Castellano’s first book on magic is called The
Arte of Glamour. The foreword is by Gordon
White, of the blog Rune Soup.
Glamour is a complex concept in magic. Originally, the word meant
or means something like “enchantment or magic,” and then gradually
morphed toward “outward seeming”, and then morphed still further
towards its current meaning, along the lines of “the quality of
being beautiful, exciting and attractive, which excites attention
and notice,” as in a way for the external appearance of something
to fail to match its internal reality. One casts a glamour spell,
in other words, to delude the observers into believing things about
yourself or another that simply are not true. The Fairy Godmother
in Cinderella, for example, casts a glamour
over her charge, to make a prince fall in love with a woman who
isn’t quite real. Except. Except, of course,
that the glamour cast is so effective, because it raises
Cinderella’s own self-worth, and breaks the chains that bind her
mind. Her self-worth is battered by ugly stepsisters — whose
glamour serves to clothe the outward form of beauty, but does not
cover over or hide inner self-worth; and yet the glamour makes the
outward appearance of Cinderella match the inner beauty. It makes
her confident enough to dance with princes, to be the belle of the
ball, and to leave on her own terms — not as concubine to a spoiled
prince, but as suitable quarry for the royal hunt for a queen —
embodying both the power of the throne and the future bearer of
royal heirs. This is not to suggest that Cinderella’s sole
power is as a baby-making machine, of course — only that this
option is open to her as to no one else at the royal ball…
because her outward appearance and her inner character have been
brought into alignment. Glamour, in other words, is a magic
not exclusively to change outward appearances, although it can be
used that way. Even more so, though, it is a magic to bring
the inner character and the outward appearance into alignment.
As the Steve Martin character says to Rick Moranis
in My Blue
you gotta change from the outside in!” The Fairy Godmother’s
glamourie on Cinderella is one such bit of
serious spellcraft — change the outward appearance so the inner
beauty shines through; change the outward accessories so that the
inner character is revealed; change the mode of travel so that the
capacity for regal mercy is apparent to all. So, to say that
glamour magic is only about fixing up one’s outward appearance is
to cast aspersions on the whole art. And this glamour is not
about transforming pumpkins into coaches, or mice into coachmen, or
rags into sumptuous gowns, but about transforming one’s magic with
sumptuousness and sensuality — not, strictly speaking, sexuality,
but rather the play and interplay of senses and sensory experience
upon one’s daily life. And THAT
is what Deb is about doing — to your magic, to your
life, to your friends (and, in my case to my students), and to your
world. Accordingly, there is only one pumpkin in Deb’s book.
And for her, the spell here is a vehicle for transforming
one’s arrival at a party from awkward guest to mistress of the
seasonally-appropriate sensory-overload experience. No mice,
but plenty of ideas about how to transform rags to riches on a
budget. For there is a Cinderella story threaded through what she
writes in this book. In Cinderella’s time, to be the
fireplace-ash collector was to be lowest among the low; today, we
don’t think much of people whose job it is to handle baby fluids
like puke and burp on a regular basis. And yet, Deb shows us
how she’s been able to transform such complicated and demanding
labor through a ritual and spiritual practice that raises her
quality of life, that makes her queen of her own
dominion, and look good doing it.
That requires vision. It requires even greater vision — and
more than that, a degree or three of self-discipline — to bring
that vision to fruition in a way that others can read it and learn
from it and experience it themselves. As I read through
The Arte of
Glamour the first time, I thought of
six or eight people I knew whose magical practice would be
strengthened by reading it. Then, as I finished it, I thought,
“Actually, all those people already practice their magic
this way. I just never quite noticed before, that this is how
they work…” It was as if Deb helped me take the
blinders off, and helped me see that magic didn’t have to be one
way alone, all candles and incense and stentorian commands — it was
also cocktails in a wood-paneled bar with a live jazz quartet, it
was learning to tie a new knot in a beautiful silk tie, it was
helping to paint a friend’s house on a weeknight alternating with
poetry and food and conversation
because COLOR! and SENSUALITY! and POETRY!
and FOOD! matter. They
matter a lot. One of Deb’s big concepts is La Dolce
Vita — The Sweet Life. The Creamy Life, almost.
