Learning from Dogs

Dogs are integrous animals. We have much to learn from them.

Archive for the ‘Tactics’ Category

No way to run a world!

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Why we have to learn integrity from our dogs, and soon!

After yesterday’s post about the ice dagger poised to fall on the heads of humanity, I was hoping to offer something more cheerful for today. Indeed, I had a guest post ready for publication but then ran into a small technical hitch that stopped it being scheduled for today.

So I turned to this recent article that appeared on The Conversation blogsite that is, unfortunately, another reminder of these mad times. It is republished within the terms of articles that appear on The Conversation.


How could VW be so dumb? Blame the unethical culture endemic in business.

Author: Edward L Queen, Director of Ethics and Servant Leadership Program, Emory University.

How much can corporate culture explain VW’s deception? Jim Young/Reuters

How much can corporate culture explain VW’s deception? Jim Young/Reuters

That far too much of the world’s corporate leadership is driven by moral midgets who have been educated far beyond their capacities for good judgment should be obvious after observing the events of the past week.

The financial industry-led economic collapse of 2008 should have taught us this lesson, but the specificity and clarity of it was brought home by news of price-gouging in the pharmaceutical industry and, even more blatantly, by the announcement that Volkswagen intentionally programmed thousands of its diesel automobiles to cheat emissions testing.

We should be outraged by such behavior and demand appropriate punishments and sanctions as well as restitution and correction. But we should not be shocked. As an ethicist who has looked at the behavior of individuals in business and corporations, I can point to a number of troubling trends that help explain these transgressions.

Impaired moral imaginations

For the past five to six decades, epigones of Milton Friedman have been emphasizing that the only duty of a corporation is return on investment (regularly ignoring his caveat of doing so within the law and social norms).

This lesson, drilled into generations of business school graduates, now drives tsunamis of corporate malfeasance. Data regularly demonstrate that business school students are more likely to cheat on examinations and assignments than their peers, although – and this is of interest for the Volkswagen case – they are closely followed by engineering students.

Are business school teaching the right values? mleiboff/flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Are business school teaching the right values? mleiboff/flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Additionally, some evidence suggests that not only are business students more impaired in their moral judgments in a broader sense than are those in other majors and professional schools, but that business schools themselves may be responsible.

More disturbing, observational and anecdotal evidence suggests that business students are not only impaired in their moral judgments but that significant percentages of them have severely impaired moral imaginations. By this I mean not only do they make bad ethical decisions, but they actually are incapable of identifying an ethical situation when they are presented with one.

Numerous interviews with business ethics faculty I have had over the past decade suggest that when business students are presented with an ethics case, that is a case where they have been told that there is an ethical problem, 20% to 30% of the students cannot find or identify the ethical issue. This has been borne out by my personal experience when teaching business students.

Unmistakable malfeasance

With regards to the Volkswagen scandal, let us be clear about the nature of the company’s activities. This was not a mistake, an error, an ethical lapse or poor judgment. This was an intentionally designed and executed violation of the law in both its letter and its spirit. It also was an ethical violation of the highest level.

Volkswagen intentionally deceived those to whom it owed a duty of honesty. It fraudulently misrepresented its automobiles to be other than what they were. Most significantly, it intentionally chose to do so and went out of its way to commit the wrong.

This last fact may make it far more difficult for VW to recover from the reputational hit than it perhaps has been for GM or Toyota. Even though the latter’s product defects cost people their lives, they did not intentionally produce such parts.

The sheer brazenness and conniving that went into Volkswagen’s actions are probably what shocked people the most. This was a highly technical and sophisticated operation that basically taught the emissions system how to distinguish between road travel, typical idling and idling while undergoing an emissions test.

No spin can mitigate that fact. There is and can be no claims of confusion or misunderstanding, no failures to communicate. This will erode people’s trust in Volkswagen as a company to a degree that the failures of other companies may not have experienced. In the Volkswagen scandal, just like the story about price gouging in pharmaceuticals that broke the same week, consumers are confronted with the stark reality of corporate malfeasance.

In both instances, the wrongdoing was exacerbated by the responses of the companies’ CEOs. The now former CEO of Volkswagen, Martin Winterkorn, basically acknowledged his incompetence and failure of leadership by claiming that he was unaware of the actions taken by his employees. Martin Shkreli, the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, in a series of tweets responding to criticisms of its pricing of the drug Daraprim demonstrated a level of knowledge of moral and social norms that can only be described as clueless.

