Program Report: The Science of Ethics and Honesty – Dan Ariely, Ph.D

arielyWebTalk about a great job.

Studying why people cheat and how they justify it in different places and cultures.  Explaining it in New York Times bestsellers.  Revealing still more in a regular column in The Wall Street Journal.  Even being able to wear bright orange sneakers while captivating, engaging and entertaining  yet another full house of club members during our weekly lunch on Jan. 28.

Dr. Dan Ariely, professor of behavior economics at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, shared  insights about human nature and human mis-behavior across all groups, nationalities, places.

Nobody was spared.  And it turns out most people are much the same everywhere.

“We lie a lot,” Ariely said soon after his introduction by club member Melissa Mills.  “You can tell a lot of things in favor of lying.”

The good news is that Dr. Ariely’s findings show that most people everywhere want to be considered nice and honest people.  People want to view themselves in that frame of life.  In the course of daily affairs, however, they tend to rationalize small misbehaviors to balance lies or cheating with their natural notions of honesty.

“People want to be good but don’t want to do it in the moment,” Ariely said.

He described different tests and methodologies that researchers use to tempt subjects in tests and  measure dishonesty.  Studies in the U.S., U.K., Italy, Israel and even Canada defy conventional notions by some that lies and cheating occur on a large-scale through careful evaluation of cost, risk and benefit. “There are some big cheaters out there,” he explained, “but just a few.”

By contrast, he said, the accumulation of most of the cheating “is a ton of little apples that are rotting just a little.”

Among factors that encourage honesty and better behavior: Being in touch with one’s moral and ideal self as cheating situations arise and committing in advance of situations that present cheating possibilities not afterwards.  Cheat-free outcomes are also more likely when people exposed to temptation are in closer proximity to money, not farther from it through non-cash transactions.

Ariely said that being closer to potential victims, not faceless people in cyberspace, also works against mis-behavior.

President Don closed the meeting by noting that a regular reading of The Four Way Test might be a solution.  With that, our membership recited the four points.  And Ariely moved to the hallway, sneakers aglow, to autograph copies of his books.


Submitted by Mark Lazenby

Howard Clements and Leaders of Tomorrow

HowardClement2webWe haven’t seen much of Howard Clements, a long time Rotarian and City Councilman recently, so it was great to see him and his wife Annie at the meeting on January 14th. Howard came to support of a bunch of very sharp high school students who found an appreciative audience of Rotarians who came early at the request of Immediate Past President Arthur Rogers. The students presented a “case study” of Facebook as part of the Leaders of Tomorrow Program sponsored by the National Black MBA Association. It was great to see Howard and as the pictures illustrate, he seems to be glad to be with us too.HowardClementweb

Program Report: NCCU Buisness School – Dean Keith Pigues

PiguesWebOkay, the big crowd wasn’t really there for Todd Taylor’s Rotary Minute, at least most of them. Many were there for a presentation before the meeting of a “business case” developed by several very sharp high school students that are part of the Leaders of Tomorrow program of the National Black MBA Association, a favorite organization of long time Rotarian and City Councilman Howard Clement and his wife Annie.  Most of the guests also stayed for the program provided by Dean Keith Pigues of the NCCUBusinessSchool.

One of the students sat down at my table and politely inquired what each of us did.  After meeting a lawyer, an electronics guru and a physician, there was clear surprise in her eyes when I announced that I was a plumbing associate at Home Depot. Like Todd, I’ve had many career lives, but, as my wise pappy used to say, “Sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.” I mention this because the view you get of business at the bottom of the chain of command is quite a bit different than that shared by management or seen by MBA candidates doing case studies.  In fact, I often joke with customers wondering in frustration why Home Depot carries parts for one faucet but not the one they bought that it was a mystery to me but undoubtedly the decision of some MBA at their headquarters in Atlanta noodling on a spreadsheet.

With that perspective, it was very refreshing to hear Dean Pigues present a vision of where he is taking NCCU to make the school and its graduates more relevant in the real world. Listen up Home Depot, you may want to send some recruiters to NCCU. [Read more…]

Rotary Minutes: Todd Taylor

ToddMinutewebThe staff at the Durham Convention Center had to roll out extra tables and many of us who came early gave up our seats to the overflow crowd that gathered to hear Todd Taylor’s Rotary minutes. They were not disappointed.  Most of the regular attendees of the meeting know Todd for showing up in western headgear (most of which came from Australia) as the organizer, cheerleader and chief spokesman for our Club’s efforts to light a fire under the collective butts of teachers, parents and kids to reduce and eliminate illiteracy in our school system.  Todd’s Reading Rangers (of which I proudly claim membership) is already in two of the Durham Schools with the most need for help from the community.

Todd described himself as a cat now in the third of his 9 lives. This claim is based on his three major careers but he cataloged a number of things that were so unique that they could have been conjured up by someone with the flair to stage the tragic death of an imaginary girlfriend to motivate a football team to the brink of a national championship and himself to the brink of the Heisman Trophy.

Consider these experiences and how often you are likely to run into someone who has had any of them much less all of them.

–          Have a mother who was one of the first 90 women in the US Marines.

–          Of all the billions of people who have lived, to be one of the 100,000 or so who have ever stood at the South Pole or the lip of southern most active volcano in the world in Antarctica.

–          Be officially credited with saving 28 lives as a search and rescue helicopter pilot.

–           Fly for the Royal Australian Air Force in an American Navy uniform.

–          Retire for the first time at 38.

–          Become a Mr. Mom. Todd stayed at home with his son, Jason while his wife Jan went off to work.

