Symphonic Insights (July 2014)

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.

Inside this issue:

How Frozen Took Over the World

In The New Yorker magazine, Maria Konnikova describes why Disney’s blockbuster film, Frozen, appeals to so many people from so many different backgrounds.

[ut_blockquote_left] In many ways, Frozen leads us all toward a re-examination of what it means to engage with others–emotionally and socially. [/ut_blockquote_left]She concludes that it’s about the nuance of the story and the audience’s ability to relate to its characters. Konnikova writes: “…everyone could identify with Elsa. She wasn’t your typical princess. She wasn’t your typical Disney character. Born with magical powers that she couldn’t quite control, she meant well but caused harm, both on a personal scale (hurting her sister, repeatedly) and a global one (cursing her kingdom, by mistake). She was flawed–actually flawed, in a way that resulted in real mistakes and real consequences. Everyone could interpret her in a unique way and find that the arc of her story applied directly to them.” It’s an interesting article and it reminds me of the importance of moving the crowd by connecting with your audience at a soul level. Elsa sets out on a journey that teaches her how to use her gifts and her powers constructively. In the process, she relieves herself of the burden she feels of being “different.”
[ut_highlight color=”#1e73be”] Connecting with others in ways that lead to a thawing of the relationship is a lesson worthy of being told. [/ut_highlight]

Rebooting Social Science

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.”

[ut_highlight color=”#1e73be”] Beyond the ambitious pursuits of the Tobin Project lies a story about its founder. Moss represents what it means to have a symphonic mindset™. [/ut_highlight] He is described as being, “extraordinarily versatile, with a unique ability to think deeply and insightfully across a variety of topics, and to find strategic ways into big issues.” These are rare, but much needed skills. Check out his story. Do you think life he does? Are you in an environment that inspires or recognizes this kind of thinking?

The Map of Native American Tribes You’ve Never Seen Before

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,”

[ut_highlight color=”#1e73be”] words matter [/ut_highlight]. They help to frame our position in relation to our desired destination. They frame our reality and that, in turn, influences our behavior. Check out his map and you will see a different reality of American history.

Heart of the Matter: Treating the Disease Instead of the Person

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.

[ut_highlight color=”#1e73be”] Treat the person first and then move on to the problems. [/ut_highlight]

There Are More 23-Year-Olds Than Any Other Age Group (And They’re Going to Save the World)

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.

[ut_highlight color=”#1e73be”] This article reminds me of how important it is for our nation and its leaders to use strategic foresight to create the structures, the institutions, and the access to both that will increase the likelihood that our youth will prosper well into the future. [/ut_highlight]

The Disruption Machine

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.


You can find this issue of Symphonic Insights on our Flipboard page.

By | 2017-02-09T09:09:32+00:00 August 15th, 2014|Symphonic Insights Magazine|0 Comments