Redefining success

These events – and others – make clear that there is a need to look at the broader cultural realities that drive unethical decisions in business, particularly the perception that the only way of determining value and worth is money.

This situation is not new – as early as 1906 William James wrote in a letter to H G Wells, “The moral flabbiness born of the exclusive worship of the bitch-goddess SUCCESS. That – with the squalid cash interpretation put on the word success — is our national disease.”

When a person’s worth is determined only by money, only by success as it is and can be monetized, when one has no sense of being without the BMW, the Rolex, the Armani suits, the yacht, etc, the moral flabbiness emerges. Indeed, it engulfs entire organizations and perhaps even entire societies.


Those last two sentences of that essay need repeating over and over again. This may just be a blog about learning from our beloved dog companions but as my home page spells out, this is not some silly romantic notion:

As man’s companion, protector and helper, history suggests that dogs were critically important in man achieving success as a hunter-gatherer. Dogs ‘teaching’ man to be so successful a hunter enabled evolution, some 20,000 years later, to farming, thence the long journey to modern man. But in the last, say 100 years, that farming spirit has become corrupted to the point where we see the planet’s plant and mineral resources as infinite. Mankind is close to the edge of extinction, literally and spiritually.

Dogs know better, much better! Time again for man to learn from dogs!

So there!

Written by Paul Handover

September 29, 2015 at 00:00

Bears and duct tape!

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With grateful thanks to Cynthia G. who sent this to me.

(Going to take a break from the serious writing for this long week-end)

So, what's the story here?

So, what’s the story here?

The place: The Alaskan Wilderness

Just a bear wanting some food!

Just a bear wanting some food!

The event: A private “fly-in” fishing excursion to that Alaskan wilderness.

Well, a bear would, wouldn't it!

Well, a bear would, wouldn’t it!

The mistake: The pilot and fishermen left a cooler and bait in the plane.

Now what?

Now what?

The consequence: The bear went exploring for food!

Nothing if not ingenious!

Nothing if not ingenious!

The smart thinking: The pilot used his radio and had another pilot bring him 2 new tires, 3 cases of duct tape, and a supply of sheet plastic.

And they all happily went home!

And they all happily went home!

The result: The pilot patched the plane together, and they all flew home!

duct tape

The moral of this story: Duct Tape? Never Leave Home Without It

Written by Paul Handover

March 29, 2013 at 00:00

Turning corners, en route to Plan B.

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Nothing stays the same for very long!

I wanted to call this post Change out of hope but that title was used on March 17th so opted for Turning corners instead!

Either way, this Post is prompted by a recent item published on the Earth Policy Institute website.  While Lester Brown’s book World on the Edge is a tough read, Lester is President of the Earth Policy Institute, it’s all too easy to think that the future for humanity is wall-to-wall gloom.  So here’s the article that was recently published, reproduced here under the copyright terms of the Earth Policy Institute.

Hope turning on the wind!

Wind Tops 10 Percent Share of Electricity in Five U.S. States

by J. Matthew Roney

A new picture is emerging in the U.S. power sector. In 2007, electricity generation from coal peaked, dropping by close to 4 percent annually between 2007 and 2011. Over the same time period, nuclear generation fell slightly, while natural gas-fired electricity grew by some 3 percent annually and hydropower by 7 percent. Meanwhile, wind-generated electricity grew by a whopping 36 percent each year. Multiple factors underlie this nascent shift in U.S. electricity production, including the global recession, increasing energy efficiency, and more economically recoverable domestic natural gas. But ultimately it is the increasing attractiveness of wind as an energy source that will drive it into prominence.

Wind power accounted for just 2.9 percent of total electricity generation in the United States in 2011. In five U.S. states, however, 10 percent or more of electricity generation came from wind. South Dakota leads the states, with wind power making up 22 percent of its electricity generation in 2011, up from 14 percent in 2010. In 2011, Iowa generated 19 percent of its electricity with wind energy. And in North Dakota, wind’s share was 15 percent.

