and engaging for the teens in our school systems.

Did you know that there were people who wanted to impeach George Washington? That Jefferson received letters with death threats while he was President? That Meriwether Lewis of the famed Lewis & Clark originally was an aide for President Jefferson prior to being sent on the famous expedition and many years later reportedly went insane and committed suicide (or was murdered)? I didn’t.Thomas Jefferson The Art Of Power

As I listened to the audiobook version of Meacham’s book, I kept thinking how much more I would have taken away from my history courses in high school and college had my instructors explained the stories in context with events that were going on in the world at the time rather than on the this was the date/ this was the event/ this was the result approach.

I was also thinking about how great it would be if HBO reunited members of the cast from its John Adams series to recreate the same roles in a mini-series version of “Thomas Jefferson-The Art of Power”.

Staying Relevant

Paul Greenberg, author of the customer relationship management book, CRM At The Speed of Light, cites a recent blog post about an observation from the IBM Institute of Business Value’s 2012 CEO Study which states, “ The view that technology is a driver of efficiency is outdated; CEO’s now see technology as an enabler of collaboration and relationships-those essential connections that fuel innovation and creativity.” Greenberg notes, “This leads CEO’s to see that the three most important areas for creating sustained economic value are (in order) human capital, customer relationships and products/ services innovation. We are seeing the beginnings of more distributed organizations to handle these transformations.”

So, what does this mean for us Alpha Boomers? We keep hearing that the business community has been reconsidering its attitude towards that part of the work force which is seasoned in our favor although the evidence remains slim. We certainly bring a lot of expertise to the table when it comes to establishing and maintaining positive relationships with customers. And, although Alpha Boomers may not be in the top quintile of Early Adopters when it comes to technology, we are certainly more open to embracing innovative new technologies that have been previous generations.

But, as a story in the New York Times noted this past weekend, the latest economic recession hurt we Boomers more than it did Millennials or members of Gen Y. A woman quoted in the article observed that employers are afraid to hire Baby Boomers because they’re concerned that they might have a negative impact on the company’s health insurance premiums and that it might not be worth investing in training Boomers due to the possibility that they’d leave the company in five years. Personally, I find the concern about leaving the company to be a bit disingenuous since a three years is considered long-term commitment nowadays.

However, in a recent editorial, the journalist Thomas Friedman observed that “everyone who wants a job now must demonstrate how they can add value” better than the above-average software, automation, robotics, cheap labor and cheap genius that’s available to companies these days. It’s going to require individual initiative on each of our parts to develop 21st century skills which compliment new technology and, as Friedman notes, will require us to combine our PQ (passion quotient) and CQ (curiosity quotient) with our IQ (intelligence quotient) to find or invent jobs along with a commitment to consistent learning and re-learning.

So, it seems to me that a challenge to Alpha Boomers will be to make a psychological commitment to stay fit in body, mind and spirit and to do the math so that we’re able to create a cost/ benefit analysis for potential employers which honestly compares the cost of hiring us over a three year period to the cost of hiring a younger worker.

Your thoughts?

Collaboration: Boomers & GenY

I’m curious to learn your insights about a question which concerns me and many of my fellow “Alpha Boomers” (those of us born between 1946-1956). Although society and government have yet to catch up, many of us would rather pay in to social security than to collect it and have no interest in retiring at age 65. In fact, a recent report on CBS Sunday Morning indicated that, while there are currently 75,000 people in the US aged 100 or older, in 40 years there will be more than 6 million. Those will be today’s Alpha Boomers and it means that those people aren’t “senior citizens” but are “middle-aged”.

My point is that many of us Alpha Boomers are able and willing to continue working in economically productive and financially rewarding careers. However, there is an obvious preference by organizations to choose young & inexperienced over older & experienced applicants. Automation and globalization are certainly factors in the downsizing and restructuring which has been prevalent during the past 20 years. It’s my understanding that HR departments have not escaped this trend. So fewer people are left to cope with more applications. That’s led to a mindset whereby it seems that the primary function of HR systems is not as much to find the right applicant than to find a reason to say NO.

