!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: February 2009

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Organizational Citizenship Behaviors II

As a follow-on to yesterday's post, I'd like to cite a more recent survey of the literature on organization citizenship behaviors (OCB). The article (pdf) in question was published in 2007 by Brian Hoffman, Carrie Blair, John Meriac, and David Woehr (HBMW).1

HBMW reach several conclusions from their meta-analysis of the OCB literature:
  • OCB can be measured as a single factor. I.e., the seven dimensions of OCB identified by Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Paine, and Bachrach in their 2000 literature review2 are highly correlated, meaning they are largely measuring the same thing — the degree to which an employee performs above and beyond formal job requirements.

  • There is indeed a measurable difference between discretionary and non-discretionary work performance. I.e., OCB "is empirically distinguishable from task performance" (the latter being the term organizational psychologists use to refer to specific job responsibilities).

  • Attitude variables are more strongly correlated with OCB than with task performance. I.e., the strength of an employee's discretionary effort is more tightly tied to his/her motivation than is non-discretionary effort. (The attitude variables HBMW use are job satisfaction, organizational commitment, procedural justice, distributive justice, and interactional justice.3)

  • The attitudinal variables explain a positive, though small, amount of the unique variance in OCB (the variance in OCB over and above what it shares with task performance). I.e., the unique variance in OCB across employees is to a small degree explained by differences in the employees' attitudes, as measured by the five attitude variables listed in the previous bullet.
From the point of view of training, the conclusions to be drawn are that promoting "good citizenship" on the job makes a difference for job performance, and that there is significant potential for promoting good citizenship by promoting job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and organizational justice.

1 Brian J. Hoffman, Carrie A. Blair, John P. Meriac, and David J. Woehr, "Expanding the Criterion Domain? A Quantitative Review of the OCB Literature," Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 92, No. 2 (2007), pp. 555-566. Hoffman teaches applied psychology at the University of Georgia. Blair teaches management at the College of Charleston (SC). Meriac teaches psychology at the University of Missouri – St. Louis. Woehr teaches management at the University of Tennessee Knoxville.

2 Philip M. Podsakoff, Scott B. MacKenzie, Julie Beth Paine, and Daniel B. Bachrach, "Organizational Citizenship Behaviors: A Critical Review of the Theoretical and Empirical Literature and Suggestions for Future Research," Journal of Management, Vol. 26, No. 3 (2000), pp. 513-563.

3 Procedural justice refers to "fair procedures, defined as those that are unbiased, based on accurate information, applied consistently, representative of all parties, correctable, and based on ethical standards." Distributive justice refers to fairness in "wage and other resource distributions." Interactional justice refers to "the perceived fairness of interpersonal treatment." See "The Distributive Side of Interactional Justice: The Effects of Interpersonal Treatment on Emotional Arousal, by Mary D. Stecher and Joseph G. Rosse, Journal of Managerial Issues, Vol. 17, No. 2 (Summer 2005), pp. 229-246.


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Friday, February 27, 2009

Organizational Citizenship Behaviors

The concept of organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) is given considerable attention in the applied psychology literature though, as far as I know, it is never mentioned in articles on training. This is not to say that the behaviors in question get no attention in training specialists' discussions of skills that employers and employees should cultivate. Rather, the training literature places no specific focus on the OCB concept, defined by its originator, Dennis Organ, as
individual behavior that is discretionary, not directly or explicitly recognized by the formal reward system, and that in the aggregate promotes the effective functioning of the organization. By discretionary, we mean that the behavior is not an enforceable requirement of the role or the job description, that is, the clearly specifiable terms of the person's employment contract with the organization; the behavior is rather a matter of personal choice, such that its omission is not generally understood as punishable.1
In a review of the OCB literature published in 2000, Philip Podsakoff, Scott MacKenzie, Julie Beth Paine, and Daniel Bachrach identify seven dimensions of OCB:2
  • Helping behavior — voluntarily helping others with, or preventing the occurrence of, work-related problems.

  • Sportsmanship — refraining from complaining when inconvenienced by others, maintaining a positive attitude even when things to not go as one wants, not taking offense when others do not follow one's suggestions, being willing to sacrifice one personal interest for the good of the work group, and not taking rejection of one's ideas personally.

  • Organizational loyalty — promoting the organization to outsiders, protecting and defending it against external threats, and remaining committed to it even under adverse conditions.

  • Organizational compliance — adherence to the organization's rules, regulations, and procedures even when no one observes or monitors compliance.

  • Individual initiative — engaging in task-related behaviors at a level that is so far beyond minimally required or generally expected levels that it takes on a voluntary flavor. This includes voluntary acts of creativity and innovation designed to improve one's task or the organization's performance, persisting with extra enthusiasm and effort to accomplish one's job, volunteering to take on extra responsibilities, and encouraging others to do the same.

  • Civic virtue — willingness to participate actively in organization governance (e.g., engage in policy debates), to monitor its environment for threats and opportunities, and to look out for its best interests, even at considerable personal cost.

  • Self development — voluntarily taking steps to improve one's knowledge and skills.
The research on OCB tries to identify antecedents — conditions, such as effective leadership, that promote the behaviors — and consequences, such as improved organizational performance. What particularly interests me, and what I'll be watching for, is the outcome of research concerning the degree to which organizations seek to incorporate OCBs in the performance management objectives and success criteria that they set for employees — in effect, setting expectations for a certain minimal level of "good citizenship." In other words, I'm interested in seeing the degree to which organizations seek to shift some OCB from voluntary and vaguely rewarded, to expected and explicitly rewarded.

1 Dennis W. Organ, Organizational Citizenship Behavior: The Good Soldier Syndrome (Lexington Books, 1988), p. 4. Organ is Professor Emeritus of Management at the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University.

2 Philip M. Podsakoff, Scott B. MacKenzie, Julie Beth Paine, and Daniel B. Bachrach, "Organizational Citizenship Behaviors: A Critical Review of the Theoretical and Empirical Literature and Suggestions for Future Research," Journal of Management, Vol. 26, No. 3 (2000), pp. 513-563. Podsakoff is a Professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management, and holder of the John F. Mee Chair of Management, at the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University. Mackenzie is Professor of Marketing and holder of the Neal Gilliat Chair at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. Paine is (was?) a doctoral student at the Kelley School of Business. Bachrach is an associate professor of management at the Culverhouse College of Commerce of the University of Alabama.


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Thursday, February 26, 2009

MIT's Center for Collective Intelligence

You can get a good introduction to the work being done at MIT's Center for Collective Intelligence (CCI) from a short article by Anne Trafton posted at MIT news on January 13.

For CCI's purposes, collective intelligence is defined as "the harnessing of human kinowledge and intelligence that allows groups of people to act together in ways that seem to be intelligent." Computer and Web technology are key enablers.

The basic research question CCI investigates is:
How can people and computers be connected so that — collectively — they act more intelligently than any individuals, groups, or computers have ever done before?
I was particularly intrigued by the collaborative deliberation tool CCI has developed as part of its Climate Collaboratorium project. The goal of the project is to address the complex issue of global climate change
through the creation of a new class of web-mediated discussion and decision making forum, called the "Collaboratorium". This system, currently under development, will use an innovative combination of internet-mediated interaction, collectively generated idea repositories, computer simulation, and explicit representation of argumentation to help large, diverse, and geographically-dispersed groups systematically explore, evaluate, and come to decisions concerning systemic challenges.
As Mark Klein, Principal Research Scientist at CCI, notes, "it's essentially impossible for any one person or small group to be cognizant of all of the issues, ideas and tradeoffs" that must be taken into consideration in analyzing a complex problem like climate change.

In the video below, Klein explains the web-based collaborative deliberation tool — dubbed the Deliberatorium — mentioned above.