The two most populous U.S. states are also harnessing more of their wind resources. While adding more than 900 megawatts of new wind farms in 2011 to its existing 3,000-megawatt wind capacity, California was able to increase its wind electricity share from 3 to 4 percent. Texas has the most wind installations of all the states, with 10,400 megawatts. In fact, if Texas were a country, it would rank sixth in the world for total wind capacity. Figures from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the independent service operator that delivers 85 percent of the state’s electricity, show that wind’s share of electricity in the ERCOT region jumped from 2.9 percent in 2007 to 8.5 percent in 2011.

Even though the cost of generating electricity from the wind has fallen substantially, certain policies have been needed to help it compete with the longtime support and lack of full-cost accounting for fossil fuels. Through so-called renewable portfolio standards (RPS), 29 states now require a percentage of utilities’ electricity to come from renewables by a certain date. This includes 8 of the top 10 states in total installed wind power capacity. For example, California’s RPS requires one third of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020. But the biggest policy driver of U.S. wind power growth thus far has been the federal production tax credit (PTC) for each kilowatt-hour of electricity a wind turbine generates. When Congress has allowed the PTC to expire, as it is scheduled to do again at the end of 2012, wind installations in the following year have plummeted.

In the short term, extending the PTC will be critical for the U.S. wind industry, which boasts more than 400 turbine component manufacturers and employs some 75,000 people. Ultimately, moving away from the recurring boom-bust threat by establishing a national RPS or a carbon tax would encourage even greater manufacturing growth and wind installations.

In a country where wind resources could power the entire economy, there is still great potential to be realized. Four states in northern Germany have set the mark, with each getting more than 40 percent of their electricity from the wind. Which U.S. state will get there first?

For more information and data on wind energy in the United States and around the world, see Earth Policy Institute’s Wind Indicator, “World Wind Power Climbs to New Record in 2011,” at http://www.earth-policy.org.

Copyright © 2012 Earth Policy Institute

This video is well worth watching as well as going to that link at the end of the essay above.

Lester Brown, Thomas Friedman, and Paul Krugman discuss the need for a carbon tax in order to price carbon emissions at their true cost.

The “Journey to Planet Earth” series continues with a special program, hosted by Matt Damon, which features environmental visionary Lester Brown and author of “Plan B.” This documentary delivers a clear and unflinching message — either confront the realities of climate change or suffer the consequences of lost civilizations and failed political states.

I will see how much material there is available online with regard to that programme hosted by Matt Damon and, maybe, present some of it on Learning from Dogs.

Finally, the picture of the wind turbine at the head of this Post came from a website called www.windgeneratorblog.com.  Fancy a home wind generator?

Final message in a bottle

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The concluding part of what we might care to leave for the next generation

Mankind over the next few years is facing the start of an interval of economic chaos and social stress between the end of the fossil fuel age and whatever follows.  That interval could well last a lifetime or more.  Some might argue that the economic challenges that have been the mark of 2011 are, indeed, the first signs of this economic chaos.

How well we cope, adapt and survive is not going to be down to those of my age (born 1944) but to the bright youngsters who have been born in the 21st century.

That was the motivation behind publishing, on December 1st, the speech given by Steve Jobs, the 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech, and on December 6th, the famous and fabulous speech given by Sir Ken Robinson at the 2005 TED Talks conference.

The third and concluding message is a subsequent speech given by Sir Ken, this time in May 2010.  It isn’t as stirring as his speech in 2005 but still a wonderful focus on what is our, as in homo sapiens, only chance of surviving – the innovation and creativity of the next  generations.

In this poignant, funny follow-up to his fabled 2006 talk, Sir Ken Robinson makes the case for a radical shift from standardized schools to personalized learning — creating conditions where kids’ natural talents can flourish.

Written by Paul Handover

December 14, 2011 at 00:00

Second message in a bottle

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Continuing the advice you might offer to the next generation?

On the 1st December I published the first message.  It had been inspired by a conversation with Peter McCarthy, who lives and works in Bristol, England.  Here’s a little of what I wrote,

Anyway, Peter and I were talking about the sorts of qualities that enable some young people to take a risk-based entrepreneurial approach to life.  Peter gave me the links to three videos that he thought were especially relevant to the notion of achieving success in life.  So over the next few days I want to share those videos with you, dear reader.  To me, these videos are, indeed, the essence of the messages that any person, especially those the wrong side of 60, would wish to leave in a bottle floating down the river of life.