A lot of the Puritan values we grow up with in New England
are ritualistically opposed to anything resembling the sweet life.
Instead, we get a long litany of work hard, be
content with your lot in life, if things are rotten you must have
deserved it, God wants you to be miserable here so you can have a
happy life there, you were destined for what you get.
If Deb serves to remind me of anything today, it’s that
there’s huge value in recognizing that the 4o-hour work-week is a
magical construct which serves almost everyone else except you, the
one who has to live in it. Yet the quality of our lives matters. It
doesn’t matter if we’re peasants in 14th century France or
modern-day wage slaves — the girl who buys a tortoiseshell comb
from a wandering pedlar’s pack is after as much glamour as I
am when I buy a new purple and dark blue tie for Thursdays.
We need a bit of richness in our lives, and we need a bit of
sensuality and color and… frankly… splendour. We don’t
have to live beyond our means to achieve this kind of magic; we DO
have to find ways to look for it, to manage it, and to create it
where it is lacking. And Deb gives you permission to fail at this.
Not every spell will work. Not every glamourous outfit
will survive contact with the party (grease drippings and paint on
a new pair of pants, alas!) Not every delicious potluck party will
go according to plan. You won’t like every cocktail, and the
jazz quartet is playing too loud. There are days when you
will be a hot wreck of emotion because something you planned
meticulously and deliciously to be a feast for the senses is in
fact a bunch of rapidly-cooling food at a party that no one showed
up for. But Cinderella would have gone to the ball anyway. Even if
her fairy godmother hadn’t shown up, to cast a spell and throw a
glamour over everything she glanced at, Cinderella made her own
plans. She had a dress picked out from the Salvation Army, and
modified to suit her needs. She wouldn’t have been the
bellest belle at the ball, but she would have gone. Her shoes
were shined, and she had a tip for the bartender ready in her Vera
Bradley purse (that matched the fabric of her belt in color). Deb’s
best gifts are these, though she hardly calls them that: pluck,
courage, risk-taking, risk-management, adventurism. What my
mother’s mother used to call sportiness. ”Go on, girl.
Go out. Be a sport. Who knows? Maybe your date tonight
has a tall friend.” There are always risks to take in calling
something magic when it doesn’t look especially like “woo”, and
even in calling it magic at all. But Deb,
and Deb’s book, says, “Go on, be a sport. The Ladies are
waiting. The bartender tonight makes a great cosmo, and the
saxophonist is awesome. This is your life. Live a
little. Find your own sweet life.” A Note for
Non-Magical Teachers I don’t know how much or how
many of my readership left have been sticking with me since 2009,
and the days when I was an up-and-coming teacher-blogger (I’ve left
a lot of that behind in the last few years, haven’t I? Thanks for
sticking around). You may be wondering about the relevance of
a book about magic to your classroom, where there’s no magic unless
someone does a Harry Potter book report.
Here’s my thoughts on a takeaway on that. One of the big
thoughts I’ve exported from magic to my own classroom is the
concept of Darshan: we benefit in
our daily lives by being in the presence of a great teacher.
Being in their physical presence helps us absorb their habits
and modes of thought. And the research on teachers bears this
out — students in great classrooms, in the company of great
teachers, make amazing progress in a relatively short time.
