“More Than One Way to Skin a Cat” — System Thinking

July 21, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Phil Grise @ 9:20 am



Filed under: Uncategorized — Phil Grise @ 9:18 am


July 20, 2009

Tribute to Walter Cronkite

Filed under: Uncategorized — Phil Grise @ 9:53 am

A flurry of passings has cluttered the television media through July. Hollywood got more than their share with Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon and of course Michael Jackson. It seemed like the Jackson funeral coverage was going to bury us all.

And then, just as we approach today’s 40th anniversary of the walk on the moon, the Man who brought it to us all – who made us believe it was possible, Walter Cronkite died at 92.

CBS in particular, but all the television news media outlets have paid homage to this fantastic individual. Some have attributed the entire concept of the Evening News to him. That may be a bit of overstatement.
Back in 1963, there was nightly news at 6 – Huntley/Brinkley and others. But Cronkite decided to make the CBS Evening News 30 minutes long – yielding enough time to really cover a story – even though he had at first urged his viewers to be sure and read their local newspapers for full coverage of the TV highlighted stories (CBS suits hated this!).

Cronkite had covered WWII and went on after the Kennedy assassination to be on the scene in Viet Nam.
We Baby Boomers came of age, first watching Cronkite just as we entered high school and were (appropriately) prodded by teachers to pay attention to the news. He was the voice and the face that told us how it was. Generations since have not been as fortunate as the fragmentation of news coverage has splintered into many outlets feeding us their ‘view’ 24/7… all completely overlooking the cardinal tenant that Cronkite preached and abided by so well.

Cronkite and his CBS sidekick Charles Kuralt explained “news” by what they called The Tricycle Effect. Kuralt coined the term, I think.  Simply put, newscasters/news shows ARE NOT the news. They are a vehicle for reporting information, and should never, ever infuse themselves into the story – including adding their bias. The term came about as Kuralt was watching a local news bit on a children’s daycare program. He felt it coming… at the end of the piece, the commentator couldn’t help himself from getting onto a tiny kids tricycle, and riding off into the proverbial sunset of a commercial. How sad.

And that lesson that Cronkite and Kuralt left us with is all but lost with E! News, not to mention Fox Broadcasting…. actually it’s a pretty long list but they are the clearest, most heinous culprits.

In his latter years, Cronkite must have spent many a day, shaking his head and furrowing his bushy eyebrows at  TV news coverage. The soundbite mentality has taken over and left us with a veneer of what society once was.

July 13, 2009

Who’s Running the Businesses

Some years ago, Roger Kaufman described the road to progress in businesses as being hindered by middle managers. We believed, Roger and I, that the middle folks, often the ones with MBAs, really were great at looking out for themselves and the corporate bottom line ($$). So, our rule of thumb had been — if you desire for a corporation to move onward and upward into a holistic, system thinking and functioning modality, one had to get to the top dog. It is the CEO who is the visionary, the one who understands that business must first and foremost thrive on doing well for the whole community, not just the stockholders.
Well, something slipped (oh there are SO many other verbs I could put here)  someplace. The last few years have shown us all something quite different. The heads of many, many businesses not only weren’t looking out for the long-range societal good, they also didn’t give a hoot about the stockholders and the employees. It’s been a ‘take the money and run’ situation. The range and number of chief executives who have recently screwed over the world is astonishing.
Today we live in a serious recession, brought about by individual greed – a cadre of slimy folks who favored themselves and their close friends above all else. Many of the organizations (and their leaders) have crumbled, but is there a new order which is evolving?
Were I on the faculty of an MBA program, I would be spending long hours looking in the mirror. What monsters had our executive management programs created? How did we possibly let the notion of ethics slip by — in the end, the training required is really close to simply delivering a fervent understand, appreciation and application of The Golden Rule. What can be done to ensure major changes in how the people in power think? We came mighty close to total collapse, because of greed.
One ray of hope is a change in national leadership. No longer do we suffer through the 8 years of ignorance and self-promotion. Either nobody was minding the store, or whoever was, clearly didn’t have the best interests in mind of our nation, our planet.
But it’s way more complicated than just one man in the driver’s seat.
I’m hoping for the best.

July 10, 2009

Gearing Up Once Again

Filed under: Uncategorized — Phil Grise @ 10:30 am

For a variety of insignificant reasons, I’ve been away from this magnificent tool to share insights. Time to get it rolling once again. So stay tuned. And watch for good things to come.

