Books: A Simpler Way

November 15, 2014

I read this book because it was recommended in a class I took in September on “The Role of the Supervisor.” Most of my reading lately has been fiction, and it had been a very long time (probably not since I finished my MBA studies in 1996) that I had read a book on organizational behavior. And I was intrigued by the instructor’s brief description of the authors’ viewpoints about organizations as organisms.

I won’t try to sum up the book’s points, because this review does that better than I probably could. If I had enjoyed reading the book, perhaps I would enjoy waxing eloquent about the ideas expressed in it. But frankly, I really struggled to finish the book before I had to return it to the library.

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Thinking without the box

June 16, 2013

An article in the Wall Street Journal recommends that we “Think Inside the Box,” as the much touted technique of brainstorming “has become a byword for tedium and frustration.” I thought back to some training sessions where I have had to try to get people to engage in brainstorming, and wondered whether I had been engaged in something pointless.

The most recent was in a Junior Achievement program on entrepreneurship that I taught at a middle school this spring. One key characteristic of the entrepreneur is to be creative and innovative, and brainstorming would seem to be a way to generate new ideas, resisting the usual impulse to reject an off-the-wall idea without considering whether it might really work.

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JA BizTown

March 21, 2012

I’ve been a Junior Achievement classroom volunteer for several years, but today was my first experience with JA BizTown. I agreed to volunteer mostly because my son wanted me to, but now I’m glad I saw firsthand what it was all about.

When I was a junior in high school, I got my first exposure to business operations, as part of a Junior Achievement company called Vendex. We sold $1 shares in our company to raise capital, then manufactured denim tote bags, and sold them. My mother used her Vendex bag for years, and I wish I still had one now as a memento of that experience.

At the time I had no interest in the administrative side of business. I had to help sell shares, and later tote bags, but other than that I stuck to working in production. I learned about the problems it created when workers were absent, or when they sat around talking instead of working, and the station I was working at had nothing to do because one of the previous stations on the line had gotten behind.

That was a year-long program (meeting weekly), so we got a good look at what it took to have a successful business. (We did earn a profit, though I don’t remember how much of a dividend we were able to distribute at the end.) Our adult volunteers (from Stanley Tools in New Britain, CT) had already procured the product idea, design, and production machinery (sewing machines), but we did the rest – under their excellent guidance.

BizTown, on the other hand, is a one-day simulation (though some businesses do make and sell simple products), giving students less in-depth but more breadth in terms of what goes on in the “real world” their parents work in. They each have a job (for which they had to interview in the weeks of preparation back at school before the actual event), they receive two paychecks which they deposit at the BizTown bank, and during breaks from work they go out into the “city” and spend money at other businesses.

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