If you only read one thing this week…

The psychology of stopping genocide – how ‘never again’ turned into ‘again and again’ by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
April 30, 2007, 4:52 pm
Filed under: If you only have 15 mins

Paul Slovic writes a fascinating article for the blog ‘The Situationalist” on the phenomenon that people are more likely to act to assist an individual than a group. “If I look at the mass I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.This statement uttered by Mother Teresa captures a powerful and deeply unsettling insight into human nature: Most people are caring and will exert great effort to rescue “the one” whose plight comes to their attention. But these same people often become numbly indifferent to the plight of “the one” who is “one of many” in a much greater problem.” Entitled ‘Too Many to Care’, you can read the rest here. Continue reading


Will Google loose its innovative organizational culture as it grows? by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
April 30, 2007, 4:49 pm
Filed under: If you only have 15 mins, Management

Google has grown hugely in the last few years, and is struggling to keep its organizational culture of innovative, team based, flat, non-hierarchical decision making that is focussed on its engineering teams as it grows. A year ago, they hired Stacy Savides Sullivan to be their “chief culture officer” (she is also their director of human resources). Sullivan says: “I work with employees around the world to figure out ways to maintain and enhance and develop our culture and how to keep the core values we had in the very beginning — a flat organisation, a lack of hierarchy, a collaborative environment — to keep these as we continue to grow and spread them and filtrate them into our new offices around the world“. Hmmm…. sounds familiar? Read the interview here and find out the strategies that Google is using to hang on to it’s soul.

Research and development spending by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
April 30, 2007, 4:48 pm
Filed under: If you only have 15 mins, Management, organizational learning

Robert Hertzberg, writing for CIO Insight, takes a look at current trends in research and development spending in technology firms. The article is here, but perhaps the most interesting comments are on how innovation is managed, with most companies having a process for identifying promising practices and ideas: Continue reading

Two fun and useful mapping web sites by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
April 30, 2007, 4:01 pm
Filed under: If you have 30 mins, Web sites

World Mapper (here) offers pre-made maps of the world by just about as many different ways as you can imagine, by international food aid, political demonstrations, fast food consumption, you name it, they have a map for it!

On the other hand, Google’s latest offering (Google Maps – click here and go to My Maps) is a simple way to make basic interactive maps using the mapping software that is the basis for Google Maps and Google Earth. The point and click interface does not need you to understand anything about how Geographical Information Systems work, and while it lacks the powerful features of real GIS software, it’s ease of use makes it a good place to start for people exploring the area. You can host your maps on the web, or make files that can be used in the Google Earth software.

This is an example map showing the locations of Mercy Corps interns in 2006 – the red ones are the ones are the three that Mercy Corps hired after their internships. To see an interactive version of this map with information about each of the interns, click here. Click on any of the pins in the map to see some information about the intern.
Mercy Corps 2006 interns Continue reading

Good Enough – An NGO guide to accountability by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
April 13, 2007, 1:02 am
Filed under: accountability, If you only have 15 mins

A consortium of NGOs have recently published a guide to NGO accountability which looks to provide minimum standards for NGO accountability towards impact measurement and our beneficiaries. This was funded through the Emergency Capacity Building project funded by Gates. It is an easy to read guide and could very easily form the basis for orientation with field teams. It is nice to see a guide that focuses on accountability towards the people we are trying to help rather than our donors. It is also accessible to non native English speakers which makes a refreshing change. It sets a nice tone and the tools at the back are really useful. I particularly like the recommendations on setting up mechanisms for feedback from our communities and there is some good additional resource material. Maybe there are some overly idealistic ideas in there and unfortunately the book doesn’t talk about the conflict of interest that may arise between accountability to donors and beneficiaries. The book is free to download from Oxfam’s website – they ask you to fill out a couple of questions as they want to track how the guide is being used.

Multi tasking will slow you down by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
April 12, 2007, 6:39 pm
Filed under: If you only have 15 mins, Time management

Multi-taskers beware! That’s the take home from a New York Times article that summarises a range of research on brain effectiveness while trying to do more than one thing. The bottom line?

Multitasking is going to slow you down, increasing the chances of mistakes,” said David E. Meyer, a cognitive scientist and director of the Brain, Cognition and Action Laboratory at the University of Michigan. “Disruptions and interruptions are a bad deal from the standpoint of our ability to process information.

Read the whole article here.

Listening to project participants by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
April 12, 2007, 6:34 pm
Filed under: accountability, If you have 30 mins

Mary Anderson (of Do No Harm fame) has an interesting take on project participant accountability – her Listening Project focuses on recipients’ satisfaction with the specific aid they have received rather than exploring broader and longer-term impacts of the assistance programs. Check out the home page here, and the reports for Ethiopia and Aceh here. Other reports to follow.