Editorial: Don’t Panic!

Try the Way of the Trout

It may seem strange, but swimming through rough water can actually be easier than swimming across a calm pond.

At least that’s true for many kinds of fish, including some trout whose body structure allows them to capitalize on turbulence and use the water’s energy to propel themselves forward, somewhat like a sailboat tacking across a breeze. Many business practitioners may feel like they are swimming in rough water in the current turbulent business environment. However, if like the fish, we can develop the capabilities to use the turbulence to propel us forward, we may be able to use these rough waters to propel us toward our goals. In particular, practicing doing the right thing in the midst of ethical turbulence can help develop the ability to cope in other kinds of rough times as well.

The important first step is not to panic and then to take a look around at the other ‘fish’ that may be swimming well. Even amidst the current crisis of truth and ethics, some organizations are doing the ‘right thing’ and encouraging others to do so. In fact, there are workplaces that facilitate flexibility, community service, relationship building and balance. I thought it might be encouraging to some fellow swimmers to point out a few. For example, Charles Schwab and Co. matches staff volunteer efforts with monetary donations to community-based organizations. In addition, the company allows co-workers to donate sick-time to their colleagues who have family members with medical emergencies such as cancer treatments or other life-altering experiences. Thanks to this policy, some employees have been able to take up to a year off with pay to be with dying family members. WRQ Inc., a $150 million Seattle-based software company, encourages its employees to help the environment by giving $20 in cash to every employee who drives four or fewer times to work each week. This sounds unorthodox, but the employees themselves have put together an active vanpool, a guaranteed ride home program for those that might miss the schedule, and a GEO Metro loaner car is available for running errands during lunch. Boeing, the world’s largest aircraft and satellite manufacturer, has an International Relief Delivery Flights Program that uses empty space on newly built airplanes to transport humanitarian aid throughout the world. This program has enabled food, blankets, clothing, and medical supplies donated by Boeing employees to be delivered globally to help natural and human disaster victims. These are just a few examples. There are many, many more.

In addition, there are innovative new companies, such as IdealsWork and Betterworkplacenow.com that make social responsibility not just a part of what they do, but their main business. IdealsWork allows people who are thoughtful about environmental and social responsibility to compare companies whose products they are considering buying according to issues of their choosing. Betterworkplacenow.com is part of the Meaningful Work Project which provides practical ideas and tools to build workplaces that are flexible and focus on balance.

It gives me hope to see that even in rough waters there are organizations that are using the turbulent environment as an opportunity to do good things and are successfully sailing through choppy seas. As business professionals we can do the same.

In a similar way, this issue of the Graziadio Business Review offers some useful and positive insight for navigating the foaming swells in business practice.

Peggy Crawford, Terry Young and Julia Takhtarov take us into the stormy oceans of currency exchange rates in their article, The Dollar vs. the Euro: How low will it go? Knowing how a weaker American dollar is likely to affect your business may save you from making some critical mistakes. When you have finished reading the article (or maybe even before) try the “Currency Exchange Quiz’ to see how well you understand some of these concepts.

Teri Tompkins and Kathryn Rogers take us white water rafting through the white water rapids of conflict in Using Conflict to Your Advantage. They show us that in fact, embracing conflict in groups is necessary for effective team dynamics and improved performance.

We slip and slide down the waterfall of premises liability with Charles Hunt in Slips, Trips and Falls :A primer for businesses on the law of premises liability. In this article, Hunt shows us that good management practices dictate that every effort should be made to eliminate risks and to warn against them so that injuries do not occur. He reminds us that this is not just a matter of legal liability but that it is a matter of humane concern for those who enter our property.

With Kent Rhodes we dive into the shifting currents of mergers and acquisitions. In his article, Merging Successfully: The importance of understanding organizational culture in mergers and acquisitions, we are reminded that a positive cohesive culture is critical for successful corporate mergers. Drawing on a variety of analogies and concepts from different disciplines, Rhodes provides some practical advice about what to watch for.

Larry Bumgardner guides us through the perfect storm of excessive punitive damages. His article, Slowing Runaway Juries highlights the Supreme Court’s recent decisions that limit excessive punitive awards. These decisions should help businesses, both in fighting frivolous suits and in negotiating settlements on legitimate claims. Bumgardner again reminds us, however, that the best defense is to be ethical and careful in the first place. You are much less likely to find yourself defending against any damage awards if you take care initially.

Finally, those salty sailors of fortune, Mark Chun and Charla Griffy-Brown explore the recently charted waters along the edge of the map in the wired worlds of China and Japan. In their article, Wired! Hong Kong, China and Japan flex their electronic muscles, you will learn about IT infrastructure development in China, Hong Kong and Japan. By understanding the status of government involvement and the state of infrastructure development in these critical marketplaces, businesses will be better able to make more informed and savvy decisions about how to leverage the electronic domain and make the most of incentives.

Before you take off your life preserver, don’t forget to check the ebizbuz for insight into how to prevent information disasters. And take a look at the book corner for suggested reading to help in a whole range of sea-faring adventures. Finally, if you happen to find yourself drowning in your own private financial whirlpool, check out the Arcade. This time we focus on personal financial-help software – and links to resources that can help put you back into calmer waters.

Until next issue, keep swimming!

Author of the article
Charla Griffy-Brown, PhD
Charla Griffy-Brown, PhD, , is an associate professor of information systems at the Graziadio School of Business and Management. In 2004, Dr. Griffy-Brown received a research award from the International Association for the Management of Technology and was recognized as one of the most active and prolific researchers in the fields of technology management and innovation. A former researcher at the Foundation for Advanced Studies on International Development in Tokyo, she has also served as an associate professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Dr. Griffy-Brown graduated from Harvard University, is a former Fulbright Scholar, and holds a PhD in technology management from Griffith University in Queensland, Australia. She has worked for NASA at the Kennedy Space Center and has taught innovation/technology management courses in Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Japan. She has also served as a consultant for the United Nation's Global Environmental Facility and the European Commission.
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