Plus: Special Treatment for Manufacturing, Rethinking the Workweek, Evolutionary Puzzles, Ignorance in Science, Great Customer Service Stories, Welcoming Back Raises and MORE.
Sometimes the Internet seems like it’s gotten too big. To help navigate this sea of information, IMT continues its weekly Wednesday feature that spotlights some of the more interesting, informative and amusing resources that might have slipped under your radar — all in bite-sized chunks.
- How Bell Labs Invented the Future | For more than half the 20th century, Bell Labs was arguably the United States’ most innovative research institution, whose roster of engineers and scientists “reads like a who’s-who of Nobel laureates,” The Verge says in a review of the new book The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and The Great Age of American Innovation. The Verge, a tech-focused publication, offers a fascinating overview of the book, which itself provides a wide-ranging and detailed look at the New Jersey lab that, since the early 1900s, has churned out discoveries leading to the transistor, the radio telescope, the communications satellite, the digital camera, the laser and the UNIX operating system — not to mention our entire modern communications infrastructure. Bell Labs invented the phone network, and then some.
- Manufacturing’s Turn for Special Treatment? | A number of industries in the U.S. receive “special treatment” today, including agriculture (government subsidies), universities (tax-exempt status) and health care (a significant tax break). “By subsidizing other industries so generously, we have tilted the scales away from manufacturing,” according to Gary Pisano, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and a member of its U.S. Competitiveness Project. At Harvard Business Review online, Pisano argues that it’s manufacturing’s turn for special treatment, and offers some compelling reasons why.
- 11 of the Best Customer Service Stories Ever | For anyone who bemoans the lack of high-quality customer service today, Mental Floss spotlights 11 examples of companies providing the kind of exemplary personal care that will restore your faith in business. The positive (even heartwarming) examples include a department store whose staff painstakingly searched through vacuum cleaner dirt and debris to find a customer’s lost diamond, the hotel chef who had special eggs and milk shipped from Singapore to help a guest with food allergies and the steakhouse that had a fresh meal waiting at the airport as a passenger got off the plane.
- The No-Hour Workweek | The demands of the modern workplace have made 9-to-5 schedules a rarity, as employees are being driven to work longer and more frequently than ever before. In an article for Fast Company’s Co.Exist blog, Jon Stein, CEO of investment firm Betterment, describes how his business is rethinking time pressure by allowing employees to work around their personal commitments. With team members staying in close contact, they can decide to tackle projects when they’re most productive and choose when they come into the office or work from home.
- Manufacturing Managers Welcome Back Raises | Two-thirds of manufacturing managers reported receiving raises over the past year, more than double the percentage who reported a salary boost in the previous survey (2010), according to IndustryWeek’s 2012 salary survey. Only 3 percent saw their base earnings decline, and base salaries were frozen for about a third. “An improving U.S. manufacturing landscape is clearly a factor in manufacturing management’s improving salary fortunes,” IndustryWeek says. Plus: Robert Half’s 7 tips for successful salary negotiations.
- 10 Biggest Puzzles in Evolution | We know that at some point in the past, an ape stood up on two feet, shed its fur and began settling in every corner of the globe, but how and why did these processes occur? A recent New Scientist feature explores some of the major questions about human evolution: Why did we become bipedal? Why aren’t we more like chimpanzees? Why did our brains grow so large? Why did technological development occur at such a slow pace? And did we really kill off the Neanderthals, our supposed rivals? Plus: Smithsonian magazine’s How to Become the Engineers of Our Own Evolution.
- Is Ignorance the Key to Scientific Advances? | The average high school student today has greater access to scientific knowledge than Isaac Newton ever did, but this mountain of information may actually be an impediment to progress. Scientific American explains how “a cultivated, high-quality ignorance” is the secret to making scientific advances, as great thinkers emphasize questions above answers. Admitting there is a vast amount that is not understood within one’s own field means placing more value on the search for the unknown.
- American Workers Making Things | The chart below, by Michelle Hopgood of the Martin Prosperity Institute, outlines which manufacturing fields are most prevalent in the U.S. based on detailed Bureau of Labor Statistics data on production occupations. (To save space, The Atlantic Cities grouped some of these categories together and also shortened some of the occupational titles.)