For a brief tutorial on the deliberation map, which serves as the structural framework of CCI's collaborative deliberation tool, you can watch the 3:10 video below.

You can get a sense of the contrast between the CCI tool and a less effective web-based approach to collecting input from a community of users by reading Mark Klein's critique of the Open for Questions page of the change.gov website (which was created during the Obama-Biden transition and is no longer active).

A more detailed (three-page) explanation of the Climate Collaboratorium project is here (pdf, 2006).


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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Pre-Presentation Homework

Back in January, Geoffrey James, a freelance business writer, put up a post at BNET.com that I've revisited several times and decided deserves a plug for its substance and concision.

The topic is the homework you need to do before making a presentation to a business prospect. Drawing on a conversation with communications guru Dean Brenner, James cites six perspectives that you must be familiar with in order to put together a relevant, persuasive presentation for your particular audience:
  1. The prospect's history as a business and in dealings with you and your organization.

  2. The frames of reference the prospect brings to a meeting with you. For instance, "Do they have a certain way of viewing your offering?"

  3. The prospect's needs and desires.

  4. Likely objections, including how intense and real the objections are.

  5. How much decision-making sway the members of your audience have.

  6. The decision-making style of your audience. Quantitative? Intuitive? Etc.
Of course, even the best-laid plans can go awry, as illustrated by several of the anecdotes recounted here.



Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bond Default Correlations are Not Stable

The March 2009 issue of Wired has an article by Felix Salmon that lays out in clear terms another of the flawed tools many financial firms have been using to evaluate some of the risks in their portfolios. (See this earlier post for reference to the shortcomings of the Value at Risk tool, also dealt with exhaustively in this January article by Joe Nocera.)

The tool in question is called a "Gaussian copula function," not something a layman needs to attempt to understand in all its technical glory. The tool was developed by David X. Li, a quantitative analyst and actuary. Li's formula generated a measure of the degree to which defaults on the bonds in a pool were correlated. The higher the default correlation (= the likelihood that all companies represented in the pool will default on their debt at the same time), the higher the risk and, therefore, the higher the return an investor will demand.

Li intended his formula to be used for setting prices for newly created assets comprised of pooled bonds, not really for predicting future values of the various tranches in such pools. Future values will reflect hard to predict changes in the default correlations. Such changes occur when default probabilities for individual bonds or tranches do not move in sync.1

For an overview of Salmon's story, you can read an interview broadcast today by American Public Media.

1 See this Wall Street Journal article by Mark Whitehouse for a cautionary discussion of Li's formula, and how financial firms have used it, that antedates Salmon's article by 3½ years.


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Monday, February 23, 2009

Elizabeth Warren on Credit Market Regulation

I imagine just about everyone has had at least some experience with the frustration of trying to determine the precise details of the terms governing particular financial products, such as credit cards.

For me, the worst instance was when I needed to find out how much my various credit card providers charge for overseas purchases and cash advances. I went to one bank's site, found the FAQ, went to the question about overseas transactions, and discovered that the "answer" was to go read the applicable portion of my (inpenetrable) credit card agreement. I.e., it seemed there was no way the bank was going to provide a clear answer to a basic question about their charges and fees.

As I recall, I was finally able to get the needed information by phoning the customer service number and asking my question several times to make sure I understood exactly what to expect if and when I started using this particular card outside the US. Needless to say, I was not impressed by the bank's attitude toward providing information to its customers.

You can read a clearly argued recommendation for fixing the problem of financial firms' obfuscation concerning their products' terms and conditions, not to mention the firms' predatory lending and other sharp practices, in an article by Elizabeth Warren. Warren is a professor at Harvard Law School and also Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel charged with monitoring the federal bank bailout program and with developing recommendations for reform of financial regulation.

Warren's thesis is that
Consumers entering the market to buy financial products should enjoy the same protection as those buying household appliances. Just as the Consumer Product Safety Commitssin (CPSC) protects buyers of goods and supports a competitive market, a new regulatory agency is needed to protect consumers who use financial products.The time has come to recognize that regulation can often support and advance efficient and more dynamic markets.
The responsibilities of a Financial Product Safety Commission would be to:
establish guidelines for consumer disclosure, collect and report data about the uses of different financial products, review new products for safety, and require modification of dangerous products before they can be marketed to the public.
The basic principle is that the government, as rule-setter, should appropriately assist people in managing financial risk.

You can also get the flavor of Warren's views on modernizing financial regulation in the video below, posted at YouTube by the aforementioned Congressional Oversight Panel.



Sunday, February 22, 2009

Washington's Birthday 2009

On April 30, 1789, George Washington delivered his first inaugural address in the Senate Chamber of Federal Hall in New York City ...

Federal Hall
26 Wall Street, New York City

(Florida Center for Instructional Technology)

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:

Among the vicissitudes incident to life no event could have filled me with greater anxieties than that of which the notification was transmitted by your order, and received on the 14th day of the present month. On the one hand, I was summoned by my Country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love, from a retreat which I had chosen with the fondest predilection, and, in my flattering hopes, with an immutable decision, as the asylum of my declining years — a retreat which was rendered every day more necessary as well as more dear to me by the addition of habit to inclination, and of frequent interruptions in my health to the gradual waste committed on it by time. On the other hand, the magnitude and difficulty of the trust to which the voice of my country called me, being sufficient to awaken in the wisest and most experienced of her citizens a distrustful scrutiny into his qualifications, could not but overwhelm with despondence one who (inheriting inferior endowments from nature and unpracticed in the duties of civil administration) ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies. In this conflict of emotions all I dare aver is that it has been my faithful study to collect my duty from a just appreciation of every circumstance by which it might be affected. All I dare hope is that if, in executing this task, I have been too much swayed by a grateful remembrance of former instances, or by an affectionate sensibility to this transcendent proof of the confidence of my fellow-citizens, and have thence too little consulted my incapacity as well as disinclination for the weighty and untried cares before me, my error will be palliated by the motives which mislead me, and its consequences be judged by my country with some share of the partiality in which they originated.

Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow- citizens at large less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency; and in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities from which the event has resulted can not be compared with the means by which most governments have been established without some return of pious gratitude, along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me, I trust, in thinking that there are none under the influence of which the proceedings of a new and free government can more auspiciously commence.

By the article establishing the executive department it is made the duty of the President "to recommend to your consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." The circumstances under which I now meet you will acquit me from entering into that subject further than to refer to the great constitutional charter under which you are assembled, and which, in defining your powers, designates the objects to which your attention is to be given. It will be more consistent with those circumstances, and far more congenial with the feelings which actuate me, to substitute, in place of a recommendation of particular measures, the tribute that is due to the talents, the rectitude, and the patriotism which adorn the characters selected to devise and adopt them. In these honorable qualifications I behold the surest pledges that as on one side no local prejudices or attachments, no separate views nor party animosities, will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests, so, on another, that the foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the preeminence of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its citizens and command the respect of the world. I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for my country can inspire, since there is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and advantage; between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained; and since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.

Besides the ordinary objects submitted to your care, it will remain with your judgment to decide how far an exercise of the occasional power delegated by the fifth article of the Constitution is rendered expedient at the present juncture by the nature of objections which have been urged against the system, or by the degree of inquietude which has given birth to them. Instead of undertaking particular recommendations on this subject, in which I could be guided by no lights derived from official opportunities, I shall again give way to my entire confidence in your discernment and pursuit of the public good; for I assure myself that whilst you carefully avoid every alteration which might endanger the benefits of an united and effective government, or which ought to await the future lessons of experience, a reverence for the characteristic rights of freemen and a regard for the public harmony will sufficiently influence your deliberations on the question how far the former can be impregnably fortified or the latter be safely and advantageously promoted.

