Sweet & Sour Grapes: The Story of the Machine Tool Industry - page 37


There was one important item not listed above in the characteristics to be evaluated in recruiting new employees. It is as important as any on the list, but it is nearly impossible to see in an interview. It is courage, and it is an essential ingredient in what it takes to be a serious competitor, to lead other people, and even to seriously pursue W3 rewards.

In the beginning, courage is venturing opinions while knowing that criticism may result and then taking ownership (responsibility) and intelligent risks, knowing that failures are possible. Finally, committing company resources when failures are possible, knowing that the owners, the other employees, and their families will share in that risk and then getting back on the horse after a failure all demonstrate courage. If people are tested frequently, they will develop confidence as they learn and experience both success and failure and courage will follow.

A very solid and respected engineer has a proverb in large letters taped to a wall in his work area. It says something to the effect that we must be guided by recognition of our own limitations in what we do. When and how do we find out what limits us, and does failure establish limitation?

The following messages have appeared in the Wall Street Journal and in other publications and are appropriately included here under this topic.

“Aim so high you will never be bored. The greatest waste of our natural resources is the number of people who never achieve their potential. Get out of the slow lane. Shift into the fast lane. If you think you can’t, you won’t. If you think you can, there’s a good chance you will. Even making the effort will make you feel like a new person. Reputations are made by searching for things that can’t be done and doing them. Aim low: boring. Aim high: soaring.”[21]

“Don’t be afraid to fail. You’ve failed many times although you may not remember. You fell down the first time you tried to walk. You almost drowned the first time you tried to swim, didn’t you? Did you hit the ball the first time you swung a bat? Heavy hitters, the ones who hit the most home runs, also strike out a lot. R.H. Macy failed seven times before his store in New York caught on. English novelist John Creasy got 753 rejection slips before he published 564 books. Babe Ruth struck out 1330 times, but he also hit 714 home runs. Don’t worry about failure. Worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.”[22]

Characteristics such as passion, imagination, and courage, can compensate many times for physical or even mental shortcomings or handicaps. Unfortunately, the reverse can be true where an otherwise perfect specimen may lack those characteristics and, as a result, may not succeed. In some cases those attributes may not be easily awakened.

[21]United Technologies Corporation, A Message, (Reprints from The Wall Street Journal, 1981).

[22]United Technologies Corporation, A Message, (Reprints from The Wall Street Journal, 1981).


While it may not seem exactly germane to the overall theme of this book, there is one negative factor associated with the high tech advances. E-mail, touted as a major benefit of the high tech era, can provide great benefits in speed and volume of communication and broadcast coverage. However, it can change the way the real message gets through and perhaps its intended meanings. In addition, it endows the composer with a false courage, as he or she may feel less inhibited by not having to look into the eyes of the recipient or not having to worry about an immediate negative response. It denies the originator important communication tools. It can produce unrealistic views of work, and life in general, without early objective feedback.

Remember the saying, “If you can’t stand the answer don’t ask the question?” With e-mail, the answer is at least delayed, and will likely come in a way that will not require face to face confrontation. Some will say that is good, since more ideas may be ventured. In addition, copies (cc’s) are frequently broadcast to many who need not be involved, sometimes for personal agenda or political reasons, wasting the time of the recipients.

There is no substitute for face-to-face communication and watching and reading body language. Gestures, a smile, a frown, a nervous tick or facial expressions help to convey and emphasize meanings. Looking into the eyes or touching, like a pat on the arm or a handshake, help to create clear, unmistakable meanings and reinforce two-way sincerity. Instantaneous feedback is also an important benefit.

“Salem, 47, is an academician turned entertainer, a scholar in the field of nonverbal communications who says, ‘Up to 80 percent of communication is not what is said.’”[23]

The most effective communication tools, the defining attributes of history’s greatest leaders - voice qualities and charisma, are not available to e-mail communicators.

An atmosphere of trust and encouragement without fear of criticism results in ideas being ventured freely and through spontaneous debate, improved upon, all of which in turn will help develop real courage. Measured real time reaction to real time action and events is invaluable and an important component of agility. People can feel isolated or detached and not a real part of the team without physical or eye contact. There is an important role for e-mail, but it should be used carefully for routine communications and information distribution.

Voice mail falls into the same general category and the results can be the same. In addition, voice mail has led to an era of serious communication etiquette deficiency. Courtesy and professionalism have suffered seriously by the routine screening of calls and not being available when the caller requires and deserves a timely response, positive or negative. It has led callers to anticipate a non-answer, and meaningless messages stack up. It has become a vicious cycle and too many times, important messages are not delivered timely, if at all. There are times when it is an absolute must that human contact be made, but this can be impossible with voice mail systems being utilized as they are.

Solid communications involve emotion and passion and need real time discussion, which are not possible with electronic mail. If it is essential that something be done and in a timely way from a communication, voice or e-mail are not the way as you cannot be sure that the message was received, believed or acted upon.

“Computers enable us to share more information with more people with greater speed. But the more we think of ourselves as “information processors” the more we may come to regard the mere act of communicating rapidly to be as important as the content of the messages.

As computer networks rise in priority, so does the risk that we will become “tools of our tools” a memorable phrase from Thoreau.”[24]

[23]Martin F. Kohn, Mental Stealth Psychologist-entertainer Marc Salem brings his mind games to the Century Theatre, (The Detroit Free Press, February 12, 2001).

[24]Steve Wilson, Faster Computers Won’t make Us Any Smarter, (The Arizone Republic -as it appeared in The Midland Daily News, April 7, 1999).