Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Organization Man, 2012 Style

I had reason recently to skim William H. Whyte's The Organization Man, published in the autumn of 1956 and now considered one of the most important American sociological texts of the 20th century.

An assistant managing editor for Fortune magazine, Whyte concluded that the American corporation was purposefully and systematically eliminating individuality--and individuals were happily giving it up.  Conformity had become a central virtue in Eisenhower's America.  It was the coming of the Stepford Executives--and of particular consequence to Whyte, the Stepford Scientists who would no longer have the flexibility to free-wheel their way into true innovation.

Whyte was particularly down on the emergence of the group.  "People very rarely think in groups; they talk together, they exchange information, they adjudicate, they make compromises.  But they do not think," he concluded: "They do not create."

What they do,Whyte knew, was avoid risk, or any misstep that might cost a job or a career.  It was, if we take a trip to the dystopian side of the 1950s, the sale of one's soul for lifetime employment and a tidy lawn in the suburbs.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Foundation of Genius

I had the opportunity to speak before some of the senior leaders of UTC Climate Controls & Security (CCS) last night at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford.  UTC CCS is today a family of leading, billion dollar+ companies that just happened to be founded by some of the more impressive and successful entrepreneurs of the 19th and 20th centuries.

The starting point for the presentation was my 2011 research on the life and impact of Willis Carrier and modern air conditioning for Weathermakers to the World.  (Shameless promotion: Time to buy a copy?  It's on Amazon!)  Over the last few months, thanks to UTC CCS, I was able to extend this research to include Charles and Jeremiah Chubb, Robert Edwards and Walter Kidde.

Monday, October 15, 2012

My One "New Yorker" Cartoon Possibility

I was planning to send this to The New Yorker until I read how hard it is to actually have something accepted--30 gags a month, years of submissions--so decided, what the heck, put it on the blog.

We don't have all five of us home at night much anymore, but when we did, this scene was not a complete impossibility.  A nod to Lord of the Rings, and a special thanks to artist, inventor, toy designer, model helicopter pilot, and friend Ben Bowman for the artwork.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thoughts at 55 (Besides: "Whoa, I'm Old")

Back five years ago when I was a very young man, I wrote this post. It closed by saying that if you could double your age and still see yourself alive, you were ok.  

I was ok then, mostly.  Needless to say, this is now going to take some imagination.

To my list of 29 takeaways from five years ago, I add the following bits, a few earned honestly: 
  1. Stay away from any and every procedure in a hospital with the suffix “ectomy” in it.
  2. Hope that nobody in your household decides to write a memoir that book reviewers will one day refer to as “unflinching.”
  3. No offense, but I liked your emails and texts better when there wasn’t the threat they were being composed from your bathroom.