To the foregoing observations I have one to add, which will be most properly addressed to the House of Representatives. It concerns myself, and will therefore be as brief as possible. When I was first honored with a call into the service of my country, then on the eve of an arduous struggle for its liberties, the light in which I contemplated my duty required that I should renounce every pecuniary compensation. From this resolution I have in no instance departed; and being still under the impressions which produced it, I must decline as inapplicable to myself any share in the personal emoluments which may be indispensably included in a permanent provision for the executive department, and must accordingly pray that the pecuniary estimates for the station in which I am placed may during my continuance in it be limited to such actual expenditures as the public good may be thought to require.

Having thus imparted to you my sentiments as they have been awakened by the occasion which brings us together, I shall take my present leave; but not without resorting once more to the benign Parent of the Human Race in humble supplication that, since He has been pleased to favor the American people with opportunities for deliberating in perfect tranquillity, and dispositions for deciding with unparalleled unanimity on a form of government for the security of their union and the advancement of their happiness, so His divine blessing may be equally conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the wise measures on which the success of this Government must depend.



Saturday, February 21, 2009


Another site (in beta) offering university course videos has come to my attention: www.academicearth.org, founded by Richard Ludlow. You can watch lectures delivered by professors at Berkeley, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale. The offerings are organized into seventeen subjects:
Computer Science
Political Science
You can also search for lectures by any combination of keyword, user rating, university, and subject.

Many of the lectures can be downloaded in QuickTime format.


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Friday, February 20, 2009

Keeping Bias at Bay

Several previous posts have outlined practical steps one can take to counteract any tendency toward bias in decision-making (a tendency that might very well be unconscious).

The most recent useful treatment of this subject that I've come upon is an article in the February 2009 issue of the Harvard Business Review in which Andrew Campbell and Jo Whitehead of Ashridge Strategic Management Centre, and Sydney Finkelstein, a professor of management at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business, look at sources of bias in business decision-making, how to recognize indicators that bias exists in a particular case, and what to do to counteract the threat of making a biased decision.

The three safeguards Campbell, Whitehead, and Finkelstein recommend, all quite plausible and even predictable, are:
  • Accumulating further experience and/or doing further analysis.

  • Introducing further debate of the issue and potential solutions — to ensure "that biases are confronted explicitly."

  • Imposing stronger governance — i.e., requiring "that a decision be ratified at a higher level... Stronger governance does not eliminate distorted thinking, but it can prevent distortions from leading to a bad outcome."
You can read a fuller treatment of these recommendations in Think Again: Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions and How to Keep It from Happening to You," a book by Campbell., Whitehead, and Finkelstein that has just been published by Harvard Business Press.


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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mismanaging Risk

Previous posts (e.g., here and here) have dealt with principles of effective risk management. As a complement to these posts, I'd like to cite "Six Ways Companies Mismanage Risk," by René M. Stulz in the March 2009 issue of the Harvard Business Reivew. Stulz is a professor of banking and monetary economics at Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business.1

In clear, concise style, Stulz explains these risk management failings:
  1. Relying on historical data even though such data do not include performance information for recently invented types of financial assets. Historical data can also be misleading if they do not accurately capture correlations among price movements of various asset classes.

  2. Focusing on narrow measures, e.g., daily value at risk (VaR), a metric whose validity depends on its being safe to assume that assets can be sold quickly or hedged.

  3. Overlooking knowable risks, which include:

    • Risks outside the normal risk class a business unit incurs.

    • Risks incurred by hedging i.e., by particular efforts to mitigage risk.

    • Market-concentration risks, e.g., the risk that a single large institution's distress asset sales will reduce the creditworthiness of other enterprises by reducing the value of assets they hold.

    • Value-assumption risks, i.e., risks related to "changes in normal trading behavior due to doubts about the value and liquidity of assets."

    Stulz stresses the importance of managing risk in an integrated fashion, and of assessing new risks associated with instruments used for risk mitigation.

  4. Overlooking concealed risks, e.g., risks that employees get away with not reporting clearly and completely to management.

  5. Failing to communicate intelligibly to the board and CEO the enterprise's risk status. This may result in misplaced confidence concerning the level of risk the enterprise has assumed.

  6. Not managing in real time, which is dangerous when asset values are subject to rapid changes in value, a circumstance which complicates life by making it hard to get hedges in place in timely fashion.
Stulz concludes by recommending that companies "augment the models you have with scenario analyses of how a financial crisis might unfold depending on how your firm and other large companies react to the crisis." The idea is to have survival strategies in place before crises occur.

1 Stulz has just been named Risk Manager of the Year by the Global Association of Risk Professionals, as reported here.



Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Corporate Ethnography

I first became aware of corporate ethnography when a friend with a background in regional planning and public art was job hunting. She was called for an interview with the group at Intel handling their recently created ethnography unit, and we talked about what she learned concerning the roles and responsibilities of the people in the unit (which has since increased in size to about two dozen employees).

Although a hiring freeze put the kibosh on this particular job opportunity, it did catalyze an ongoing interest on my part in how corporate ehtnographers contribute to their companies' planning. Now Ken Anderson, an anthropologist at Intel Research and a cofounder of the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference, has written a brief, informative overview of the subject for the March 2009 issue of the Harvard Business Review. Anderson explains:
Ethnography is the branch of anthropology that involves trying to understand how people live their lives. Unlike traditional market researchers, who ask specific, highly practical questions, anthropological researchers visit consumers in their homes or offices to observe and listen in a nondirected way. Our goal is to see people's behavior on their terms, not ours. While this observational method may appear inefficient, it enlightens us about the context in which customers would use a new product and the meaning that product might hold in their lives.
Anderson emphasizes that at Intel enthnographers have recently been involved not just in investigating new markets, but also in helping answer strategic questions, such as the degree to which, and the pace at which, television and PC technology will converge.


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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Beverly Weinstein's Advice for Telephone Interviews

Who better to advise on how to handle a telephone interview — an increasingly common step in the recruitment process — than an experienced recruiter?

Beverly Weinstein is president of Markham Media, an executive search firm that specializes in working with media and advertising organizations. Today she published a column at Media Daily News addressing the question "How Should I Prepare For A Phone Interview?"

The tips she offers, collected from "some recruiter colleagues, HR professionals and a scattering of clients," actually cover both preparation for the interview and the interview itself.

All of the advice is sensible. For myself, I particularly noted the caution to "keep it concise," a rule I violated — as I learned from subsequent feedback — in a less-than-successful phone interview I did a number of years ago.

(For tips addressed to recruiters planning to conduct telephone interviews, you can have a look at this BNET.com article.)



Monday, February 16, 2009


As a follow-on both to yesterday's post concerning Will Thalheimer's work on use of questions in classroom training, and to an earlier post dealing with Harvard prof Eric Mazur's techniques for helping his students truly learn the physics concepts covered in his classes, I'd like to call attention to "ConcepTests," introduced by Mazur some years ago and now used at a number of institutions, generally in science and math courses.1

Mazur explains that his research group
... developed a method, Peer Instruction, which involves students in their own learning during lecture and focuses their attention on underlying concepts. Lectures are interspersed with conceptual questions, called ConcepTests, designed to expose common difficulties in understanding the material. The students are given one to two minutes to think about the question and formulate their own answers; they then spend two to three minutes discussing their answers in groups of three to four, attempting to reach consensus on the correct answer. This process forces the students to think through the arguments being developed, and enables them (as well as the instructor) to assess their understanding of the concepts even before they leave the classroom.
You can listen to Mazur and some of his students discuss this teaching approach in the video below.

