The Ethos of Change

Einstein Lecturer: Stanley Prusiner

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These articles by Melinda Sherwood and Barbara Fox were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on September 29, 1999. All

rights reserved.

Technocrat and Entrepreneur

The entrepreneur’s version of the "don’t count your

chickens before they hatch" adage is: Don’t fall in love with

your discovery before you bring it to market. "One of the common

mistakes is getting enamored with your technology before you’ve faced

the reality of the marketplace," says Ed Zschau, a professor

at Harvard Business School. "You must first determine if your

product can be commercialized and ask, `Can this dog hunt?’ Sometimes

really fascinating technologies turn out not to be a good foundation

for a company or even a product because they don’t translate into

a value proposition for a customer."

Zschau speaks on "Academic Venture Capital" at the New Jersey

Entrepreneurial Network on Wednesday, October 6, at noon at the Doral

Forrestal. Cost: $45. Phone: 609-279-0010 or

http://www.njen.com.

A former congressman from California, Zschau taught last year at

Princeton

University’s engineering school (U.S. 1, July 22, 1998)

Zschau (whose name rhymes with "how" but starts with the

"sh"

sound) was raised in Omaha, Nebraska, majored in the philosophy of

science at Princeton University, Class of 1961, and earned an MBA

and PhD in business administration at Stanford. He left a teaching

career in 1968 to found System Industries Inc., a computer products

company in Silicon Valley before the area’s designation had even been

coined.

Working against an oppressive tax code that placed a prohibitive 50

percent capital-gains tax on investment earnings, he helped draft

the Investment Incentive Act of 1978 which reduced capital-gains to

28 percent, paving the way for billions of venture capital investment

dollars for high-tech firms. It also paved the way for him to go to

Washington in 1982 as a representative from California’s 12th

District,

the heart of Silicon Valley.

He was re-elected two years later but lost a Senate bid in 1986 to

incumbent Alan Cranston. Then he became general partner in the Silicon

Valley office of the Los Angeles-based Brentwood Associates, a venture

capital group, and CEO of Censtor Corporation, a Brentwood

capitalization

that developed advanced magnetic recording components, before big

business called. He left Censtor in 1993, and became general manager

of IBM’s storage-systems division in San Jose, returning to Harvard

Business School in 1996.

At the NJEN meeting on October 6 Zschau will discuss

"Entrepreneurial

engineering," the study of designing and building enterprises.

According to a press release announcing the meeting, "this new

field is attracting increasing interest and activity in engineering

schools throughout the country based on the recognition of its growing

academic significance and its vital role in enabling new technologies

and scientific knowledge to be implemented successfully in products

and services which can have a broad impact on the lives of people

throughout the world.

"Zschau will describe the conceptual foundations of

Entrepreneurial

Engineering and the initiatives already underway at Princeton to build

Princeton’s academic competence and to offer Princeton students

valuable

experiences. He will also describe new initiatives, now under

consideration,

for creating companies based on Princeton-developed technologies which

could serve as laboratories for further academic research while

contributing

to regional economic development, new funding of science and

technology

research at Princeton, employment opportunities for students, and

valuable two-way relationships with industrial partners in the

area."

Do companies, like those that sprang up in Silicon Valley, need to

be small and lean in order to prosper? "That used to be true,

but it won’t be in the 21st century," Zschau says. "You need

both speed and scale to thrive in the long run. Small companies have

speed, big companies have scale, and the ones who will successfully

compete will find a way to combine them."

Top Of Page
The Ethos of Change

The Greeks gave to western civilization the tradition

of wisdom, to not act on beliefs or even a set of facts, but to find

the middle way, a golden mean," says Charles F. Ottinger.

"I help companies as well as individuals to do that."

Ottinger is an organization development consultant and trainer who

has just opened his own practice, the Ethos Consulting Group

(609-208-1426)

E-mail: information@ethosgroup.org. An alumnus of David Lipscomb

College in Nashville, Class of 1972, he has a masters in

communications

from Ohio State and taught at the College of New Jersey (then Trenton

State) before working for the state and for AT&T (now Lucent

Technologies)

for 16 years. He does team building, upward and all-around feedback,

career development, coaching and mentoring, and any data-based

organizational

development effort. Services include meeting design and facilitation,

large group interventions, communication audits, conflict management

and interpersonal mediation, and presentations coaching.

For a team to work together well, it must come to some mutual

agreement

on such factors as goals, roles, and procedures.

"They have to work with each other, not like each other,"

says Ottinger. "They need to contract with each other to meet

in the middle. And in spite of not getting along terribly well on

a personal level, they can have a win-win situation."

Ottinger worked with a Lucent team located half in the Netherlands

and half in Chicago. "It broke down because there was no sense

of person-to-person participation." After they met halfway, at

a meeting in Iceland, the team members had a much better sense of

who they were talking to.

Having taken individuals and departments through the changes that

accompanied the AT&T breakup, he has, as one of his specialties,

transition

management. He lists some tactics to use when an organization is going

through the turmoil of change:

Build trust. "The opposite is not distrust but

fear,"

he says. "If you don’t trust somebody, you fear them. One locus

of my practice is to figure out who fears what — change,

supervisor,

an organization — and try to address that."

Reason out what change would mean. "Show people the

benefits they haven’t thought of. Make it palatable."

Involve everyone. "People don’t fear change, they

fear being changed." They don’t want something to be imposed from

the outside without their say so.

Top Of Page
Einstein Lecturer: Stanley Prusiner

The legacy of Albert Einstein continues this Wednesday,

October 6, as 1997 Nobel Prize Winner in physiology/medicine,

Stanley

B. Prusiner, gives the annual Albert Einstein Memorial Lecture

at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. The lecture

begins at 4 p.m. in Dodds Auditorium. Call the Princeton Chamber at

609-520-1776.

Prusiner’s contribution to science was the discovery of a

disease-causing

agent responsible for degenerative brain diseases like "Mad

Cow"

and in humans, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The suspect pathogen turned

out to be neither virus nor bacteria, and is infectious as well as

genetic.

Prusiner, who graduated from University of Pennsylvania, cum laude,

Class of 1964, lost a patient to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in 1972

and launched his studies on its causes. One of his leads was a study

suggesting that the agent responsible for the killer disease might

be lacking in RNA or DNA. In "The Prion Diseases," Prusiner

writes: "If the organisms did lack DNA and RNA, the finding would

mean that it was not a virus or any other known type of agent, all

of which contained genetic material. What then was it? Investigators

had many ideas, including, jokingly, linoleum and kryptonite — but

no hard answers. I immediately began trying to solve this

mystery…"

Prusiner, now professor of biochemistry at UC San Francisco, then

introduced the word "prion" to the medical community —

a protein particle capable of transmitting disease, yet surprisingly

bereft of either DNA or RNA. In later studies of animals harboring

prions, he proved that a disease can be both infectious and inherited,

an unprecedented concept in the study of disease.


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