(We’ll leave aside the other research that shows that
teachers can have an awesome year one year, and help their kids
make great progress; and be absolutely appalling the next year — as
my friend Sou says, “sometimes the chemistry can be amazing, but
the timing is wrong, and it just can’t work out”). But I
think that we, as teachers, have to believe that a kid in our
classroom takes away from us some of our ideas about success, and
dress, and habits of life. If we bring a brown-bag lunch to
school with a bag of potato chips and a sloppily made sandwich,
that conveys one message; a bento box with quality food conveys
another. And parents and school districts expect us, in part,
to convey quality messages to our students even through our
non-verbal cues. So, in part, Deb’s book is about learning to ramp
up the quality of one’s non-verbal cues, both to yourself and to
those around you. I don’t think you have to do any of the
altar work or the magical spells work she suggests in order to
radically improve the quality of
the Darshan energy you put out; you
don’t have to do “woo” magic to benefit from the kind of mind-set
rearrangement she suggests here.
And doing the lesser levels of
work she suggests will help you do better at speaking to your own
students about the non-verbal cues they send to themselves and to
each other through what they wear, how they dress, and how they
choose to live. If you find yourself wondering how you’re
going to make ends meet, or wonder what’s becoming of the culture
in which we live, then I think Deb’s book has some important things
to teach us, as teachers — she’s saying (as much through what she
doesn’t say as what she does) that as the educators of today’s
youth, we have a responsibility to teach kids that their outer
messages can reflect or even change inner character — as much as
inner character is broadcast through our outward glamourie.
The average teachers’ guide doesn’t ask us to think about
that or teach about that, and yet we have to teach “that stuff” on
a fairly regular basis, through dress codes and our own outward
presentation to our students. Deb is saying, it’s important for
folks individually to be thinking about this stuff for ourselves.
I’d add to that, it’s important for us as teachers, that we
try to be thinking about the effects of our non-verbal cues upon
the children we teach. For they will inherit the earth, and
our non-verbal messages wind up becoming part of their long-range
symphony of the senses. We should be conscious about how and
what messages we broadcast, and Deb’s book is a great way to begin
thinking about the issues anew. Rating:
★★★★★, for practical advice and for a sense of an overall theory of
21 February 2013
12 February 2013
During Tai chi today, I had the pleasant sensation of waking up stiff and stumbling into the office to do the qi gong forms, and feeling my body gradually unclench itself, working out the kinks and challenges one by one, then two by two, then three by three. I tend to get tighter and stiffer over time (don’t we all?) and yet I find that tai chi is proving to be an adequate way of loosening myself up in the morning. And everything loosens up: internally and externally, I’m not the same person at the end of the tai chi forms that I was at the beginning. I mean, sure, people will see me before and after, and assume I’m the same person, but I’m not — one is stiff and tight, and the other is flexible and loose. One is tense, the other is relaxed.
The last few days of relatively enforced inactivity, caused by the snow and the ice, have gotten me down; but I was able to spend part of the time at my artist’s desk, working on a valentine’s day card for my lady:
It didn’t turn out badly, really. It’s this really odd combination of tightness and looseness, actually. The TARDIS on the second page was quite challenging, and required me to summon up the tight, stiff, formal me, the pre-tai chi me; while the bow-tie and the heart at the end required the post-tai chi me. The card reads inside:
“Fezzes are red, The TARDIS is blue, Bowties are cool, and I love you.”
The poem is not original to me, but all the artwork is.
25 June 2012
As part of the work I’m doing for the Design Lab at my school, I’m reading a lot of books about entrepreneurial mindset. Currently, that means two books:
- Seeing the Big Picture by Kevin Cope
- Business Model You by Tim Clark, with Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur
I like them in conjunction with one another. The Kevin Cope book is definitely what we’ve learned to call left-brain, because it’s all so very wordy and verbacious and linear, even though it’s describing a very non-linear process. The Tim Clark book on the other hand is very right-brain-y, with lots of diagrams and photographs and sample images and forms to fill out, and questionnaires to fill out — although the questionnaires are as much left-brain linear as they are right-brain, the way these boxes are arranged winds up leading me into thinking about weird patterns and cross-curricular arrangements of information, and what does this thing over here have to do with that thing over there?
It’s all very powerful.