In a business setting, even if the subject of classroom training is not so technical as organic chemistry or calculus, using ConcepTests can be a helpful tool for ensuring participants truly grasp central concepts and retain what they learn in class. Training participants have to process information for themselves — articulate the concepts in their own words, and connect the information they're learning to other ideas and to realistic work situations.

1 Schools using ConcepTests include Brandeis University, Carleton College, Cornell University, Portland State University and the University of Wisconsin.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Using an Audience Response System

At www.audienceresponselearning.com, you can get a helpful summary of the wide variety of questions that can be incorporated into training sessions in which participants are equipped with wireless audience response keypads.

The website is the handiwork of Will Thalheimer, a PhD researcher and practitioner who makes it his business to publicize research-based recommendations for training design and implementation, a subject close to my heart.

Thalheimer's audience response site also exhaustively lists the benefits of using questions in a training session.

For a more complete compilation of knowledge concerning effective audience response questioning strategies, you can download Thalheimer's 124-page report on the subject.

Finally, you can read an illuminating interview with Thalheimer here. (The article on misuse of interactivity that Thalheimer mentions in the interview is here.)


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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day 2009




Friday, February 13, 2009

New Insight on Procrastination

The reasons people procrastinate include personal proclivities (some people are especially prone to the problem) and distaste for certain types of tasks (e.g., completing administrative paperwork, writing performance appraisals). Now a quartet of psychologists have gathered evidence for another causative factor — the way in which a task is presented to the person being asked to carry it out.

Sean McCrea (University of Konstanz, Germany), Nira Liberman (Tel Aviv University), Yaacov Trope (New York University), and Steven Sherman (Indiana University Bloomington) report (pdf) the results of a suite of three studies that suggest people are less prone to procrastinate if a task they are given is represented in concrete terms rather than abstractly.1

For example, the first study the team carried out compared the degree of procrastination between two groups:
  • The first group was asked to write a couple of sentences about how one would go about engaging in ten specific activities, such as opening a bank account.

  • The second group was asked to write a couple of sentences about the traits of people who engage in the specified activities.
It turned out that the first group exhibited less procrastination than the second group.

This pattern was repeated in the other two studies. In sum, "the way the task is represented influences when individuals complete it."

An obvious implication of this research for business is that assignments given to individuals and teams should be defined as concretely as possible. On the other hand, the drive to describe assignments in concrete terms should not overwhelm the need to start out at a fairly high level of abstraction in some cases, such as when a business is investigating opportunities for innovation and is still at the divergent thinking stage of the process.

1 "Construal Level and Procrastination," by McCrea, Liberman, Trope, and Sherman, was published in Vol. 19, No. 12 (2008) of Psychological Science, pp. 1308-1314.


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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Bicentennial of Lincoln's Birth

Historians point to the speech Abraham Lincoln delivered at Cooper Union on February 27, 1860 as the key to his winning the Republican Party's Presidential nomination.

Cooper Union, New York City
(Abraham Lincoln's Classroom)

Mr. President and fellow citizens of New York:

The facts with which I shall deal this evening are mainly old and familiar; nor is there anything new in the general use I shall make of them. If there shall be any novelty, it will be in the mode of presenting the facts, and the inferences and observations following that presentation.

In his speech last autumn, at Columbus, Ohio, as reported in "The New-York Times," Senator Douglas said:

"Our fathers, when they framed the Government under which we live, understood this question just as well, and even better, than we do now."

I fully indorse this, and I adopt it as a text for this discourse. I so adopt it because it furnishes a precise and an agreed starting point for a discussion between Republicans and that wing of the Democracy headed by Senator Douglas. It simply leaves the inquiry: "What was the understanding those fathers had of the question mentioned?"

What is the frame of government under which we live?

The answer must be: "The Constitution of the United States." That Constitution consists of the original, framed in 1787, (and under which the present government first went into operation,) and twelve subsequently framed amendments, the first ten of which were framed in 1789.

Who were our fathers that framed the Constitution? I suppose the "thirty-nine" who signed the original instrument may be fairly called our fathers who framed that part of the present Government. It is almost exactly true to say they framed it, and it is altogether true to say they fairly represented the opinion and sentiment of the whole nation at that time. Their names, being familiar to nearly all, and accessible to quite all, need not now be repeated.

I take these "thirty-nine," for the present, as being "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live."

What is the question which, according to the text, those fathers understood "just as well, and even better than we do now?"

It is this: Does the proper division of local from federal authority, or anything in the Constitution, forbid our Federal Government to control as to slavery in our Federal Territories?

Upon this, Senator Douglas holds the affirmative, and Republicans the negative. This affirmation and denial form an issue; and this issue - this question - is precisely what the text declares our fathers understood "better than we."

Let us now inquire whether the "thirty-nine," or any of them, ever acted upon this question; and if they did, how they acted upon it - how they expressed that better understanding?

In 1784, three years before the Constitution - the United States then owning the Northwestern Territory, and no other, the Congress of the Confederation had before them the question of prohibiting slavery in that Territory; and four of the "thirty-nine" who afterward framed the Constitution, were in that Congress, and voted on that question. Of these, Roger Sherman, Thomas Mifflin, and Hugh Williamson voted for the prohibition, thus showing that, in their understanding, no line dividing local from federal authority, nor anything else, properly forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in federal territory. The other of the four - James M'Henry - voted against the prohibition, showing that, for some cause, he thought it improper to vote for it.

In 1787, still before the Constitution, but while the Convention was in session framing it, and while the Northwestern Territory still was the only territory owned by the United States, the same question of prohibiting slavery in the territory again came before the Congress of the Confederation; and two more of the "thirty-nine" who afterward signed the Constitution, were in that Congress, and voted on the question. They were William Blount and William Few; and they both voted for the prohibition - thus showing that, in their understanding, no line dividing local from federal authority, nor anything else, properly forbids the Federal Government to control as to slavery in Federal territory. This time the prohibition became a law, being part of what is now well known as the Ordinance of '87.

The question of federal control of slavery in the territories, seems not to have been directly before the Convention which framed the original Constitution; and hence it is not recorded that the "thirty-nine," or any of them, while engaged on that instrument, expressed any opinion on that precise question.

In 1789, by the first Congress which sat under the Constitution, an act was passed to enforce the Ordinance of '87, including the prohibition of slavery in the Northwestern Territory. The bill for this act was reported by one of the "thirty-nine," Thomas Fitzsimmons, then a member of the House of Representatives from Pennsylvania. It went through all its stages without a word of opposition, and finally passed both branches without yeas and nays, which is equivalent to a unanimous passage. In this Congress there were sixteen of the thirty-nine fathers who framed the original Constitution. They were John Langdon, Nicholas Gilman, Wm. S. Johnson, Roger Sherman, Robert Morris, Thos. Fitzsimmons, William Few, Abraham Baldwin, Rufus King, William Paterson, George Clymer, Richard Bassett, George Read, Pierce Butler, Daniel Carroll, James Madison.

This shows that, in their understanding, no line dividing local from federal authority, nor anything in the Constitution, properly forbade Congress to prohibit slavery in the federal territory; else both their fidelity to correct principle, and their oath to support the Constitution, would have constrained them to oppose the prohibition.

Again, George Washington, another of the "thirty-nine," was then President of the United States, and, as such approved and signed the bill; thus completing its validity as a law, and thus showing that, in his understanding, no line dividing local from federal authority, nor anything in the Constitution, forbade the Federal Government, to control as to slavery in federal territory.

