Six feet under

Last EMPH weekend, the class of 2012 was introduced to what you might call the murderous approach to management.  Sometimes, when an organizational culture, system, team, or other element just isn’t working out you might have to “kill it.”  You just march in there (I’m envisioning an office somewhere in downtown Manhattan) and you whip out your victim’s walking papers at point blank range, and then you “kill it” in cold blood.  Given the cries of outrage (faces turned white, etc etc) I don’t that think our cohort is up for this – which is why I like everyone in my cohort so much.

"From the Desk of Bob Mankoff"

Meanwhile, Steven Pinker, the Harvard psychologist, has a new book out called The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined,” which argues that human kind has seen a steady decline in violence since the dawn of time and that we’re living in one of the safest, most peaceful eras in the history of the world.  Elizabeth Kolbert has an interesting review of Pinker’s book in The New Yorker, where she points to some gaps in his logic (er, the First World War and the Second World War).

Pinker’s hypothesis is interesting when you consider the public health side of things.  The CDC reports that violence is one of the top 10 causes of death in the U.S. for people age 1 to 64. Moreover, decline or no decline, violence as a cause of death disproportionately effects young, low-income men of color. The CDC’s  Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report dated January 14, 2011, discussed homicide as a cause of death as follows:

Similar to previous findings, results of this study indicate that homicide disparities by age, race/ethnicity, and sex are evident, and the homicide rate is particularly high among young black males.  Individual factors (e.g., employment status, and socioeconomic factors (e.g., poverty and economic inequality) play critical roles in racial/ethnic disparities in homicide. For example, persons of a minority race are more likely than those of other racial/ethnic backgrounds to be unemployed and to live in economically impoverished residential areas; both factors are associated with a higher homicide risk.

Which means that if we’re going to address the public health issue of violence, we have to address the causal factors of unemployment, poverty, and economic inequality.

If you’d like to see additional amusing New Yorker cartoons on the Steven Pinker theme, see Bob Mankoff’s blog.  And if you take the murderous approach to management, let us know how it goes.

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