A bunch of my teacher colleagues from all over the country, perhaps all over the world, are currently at ISTE 2012. I hope they’re having a great time. It should be wonderful. Maybe it’s amazing. I went in 2008 or 2009 and had a very interesting time. ISTE is the International Society of Technology in Education — I gather that Sir Ken Robinson was the keynote speaker, and if you haven’t seen his TED talk at some point, you should.
The thing that impressed me most about ISTE, though, wasn’t the keynotes or the workshops, although I got a lot out of mine — and it made me want to incorporate wikis and blogs into my regular active practice as a teacher. No, the thing that got to me was the astonishing range of products and services available in the vendors’ area on the first floor, and the astonishing range of companies and organizations actively involved in siphoning money out of the schools, both public and private.
I can only imagine that it’s gotten worse, not better. It was also clear that companies like FableVision, concentrating on tools to expand students’ creative skills and mindset, were getting outclassed and outsold by companies that manufactured ever more complex content-delivery systems like SMARTboards and Mimios and Prometheus systems.
And I was immediately reminded of the Nuremberg Chronicle. Produced in 1490-91 in Nuremberg by one of the most prominent Catholic printers in Europe, this was a coffee-table-sized special edition of the history of the world. Albrecht Dürer did many of the illustrations, as did his master and many of his co-apprentices. It had maps and family trees, and year-by-year chronologies of most of the major events of the previous six thousand years, right back to the creation of the world.
The book bombed. It came out in 1492 at the Frankfurt Book Fair (still a major release date/location for, six hundred years later!) after a two-year lead-up in production. Two weeks before, Columbus had left for his first voyage of discovery; by the time he came back, the Chronicle’s maps and chronology were utterly outdated. The prestige clients the publishers had hoped to attract — archbishops, university libraries, kings, princes, prominent financial families — bought the book, but in insufficient quantities. They didn’t like type, and they didn’t like print. Manuscripts were the prestige books to own, not printed ones. The lower and middle classes couldn’t afford the Chronicle; it was too expensive. And by 1494, the book was outdated, and outclassed.
The middle classes could afford the cheaper versions of it produced by rival printeries, though: Books produced in quarto or octavo form, usually at a sixth or even a tenth of the price of the massive Chronicle, and without illustrations. Dürer’s plates and woodcuts for the chronicle began to find their way into cheaper documents, like broadsides and religious tracts.
The author that the Nuremberg printer turned down, in order to produce the vanity-press-like Chronicle? Martin Luther, the most popular and bestest-selling author of the entire 16th century.
Look, there’s no denying that educational technology is important. But it’s also become more than a little too Nuremberg Chronicle-like. It’s too expensive, and it diverts enormous amounts of resources from the students and teachers to the companies that service (or perhaps prey) on the educational system. It requires software upgrades and technical support and machine after machine after machine — more cables, and more wifi hubs and more… more… more. The prestige clientele have largely already abandoned the general public schools in favor of private or elite public institutions, though. The public schools are already not offering a product that the current elites want for their own children. And more big-ticket items are not going to help public or private schools succeed better at completing their (current) mission of producing better test-takers.
Because that mission, ultimately, is not in alignment with what the parents want for their kids. In fact, the only reason that home schooling hasn’t really taken off like a shot yet is that not enough parents really understand how much genuine harm these tests do to their kids. They’re being sold on a Nuremberg Chronicle-style education, replete with bells and whistles and Dürer illustrations and incorrect maps… And Khan Academy’s free software is just down the Internet aways. It may be wrong, but it’s cheaper.
Meanwhile, the private school kids are getting a different education. I won’t say better, just different. The teachers have fewer pupils, the students get a lot of motivation at home (because mom and dad could afford a new car for what this educational service costs for a year, or make a down payment on a house for what it costs for several years… and it’s not quite breaking the bank… yet… but a lot of the middle-income families are feeling the pinch, even with financial aid, because there are layoffs at work, and mom’s been home taking care of the kids, and orthodonty costs the earth, don’t you know?), and there are different kinds of accountability in private schools. There’s an exemption from a lot of testing for private schools, and that leaves more time for music and art and drama, the alleged “extras” of the western curriculum (even though they’re not extra, they’re core to the Western world’s imagination of itself… but that’s a different rant on another day).