No great while after the adoption of the original Constitution, North Carolina ceded to the Federal Government the country now constituting the State of Tennessee; and a few years later Georgia ceded that which now constitutes the States of Mississippi and Alabama. In both deeds of cession it was made a condition by the ceding States that the Federal Government should not prohibit slavery in the ceded territory. Besides this, slavery was then actually in the ceded country. Under these circumstances, Congress, on taking charge of these countries, did not absolutely prohibit slavery within them. But they did interfere with it - take control of it - even there, to a certain extent. In 1798, Congress organized the Territory of Mississippi. In the act of organization, they prohibited the bringing of slaves into the Territory, from any place without the United States, by fine, and giving freedom to slaves so bought. This act passed both branches of Congress without yeas and nays. In that Congress were three of the "thirty-nine" who framed the original Constitution. They were John Langdon, George Read and Abraham Baldwin. They all, probably, voted for it. Certainly they would have placed their opposition to it upon record, if, in their understanding, any line dividing local from federal authority, or anything in the Constitution, properly forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in federal territory.

In 1803, the Federal Government purchased the Louisiana country. Our former territorial acquisitions came from certain of our own States; but this Louisiana country was acquired from a foreign nation. In 1804, Congress gave a territorial organization to that part of it which now constitutes the State of Louisiana. New Orleans, lying within that part, was an old and comparatively large city. There were other considerable towns and settlements, and slavery was extensively and thoroughly intermingled with the people. Congress did not, in the Territorial Act, prohibit slavery; but they did interfere with it - take control of it - in a more marked and extensive way than they did in the case of Mississippi. The substance of the provision therein made, in relation to slaves, was:

First. That no slave should be imported into the territory from foreign parts.

Second. That no slave should be carried into it who had been imported into the United States since the first day of May, 1798.

Third. That no slave should be carried into it, except by the owner, and for his own use as a settler; the penalty in all the cases being a fine upon the violator of the law, and freedom to the slave.

This act also was passed without yeas and nays. In the Congress which passed it, there were two of the "thirty-nine." They were Abraham Baldwin and Jonathan Dayton. As stated in the case of Mississippi, it is probable they both voted for it. They would not have allowed it to pass without recording their opposition to it, if, in their understanding, it violated either the line properly dividing local from federal authority, or any provision of the Constitution.

In 1819-20, came and passed the Missouri question. Many votes were taken, by yeas and nays, in both branches of Congress, upon the various phases of the general question. Two of the "thirty-nine" - Rufus King and Charles Pinckney - were members of that Congress. Mr. King steadily voted for slavery prohibition and against all compromises, while Mr. Pinckney as steadily voted against slavery prohibition and against all compromises. By this, Mr. King showed that, in his understanding, no line dividing local from federal authority, nor anything in the Constitution, was violated by Congress prohibiting slavery in federal territory; while Mr. Pinckney, by his votes, showed that, in his understanding, there was some sufficient reason for opposing such prohibition in that case.

The cases I have mentioned are the only acts of the "thirty-nine," or of any of them, upon the direct issue, which I have been able to discover.

To enumerate the persons who thus acted, as being four in 1784, two in 1787, seventeen in 1789, three in 1798, two in 1804, and two in 1819-20 - there would be thirty of them. But this would be counting John Langdon, Roger Sherman, William Few, Rufus King, and George Read each twice, and Abraham Baldwin, three times. The true number of those of the "thirty-nine" whom I have shown to have acted upon the question, which, by the text, they understood better than we, is twenty-three, leaving sixteen not shown to have acted upon it in any way.

Here, then, we have twenty-three out of our thirty-nine fathers "who framed the government under which we live," who have, upon their official responsibility and their corporal oaths, acted upon the very question which the text affirms they "understood just as well, and even better than we do now;" and twenty-one of them - a clear majority of the whole "thirty-nine" - so acting upon it as to make them guilty of gross political impropriety and willful perjury, if, in their understanding, any proper division between local and federal authority, or anything in the Constitution they had made themselves, and sworn to support, forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in the federal territories. Thus the twenty-one acted; and, as actions speak louder than words, so actions, under such responsibility, speak still louder.

Two of the twenty-three voted against Congressional prohibition of slavery in the federal territories, in the instances in which they acted upon the question. But for what reasons they so voted is not known. They may have done so because they thought a proper division of local from federal authority, or some provision or principle of the Constitution, stood in the way; or they may, without any such question, have voted against the prohibition, on what appeared to them to be sufficient grounds of expediency. No one who has sworn to support the Constitution can conscientiously vote for what he understands to be an unconstitutional measure, however expedient he may think it; but one may and ought to vote against a measure which he deems constitutional, if, at the same time, he deems it inexpedient. It, therefore, would be unsafe to set down even the two who voted against the prohibition, as having done so because, in their understanding, any proper division of local from federal authority, or anything in the Constitution, forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in federal territory.

The remaining sixteen of the "thirty-nine," so far as I have discovered, have left no record of their understanding upon the direct question of federal control of slavery in the federal territories. But there is much reason to believe that their understanding upon that question would not have appeared different from that of their twenty-three compeers, had it been manifested at all.

For the purpose of adhering rigidly to the text, I have purposely omitted whatever understanding may have been manifested by any person, however distinguished, other than the thirty-nine fathers who framed the original Constitution; and, for the same reason, I have also omitted whatever understanding may have been manifested by any of the "thirty-nine" even, on any other phase of the general question of slavery. If we should look into their acts and declarations on those other phases, as the foreign slave trade, and the morality and policy of slavery generally, it would appear to us that on the direct question of federal control of slavery in federal territories, the sixteen, if they had acted at all, would probably have acted just as the twenty-three did. Among that sixteen were several of the most noted anti-slavery men of those times - as Dr. Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and Gouverneur Morris - while there was not one now known to have been otherwise, unless it may be John Rutledge, of South Carolina.

The sum of the whole is, that of our thirty-nine fathers who framed the original Constitution, twenty-one - a clear majority of the whole - certainly understood that no proper division of local from federal authority, nor any part of the Constitution, forbade the Federal Government to control slavery in the federal territories; while all the rest probably had the same understanding. Such, unquestionably, was the understanding of our fathers who framed the original Constitution; and the text affirms that they understood the question "better than we."

But, so far, I have been considering the understanding of the question manifested by the framers of the original Constitution. In and by the original instrument, a mode was provided for amending it; and, as I have already stated, the present frame of "the Government under which we live" consists of that original, and twelve amendatory articles framed and adopted since. Those who now insist that federal control of slavery in federal territories violates the Constitution, point us to the provisions which they suppose it thus violates; and, as I understand, that all fix upon provisions in these amendatory articles, and not in the original instrument. The Supreme Court, in the Dred Scott case, plant themselves upon the fifth amendment, which provides that no person shall be deprived of "life, liberty or property without due process of law;" while Senator Douglas and his peculiar adherents plant themselves upon the tenth amendment, providing that "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution" "are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Now, it so happens that these amendments were framed by the first Congress which sat under the Constitution - the identical Congress which passed the act already mentioned, enforcing the prohibition of slavery in the Northwestern Territory. Not only was it the same Congress, but they were the identical, same individual men who, at the same session, and at the same time within the session, had under consideration, and in progress toward maturity, these Constitutional amendments, and this act prohibiting slavery in all the territory the nation then owned. The Constitutional amendments were introduced before, and passed after the act enforcing the Ordinance of '87; so that, during the whole pendency of the act to enforce the Ordinance, the Constitutional amendments were also pending.

The seventy-six members of that Congress, including sixteen of the framers of the original Constitution, as before stated, were pre- eminently our fathers who framed that part of "the Government under which we live," which is now claimed as forbidding the Federal Government to control slavery in the federal territories.

Is it not a little presumptuous in any one at this day to affirm that the two things which that Congress deliberately framed, and carried to maturity at the same time, are absolutely inconsistent with each other? And does not such affirmation become impudently absurd when coupled with the other affirmation from the same mouth, that those who did the two things, alleged to be inconsistent, understood whether they really were inconsistent better than we - better than he who affirms that they are inconsistent?