It seems to me that the US needs to focus on a way to create opportunities so that Baby Boomers who are able,willing, and (for economic reasons) need to work can collaborate with GenY’ers who need work in order to build financial security and pursue productive careers. Youth benefits from the wisdom and experience of seasoned professionals, older workforce is inspired and revitalized by the ideas and perspective of youth and the result it the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

Is anybody in the HR industry and business in general considering this perspective? Is my attitude totally Pollyanna and unrealistic?

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts

My Dilemma

During the past few months, I’m having this experience more frequently. It’s been happening when I sign into my Linkedin account after being alerted that someone has endorsed me or when I check Facebook to learn which friends are celebrating birthdays.

I’m confronted with the profile of a dead friend.

Has this been happening a lot to you, too? If it has, what do you do about it?

The practical part of me wants to delete the person from my list of friends. But I can’t bring myself to do it. Deleting them from my Linkedin connections list or “unfriending” them on Facebook seems, somehow, disrespectful to their memory. I guess, in some weird way, the uncritical emotional part of my psyche believes, if I keep their profile active, that they somehow remain “alive”.

But, I’m being confronted with this issue more frequently this year. Today, at least three different deceased friends confronted me either on the endorsement pages of Linkedin or on my Facebook birthday list.

Has this been happening to you? If you were me, how would you handle it?

The Price of Politics

Listening to the conversation during the past year about the recent US Presidential elections, I had the distinct impression that many of my fellow citizens equate the belief that the person who holds the office of American president is “the most powerful (person) in the world” with a notion that s/he is omnipotent. It seems like magical thinking. That, somehow, an American president can just declare something   ( wave a magic wand, so to speak) and it will become so. Of course, the world is more complicated than that.

Last April, I attended Bob Woodward’s lecture at Union College and was surprised that Woodward seemed to have a negative attitude toward President Obama. I was recently reminded of that experience while listening to Jon Meacham discuss his new book about Thomas Jefferson and the similarities to our current political situations. According to Meachan, Jefferson explained to his constituents (I’m paraphrasing here) that they should expect to be disappointed in some of his decisions because he had more information about situations than they did. The idealists who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 have been actively critical of some of the President’s actions and decisions during the past four years. In this book, Woodward seems to delight in pointing out contradictions between what Mr. Obama said and what he did. Again, I’m paraphrasing: “The president said: ‘I don’t want to lecture you” and then proceeded to lecture them.”  The guy was a college professor. Is it a surprise that lecturing is his default mode of communication?

This book concerns the negotiations during 2011between the Obama administration and Congressional Republicans regarding the national budget. Woodward’s usual style is to interview as many participants and observers of conversations, both on and off the record, as possible in order to reconstruct those situations. The amount of distrust that Republican political leaders display during these interviews towards President Obama’s attempts to arrive at a bipartisan agreement is disconcerting.  I understand that during negotiations each party positions itself towards the extremes so that they can eventually create a compromise for which each side can save face and claim victory. We don’t get any sense from this book that such was the case during these negotiations. Even when Obama is making clear the administration’s willingness to sacrifice for the sake of negotiation, there’s a sense that the Republican leaders believe there must be some evil intent.

An impression I take away from Woodward’s book is that Obama senior advisors Valerie Jarrett and Rahm Emmanuel contributed to this perceptions, perhaps without the president’s knowledge.  Especially following the 2008 election, Woodward reports that both Jarrett and Emmanuel responded with arrogant “Tough luck. We won” attitudes to Republicans while President Obama was working to convey his willingness to create bipartisanship.  GOP leaders presumed that Jarrett and Emmanuel were speaking for the president but, given the problems that Obama was having with the left-wing idealists of this Liberal constituency during the first two years of his presidency, that doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

There’s one fact I recall from this book which I find to be quite ironic. The Republican leadership’s emphasis was on cutting costs.  Of course, their emphasis was on “entitlements” and they reacted very negatively toward any considerations about to cut the Pentagon’s budget. However, when the Department of Defense was asked how many people they employed, their response was “somewhere between one and nine million”.  When pressed, they couldn’t be more specific.  Republicans are the political party of business. I find it difficult to believe that any company CEO or president would react well if, when asked about the number of people their company employed, HR provided such a stunningly vague response.  If the number of people employed by the Pentagon is “somewhere between 1 and 9 million”, it seems like there much be some fat which could be cut from its budget.

