This month we feature stories about the incredible success of Disney’s animated film Frozen, the interdisciplinary work of David A. Moss at the Tobin Project, Aaron Carapella’s map of America before the European arrival, life in an American emergency room, the growing importance of the millennial generation to the American economy, and Jill Lepore’s critique of Clay Christensen’s theory of innovation and disruption.
In The New Yorker magazine, Maria Konnikova describes why Disney’s blockbuster film, Frozen, appeals to so many people from so many different backgrounds.
This article describes the work of Harvard professor of business administration David A. Moss. Moss is leading the Tobin Project, a non-profit organization that engages a network of scholars in interdisciplinary research. The Tobin Project tries to create the conditions that foster interdisciplinary discourse, creative problem solving, and new insights.The group’s mission is to identify “worthwhile queries to pursue: large problems on which social scientists can engage each other productively, make meaningful discoveries, and shape both society and the future of research.”
National Public Radio (NPR) recently aired a story about Aaron Carapella, a self-described “mixed-blood Cherokee.” After years of tedious research Carapella has created a map “pinpointing the locations and original names of hundreds of American Indian nations before their first contact with Europeans.” As I learned from Carapella’s story, many of the names we commonly associate with American Indian tribes were given to them by rival tribes or by European settlers. In many cases, the names themselves are derogatory. Carapella’s attempt to rewrite history also helps to rewrite our understanding of the importance of names and frames in the larger process of identity formation and collective action. “Naming is an exercise in power. Whether you’re naming places or naming peoples, you are therefore asserting a power of sort of establishing what is reality and what is not.” So, whether it is “Affirmative Action” or “Quotas” or “the Estate Tax” or the “Death Tax,”
In yet another interesting piece by National Public Radio (NPR), Leana Wen reminds us of the importance of treating the person and not the disease. Wen tells the story of a 56-year old man who is rushed to the emergency room by his wife after complaining of chest pain. Although doctors are able to quickly discover and treat a blockage in one of his blood vessels, the man eventually is released from the hospital feeling somewhat uncomfortable about his overall experience. Wen shares her thoughts about how doctors need to be trained and then reminded of the importance of treating the patient first, and then the disease. It’s an important reminder for all leaders.
Author Matthew Philips writes about the emerging role of America’s millennial generation (those born after 1980). According to Philips, “at 4.3 million, 23-year olds are now the single largest age group in the U.S.” If the projections are accurate, millennials will provide a much needed stimulus for the country’s economy, assuming the role once played by those in the Baby Boomer generation. What struck me by this article was how much of a structural advantage 23-year olds have in the United States when you compare them to their counterparts in other parts of the world. For example, there are similar “youth bulges” in many Middle Eastern nations, but their prospects are simply not as certain and not as bright as they are for America’s youth.
Jill Lepore recently took one of the most prominent business theorists, Clay Christensen, to task in “The Disruption Machine.” She writes: “Disruptive innovation is a theory about why businesses fail. It’s not more than that. It doesn’t explain change. It’s not a law of nature. It’s an artifact of history, an idea, forged in time; it’s the manufacture of a moment of upsetting and edgy uncertainty. Transfixed by change , it’s blind to continuity. It makes a very poor prophet.” Whether you agree with Lepore’s assessment and critique, she has certainly provoked a debate about innovation, disruption, and change worth reading.