It is surely safe to assume that the thirty-nine framers of the original Constitution, and the seventy-six members of the Congress which framed the amendments thereto, taken together, do certainly include those who may be fairly called "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live." And so assuming, I defy any man to show that any one of them ever, in his whole life, declared that, in his understanding, any proper division of local from federal authority, or any part of the Constitution, forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in the federal territories. I go a step further. I defy any one to show that any living man in the whole world ever did, prior to the beginning of the present century, (and I might almost say prior to the beginning of the last half of the present century,) declare that, in his understanding, any proper division of local from federal authority, or any part of the Constitution, forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in the federal territories. To those who now so declare, I give, not only "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live," but with them all other living men within the century in which it was framed, among whom to search, and they shall not be able to find the evidence of a single man agreeing with them.

Now, and here, let me guard a little against being misunderstood. I do not mean to say we are bound to follow implicitly in whatever our fathers did. To do so, would be to discard all the lights of current experience - to reject all progress - all improvement. What I do say is, that if we would supplant the opinions and policy of our fathers in any case, we should do so upon evidence so conclusive, and argument so clear, that even their great authority, fairly considered and weighed, cannot stand; and most surely not in a case whereof we ourselves declare they understood the question better than we.

If any man at this day sincerely believes that a proper division of local from federal authority, or any part of the Constitution, forbids the Federal Government to control as to slavery in the federal territories, he is right to say so, and to enforce his position by all truthful evidence and fair argument which he can. But he has no right to mislead others, who have less access to history, and less leisure to study it, into the false belief that "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live" were of the same opinion - thus substituting falsehood and deception for truthful evidence and fair argument. If any man at this day sincerely believes "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live," used and applied principles, in other cases, which ought to have led them to understand that a proper division of local from federal authority or some part of the Constitution, forbids the Federal Government to control as to slavery in the federal territories, he is right to say so. But he should, at the same time, brave the responsibility of declaring that, in his opinion, he understands their principles better than they did themselves; and especially should he not shirk that responsibility by asserting that they "understood the question just as well, and even better, than we do now."

But enough! Let all who believe that "our fathers, who framed the Government under which we live, understood this question just as well, and even better, than we do now," speak as they spoke, and act as they acted upon it. This is all Republicans ask - all Republicans desire - in relation to slavery. As those fathers marked it, so let it be again marked, as an evil not to be extended, but to be tolerated and protected only because of and so far as its actual presence among us makes that toleration and protection a necessity. Let all the guarantees those fathers gave it, be, not grudgingly, but fully and fairly, maintained. For this Republicans contend, and with this, so far as I know or believe, they will be content.

And now, if they would listen - as I suppose they will not - I would address a few words to the Southern people.

I would say to them: - You consider yourselves a reasonable and a just people; and I consider that in the general qualities of reason and justice you are not inferior to any other people. Still, when you speak of us Republicans, you do so only to denounce us a reptiles, or, at the best, as no better than outlaws. You will grant a hearing to pirates or murderers, but nothing like it to "Black Republicans." In all your contentions with one another, each of you deems an unconditional condemnation of "Black Republicanism" as the first thing to be attended to. Indeed, such condemnation of us seems to be an indispensable prerequisite - license, so to speak - among you to be admitted or permitted to speak at all. Now, can you, or not, be prevailed upon to pause and to consider whether this is quite just to us, or even to yourselves? Bring forward your charges and specifications, and then be patient long enough to hear us deny or justify.

You say we are sectional. We deny it. That makes an issue; and the burden of proof is upon you. You produce your proof; and what is it? Why, that our party has no existence in your section - gets no votes in your section. The fact is substantially true; but does it prove the issue? If it does, then in case we should, without change of principle, begin to get votes in your section, we should thereby cease to be sectional. You cannot escape this conclusion; and yet, are you willing to abide by it? If you are, you will probably soon find that we have ceased to be sectional, for we shall get votes in your section this very year. You will then begin to discover, as the truth plainly is, that your proof does not touch the issue. The fact that we get no votes in your section, is a fact of your making, and not of ours. And if there be fault in that fact, that fault is primarily yours, and remains until you show that we repel you by some wrong principle or practice. If we do repel you by any wrong principle or practice, the fault is ours; but this brings you to where you ought to have started - to a discussion of the right or wrong of our principle. If our principle, put in practice, would wrong your section for the benefit of ours, or for any other object, then our principle, and we with it, are sectional, and are justly opposed and denounced as such. Meet us, then, on the question of whether our principle, put in practice, would wrong your section; and so meet it as if it were possible that something may be said on our side. Do you accept the challenge? No! Then you really believe that the principle which "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live" thought so clearly right as to adopt it, and indorse it again and again, upon their official oaths, is in fact so clearly wrong as to demand your condemnation without a moment's consideration.

Some of you delight to flaunt in our faces the warning against sectional parties given by Washington in his Farewell Address. Less than eight years before Washington gave that warning, he had, as President of the United States, approved and signed an act of Congress, enforcing the prohibition of slavery in the Northwestern Territory, which act embodied the policy of the Government upon that subject up to and at the very moment he penned that warning; and about one year after he penned it, he wrote LaFayette that he considered that prohibition a wise measure, expressing in the same connection his hope that we should at some time have a confederacy of free States.

Bearing this in mind, and seeing that sectionalism has since arisen upon this same subject, is that warning a weapon in your hands against us, or in our hands against you? Could Washington himself speak, would he cast the blame of that sectionalism upon us, who sustain his policy, or upon you who repudiate it? We respect that warning of Washington, and we commend it to you, together with his example pointing to the right application of it.

But you say you are conservative - eminently conservative - while we are revolutionary, destructive, or something of the sort. What is conservatism? Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried? We stick to, contend for, the identical old policy on the point in controversy which was adopted by "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live;" while you with one accord reject, and scout, and spit upon that old policy, and insist upon substituting something new. True, you disagree among yourselves as to what that substitute shall be. You are divided on new propositions and plans, but you are unanimous in rejecting and denouncing the old policy of the fathers. Some of you are for reviving the foreign slave trade; some for a Congressional Slave-Code for the Territories; some for Congress forbidding the Territories to prohibit Slavery within their limits; some for maintaining Slavery in the Territories through the judiciary; some for the "gur-reat pur-rinciple" that "if one man would enslave another, no third man should object," fantastically called "Popular Sovereignty;" but never a man among you is in favor of federal prohibition of slavery in federal territories, according to the practice of "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live." Not one of all your various plans can show a precedent or an advocate in the century within which our Government originated. Consider, then, whether your claim of conservatism for yourselves, and your charge or destructiveness against us, are based on the most clear and stable foundations.

Again, you say we have made the slavery question more prominent than it formerly was. We deny it. We admit that it is more prominent, but we deny that we made it so. It was not we, but you, who discarded the old policy of the fathers. We resisted, and still resist, your innovation; and thence comes the greater prominence of the question. Would you have that question reduced to its former proportions? Go back to that old policy. What has been will be again, under the same conditions. If you would have the peace of the old times, readopt the precepts and policy of the old times.

You charge that we stir up insurrections among your slaves. We deny it; and what is your proof? Harper's Ferry! John Brown!! John Brown was no Republican; and you have failed to implicate a single Republican in his Harper's Ferry enterprise. If any member of our party is guilty in that matter, you know it or you do not know it. If you do know it, you are inexcusable for not designating the man and proving the fact. If you do not know it, you are inexcusable for asserting it, and especially for persisting in the assertion after you have tried and failed to make the proof. You need to be told that persisting in a charge which one does not know to be true, is simply malicious slander.