So to the second message which is a recording of the talk that Sir Ken Robinson gave to the TED Talks conference in Monterey in February, 2006.  It has been widely seen for all the right reasons; Sir Ken offers some powerful common-sense and a wonderful message for all the young people out there.  As Sir Ken’s website says,

Sir Ken Robinson, PhD is an internationally recognized leader in the development of education, creativity and innovation.  He is also one of the world’s leading speakers with a profound impact on audiences everywhere.  The videos of his famous 2006 and 2010 talks to the prestigious TED Conference have been seen by an estimated 200 million people in over 150 countries.

Read the rest of Sir Ken’s background here.

So with no more ado, here’s the film, watched by nearly 3 million people!


Written by Paul Handover

December 6, 2011 at 00:00

First message in a bottle

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So what advice would you offer to the next generation?

One of the biggest differences between Homo sapiens and Canis lupus familiaris is that the latter is such a master of living in the present that, one assumes, the issue of worrying about the next generation is largely irrelevant.  Definitely not so with us humans.

A few weeks back I was chatting to a good friend of mine, Peter McCarthy, whom I first met when I undertook a sales and marketing project for one his companies.  That was many years ago but Peter and I have stayed in touch.  One of the many attributes about Peter that I have admired over the years is his instinctive and thoughtful approach to entrepreneurism.  Peter is still an active entrepreneur.

Anyway, Peter and I were talking about the sorts of qualities that enable some young people to take a risk-based entrepreneurial approach to life.  Peter gave me the links to three videos that he thought were especially relevant to the notion of achieving success in life.  So over the next few days I want to share those videos with you, dear reader.  To me, these videos are, indeed, the essence of the messages that any person, especially those the wrong side of 60, would wish to leave in a bottle floating down the river of life.

So to the first.  The address by Steve Jobs to the University of Stanford’s 114th Commencement on June 12, 2005.  Already watched at the time of writing this by 12,690,731 persons!

Lying is OK, that’s official! Duh!

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I find this utterly unacceptable – here’s the story

Jean Claude Juncker, lying for Europe!

I was talking to someone in the UK just a couple of days ago, Martin J., about investment matters and we were generally ‘slagging’ off the quality, or rather the lack of quality, of the statements of leading political persons in many fields of government.  Martin then made the statement that Jean Claude Juncker, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, and the head of the Eurogroup council of eurozone finance ministers had recently stated that “When it becomes serious, you have to lie,”  I was staggered to hear this and asked Martin to supply the details.  Here they are.

Mr. Juncker’s remark had been widely reported and I have chosen the Wall Street Journal’s report to quote from in Learning from Dogs.

MAY 9, 2011, 10:54 AM ET

Luxembourg Lies on Secret Meeting

By Charles Forelle

Is lying considered an appropriate mode of communication for euro-zone leaders?

We have to wonder after a strange episode on Friday evening. Here’s what happened:

Just before 6 p.m., German news magazine Spiegel Online distributed a report saying that euro-zone finance ministers were convening a secret, emergency meeting in Luxembourg that evening to discuss a Greek demand to quit the euro zone.

Calls from reporters flooded in to Guy Schuller, the spokesman for Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, the man who is the head of the Eurogroup council of euro-zone finance ministers.

In a phone call and text messages with two reporters for Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Schuller repeatedly said no meeting would be held. He apparently said the same to other news outlets; at least one more moved his denials on financial newswires.

Of course, there was a meeting–although not, apparently, to talk about Greece quitting the currency, which would be an extreme step to say the least. Mr. Juncker even said a few words to reporters who had hustled to Luxembourg to stake out the gathering.

Anyway, do read the article in full here.

In that article there is a YouTube video in which Mr. Juncker says “When it becomes serious, you have to lie.”  You can hear it yourself, about 20 seconds into the video despite the sound level being a tad low.

So that’s official then!  Politicians have to lie!  Grand job.  Talking about jobs, don’t suppose Mr. Juncker will lose his.  Or that he will show that, deep down, he is an integrous man and resign his post.

Yes, of course we all understand that what high-profile people say can affect markets and that, at times, one must be careful in terms of what is said.  But lying?  Sorry, for me that will never, ever be acceptable!

What has this to do with dogs?  Simply, dogs don’t lie.


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