For those who don’t know, the upcoming Fall semester will be my final semester before retirement. I will complete the maximum of 5 years in the DROP retirement program in February 2010. It’s been a great 35 year ride. Perhaps I’ll return and teach again in the future on an adjunct basis. Florida universities are in dire financial straits so predictions on the future are not sound.

July 10, 2007

World Visionary Poet

Filed under: Uncategorized — Phil Grise @ 6:00 pm

Paul Simon — I almost feel like saying, “Need I say more?” but I know I do. That’s why I’m writing.

Wind your computer backwards. Get to 1986, can you imagine – 1986. That means you probably didn’t have a computer, at least at home; it means for us ordinary folks there was no Internet. Sure, some of us university wise-guys were messing around with email and FTP, pretty much as we do today, but the non-existent stuff is staggering. No cell phones (1947 invention; 1983 FCC authorization, but 1987 when sales truly started); no digital cameras (1986 to 1994 for a commercial start), and no flat-screen or HD television. Thank goodness CDs got invented in 1965 and started heading toward homes in 1980, with us mere mortals not finding them affordable until 1986. But I digress.

Back in ’86, which is some 21 clicks ago on the annual calendar for those of us who shudder to admit it, Paul wrote “The Boy in the Bubble”. The song was not so much about David Vetter, the child who had lived his life suffering from ‘severe combined immunodeficiency ‘, but the state of the world. A situation that hasn’t changed much in the past 21 years. When Vetter was born in 1971, Paul Simon was treating us to “Me and Julio Down By the School Yard” and “Peace Like a River” — Simon told us he’d be up for a while, starry-eyed, watching peace flow through the city. Vetter died at the tender age of 12 in 1984, and Paul Simon reflected on his medical miracle briefly in the song. But it was bigger than that.

Paul Simon spoke in “Boy in the Bubble”, of much more trouble and sorrow. As we leapfrog from 1971’s Peace Like A River to 1986’2 Boy in the Bubble, to 21st Century Planet Earth, we again have to ponder the poet’s word. What was Simon watching out for in 1986? Listen to his list from then and shudder at the foreshadowing:

  • cameras that follow us in slo-motion (an ‘ethical’ issue currently being pondered by the media – are there too many web cams in our lives);
  • lasers in the jungles, and of course:
  • “The soldiers by the side of the road, there was a bright light, a shattering of shop windows, the bomb in the baby carriage was wired to the radio. These are the days of miracle and wonder.”

These sure are the days of miracle and wonder. Simon was astonished and flattened by the concept 21 years ago. It’s still true today. So much for progress. For me, it’s certainly a great thing that Paul Simon can put all this down in words and music, but we MUST start listening!!

June 27, 2007

Go Figure

Filed under: Uncategorized — Phil Grise @ 11:34 am

So is the world, or at least America going to Hell in a hand basket? (Strange image, isn’t it) Today, June 27, 2007 the activities on the planet are pretty significant.

  • Tony Blair has stepped down today as PM of the United Kingdom, while Gordon Brown steps up.
  • The CIA releases documents that describe 30 years of dirty tricks including assassination plots against Fidel Castro, Patrice Lamumba and Rafael Trujillo; nearly 10,000 files kept on American anti-war (Viet Nam) “activists”; experimented with behavior modification experiments along with LSD and other hallucinogenics on unsuspecting citizens… a long list.
  • America’s wealthiest gained an average of 11.6% income in the past year. Hmmm
  • Two Republican Senators step forward to call of an end to America’s unsuccessful military campaign in Iraq, and remind the President that Osama bin Laden was and is the target.
  • Wildfires claim hundreds of homes near Lake Tahoe.

But what does the US media cover in the papers, on television and in the Internet?

  • Professional wrestler who killed wife and son, then committed suicide may have been on steroids.
  • Paris Hilton is one day out of jail, and Barbara Walters won’t interview her. [Sorry, I know I promised not to mention her.]
  • A hunt is planned to find Bigfoot in Michigan, and my favorite
  • Hot dog eating champ now suffering from jaw arthritis and probably will not compete.

Don’t we have to ask ourselves, “what’s gone wrong with the media”? The stories are there, yet the biggies all carry and emphasize the same crap. Repeat, the same crap — have they no independence from one another? Where’s their creativity gone? Exactly how many people control our media? Do we still need two-hands of fingers to count the numbers or are we down to one handful? When asked why this junk, media quickly says, “it’s what ‘the people’ want to hear. Oh please.