Anyway, back to entrepreneurship, after a long but relevant detour. The point is, there’s all this educational technological hardware and software, which is largely about expensive hardware delivery. A digital whiteboard doesn’t do anything more elaborate than record pen strokes, really, or show movies — things that can be done much more cheaply with an iPad, a $40 dongle, and a digital projector. Or even more cheaply with an ordinary whiteboard and a cellphone camera. Or even more cheaply with an old-style chalkboard, and the externalized costs of the kids’ own cellphones.
The Nuremberg Chronicle guys thought they were going to make a killing marketing to the 1%-ers who ran things, never imagining that the whole business of making books was going to collapse in on the heads of the old landowning Catholic elite, and that publishing — honest-to-Gods books — were going to be the cheap new power base of the Protestants, the merchants, the city-dwellers and the financiers. Just like these edutech folks making elaborate devices such as clickers and Digital White Boards and the rest, though, the NC publishers misjudged the market badly. They’re producing elaborate machinery for public schools that can’t afford the tech, and for private schools that don’t have enough students or the pedagogical model to use the tech. The homeschool market will never buy this high-powered stuff, either — it fits neither their pedagogy nor their inclinations nor their pricepoint. And at means, sooner or later, it’s likely to be an oversaturated market.
On the other hand, there are a lot of you teachers who have specialized learning — what to teach, how to teach, and when to teach what to whom — who are in a position to start thinking entrepreneurially about teaching and about learning, and to identify the real markets in education. But that means starting now. Read some books. Write a business plan. Change your business plan. Research. Talk to people in school and out. What are you going to need to make it? To make it big? To survive? To thrive?
How will it help you? How will it help your school? How will it change your relationship with your students? These are not idle questions: school districts all over the world, but especially here in the US, are disempowering teachers, diminishing their credentials, damaging their reputations… what’s your overarching plan?
25 October 2011
Yesterday in study hall, a student insisted that New Zealand was part of Australia. Someone else insisted it was part of Oceania. They went back and forth for a while, until I finally insisted that they look at the atlas.
Someone said they should go onto Google Earth, but no. I wouldn’t let them use the computer. Instead, we opened up a somewhat-dated National Geographic Atlas, and flipped to the section on Australia and Oceania. We also looked at the section dealing with plate tectonics.
And ultimately, we got a much better answer than Google Earth could have given us. First, we learned that while Australia is a continent, Oceania really is not — Oceania is simply a bunch of undersea mountain tops that happen to poke through the surface of the water. Second, we learned that New Zealand isn’t actually on the ‘same’ tectonic plate as Australia, and doesn’t even share a continental shelf. They might be “near” to each other, but New Zealand is the result of something else.
And that something else is volcanoes and earthquakes. The atlas showed clearly that New Zealand sits on the edges of the Australian plate and the Pacific Plate, where the two plates crash into one another and produce the uplift of New Zealand’s highlands and mountains (so ably shown off in the Lord of The Rings movie trilogy!).
We also learned that New Zealand is the southwestern edge of one of the three distinct cultural regions of Oceania: that of Polynesia, which is bounded by Rapa Nui/Easter Island in the southeast, and the Hawaiian Islands in the north. The other two regions were Melanesia and Micronesia. The folks at National Geographic, working within the limited space constraints of a book (even the large format of an atlas), did a great job of picking photos of Micronesians, Melanesians, and Polynesians that demonstrated cultural distinctions. And the photographs of the islands themselves — from the air, from the ground, from the water — also showed how these islands were geographically distinct.
It was all great material for a palace of memory exercise involving the globe. And it’s one of the things that the Internet — as wonderful as it is — does badly. To get all of that information, our kids would have had to visit a half-dozen websites, or I as their teacher would have had to KNOW and had bookmarked the perfect website to answer that question. Google makes it easier, and harder, both at the same time.
