Slow Ideas

The New Yorker • 29 July 2013

Human factor. Physician and public health expert Atul Gawande examines why it sometimes takes so long for good ideas to go mainstream. Extrapolating from his experience in the medical field, Gawande's observations ring true for the difficulties encountered in innovation adoption across the board—from education to manufacturing to government.

Plenty of grist here for the library, archive or museum administrator's mill. Atul Gawande gives us a graphic tour of the spread of innovation in public health, from the mid-nineteenth century introduction of anesthesia and antiseptics; to a late-1960's "miracle" weapon against cholera that consisted of sugar, salt and water; to prolonged efforts from the 1980's to today to improve childbirth practices in India and Bangladesh. Two powerful themes run through all the stories: 1) it's much easier to fix problems whose effects are obvious and immediate than those that are subtle and slow to develop; and 2) human interaction is the key force in overcoming resistance and speeding change. The article's key quote is from Everett Rogers: "Diffusion is essentially a social process through which people talking to people spread innovation." Atul Gawande's history lessons make a strong case that, in order to spread innovation, one-on-one mentoring is not only scalable but essential. The stories also make for a compelling, if unappetizing, read. Absolutely not recommended for lunchtime. (Massie)

Is Your Organization Ready for Total Digitization?

HBR Blog Network • 24 July 2013

Pick one. As organizational operations increasingly go digital, choosing the appropriate management structure is key to continued efficiency, coordination and collaboration. Read on for a quick overview of the three most common approaches and reasons to consider each one.

Not surprisingly, the answer depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. If you have many goals, then the authors suggest a centralized approach (they call it convergence) is best. If you have just a couple of goals, then you can get away with a lighter coordination process. The third option is a decentralized process where everyone does their own thing. This all reminds me of when computers came into businesses and everything started out massively controlled. Nowadays, the company has no control over the computing platforms any individual or group chooses to use. I suspect this is more about cost than technology. (LeVan)

McKinsey Report Sells Big Data Short as Game Changer

ReadWrite • 26 July 2013

Big Data's everywhere. Check out the results of a recent McKinsey assessment of future opportunity drivers in the U.S. economy. Big Data ranks #3 in projected share of 2020 GDP, but corporate strategist Matt Asay says McKinsey's analysis is too simplistic. Read on for a quick overview of the report results and Asay's take on why Big Data deserves higher marks.

Big Data will be an integral component in each of these game changers, but it should also lead to exponential effects of cross-pollination. As Big Data in each of the game changer silos gets refined and analyzed, the results can be efficiently shared and meshed with big data from other sectors to reveal new information. (Young)

In a Dysfunctional Industry, Pandora Seeks an Algorithm for Profitability

Knowledge@Wharton • 31 July 2013

Power plays. Over the last decade, disruption in the music industry has served as a preview of coming features in publishing, and Pandora's struggle to thrive in the face of an entrenched music licensing system echoes some of the issues surrounding e-publishing and copyright. Read on for an intelligent discussion of Internet radio's quest for market share and monetization.

I found myself uninterested in reading about Pandora's specific problems with music licensing. However, if this story is viewed as a cautionary tale of how the dying throes of the music industry will likely impale some of the new companies before they can make good the transition, then perhaps it's worth your attention. Perhaps. But be cautious about drawing parallels to print publishing. That particular dinosaur will have its own way of dying, and taking others down with it as it goes. (Tennant)

Bad Luck Numbers that Scare Off Customers

HBR Blog Network • 30 July 2013

Perspective check. Just as Western marketers tend to avoid the numbers 13 or 666, some Asian cultures have their own ingrained aversion to various digital combinations. Read on for a few examples and a reminder that local input is key when launching an information campaign in a non-domestic environment.

Yes, it's important to know the local culture in which you're living, working, or nurturing a relationship. Chinese, Japanese and Korean share a subset of Chinese characters, and in all three 死 means "death" and has the same pronunciation as the number 4 in their respective languages (si, shi, sa). So you'll often find hotels there without a fourth floor; in Japan dinner sets are sold in packs of 5. A homonym for "9" is suffering in Japanese, but in Mandarin Chinese it's a homonym for 久, long-lasting, so a wedding (or launch of a new venture) on 9-9 is considered auspicious. Consult a local resource for what to avoid—or to include. (Smith-Yoshimura)

Above the Fold Quiz

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, what are the primary ways archival researchers share information about the resources they discover?

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