Friday, June 25, 2010

Detroit: The Perfect Example

My interest in Detroit peaked after a recent trip by my parents-in-law to the "Motor City" for the 2010 Ford Convention. To them, Detroit was like nothing they had ever seen or could put into words. They told us that no one walks on the streets alone and that you can see the desperation in the faces of everyone you meet. Since then, I have done some research of my own and found that Detroit's devastation and ruination did not begin with the latest economic downturn, but has continued for several decades, and it is not over. 77 parks will be shut down this month and demolition crews are planning to tear down 10,000 residential buildings over the next four years. Yet, the best way I can describe Detroit to you is with the latest TIME magazine pictures of the city's ruins: 
Detroit is the end result of a global economic system where employees have no say in the way their businesses are run. The same employees that built these corporations have been denied a piece of the ownership and thus the wealth that they created. These corporations have uprooted and moved across the planet in search of cheaper labor and lower working, pollution, & corruption standards--taking their pillage with them.

Ironically, only now that these oligarchical coporations have turned their backs on Detroit are real, local solutions being implemented. With the city’s current leadership hypnotized by what they see as a civic death spiral, new leadership is coming from the place it always does in the end–from the bottom up. There are now eight hundred community gardens on abandoned lots, peace zones for public safety, green retrofitting of empty houses, new open source media projects and an exploding hip hop and poetry scene. 500-1000 young people come to Detroit every summer for the Allied Media Conference where they create new ways to use participatory media as a strategy for social justice organizing. From June 22-26, as many as 10,000 people from around the world are convening in Detroit for the US Social Forum to discuss solutions for Detroit and the U.S. that include sustainable urban planning departments, student environmental organizations, food security, renewable energy, green building, new media, and alternative currencies.

The problem that remains is that this progress is likely to be pillaged again by oligarchical corporations. When money returns to Detroit, oligarchical corporations will take root again and the cycle will start over. Until the people of this nation and the world understand that oligarchical corporations within democracies do not yield democracy at all, we will continue this cycle. We must change the organizational structure of the corporation. If all we did was demand employee ownership, decentralized decision making, and financial transparency, we would eliminate the majority of our economic problems.
(Information from and

How Will You Measure Your Life?

I recently read this article by Clayton Christiansen out of Harvard entitled, “How will you measure your life?” It is what he tells his students on the final day of his class.

One of the items that he mentions sticks out to me. It reads as follows:

“One of the theories, . . . . . how to be sure we find happiness in our careers—is from Frederick Herzberg, who asserts that the powerful motivator in our lives isn’t money; it’s the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute to others, and be recognized for achievements. I tell the students about a vision of sorts I had while I was running the company I founded before becoming an academic. In my mind’s eye I saw one of my managers leave for work one morning with a relatively strong level of self-esteem. Then I pictured her driving home to her family 10 hours later, feeling unappreciated, frustrated, underutilized, and demeaned. I imagined how profoundly her lowered self-esteem affected the way she interacted with her children. The vision in my mind then fast-forwarded to another day, when she drove home with greater self-esteem—feeling that she had learned a lot, been recognized for achieving valuable things, and played a significant role in the success of some important initiatives. I then imagined how positively that affected her as a spouse and a parent. My conclusion: Management is the most noble of professions if it’s practiced well. No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement, and contribute to the success of a team. More and more [people think] that a career in business means buying, selling, and investing in companies. That’s unfortunate. Doing deals doesn’t yield the deep rewards that come from building up people."

I’m sure you can see why it sticks out.