As  I write this in late November 2012, President Obama has won re-election, Republicans are still resistant to returning to Clinton-era rates for those earning more than $250,000, and the “fiscal cliff” looms ahead of us. Let’s hope our leaders have all learned some valuable lessons from the experiences described in Woodward’s book.


Evaluating vs. Judging

Evaluation is a process. 







Judging is a decision which implies approval or disapproval.


As an analytical personality type, it’s been my experience that I’m frequently thought to be “judging” when, in fact, I’m “evaluating”.

When I attempt to explain that I’m simply in the process of information gathering to personality types who are from more of a “shoot-from-the-hip” orientation, they often become dismissive and agitated. They seem convinced that I’m judging them or a decision they’ve made in a negative way.

It can be quite frustrating.

What’s been your experience?



Economic Genius

Sylvia Nasar, the author of “A Beautiful  Mind”, provides insights into the thoughts and actions of historical figures who have shaped our economic history: Charles Dickens, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, George Bernard Shaw, John Maynard Keynes, Friedrich Hayak, Paul Samuelson, and Milton Freedman are just some of the characters in this story.

Nassar’s book is stuffed with economic theory and detail which doesn’t make it the easiest read. If you’re like me, you’ll find your mind doing the equivalent of your eyes glazing over and you’ll be wondering what the information was that you’d just read.

Nevertheless, Nasar provides some interesting insights. For instance:

-Prior to 1870, Economics was mostly about what one couldn’t do. After      1870, it’s focus became what one could accomplish.

-Less than 150 years ago, most people in the world lived in a state of persistent starvation.

-In 1867, only 7% of English households had an annual income of at least 100 pounds (About $10,000 in 2012 dollars)

-There are disturbing similarities to the days pre-World War I and today.

-John Maynard Keynes as described as having a “gift for synthesis and a diagnostic mind”.

-Between 1921 and 1929, the US economy grew by 21%.

-RCA and AT&T were the Microsoft and Google of the 1920s.

-During the 1920s, most roads between New York and Boston were unpaved, rutted, and potholed.

-During the 1920s, the average lifespan in the US was 58. By 2000, it had increased to 82.

-The average person in China lives today as well if not better than the average Englishman did in 1950.

-The fraction of the world’s population which lives in abject poverty has dwindled by 5/6ths during the  last 200 years.

-Gains in productivity are the primary drivers of wages and living standards.

-Education and a safety net can reduce poverty without producing economic stagnation.

-The world’s population is 6 times greater than it was in the mid-1800s but is 10 times more affluent.

-The average lifespan of someone living today has increased 2 ½ times that of someone who lived in 1820 and our lifespans continue to increase.

-The recession of 2008-2009 HAS NOT reduced gains in productivity and income.

Here’s how her story is described on the book jacket:  “In Nasar’s dramatic narrative of these discoveries we witness men and women responding to personal crises, world wars, revolutions, economic upheavals, and each other’s ideas to turn back Malthus and transform the dismal science into a triumph over mankind’s hitherto age-old destiny of misery and early death.”

Sound like your kind of book?

My Favorite Summer Songs

It’s Labor Day Weekend and another summer is coming to an end. As an AlphaBoomer, a member of the oldest cohort of the BabyBoomer generation, I’m finding that each summer seems to pass much too quickly and is gone before I’ve been able to settle into the season.

Someone once compared the experience of aging to watching the water drain from a bathtub. As the water level lowers, the flow through the drain appears to move faster and faster. An apt description in my experience.

For some reason, as I got in my car on Friday afternoon, a series of summer songs popped into my head and I started singing along. I hadn’t thought of them all summer and all of a sudden I yearned to hear them.

Here’s my personal list of favorite summer songs:

*Summertime, Summertime- The Jamies

*Summertime Blues- Eddie Cochran version

*Summer- War

*In The Summertime- Mungo Jerry

*Hot Fun In The Summertime- Sly & The Family Stone

*Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer-Nat King Cole

*Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini-Brian Hyland

*Summertime- (either the Billy Stewart hit version or the Broadway version)

What’s on your list?