Monday, June 16, 2008

Arguments for Organizational Diversity

Bringing new members into the organization, even if they're less experienced and less capable, actually makes the group smarter simply because what little the new members do know is not redundant with what everybody else knows. As [legendary organizational theorist James G.] March wrote, "The effect does not come from the superior knowledge of the average new recruit. Recruits are, on average, less knowledgeable than the individuals they replace. The gains come from their diversity."
. . .
Ultimately, diversity contributes not just by adding different perspectives to the group but also by making it easier for individuals to say what they really think. [...] Independence of opinion is both a crucial ingredient in collectively wise decisions and one of the hardest things to keep intact. Because diversity helps preserve that independence, it's hard to have a collectively wise group without it.
. . .
To me, that's one of the (and maybe the) great virtues of collective decision making: it doesn't matter when an individual makes a mistake. As long as the group is diverse and independent enough, the errors people make effectively cancel themselves out, leaving you with the knowledge the group has. Now I realize that to some people (who have old me so) this sounds either vaguely mystical or else overly simplified. But it just happens to be the way the world works.
From James Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Characteristics of a Democratic Organization

From the WorldBlu blog:


  • Relationships are adult-to-adult, not parent-to-child.
  • Leadership happens at every level of the organization, not just at the top.
  • You're paid for the value you bring to the organization, not your job title.
  • Everyone knows to whom and for what they're accountable.
  • Transparency isn't considered scary.
  • Formality and polices are avoided in favor of informality and principles.
  • Humor and having fun is actually encouraged.
  • You can access real-time financial information about your organization's performance anytime you want.
  • Change = life, not death.
  • The employee manual can be summed up in one sentence: "Use common sense!"
  • You look forward to meetings where you can collaborate and share ideas.
  • There's a spirit of ownership in every project in which you're involved.
  • You either helped create or strongly share in the organization's purpose and vision statements.
  • Incentives aren't used to motivate employees - meaningful work is.
  • You never have to ask to go to the bathroom.
  • Your life outside of work is as valued as your life at work.
  • You receive real-time, ongoing constructive feedback from your co-workers, and you're often publicly acknowledged for excellent work.
  • Failure is seen as a right-of-passage to success.
  • Thinking differently and challenging assumptions is encouraged.
  • Alignment comes from a shared sense of purpose, not automatic agreement.
  • Your job is one of your favorite places to be.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Limits of Open Museography


In fairness, no discussion of Open Museography can avoid acknowledging the potential pitfalls of any public discussion of contentious topics. I am sure we can all think of ‘hot button’ topics on which the differing parties are deeply committed to irreconcilable points of view.  

In Rwanda, the constitution makes it a crime to question the government's version of the genocide. That is, of course, pretty raw history, but then, in the United States, the two words “Enola Gay” are enough to send most curators scurrying for cover. 

Unfortunately, the playground rule that "your right to swing your fist ends where my personal space begins" doesn't translate quite so smoothly into the realm of narrative. We can't simply say "Your right to tell a story ends where my story begins." And yet, silence is not a solution. Peaceful coexistence depends upon dialog and reconciliation. 

Perhaps what Cicero said of advice holds also for exhibitions: they are judged by results, not by intentions.

South Africa, What's Next?


Throughout May, there were violent attacks on immigrants in South Africa. Helene Vollgraaff, a Heritance participating professional who lives in Cape Town and is the Sectretary/Treasurer of the South Africa ICOM, recently sent us these maps from the May 24 Die Burger and the following summary of dates and places that violence took place:
11 May: Alexandria, Johannesburg
16 – 18 May: Attacks spread to East and West Rand of Johannesburg including Diepsloot, Tokoza, Actonville, Tembisa, Primrose, Cleveland, Jeppe, Berea, Hillbrow, Zandspruit
17 May: Attacks in Mpumalanga in Lebohang and Leandra
20 May: KZN: Umbilo (Durban)
21 May: Sebokeng, Vanderbijl Park in Gauteng; Villiers in the Free State
22 May: Knysna (southern Cape); Spread in KZN to Bottlebrush Squatter Camp, Chatsworth and Cato Manor
23 May: KZN: Quarry Heights & Kenville in Durban
23 May: Cape Town: Khayelitsha, Guguletu, Nyanga, Philippi, Strand, Du Noon, Masipumelele


Helene also asked Heritance to distribute the SA ICOM Declaration regarding the xenophobic, ethnic and crimincal violence in South Africa. This declaration

calls on the heritage and museum sectors, national and international, in terms of their mandate to engage with public issues of social change, to support efforts to address the root causes, avoidance and ending of such violence.
Philippe Denis, a member of the Heritance Council of Advisors who lives in Pietermaritzburg, KZN, confirmed that everyone is South Africa is concerned by the violence and that foreigners are afraid, in particular African and Asian immigrants and their descendents.

On the positive side, the public sector, in particular the universities, NGO's and churches, rose up in protest against the violence and the attacks have ceased. The underlying problems fueling the xenophobia, however, have not been resolved and a new crisis has emerged. Immigrants are afraid to return to the Townships. There are approximately 100,000 displaced people, many of them living in unhygienic and overcrowded tent towns, church halls, etc. Furthermore, the country is entering winter, which can be very cold and wet. Although many groups have reacted to the call for the donation of food, clothes, blankets, and so on, the needs are greater than the means and the xenophobia in the townships persists.