Consider also that Todd can pronounce r’s even with parents from Boston, graduated “Laudy How Come” as a physics major from Appalachian State University, managed cell phones towers, was a top recruiter for the Navy here in North Carolina, remembers Eastern Airlines as inspirational, flew repaired planes to prove they were safe and might have had a totally different life if he had been able to hit a curve ball.

Since I now work as a part time plumbing associate at Home Depot, my one and only retail job, I totally get a quote Todd shared from a fellow worker during his only retail job, “They say only two things make one hate humanity – combat and retail.”  Amen brother.

Todd’s current job managing Duke Corporate Education’s facilities sounds tame by comparison to the rest of his resume, but he still shows his tendency to temp fate with an off beat sense of humor that he shares regularly. Todd’s full presentation is here.

Submitted by Jay Zenner

Rotary Minutes: Meg Solera

MegMinuteWebOne of the first tables to fill up before every meeting is in the center of the room where Meg seems to reign as a queen bee. When the seats fill up many other members stop by to say hello. One of the reasons for this I’m sure is that Meg has been the organizer and hostess for the annual progressive dinner since she conceived it as a club fundraiser several years ago. I’m not sure how much money it raises but it sure has been successful as a chance for many club members to get to know each other much better and everyone to know Meg.

Because of Meg’s gregariousness I’m sure no one was surprised when she grabbed the portable microphone and didn’t seek the protection of the podium like most of the other Rotary Minutemen and Minutewomen have done. She also didn’t have any notes to hand to me afterwards, which I may forgive her for one day.

Making a little fun of some of the claims of other presenters with movie stardom and rocket science in their backgrounds, she described her family connection to FDR and her own encounters with Newt Gingrich and Robert Reich…and if that ain’t Ying and Yang I don’t know what is. She also bragged about a friend of her daughter Kaitlin who is going to get them a special tour of the White House…I think she said it was Michelle Obama…but I could be wrong.

A California girl, she graduated from the University of California Santa Barbara with a degree in Sociology, one of those degrees that gets you a job at something like a restaurant chain. Not finding that totally satisfying she heard about business schools and applied to two….Harvard and Cornell. After being encouraged by the folks at Cornell to reapply after building a little more substantial quantitative base, she did that and was accepted. But her biggest prize at Cornell wasn’t her MBA but her husband Jose, who was also there getting an MBA.

With MBA’s in hand, Meg and Jose did the high tech SiliconeValley thing, he at Intel and she at Varian. They moved briefly to Dallas and then back to California where she changed gears and did college recruiting. She then spent 7 years as the director of youth services at the Palo Alto Jewish Center and as a volunteer Girl Scout leader which involved overseeing 80 adult leaders and 1100 scouts. I’ll bet those were great progressive dinners…Thin Mints, Caramel deLites, Peanut Butter Patties and, finally, the ever popular Shortbread.

When she and Jose finally found the right coast here in Durham, Meg kept a left coast connection by taking a certification course online from UCLA to become a college counselor helping high school students sort out their college options. She has been doing that ever since.

Meg thanked the club for becoming a family of friends and connections to their new community. We’re glad she found us.

Submitted by Jay Zenner

Program Report: January Club Assembly – President Don Stanger

DonAlt3For the first program of the New Year, President Don scheduled a Club Assembly to review the progress made during the first half of his term of office.  We were honored to have both this year’s District Governor Rick Carnagua and District Governor–Nominee Matthew Kane.

President Don whizzed through a 56 slide Power Point in less than 25 minutes, which puts him in contention with Bill Kalkhof of Downtown Durham, Inc. for the record for most slides for a Rotary Program. Since this is virtually impossible to summarize, the presentation has been posted to the website for thoughtful perusal.  I will, however, share a few impressions from the presentation and my observations as Club Secretary for the last few years and chronicler of many of the meetings.

First of all, it is hard to overestimate the importance of the President’s position in a club like ours. It is not only time consuming, but it takes a tremendous amount of diplomacy and organizational skill to manage so many people who are leaders in their own spheres. Going back at least as far as Susan Ross’s presidency in 2006-2007, which is my first recollection of a systematic strategic planning process, each president has been able to build on the accomplishments of his or her predecessor to create a stronger club.

As one presentation after another has made clear, recruiting new members and moving them from just dues payers to active, involved Rotarians will continue to be a challenge. The good news is that the younger generations we call the Millennials want to give back to their communities, change the world, and make it a better place. However, they are different in how they communicate and a Rotary club must be prepared to adapt to bring their energy and talents into the service of the community.

The ad hoc communications committee has begun a transformation of our communications that is about at the point that the strategic planning process was back in 2006 with a long way to go. The website, the emails, the Facebook page, the LinkedIn group, are tools nobody even imagined when I first joined Rotary in the mid-eighties, but they are second nature to the Millennials that will be future Rotarians.  Like the strategic planning process, the communications process is not an end in itself, but a means to an end and we still have a long way to go before we can call it a success.

Two unsung heroes of our communications have been Bernadette Jones, our now retired Executive Secretary, who passed the torch to Sharon Lassiter, who has also been able to build on her predecessor’s foundation to provide responsive and timely communications.

President Don’s presentation illustrated well the breadth and depth of the club’s activities but so did the list of announcements that preceded his presentation, which along with the popular Rotary Minute “autobiographies” squeezed the main event into an abbreviated timeframe. In fact, this is fairly common now. Preceding our Christmas program there were 9 separate appeals and/or reports for worthy projects. Success breeds its own challenges and it is heartening to note that the announced slate of new officers and board members that will take over in July is prepared to build even more on the success of this year.

Submitted by Jay Zenner