It must be summertime.

May 8, 2007

“Right Place – Wrong Time”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Phil Grise @ 5:35 pm

Dr. John shared that little piece of wisdom with us long ago. It was/is great music. Going a step further, if in your life you feel Paris Hilton has brought “beauty and excitement to (most of) our otherwise mundane lives” (as her appeal to Governor Schwarzenegger proposes) — then you are sadly viewing the wrong, wrong blog. If you came to this blog to see a discussion regarding the now-criminal Paris Hilton, you are in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time. Amen

April 13, 2007


Filed under: Ethics — Phil Grise @ 8:58 am

I suspect that everyone and their acquaintances are writing about the Don Imus scenario these days, but my comments are short. If you make the BIG BUCKS, you have to know the limits, that illusive ‘tipping point’. That’s why you get the big bucks. Sure there are still plenty of shock-jocks on the air, and small-time wannabes who may or may not make it. But it’s the icons who must set the mark and know in their gut what is too much. Imus didn’t know that, flirted with disgust for some time, and has been shut down. As CBS boss Les Moonves said: “He … flourished in a culture that permits a certain level of objectionable expression that hurts and demeans a wide range of people… we take an important and necessary step not just in solving a unique problem, but in changing that culture, which extends far beyond the walls of our company.”

But a nagging question: If the sponsors, the money, hadn’t pulled out, would the network have exhibited the same level of morality? Was this an issue of ethics, or economics?

March 26, 2007

Homeland Security Colors

Filed under: Humor,System Thinking/Strategic Planning — Phil Grise @ 8:39 am

Here we are in March 2007, still floating along at a heightened level of security – YELLOW, according to the Department of Homeland Security. That is, unless you are involved in air travel, then the level is ORANGE. What’s this mean and how does it change? Couldn’t St. Patrick’s Day have been set to GREEN just to honor the Irish?

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) (http://www.dhs.gov) the worst possible scenario is RED- meaning that there is a “severe risk of terrorist attacks”. Fortunately, we haven’t seen that for a while. But should you travel, you are consistently flirting in the ORANGE zone, meaning “high risk of terrorist attacks”.

But lately we have ambled along at level 3, or YELLOW, “Elevated/significant risk of terrorist attack”.

I’m not sure we’ve ever made it down to BLUE, “Guarded/general risk of terrorist attack”, not to mention GREEN, “Low risk of terrorist attack”.

Why not? This Homeland Security business needs to study a bit more psychology. If HS continues to beat the drum with the same Yellow tone unceasingly, we become complacent. It’s getting boring. Good old B.F. Skinner showed us long ago that a continuous reinforcement (CRf) schedule quickly dulls the senses and we’ll forget to pay any attention whatsoever. It’s important to have some variety, a Variable Ratio/Variable Interval (VR/VI) seemed to best do the trick for B.F.

So, we need to get down to the BLUE zone now and then, just so the government can yank the rug and whip us back into a YELLOW frenzy once again. That could be done once a week or so, except that we’d quickly know that, every Tuesday, let’s say, would be a YELLOW day and we’d know to keep our heads under the covers that day. That Fixed Ratio of operant conditioning isn’t much better than CRf.

Find a government official anywhere who can tell you specifically what it would take to change the color level — and I don’t mean the obvious of a major attack turns us instantly to RED. Here’s the question. “Just what would it take to change to BLUE”? They don’t know. There is no metric.

Actually, we’ve got to go for the real deal and add more colors to get the VR/VI system really working. We can whip people into psychotic frenzies! Let’s add PURPLE, TAN, PINK and most significant of all, BLACK. Hmm, where would BLACK go on the continuum?

If physicists tell us that BLACK is the absence of color and WHITE is the blend of all colors, I guess that BLACK should be the mildest of all terror levels, and WHITE should find us filling our britches because the end is here. But they don’t ‘sound’ right. You can’t go around wishing people a “Black day” and expect a positive meaning to come from that.

And what about color-blind folks? Will they miss the entire point of the color exercise by DHS? Maybe we should all be color-blind. The ‘system’ has cost a fortune and is wholly meaningless and non-functional.

Whatever you do, Remain Vigilant as our friends at DHS warn us. All this is to say you should read Zbigniew Brzezinski’s article from the Sunday March 23 Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/23/AR2007032301613.html?referrer=emailarticle

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