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Archive for January, 2011

The Coming Population Crash (Book Review)

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

The Coming Population Crash

Demographics are probably considered one of the most unsexy subjects known to mankind… but The Coming Population Crash and Our Planet’s Surprising Future by Fred Pearce takes a second look at old school demographics. Pearce, if you haven’t read any of his previous work, is a well respected British environmental journalist with a slew of exemplary research under his belt. In this book, released in early 2010, he tracks back to explore where the numbers are really leading the global population statistic. And those numbers are not in the direction of continual world growth.

With the often maligned baby boomer generation leading their way into retirement in 2011 there has to be a time when the unsustainable older boomer bubble starts to die in their sleep. At the same time nearly every country in the world is in population decline with the average global woman now producing 2.6 babies – in less than a decade, if trends persist, global population will be below replacement levels. And by 2040 we are looking at a global population that, for the first time since the Black Death, will be shrinking. The trends point to an older overall population well into the future with a greater influence from women.

That’s an interesting point – how will the world be different without the traditional patriarchal societies? Could this possibly be a future with less confrontation fueled by testosterone? And how will the shrinking populations of Europe and the United States, for example, affect the migration of labour around the world?

From the Catholic Church’s pre-occupation with abortion due to the need to replace those men lost to the labour force after the Black Death in Europe, to Malthusian ideas of letting the weak fall aside for the good of humanity, to the long history of eugenics, and the spirited battle to retard population growth that has brought about an even greater effect than its engineers may have imagined… you simply need to think a little about the long term ramifications of Mao’s infamous one child policy… Pearce’s book is chocked full of well researched information and sustained argument.

The argument is that population isn’t the giant negative we’ve been brought to believe. It brings its own truth to the changing demographic landscape of the world. If you get a chance, read another Fred Pearce book – Confessions of an Eco-Sinner: Tracking down the Sources of my Stuff. Both are absolute page turners.

Outliers (Book Review)

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

For the last year I’ve intended to read Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. It sat on my bookshelf for over a year without a page being turned – partly because I read revues that acted as minor spoiler alerts and I’m not sure that’s the best way to review good books. However, it’s hard to review Gladwell’s work without getting knee-deep into his research and hypotheses.

The argument Gladwell eloquently puts over is simple – hard work (10,000+ hours) and intelligence aren’t enough to make outliers like Bill Gates or The Beatles successful. The environment and wider society provide the context that either enables or disables our ability to capitalise on success. As any businessman should be able to tell you, there’s more than a little luck involved in any success story. You need those 10,000+ hours plus the intelligence plus the opportunity provided in your environment.

What year were you born? How does that fit into the historical context? What were the industry and cultural pressures that moulded these outliers into super-success stories?

My interest in Outliers: The Story of Success came through reading Gladwell’s equally fascinating article in October 2008 – Late Bloomers: why do we equate genius with precocity? It explores the writer who is said to be an overnight success story but who really spent 20 years honing his craft at the kitchen table being supported by his hard working and enduring wife. It looks at the difference between the young genius of Picasso versus the learned mastery of Cezanne.

In Outliers, Gladwell says it’s easy for us to oversimplify the world and just say outright that certain people were destined to be great. That’s just a myth. Bill Gates, deprived of his birth advantage in historical context, missing his 10,000 hours at the birth era of computer programming… well, you should get the picture. Bill Gates is as much a product of being able to pluck those opportunities as he is the product of his taking them onboard.

Gladwell’s books, to me at least, are morsels that satisfy a certain palate – I enjoy that he bridges a border between journalism and academia. I simply take my coffee and toast under an old garden umbrella reading anything crafted by Malcolm Gladwell over the last umpteen years. And I lick my lips knowing that Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking is also on my bookshelf for 2011 reading.

Ethics of Unsolicited Compromised Data

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

What would you do if a plain envelope arrived in your business post that included a competitor’s complete client database? This happened to an Australian web design agency and they quickly did the ethical thing… but what would you do?

The Temptation of Knowing vs the Stain of Being Known

Who knows what motivates a disgruntled employee to copy sensitive company information and send it out to competitors? Perhaps the employee was fired, or they didn’t get a Christmas bonus or there’s an office politics issue that needs to be addressed.

Whatever the reason behind the leak, all players in an industry have an active interest in ensuring this does not lead to exploitation.

Of course it’s tempting to have a peek at that database, but ask yourself… what if it became known that you did? What would your own clients… not to mention those clients you hope to oneday win from the competitor… think about your indiscretion? It would more than likely backfire and toast your reputation.

Remember that person who anonymously sent you the package – they know you received it and you don’t know anything about them except they’re a malicious employee in a competitor’s firm.

The Industry Needs to Operate on Competitive Trust

Let’s look at this from an ethical perspective… what if it was your employee who sent your database to your direct competitor? What would you like (or expect) them to do in response?

On another ethical tangent… what if everybody in the industry were to always take advantage of opportunities to gain access to each others database? Notice the “always”… it’s because if you condone it once for one person you have to condone and expect if of all players in the industry. And if one business were to gain underhanded advantage then it would be right for all people to gain that same advantage?

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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