Archive for the ‘fun’ Category
Some of you are attending the Academy of Management meetings this weekend in Philadelphia. As always, AOM is chock-full of parties, receptions, business meetings, and a few interesting panels as well. Here are a few of the panels that I think are worth seeing:
Habitus: Theoretical Foundations and Operationalization for Organization and Management Theory (including talks by John Mohr, Klaus Weber, & Marc Ventresca), Saturday at 11:45
Symbolic Management in the 21st Century (w/ Mike Pfarrer, Mae McDonnell, Jonathan Bundy, and myself), Monday at 9:45
Affinities of Language, Cultural Tool Kits, Institutional Logics: Advancing Strategies of Action (w/ Pat Thornton, Mary Ann Glynn, Steve Vaisey, Omar Lizardo, and Willie Ocasio), Monday at 11:30
The More the Merrier: Integrating Civil Society and the State in Innovation Research (including Huggy Rao, Bogdan Vasi, Sarah Soule, Jeff York, Chuck Eesley, and Shon Hiatt), Monday at 3
Where Do Capabilities Come From? (w/ Teppo Felin, Jay Barney, Michael Jacobides, and Todd Zenger), Monday at 4:45
The Manifestations of Social Class in Organizational Life (including a talk by my colleague Lauren Rivera), Tuesday at 9:45
And if you missed the OMT party last night, don’t worry, there’s another one Monday at 7:30 in room 204 of the Convention Center. There will be free drinks!
Over at Scatterplot, Jeremy’s been writing about his life gamification experiment, which involves giving himself points for various activities he’d like to be doing more of. I find this sort of thing totally compelling and have to admit I’m now giving myself all sorts of points in my head. (Finish unpacking one box — 5 points! Send an email I’ve been procrastinating on — 5 points!) Although not in 100 million years could I get my husband to play along with me, even for brunch, of which he is fond.
Anyway, the game brought to mind this post from Stephen Wolfram, in which Wolfram presents a bunch of data from the last 25 years of his life. Here, for example, are all the emails he’s sent since 1989. (Note the sharp time shift in 2002, when he stopped being completely nocturnal.) He’s also got keystroke data, times of calendar events, time on the phone, and physical activity.
Fascinating to read about, but perhaps not terribly healthy to pursue in practice. Although in Wolfram’s case, it sounds like he was mostly just collecting the data, not using it to guide his day-to-day decisions. Others become more obsessive. I don’t know if David Sedaris has really been spending nine hours a day walking the English countryside, a slave to his Fitbit, or if he’s taking poetic license, but it’s a heck of an image.
Clearly there are a lot of people into this sort of thing. In fact, there is a whole Quantified Self movement, complete with conferences and meet-up groups. One obvious take on this is that we’re all becoming perfect neoliberal subjects, rational, entrepreneurial and self-disciplined.
For me, though, what is fun and appealing as a choice — and I do think it’s a choice — becomes repellent and dehumanizing when someone pushes it on me. So while I’ll happily track my work hours and tally my steps just because I like to — and yes, I realize that’s kind of weird – I hate the idea of judging tenure cases based on points for various kinds of publications, and am uneasy with UPS’s use of data to ding drivers who back up too frequently.
It’s possible that I’m being inconsistent here. But really, I think it’s authority I have the problem with, not quantification.
Good opens the article by suggesting that Go is inherently superior to all other strategy games, an opinion shared by pretty much every Go player I’ve met. “There is chess in the western world, but Go is incomparably more subtle and intellectual,” says South Korean Lee Sedol, perhaps the greatest living Go player and one of a handful who make over seven figures a year in prize money. Subtlety, of course, is subjective. But the fact is that of all the world’s deterministic perfect information games — tic-tac-toe, chess, checkers, Othello, xiangqi, shogi — Go is the only one in which computers don’t stand a chance against humans.
This is not for lack of trying on the part of programmers, who have worked on Go alongside chess for the last fifty years, with substantially less success. The first chess programs were written in the early fifties, one by Turing himself. By the 1970s, they were quite good. But as late as 1962, despite the game’s popularity among programmers, only two people had succeeded at publishing Go programs, neither of which was implemented or tested against humans.
I could have used some Grad Skool Rulz back in the day. But seeing as how I am solidly past that phase of my life, the single most useful orgtheory post I can remember was one on movie clips for undergraduate orgs classes, all the way back in 2008.
There were some great ideas in that post and its comments. The first few minutes of The Devil Wears Prada, where a dowdy Anne Hathaway shows up for an interview at high-fashion Runway magazine, is perfect for illustrating organizational culture. Thank you, commenter brubineau.
Brayden suggested back then, and Kieran seconded, Apollo 13 to show how bureaucracies can be efficient. I still use that, starting with “Houston, we have a problem” and ending with “We just lost the moon.” We watch the clip, then I ask the class which of Weber’s characteristics of bureaucracy they think is most dispensable here. When I can get undergrads arguing about Weber, I know I’ve done my job.
Beyond the suggestions in that post — and I’ve tried a bunch of them — I have two other teaching favorites. One is from Pentagon Wars, the single most organizational movie of all time, on the evolution of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Individuals rationally pursuing organizationally created inducements produce an incredibly dysfunctional outcome — very Carnegie School:
Col. Smith: In summation, what you have before you is…
Sgt. Fanning: A troop transport that can’t carry troops, a reconnaissance vehicle that’s too conspicuous to do reconnaissance…
Lt. Colonel Burton: And a quasi-tank that has less armor than a snow-blower, but carries enough ammo to take out half of D.C. This is what we’re building?
The other is the cool-as-a-cucumber George Clooney in Up in the Air — great for illustrating rationalization and the iron cage. The intro shows Clooney at his job, flying around the country firing people. Then we skip to the roll-out of the new, more efficient method: firing people by video chat. Gets them every time.
You will notice, though, that I’ve got a problem here. MY NEWEST MOVIE IS STILL FIVE YEARS OLD! And two of my four picks came out before my undergrads hit kindergarten. Okay, they never would have seen Pentagon Wars even if they were fifteen years older. But dude, it would be nice to at least pretend I’m keeping up with the times.
I looked, but didn’t see a newer movie thread. (Though Brayden had another short post even earlier, in 2006.) Anyone have other favorites from, you know, the 21st century?