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Archive for the ‘MInneapolis’ Category

Let’s Get Liminal: How to be a Co–Laborer/Co-Thinker/Co-Contributor

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Show up to explore the space between

My friend helps researchers at his Midwestern university organize their thoughts for publication. He also helps them apply for grants to fund their research—a function many universities are increasingly focused on.

To do this work, my friend has found ways to walk alongside new professors as they form their research interests. By staying beside them over time (years, even), he is able to help identify places where the work can go forward and also begin to locate potential funding sources. That’s when the hard work begins of explaining the research to a funding committee.

Approaches to Minneapolis

Approaches to Minneapolis

This space between—where the research shows particular promise but is still unformed—this is where a conversation can bear fruit. Maybe even the goal itself is starting to take shape, along with possible routes to that desired end. Sometimes it is the conversations surrounding the goal and routes to the goal that open it for exploration.

Michael Banning is an observer and painter of liminal spaces—those spaces and places that we typically don’t even see:

I am interested in the liminal spaces found at the edges of the inner city. Amid the trucks, weeds and railroad tracks of those often post-industrial surroundings, one can find compelling views of the distant skyline as well as a sense of peace and quiet uncommon in the urban experience.

–“Parking Lot near Train Tracks,” by Michael Banning, label from James J. Hill House Gallery

Parking Lot near Train Tracks (Photo courtesy Michael Banning)

Parking Lot near Train Tracks (Photo courtesy Michael Banning)

See Michael Banning’s work here.

When we are lucky enough to find ourselves talking about these liminal spaces with each other, we might be collaborating in a particularly effective way. Typically we don’t have a clue when we’ve entered such a verbal space. Years later we might identify a conversation that was a turning point. Perhaps the best we can do is to remain open to entertaining each other’s unformed thoughts.

Who knows what might result?

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Could Your Organization Grow Your Spirit?

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LEED-like certification for human-spirit-sustainable workplaces

LEED certification is a rating system that recognizes a building’s sustainability. LEED or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, rates a new building project using five different categories:

  1. Site location
  2. Water conservation
  3. Energy efficiency
  4. Materials
  5. Indoor air quality

Businesses and organizations with the highest ratings display them as a sort of badge of honor for the public to see.

What if there were some system to measure and rate the culture within a company or organization? Since we worry about bullying at school and we’re starting to recognize bullies in the office and toxic corporate cultures, does it make sense to start thinking about organizations that sustain people rather than beat them?

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For instance, what if any organization was judged by these four categories:

  1. Bias toward collaboration
  2. Employee engagement indicators
  3. Mix of top-down messaging with true conversation
  4. Ratio of CEO-pay to rank-and-file pay

Seem ridiculous?

It would be difficult to measure many of these, especially since most of the categories seem so subjective. And yet, would it be impossible to measure? Would it be worthwhile to measure? Are we already moving in that direction?

In Minneapolis/St. Paul—like any set of cities—insider talk has long identified those cut-throat corporate and institutional cultures that routinely toss human capital to the side. Insider talk also identifies those bosses, managers and C-suite people without empathy and/or ethical moorings. New employees are generally forewarned when they sign up.

Of course, business is still about earning a living for the people involved even as the organization serves some human need. So don’t think I’m championing some communistic collective. Profits will and must be made to help society move forward.

But as we move toward fuller employment, workers will become more choosy about where they spend their days. And those cultures that have a less sustainable ethos will not be the winners.

I’m not convinced I’ve identified the right categories to measure. What categories would you include?

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Medtronic, “Accounting Fiction” and Irish Performatives

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How do you say “Fridley” in Irish?

To those who live as if words are worthless and refuse to see the role of systems in building wealth, let us now gaze on Medtronic’s deal to buy Covidien. What does $42.9 billion get you these days, besides a cohesive portfolio of medical devices and a bunch of intelligent workers and systems? Smart people are speculating it also buys freedom to spend foreign profits without worrying about more taxes, which may amount to a roughly $20 billion future spending spree.

Of course corporations will seek the best deal for making money—that is the project of corporations—and will surprise no one. Do Minnesotans worry a beloved company born and bred in Minnesota is growing up and leaving home? Of course. But the significant investment Medtronic has made in their operations in the state should cause worriers to back off a bit. A quick driving tour through Fridley and Mounds View reveal a rather permanent corporate presence.

How do you control chaos and churn?

How can you control chaos and churn?

But then—of course—stuff happens and things change. Which produces anxiety in hard-working people.

What I find interesting is that while the deal involves a significant exchange of money, it also changes a key definition that then dodges a set of tax requirements. Note this: becoming an Irish company is mostly in name only. The StarTribune quotes Eric Toder of the Urban-Brookings Tax Center as describing the newly formed Irish company an “accounting fiction.” So while Medtronic will always be a Minnesota company, it will become an Irish company. And there is money to be saved in being an Irish company. By cutting this deal—by pronouncing these words in international legal documents—a new thing happens at Medtronic that will please shareholders and worry local workers. JL Austin might call that corporate speech-act a performative. And there is no question that performative will change things in the real world.

 

[Full disclosure: The author has worked for Medtronic and continues to consult for Medtronic.] [At least the author did until posting this.]

 

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

June 17, 2014 at 9:56 am

Northern Spark 2014: Don’t Freak

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Go, by all means. Just don’t freak out…

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…at the…

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weird stuff.

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Northern Spark: June 14 9:01pm – 5:26am, Minneapolis

Worth every minute.

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Image Credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

June 14, 2014 at 5:00 am

Northeast Minneapolis Art-A-Whirl

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Wandering through the artist’s workspace is at least 50% of the fun

Urban Garden in Mill City

Urban Garden in Mill City

Six floors of art studios in the California Building

Six floors of art studios in the California Building

The top photo shows how Minneapolis begins to blossom in the spring.

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Photo credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

May 18, 2014 at 10:03 am

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