InReview – Issue 2

Theory R Management by Wayne Alderson and Nancy Alderson McDonnell; Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1994; xvi, 239 pp.

Wayne Alderson was the vice president of Pittron Steel, outside of Pittsburgh, when major labor unrest threatened to close the company for good. In the middle of crisis, Wayne changed the tide of destruction by recognizing the value of people, and rebuilt the company on the principles of love, dignity and respect.

In this book Alderson and his daughter draw on both experiences at Pittron Steel and the dialogue with thousands from major corporations they have interacted with at seminars around the country, to lay out a set of revolutionary principles for business today. The book offers a collection of principles, well illustrated, rooted in reality, which really work.

By including biographical comments about himself, Alderson builds the case from the origins of his ideas. His grandfather and father were coal miners. His father had frequently said that he wished he were as valued as the mules in the mine.

This book is worth reading by anyone in business,and has equal applicability to the factory, the office, the hospital, the school or the home.

There is a caution, which Alderson has frequently shared about these ideas. “If you value people by treating them with love, dignity and respect, productivity and profits will soar. If you value people in order that productivity and profits will soar, they will see through you in an instant.” In other words, these ideas do not constitute a formula by which to run a business. Rather, they represent a way of life for successfully managing a business.

Reviewed by Al Erisman

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Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway by Clifford Stoll; New York, Anchor, 1995; 249 pp.

Stoll, one of the pioneers of the Internet, describes himself as “an astronomer, computer jock, and weekend plumber” in Oakland, California. No doubt, he writes, the Internet has its challenging, fun, and useful side, but it is being oversold and there is too little critical discussion. Internet information, overwhelming in quantity, is often useless, false, misleading, of poor quality, and a distraction from reality. Internet life is passive rather than active and creative. “Creative people are ill-adapted for survival around computers … the medium in which we communicate changes how we organize our thoughts. We program computers, but the computers also program us” (p.46). Creativity is confined within narrow boundaries established by the medium itself.

Computer networks isolate us from one another and facilitate superficial (if not mean-spirited and worse) interactions among people. Educators are uncritically falling for a bogus promise when they invest in computers instead of teachers and books. Schools are being induced to “spend way to much on technological gimmicks that teachers don’t want and students don’t need” (p.11).

Stoll’s book is a fun read and a good counterpoint to the euphoria of many of the technophiles. But enough already! Stoll’s negative caution needs to be accompanied by an account of the positive, education and relationship-enhancing potentials of computers and networks. Stoll himself uses computers within what sounds like a balanced and rich life experience. Tell us about it.

Reviewed by David. W Gill

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Integrity by Stephen I. Carter; New York, Basic Books, 1996; x, 277 pp.

Carter, a law school professor at Yale, stirred up an intense national debate with his earlier book The Culture of Disbelief (1993), which unmasked widespread prejudice against religious talk in the public square. Now Integrity is the first of three books Carter plans to write about the “pre-political” virtues, the elements of a good character necessary for a reasonaly healthy social order.

Integrity is more than simple honesty; honesty can be wielded in brutal ways that violate integrity. Integrity requires three basic elements: (1) a careful, serious search for what is right and good, (2) actions that exhibit that rightness and goodness, even when it is personally costly, and (3) public acceptance of responsibility for one’s convictions and actions. Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr., are two of Carter’s models of integrity.

Carter uses his definition of integrity to reflect on the ways we approach reference letter writing, journalism, law, sports and games, marriage and divorce, and politics and civil disobedience today. He finds us wanting in integrity all too often. Carter is becoming one of America’s wisest and most insightful social commentators and moral guides. It is not difficult to transfer his insights about integrity to the business domain.

Reviewed by David W. Gill