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Intervention by Denise Caruso Read Intervention by Denise Caruso, Executive Director of the Hybrid Vigor Silver Award Winner, 2007 Independent Publisher Book Awards; Best Business Books 2007, Strategy+Business Magazine

archive for April, 2008


by ~ April 18, 2008

I’ve just finished reading Denise Caruso’s book, Intervention: Confronting the Real Risks of Genetic Engineering and Life on a Biotech Planet. I absolutely love it! As the book’s subtitle suggests, Denise recounts the tragedy of how hubris in the biotech industry — compounded by sub-standard risk assessment methods used by government regulators — has blinded us to potentially catastrophic consequences of releasing billions of living, reproducing, evolving man-made organisms the environment, the long-term effects of which are completely unknown.

But Intervention delivers a much broader message, about how the human propensity for hamartia isn’t miraculously expunged by mathematics, statistics, or the scientific method.

In proving her point about assessing the risks of genetic engineering, Denise calls into question the seemingly unassailable position of science in our culture. The book suggests we desperately need “a new kind of science” (to borrow Steven Wolfram’s phrase) — one that accounts for the nature of the beings (i.e., us) who are wielding its increasingly powerful tools. Try as we might, whatever model we create to try and describe reality, our scientific models inescapably say much more about human beings than they do about some objective reality. In the book, Denise exposes our lapses in rationality due to cognitive, social, and technological realities. Such lapses are everywhere in the areas I cover (technology, social trust, and privacy).

So while reading the book, I decided present my views on these issues in a blog post. Admittedly, going into some depth on Denise’s book on the Hybrid Vigor blog (which is Denise’s creation) seems almost self-congratulatory. But I think the larger themes in Intervention are relevant to most of the really difficult problems we’re trying to solve globally today, and understanding these issues will help focus our discussion at Hybrid Vigor. Continue reading »


by ~ April 7, 2008

There was a great post last week on the Empirical Finance Research blog that asked the question: Does the Stock Market Value Intangibles? The post reviews a paper by Alex Edmans at the Wharton School of Business at University of Pennsylvania, which looked at the relationship between employee satisfaction and equity prices.

Edmans concluded that from 1998-2005, a stock portfolio of the companies listed on Fortune magazine’s “Best Companies to Work For in America” increased in value by an average of 13% per year-double the rate of the market as a whole. Empirical Finance outlines how to build an investment strategy based on this fact.

This looks like a fun blog. The post previous to this one gave rating of 5 (on a scale from 1 to 10) for a strategy that looks at CEO real estate purchases as an indicator of expected declines in stock prices. They gave a rating of 9 to strategy based on investing in Fortune’s Best Companies list as a simple way of targeting companies that create the most value in today’s “ideas-based service economy.”

Continue reading »


by ~ April 4, 2008

Innovation is the major strategic challenge for just about every organization today. But it is an elusive goal. This great post by Brad Kolar on his The Question of Leadership blog advises, “Want to innovate? Stop trying to be innovative and start solving problems.” He talks about the fact that successful innovation does not start intentionally. It starts by identifying hard problems and getting to work on them. Solving problems creates value.

This is a hard thing for organizations to swallow. They are accustomed to the command-and-control approach where making something a goal is the first step to getting it done. I’ve seen companies that have as a shared goal “to become more innovative.” This means that the personal goals of everyone in the organization include something about “being more innovative.”

But a manager cannot order someone to innovate! He or she has to create the environment where there is enough freedom and the right resources so that their employees can and will innovate. In this view, the manager’s role is to help frame the problem, convene the conversation and get the right people to the table. Continue reading »