Saturday, July 22, 2006

An Ethics Quiz for Everyone

An American newspaper reporter and an American photographer join an Iraqi insurgent patrol to report from the rebels' perspective.

As the patrol hikes along the rim of a small ravine, the leader signals to take cover. Just below, 20 U.S. Marines are entering the draw. It's the perfect place for an ambush. Unless the Marines are warned, they face certain death.

What is the reporter's ethical duty in this situation?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Go, Floyd, Go

I like Floyd Landis’ chances of winning the Tour de France.

Even more, I favor the idea of a guy named Floyd winning a major sports event.

There aren't a lot of Floyds around today. According to Floyd is the 798th most popular male name in the United States. It seems to have derived from Old French and means “someone who lives near the forest” or in Old English, “the hollow.”

That makes sense to me. The name Floyd comfortably references a mid-20th Century rural or working class life and raises memories of humorous characters from old TV shows. Remember Floyd the barber on Mayberry RFD? Floyd is a name that says down-to-earth. Floyds are supposed to be just regular guys.

And so is Landis. Born to Mennonite parents in Farmersville, Penn., he’s a grinder who worked his way up in the cycling world, by, well, working. In fact he pushed himself so hard he’s already worn out one hip at age 30 and will get it replaced after the Tour concludes. Physicians and competitors are stunned that he can ride at all. Floyd just shrugs and keeps pushing pedals.

Landis’ image as well as his name contrast sharply with former teammate and cycling uber-star Lance Armstrong. (Lance is #232 on the favorite name list.) Glamorous, controversial and with a great comeback story behind him, Armstrong could be named Todd or Tad or Chip and no one would blink. But I’m willing to bet Sheryl Crow would never have told him C'mon, C'mon if he was dubbed Floyd Armstrong.

I don't denigrate Armstrong's achievements when saying I prefer to cheer on Floyd Landis from Farmersville, a regular guy who worked hard and finally is getting the recognition he’s due.

Go, Floyd, go.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Dan Pink on My Job Prospects

I recently interviewed Dan Pink, author of A Whole New Mind and Free Agent Nation, two of the best books available about the fundamental changes occuring in the U.S. workforce. I asked him what skills and people would prosper in the future. Here's part of his response:

Of the five most important psychological traits that distinguish human beings from one another, openness to new experience stands out as the factor that I think defines who will be more inclined to becoming contingents and enjoying it. That also involves tolerance for risk. I think all of us have the capacity somewhere in us and if the context changes enough we end up moving in that direction.
My argument is that the left-brain abilities — create-a-spreadsheet and zero-in-on-the-right-answer type of thinking — still matter and are necessary but are no longer sufficient. The abilities that are characteristic of the other side of the brain — artistic, empathetic, inventive — are increasingly becoming first among equals in the world of work both at the level of individual careers and at the level of organizational performance.
The reason for that is that some of these left-brain abilities can be done cheaper overseas or faster by computers. For example, about 2 million U.S. tax returns were completed by chartered accountants in India last year and 21 million were completed by individuals using TurboTax software.

At the same time we work in an economy that requires us to deliver not only utility but significance, a sense of meaning or even esthetics. Those forces require people to do something that is hard to outsource and hard to automate and satisfies these other needs of a very abundant age.
(The full interview with Pink will appear in the September issue of Contingent Workforce Strategies magazine.)