Some of you admit that no Republican designedly aided or encouraged the Harper's Ferry affair, but still insist that our doctrines and declarations necessarily lead to such results. We do not believe it. We know we hold to no doctrine, and make no declaration, which were not held to and made by "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live." You never dealt fairly by us in relation to this affair. When it occurred, some important State elections were near at hand, and you were in evident glee with the belief that, by charging the blame upon us, you could get an advantage of us in those elections. The elections came, and your expectations were not quite fulfilled. Every Republican man knew that, as to himself at least, your charge was a slander, and he was not much inclined by it to cast his vote in your favor. Republican doctrines and declarations are accompanied with a continual protest against any interference whatever with your slaves, or with you about your slaves. Surely, this does not encourage them to revolt. True, we do, in common with "our fathers, who framed the Government under which we live," declare our belief that slavery is wrong; but the slaves do not hear us declare even this. For anything we say or do, the slaves would scarcely know there is a Republican party. I believe they would not, in fact, generally know it but for your misrepresentations of us, in their hearing. In your political contests among yourselves, each faction charges the other with sympathy with Black Republicanism; and then, to give point to the charge, defines Black Republicanism to simply be insurrection, blood and thunder among the slaves.

Slave insurrections are no more common now than they were before the Republican party was organized. What induced the Southampton insurrection, twenty-eight years ago, in which, at least three times as many lives were lost as at Harper's Ferry? You can scarcely stretch your very elastic fancy to the conclusion that Southampton was "got up by Black Republicanism." In the present state of things in the United States, I do not think a general, or even a very extensive slave insurrection is possible. The indispensable concert of action cannot be attained. The slaves have no means of rapid communication; nor can incendiary freemen, black or white, supply it. The explosive materials are everywhere in parcels; but there neither are, nor can be supplied, the indispensable connecting trains.

Much is said by Southern people about the affection of slaves for their masters and mistresses; and a part of it, at least, is true. A plot for an uprising could scarcely be devised and communicated to twenty individuals before some one of them, to save the life of a favorite master or mistress, would divulge it. This is the rule; and the slave revolution in Hayti was not an exception to it, but a case occurring under peculiar circumstances. The gunpowder plot of British history, though not connected with slaves, was more in point. In that case, only about twenty were admitted to the secret; and yet one of them, in his anxiety to save a friend, betrayed the plot to that friend, and, by consequence, averted the calamity. Occasional poisonings from the kitchen, and open or stealthy assassinations in the field, and local revolts extending to a score or so, will continue to occur as the natural results of slavery; but no general insurrection of slaves, as I think, can happen in this country for a long time. Whoever much fears, or much hopes for such an event, will be alike disappointed.

In the language of Mr. Jefferson, uttered many years ago, "It is still in our power to direct the process of emancipation, and deportation, peaceably, and in such slow degrees, as that the evil will wear off insensibly; and their places be, pari passu, filled up by free white laborers. If, on the contrary, it is left to force itself on, human nature must shudder at the prospect held up."

Mr. Jefferson did not mean to say, nor do I, that the power of emancipation is in the Federal Government. He spoke of Virginia; and, as to the power of emancipation, I speak of the slaveholding States only. The Federal Government, however, as we insist, has the power of restraining the extension of the institution - the power to insure that a slave insurrection shall never occur on any American soil which is now free from slavery.

John Brown's effort was peculiar. It was not a slave insurrection. It was an attempt by white men to get up a revolt among slaves, in which the slaves refused to participate. In fact, it was so absurd that the slaves, with all their ignorance, saw plainly enough it could not succeed. That affair, in its philosophy, corresponds with the many attempts, related in history, at the assassination of kings and emperors. An enthusiast broods over the oppression of a people till he fancies himself commissioned by Heaven to liberate them. He ventures the attempt, which ends in little else than his own execution. Orsini's attempt on Louis Napoleon, and John Brown's attempt at Harper's Ferry were, in their philosophy, precisely the same. The eagerness to cast blame on old England in the one case, and on New England in the other, does not disprove the sameness of the two things.

And how much would it avail you, if you could, by the use of John Brown, Helper's Book, and the like, break up the Republican organization? Human action can be modified to some extent, but human nature cannot be changed. There is a judgment and a feeling against slavery in this nation, which cast at least a million and a half of votes. You cannot destroy that judgment and feeling - that sentiment - by breaking up the political organization which rallies around it. You can scarcely scatter and disperse an army which has been formed into order in the face of your heaviest fire; but if you could, how much would you gain by forcing the sentiment which created it out of the peaceful channel of the ballot-box, into some other channel? What would that other channel probably be? Would the number of John Browns be lessened or enlarged by the operation?

But you will break up the Union rather than submit to a denial of your Constitutional rights.

That has a somewhat reckless sound; but it would be palliated, if not fully justified, were we proposing, by the mere force of numbers, to deprive you of some right, plainly written down in the Constitution. But we are proposing no such thing.

When you make these declarations, you have a specific and well-understood allusion to an assumed Constitutional right of yours, to take slaves into the federal territories, and to hold them there as property. But no such right is specifically written in the Constitution. That instrument is literally silent about any such right. We, on the contrary, deny that such a right has any existence in the Constitution, even by implication.

Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events.

This, plainly stated, is your language. Perhaps you will say the Supreme Court has decided the disputed Constitutional question in your favor. Not quite so. But waiving the lawyer's distinction between dictum and decision, the Court have decided the question for you in a sort of way. The Court have substantially said, it is your Constitutional right to take slaves into the federal territories, and to hold them there as property. When I say the decision was made in a sort of way, I mean it was made in a divided Court, by a bare majority of the Judges, and they not quite agreeing with one another in the reasons for making it; that it is so made as that its avowed supporters disagree with one another about its meaning, and that it was mainly based upon a mistaken statement of fact - the statement in the opinion that "the right of property in a slave is distinctly and expressly affirmed in the Constitution."

An inspection of the Constitution will show that the right of property in a slave is not "distinctly and expressly affirmed" in it. Bear in mind, the Judges do not pledge their judicial opinion that such right is impliedly affirmed in the Constitution; but they pledge their veracity that it is "distinctly and expressly" affirmed there - "distinctly," that is, not mingled with anything else - "expressly," that is, in words meaning just that, without the aid of any inference, and susceptible of no other meaning.

If they had only pledged their judicial opinion that such right is affirmed in the instrument by implication, it would be open to others to show that neither the word "slave" nor "slavery" is to be found in the Constitution, nor the word "property" even, in any connection with language alluding to the things slave, or slavery; and that wherever in that instrument the slave is alluded to, he is called a "person;" - and wherever his master's legal right in relation to him is alluded to, it is spoken of as "service or labor which may be due," - as a debt payable in service or labor. Also, it would be open to show, by contemporaneous history, that this mode of alluding to slaves and slavery, instead of speaking of them, was employed on purpose to exclude from the Constitution the idea that there could be property in man.

To show all this, is easy and certain.

When this obvious mistake of the Judges shall be brought to their notice, is it not reasonable to expect that they will withdraw the mistaken statement, and reconsider the conclusion based upon it?

And then it is to be remembered that "our fathers, who framed the Government under which we live" - the men who made the Constitution - decided this same Constitutional question in our favor, long ago - decided it without division among themselves, when making the decision; without division among themselves about the meaning of it after it was made, and, so far as any evidence is left, without basing it upon any mistaken statement of facts.

Under all these circumstances, do you really feel yourselves justified to break up this Government unless such a court decision as yours is, shall be at once submitted to as a conclusive and final rule of political action? But you will not abide the election of a Republican president! In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! That is cool. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, "Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!"