Do they have a perfect understanding of Oceania, Australia, and New Zealand? No. Will they be utterly aware of the differences and similarities between islands? No. Are they now aware of geological, geographical, and cultural differences in a part of the world that most Americans don’t know well? Yes, a little. And all of that, from a BOOK!
Sometimes, the best tool for answering an off-the-cuff question is having the right book on hand. That’s why the best study halls, and the best classrooms, are also miniature libraries. I have to do a better job of making my classroom into a jewel of a library for the subjects I teach, I think.
9 June 2009
Here’s one part of the story. And here’s another, the Governator himself. And here’s another. And here’s another, with textbook publisher Pearson falling on the FTSE index. And here’s an objection, and yet another objection.
And the eschools news story on this story.
Go ahead. Read up. Take your fill. Go search out a few more stories, and post them in the comments. I’d love to know your thoughts.
Here’s mine: California used to throw $350 million a year at textbook purchases. Now they’re gonna give zilch. Zero. Zip. Nada. In essence, the Governator is proposing to scrap paper books altogether in favor of free online resources. Apparently they’d rather subsidize computer use in poor neighborhoods for up-to-date information, to buying glossy paper that’s years out of date.
Anyone else notice that all the objections center on the look and feel of a book, and the tactile sensations of holding a book in your hands, and how the new generation feels comfortable with both old and new forms?
Yeah. I bet the scribes said the same thing about papyrus scrolls when the parchment codex came along. And the Humanists felt the same way about manuscripts and printed books in the late 1400s.
But the ‘new generation’ didn’t care about the tactile feel of scrolls, or codices (pl. of codex), just like the new generation today doesn’t care about the feel of pages. What they care about is the information. They care about the story, not the medium in which that story is stored. They will only read the book for as long as that is the convenient form in which to access the need information and narrative.
Can they read it? Can they annotate it? Can they communicate it to others in a new form? in the same form? Can they add to it? Summarize it? Can they connect to it? Can they connect it to what is already known? Can they copy bits of it to send to their friends?
Whether we deal with oral histories, or clay tablets, or scrolls, or strips of bark, or slips of paper, or film clips, or knots in strings… those questions right there are the only ones that matter. EVER. We would do well as teachers not to forget it.
Oh, yeah, one more thing. If you think this isn’t going to blow the textbook market to smithereens in the next three or four years, fine. But those textbook publishers are going to want their $350 million, and if California isn’t paying, the rest of us will. The sooner you wean your teachers off textbooks — like, this fall — the better.
22 May 2009
I love Wordle, at http://www.wordle.net/ for them what don’t know about it yet. This Wordle is composed by copy-pasting the entire English text of Galieo’s seminal book of 1610, The Starry Messenger. In the course of this book (its Latin title is Siderius Nuncius), he explains
- How to build a telescope;
- that the Moon has mountains and valleys;
- that the Moon must be orbiting the earth, which is orbiting the Sun;
- that the Sun is farther away from Earth than previously supposed;
- that there are many, many more stars than just those visible to the naked eye;
- that the stars are much, much farther away than previously supposed;
- that there are four moons in orbit around Jupiter; A N D
- that there must be a (previously unsuspected) cloud of vapors or gases around Earth.
In other words, this one book blows open all previous suppositions about how the world is actually formed. It’s short, easily read (fits on 16-17 8×11″ sheets of paper, double-sided) and is chock full of mind-blowing discoveries — most of which your science department can replicate with a good pair of telescopes or some binoculars. It’s probably one of the most important books of the last thousand years. What? You’ve never read it? Here. Borrow this one. Go read it right now. I’ll wait.
Plus, the wordle is magnificent. Don’t all your budding science writers need to know how to use these words correctly in a sentence?
