Friday, June 29, 2012

Oh, Atlanta

Interior: Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta

Gravesite in the reflecting pool at the
Freedom Center at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Historic Site


 Exterior: Ebenezer Baptist Church
Dr. King's childhood home in the
Auburn Avenue section of Atlanta


The wagon that carried Dr. King's casket
following his assassination in 1968.

I was in Atlanta to attend the Society of Human Resources Managers (SHRM) annual conference earlier this week. Speakers included Dr. Condoleeza Rice (inspiring), Tom Brokaw (wry and optimistic), and Jim Collins (it's all about the people, folks), multiple presentations on all apects of HR, with terrific forays into innovation, social media, capped one evening by an outrageous  1.5 hour stand-up performance by Jerry Seinfeld before an audience of thousands in the HR biz.


I was especially taken by a brilliant, poignant, and visionary presentation by journliast Malcolm Gladwell , taken from his forthcoming book, on the Millennial generation's ushering in of a new social paradigm.

As SHRM's John Scorza reported: "People born in the 1980s and ’90s are at the forefront of a new social paradigm that will profoundly influence how things are done in the workplace and in the wider world, Gladwell said. The older generation generally views social movements and organizations in the context of a hierarchy. Hierarchies generally have a strong leader, a powerful and experienced organization, and a guiding ideology and strategy. Millennials have a different view. For them, it’s all about the network.
Journalist-author Malcolm Gladwell at SHRM 2012 in Atlanta
"Gladwell compared the civil rights movement to the Occupy movements to illustrate the differences between the generations...[to bring about change] Martin Luther King wanted to bring Mahatma Gandhi’s principles of nonviolence to the United States.

"That movement had the components of a hierarchy: a strong leader, a disciplined organization and a guiding ideology. Compare that to the Occupy movements of the past year, which had no leader, no clear ideology or strategy, and a loosely organized and undisciplined organization.

“This could not be more different than the civil rights movement of 40 years ago,” Gladwell said. “That difference between the way social organization is done by this generation and … the previous generation is incredibly significant,” Gladwell suggested...

"In comparing hierarchies and networks, Gladwell maintained that one form is not better than the other. “We are not superior to them because the hierarchy is better than the network and they’re not superior to us because the network is superior to the hierarchy. They are simply two different forms with very different sets of strengths and weaknesses.”

"In some situations, the hierarchy works, in others the network is best. Many kids start college intending to study science, math and engineering, but the drop-out rates are very high. Why? Because the courses are too hard. To master these topics, kids need to learn from expert instructors, practice discipline and learn on their own. “The task is ill-suited for the paradigm that many kids today are bringing to school and the workplace...”

“The differences between Occupy and civil rights are symbols of the very powerful differences in the paradigms that each of those generations carry around in their pockets. What happened over the past 10 years is that we have seen a fundamental shift in the way people of different generations have chosen to see and interpret the world.

“We have to take this notion of a new generational paradigm seriously.”

Mr. Gladwell's movingly described analysis of the differences between the Civil Rights Movement and Occupy Wall Street, coming as it did in the city of Dr. King's birth,in which the Movement was rooted, provided a very moving experience, on the critical role of  HR, management and logistics in social movements as well as business enterprise.

More by Mr. Scorza on Mr. Gladwell's discussion at the SHRM conference here

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Current Reading

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  • David Bowie: Starman bio - Paul Trynka
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  • Eichmann in Jerusalem - Hannah Arendt
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  • Best of 20th century alternative history fiction
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  • Dream -Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy - Stephen Duncombe
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  • Studio A - The Bob Dylan Reader

Current Listening

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