To be sure, what the robber demanded of me - my money - was my own; and I had a clear right to keep it; but it was no more my own than my vote is my own; and the threat of death to me, to extort my money, and the threat of destruction to the Union, to extort my vote, can scarcely be distinguished in principle.

A few words now to Republicans. It is exceedingly desirable that all parts of this great Confederacy shall be at peace, and in harmony, one with another. Let us Republicans do our part to have it so. Even though much provoked, let us do nothing through passion and ill temper. Even though the southern people will not so much as listen to us, let us calmly consider their demands, and yield to them if, in our deliberate view of our duty, we possibly can. Judging by all they say and do, and by the subject and nature of their controversy with us, let us determine, if we can, what will satisfy them.

Will they be satisfied if the Territories be unconditionally surrendered to them? We know they will not. In all their present complaints against us, the Territories are scarcely mentioned. Invasions and insurrections are the rage now. Will it satisfy them, if, in the future, we have nothing to do with invasions and insurrections? We know it will not. We so know, because we know we never had anything to do with invasions and insurrections; and yet this total abstaining does not exempt us from the charge and the denunciation.

The question recurs, what will satisfy them? Simply this: We must not only let them alone, but we must somehow, convince them that we do let them alone. This, we know by experience, is no easy task. We have been so trying to convince them from the very beginning of our organization, but with no success. In all our platforms and speeches we have constantly protested our purpose to let them alone; but this has had no tendency to convince them. Alike unavailing to convince them, is the fact that they have never detected a man of us in any attempt to disturb them.

These natural, and apparently adequate means all failing, what will convince them? This, and this only: cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly - done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated - we must place ourselves avowedly with them. Senator Douglas' new sedition law must be enacted and enforced, suppressing all declarations that slavery is wrong, whether made in politics, in presses, in pulpits, or in private. We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We must pull down our Free State constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us.

I am quite aware they do not state their case precisely in this way. Most of them would probably say to us, "Let us alone, do nothing to us, and say what you please about slavery." But we do let them alone - have never disturbed them - so that, after all, it is what we say, which dissatisfies them. They will continue to accuse us of doing, until we cease saying.

I am also aware they have not, as yet, in terms, demanded the overthrow of our Free-State Constitutions. Yet those Constitutions declare the wrong of slavery, with more solemn emphasis, than do all other sayings against it; and when all these other sayings shall have been silenced, the overthrow of these Constitutions will be demanded, and nothing be left to resist the demand. It is nothing to the contrary, that they do not demand the whole of this just now. Demanding what they do, and for the reason they do, they can voluntarily stop nowhere short of this consummation. Holding, as they do, that slavery is morally right, and socially elevating, they cannot cease to demand a full national recognition of it, as a legal right, and a social blessing.

Nor can we justifiably withhold this, on any ground save our conviction that slavery is wrong. If slavery is right, all words, acts, laws, and constitutions against it, are themselves wrong, and should be silenced, and swept away. If it is right, we cannot justly object to its nationality - its universality; if it is wrong, they cannot justly insist upon its extension - its enlargement. All they ask, we could readily grant, if we thought slavery right; all we ask, they could as readily grant, if they thought it wrong. Their thinking it right, and our thinking it wrong, is the precise fact upon which depends the whole controversy. Thinking it right, as they do, they are not to blame for desiring its full recognition, as being right; but, thinking it wrong, as we do, can we yield to them? Can we cast our votes with their view, and against our own? In view of our moral, social, and political responsibilities, can we do this?

Wrong as we think slavery is, we can yet afford to let it alone where it is, because that much is due to the necessity arising from its actual presence in the nation; but can we, while our votes will prevent it, allow it to spread into the National Territories, and to overrun us here in these Free States? If our sense of duty forbids this, then let us stand by our duty, fearlessly and effectively. Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored - contrivances such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man - such as a policy of "don't care" on a question about which all true men do care - such as Union appeals beseeching true Union men to yield to Disunionists, reversing the divine rule, and calling, not the sinners, but the righteous to repentance - such as invocations to Washington, imploring men to unsay what Washington said, and undo what Washington did.

Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.



Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Help with Learning to Use GIMP

The GNU Image Manipulation Program, aka GIMP, is a powerful open source substitute for commercial programs like Photoshop.

In December 2008, Sam Dean put together a blog post that overviews "6 Ways to Get Much More out of GIMP. Dean mentions:
  1. GIMPshop — a modification of GIMP that replicates the feel of Photoshop.

  2. Grokking the GIMP — a manual available free online or for purchase in printed form.

  3. Registry of plug-ins for GIMP.

  4. Keyboard shortcuts for GIMP taken from Grokking the GIMP.

  5. GIMP tutorials.

  6. GIMP manual.
You can't do better than to use Dean's suggestions to familiarize yourself with GIMP's capabilities and how to use them.


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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Comprehensive Approach to Exercising Influence

In the Fall 2008 issue of the MIT Sloan Management Review, Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield of the consultancy VitalSmarts, and Andrew Shimberg of nGenera Talent, present a straightforward model of influence that can be quite helpful in situations where people need to be willing and able to change their behavior to fit new circumstances.

In "How to Have Influence," Grenny, Maxfield, and Shimberg (GMS) analyze a simple taxonomy of sources of influence in which the willingness (motivational) and ability components of influence each operate at three levels: the personal, the social, and the structural (non-human).

Thus, the GMS taxonomy consists of six sources of influence. GMS list questions to ask (here slightly edited) in assessing whether and how to tap each of these sources in particular situations:

Personal motivation to change — "link to mission and values," i.e., "help people see the broad implications of their actions and choices" and "help them connect the changes to their deeply held values." Ask:
  • In a room by themselves would people want to engage in the behavior?

  • Do they hate it or enjoy it?

  • Do they find meaning in it?

  • Does it fit into their sense of who they are or want to be?
Example of a successful strategy: Leaders "identified the aspects of the change that were boring, uncomfortable or painful and found ways to either eliminate them or make them more pleasant."

Personal ability to change — "a robust training initiative is at the heart of almost all successful influence strategies." Ask:
  • Do they have the knowledge, skills and strength to be able to do the right thing?

  • Can they handle the toughest challenges they will face?
Example of a successful strategy: Leaders "gave guided practice and immediate feedback until people were sure they could engage in the new bahaviors in the toughest of circumstances."

Social motivation to change — "harness peer pressure." Ask:
  • Are other people encouraging the right behavior or discouraging the wrong behavior?

  • Do people whom others respect model the right behaviors at the right time?

  • Do people have good relationships with those who are trying to influence them positively?
Example of a successful strategy: Leaders "identified people who would be most concerned about the changes, and made sure they were involved early."

Ability to exert social influence — "create social support." Ask:
  • Do others provide the help, information and resources required — particularly at critical times?
Example of a successful strategy: Leaders "created 'safe' ways for people to get help without feeling embarrasssed or being put on the spot."

Structural contributions to motivation to change — "align rewards and ensure accountability." GMS caution that it is generally best "to use incentives third, not first. Otherwise, you might acutally undermine people's intrinsic motivation." Ask:
  • Are there rewards — pay, promotions, performance reviews or perks?

  • Do rewards encourage the right behaviors and costs discourage the wrong ones?
Example of a successful strategy: Leaders "adjusted the formal rewards system to make sure people had incentives to adopt the new behaviors."

Ability to apply structural influence — "change the environment." Ask:
  • Does the environment — tools, facilities, information, reports, proximity to others, policies, work processes — enable good behavior or bad?

  • Are there enough cues and reminders to help people stay on course?
Example of a successful strategy: Leaders "reorganized people's workplaces to remove obstacles and to make the change convenient and easy."

(Note that two earlier posts discuss an influence model that addresses situations in which one must exercise influence without authority.)


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