The Innovation Factory
IDEO began as a place where fun-loving, brainy engineers invented products ranging from stand-up toothpaste tubes to high-tech blood analyzers.
But in the past 15 years, the Palo Alto, California, company has morphed into an innovation factory where the corporate elite from places like Procter & Gamble, Kaiser Permanente and mMode at AT&T Wireless Services flock to participate in projects and brainstorming sessions with IDEO designers, engineers and social scientists. The company is ranked No. 15 on Boston Consulting Group's 2006 list of the 25 most innovative companies in the world.
Corporate America's Scariest Opponent
Cyrus Mehri, the country's preeminent class-action attorney, is prepared to make your job a living hell.
Last fall it was the National Football League that became the object of his prodigious appetite for cleansing corporate America of racial discrimination. As he recalls it, he and co counsel Johnnie Cochran--the Johnnie Cochran--marched into a meeting with NFL officials, looked them straight in the eye, and declared, "We are here to change the way you do business. The NFL will either change or be changed."
Toyota: Driving Diversity
Brent Loescher, a self-confident white male of 39, hardly looks like a poster child for diversity.
At Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., his job title is operations design manager. But he also carries a badge that identifies him as a "diversity champion," one of 138 out of Toyota Motor Sales' 6,272 employees who serve as leaders at the grass-roots level to promote diversity and inclusion internally and at regional sales and distributor offices throughout the country.
"The program is about developing strong work relationships, learning more about who you work with, their mind-set and experiences," Loescher says.
Three decades ago when human resources executive Rick Brown began working for the Royal Dutch Shell Group, the energy empire was making headlines for big oil discoveries in the North Sea.
Last year it made headlines for bad management and an oil reserves crisis.
During a recent phone interview from company headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands, Brown, whose official title is head of global HR functional excellence, said the fallout from the scandals has had a substantial impact on the workforce.
Don't Fear Whistle-Blowers
FBI whistle-blower Coleen Rowley launched a bombshell memo in May accusing her bosses of ignoring warnings of the September 11 terrorist attacks. She angrily blasted agency director Robert Mueller and others for "a delicate and subtle shading/skewing of facts" and for making "a rush to judgment to protect the FBI at all costs." And she sharply criticized the bureau for rewarding careerism and promoting a "culture of fear."
Just a few months before, Enron executive Sherron Watkins had penned another incendiary memo. She sent it to then chairman Kenneth Lay, detailing the firm's dire financial problems. Her candor was hardly rewarded. Management factions intent on squelching bad news admonished her and tried to get her sacked for telling the truth.
Vigilance Stops Violence and Lawsuits
News reports tell of disgruntled employees who massacre coworkers and supervisors in a murderous rage: A crazed man bludgeons his wife and children to death and then goes on a shooting spree in Atlanta at two day-trading brokerage firms. A Xerox repairman guns down coworkers in Honolulu. An engineplant employee opens fire in Illinois. A delivery-truck driver goes postal in Alabama.
Stories about workplace violence are as horrifying as subsequent lawsuits are costly. But the real scope and nature of workplace violence and its legal ramifications isn't a topic that generates shocking headlines. Patricia Biles, workplace violence program coordinator at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, says the compelling issue today for HR professionals is the increase in the number of nonfatal injuries and victimizations in the workplace--from acts of intimidation and mobbing to sexual assaults and domestic violence that spills into offices and adjoining parking lots.
A yellow plastic warning strip cordons off the industrial work zone. The message it carries is repeated over and over like an electronic message board. CAUTION MEN WORKING - CAUTION MEN WORKING - CAUTION MEN WORKING.
Just within the boundaries of the edict, Neshtey Crudup hoists a couple of 10-foot conduits into a ditch. She weighs 125 pounds and stands 5-foot-1 in muddy rubber boots. Her task is to run the pipe to a transformer for emergency power at the Terminal Island Treatment Plant.
In the course of the project she will pick and shovel a 4-foot- deep, 100-foot-long trench, hook up motors, set anchors, carry ladders, bend pipes, read blueprints, measure lines, set switch gears, make up lugs, pull wire, cut wire, terminate wire.