15 July 2008
Somewhere between the two dormitories, I lost Clio today. She’s was running around campus this morning for 40 minutes or so, and I had to go work at the scout camp. She came back just as I needed to be heading out the door. Thank you gods.
I’ve misplaced my new Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide. Part of me just wants to go out and buy a new one, since I’ve now been looking for it for a week. But I’m resisting doing that. I spent some money on positive things yesterday, and I’m not really looking to replace something I already own — even if it is definitively lost. Anyone seen it?
I’ve been teaching ecology and conservation classes at the Boy Scouts camp this week. Clio’s been coming with me. For the most part it’s been fun, but a little slow. The group of kids I have are great, and I’m having fun, but part of me would prefer being out in my kayak.
27 June 2008
1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE.
4) Reprint this list in your own LJ so we can try and track down these people who’ve read 6 and force books upon them
4 March 2008
Wikinomics, by Don Tapscott (other books by him) and Anthony Williams (other books by him) is a look at how e-mail, wikis, weblogs, instant messaging, cellphones and other digital tools change the face of business. The authors have done some previous work in business, but they’re principally journalists, I think. In this non-fiction work, they attempt to uncover the elements of what makes a successful, flattened operation possible.
The essential problem here is that most businesses consider their information proprietary. If you’re a mine, like the one discussed at the start of the book, your geological information is proprietary data that you’ve spent hard-earned bucks to gather from solid rock. You don’t want to give it up too easily. But at the same time, you may not have the geologists in-house to analyze that data effectively, and find new places to dig for gold. The difference between knowing and not-knowing may cost you several hundred million dollars. So the CEO of this company decided to make its intellectual property public. And it offered prizes to people who crunched the data for them, and found new ways to find gold. People came out of the woodwork to crunch the data, and not all of them were nut-cases. Today, this is the most profitable gold-mine in North America.
Proctor & Gamble was irritated that its internal R&D department wasn’t able to use its huge catalog of patented processes, and that it had a huge number of R&D problems that it couldn’t solve. So it found an online company, InnoCentive, where you can post R&D problems to consultants, who will attempt to find solutions. At the same time, Proctor & Gamble began posting some of its patented solutions as part of an effort to find companies that needed to solve those problems. It now earns almost $2 billion a year from licensing its patented technology and processes.
IBM found that it couldn’t build an operating system to compete with Microsoft Windows. So it tried to get Linux. Only, it couldn’t figure out how to interface with the Linux community as a company. So after several difficult tries, IBM decided that its engineers would simply interface one-on-one with the community, just like every other software engineer.
Best Buy discovered that its marketing and sales analysis force actually knew less about their customers than their sales force did. The people who interacted with the customers on the salesroom floor got incentives to talk to the decision makers at the top tiers of the company, in order to improve sales and customer service across the board. Wal-Mart started asking its buyers to keep blogs — uncensored and unedited. Wikipedia built an impressive encyclopedia solely on the basis of individual contributions over months and years. Even its errors eventually get corrected.
Boeing realized that it could build 787s using 400+ page explanations and countless meetings, but they wouldn’t get the plane they wanted and needed to stay competitive. So they partnered with their suppliers, got the suppliers to build the parts, wrote a 20-page specifications manual, and opened the whole construction and design process to trust and goodwill. They’re now competitive and successful for the first time in decades.
The tools that made this possible are wikis, e-mail, blogs… all tools for increasing communication, and flattening hierarchy. Whether this book explains successfully how they work, I don’t know. Even so, it’s a pretty good read. I guess the part I find most dismaying is that most schools are 10-12 years away from adopting many of these same tools, and moving towards student and faculty collaboration in a big way. Schools are inherently conservative, but it’s not good for our education system
Stars: 3.5 out of 5
26 April 2007
I will be signing Scion: Hero and anything else I had a hand I writing at Rising Phoenix Games on Sunday, April 29, from noon until 4m.
It may be that I’ll even try to run a demo. Swing on by the store, have a little fun, buy some games, and say “hi!”