What If We Stopped Shooting The Messenger?

What If We Stopped Shooting The Messenger?

How many people put off delivering the bad news to senior management at General Motors while the now infamous ignition-switch problem festered?  The same question can be asked about the appointment queues at VA hospitals


“Nobody likes a snitch,“ most of us have been taught as children.  “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”  “Loose lips sink ships” and smart people supposedly “play along to get along.”

At some point, though, the employee you really need is the one whose frankness saves the company from self-destruction, embarrassment, stupidity or causing harm.

What does it take to create a culture where the messenger isn’t punished, one where bad news about a division or the entire organization -- delivered early and with constructive purpose -- results in recognition and perhaps promotion and where “loose cannon” can even serve as a compliment.  

Some organizations have code phrases that essentially mean “Listen up!”  When those phrases are spoken, everyone is obliged to attend as objectively as possible, including the people at the top.  “This is something you need to hear” may suffice in some workplaces.  Such phrases are not to be used lightly or frequently.  But when needed, they can pry open bottlenecks to communication.

Most organizations have at least the appearance of grievance procedures, and lines of seniority are to be considered.  But when one follows those procedures or lines to convey information or insight about a significant issue, and the trail still leads nowhere, there must be a channel via which serious concerns supported by credible evidence can be brought to the fore.

Lt. Col. Robert Bateman, intent on fostering greater openness in the military service where rape continues to increase, has repeatedly and doggedly called for change.  Yet, as Bateman has stated, it took angry outsiders in the form of civilian moviemakers plus someone on the inside who finally “got it,” to adopt a film (“The Invisible War”) as a tool for change. Despite progress, Bateman has not dropped the issue, in part because, to him, provoking change on this matter is consistent with duty:

In confronting the problem of rape and sexual abuse in the military we are defending the nation. Every servicewoman damaged by some power-crazed jerk is an individual who is a part of the military that we are at risk of losing. The service that all of us in uniform render to the nation costs a lot to develop. You cannot just walk in off the street and start being a trained professional soldier. Each of us -- men and women -- are national assets when we wear the uniform.

There’s a big difference between snitching for grins and saving a division or company from moral ineptitude or self-destruction.  When that difference comes into focus from the top of an organization down, when messengers of critical information not only survive but also thrive, when such risks are clearly rewarded, that’s when nipping a developing crisis in the bud becomes the norm.  That is when real change stands a chance.

photo/Hanneliese/Shutterstock.com

Golden blood: The rarest blood in the world

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What is the rarest blood type?

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  • Fewer than 50 people worldwide have 'golden blood' — or Rh-null.
  • Blood is considered Rh-null if it lacks all of the 61 possible antigens in the Rh system.
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China's "artificial sun" sets new record for fusion power

China has reached a new record for nuclear fusion at 120 million degrees Celsius.

Credit: STR via Getty Images
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

China wants to build a mini-star on Earth and house it in a reactor. Many teams across the globe have this same bold goal --- which would create unlimited clean energy via nuclear fusion.

But according to Chinese state media, New Atlas reports, the team at the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) has set a new world record: temperatures of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds.

Yeah, that's hot. So what? Nuclear fusion reactions require an insane amount of heat and pressure --- a temperature environment similar to the sun, which is approximately 150 million degrees C.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it. In nuclear fusion, the extreme heat and pressure create a plasma. Then, within that plasma, two or more hydrogen nuclei crash together, merge into a heavier atom, and release a ton of energy in the process.

Nuclear fusion milestones: The team at EAST built a giant metal torus (similar in shape to a giant donut) with a series of magnetic coils. The coils hold hot plasma where the reactions occur. They've reached many milestones along the way.

According to New Atlas, in 2016, the scientists at EAST could heat hydrogen plasma to roughly 50 million degrees C for 102 seconds. Two years later, they reached 100 million degrees for 10 seconds.

The temperatures are impressive, but the short reaction times, and lack of pressure are another obstacle. Fusion is simple for the sun, because stars are massive and gravity provides even pressure all over the surface. The pressure squeezes hydrogen gas in the sun's core so immensely that several nuclei combine to form one atom, releasing energy.

But on Earth, we have to supply all of the pressure to keep the reaction going, and it has to be perfectly even. It's hard to do this for any length of time, and it uses a ton of energy. So the reactions usually fizzle out in minutes or seconds.

Still, the latest record of 120 million degrees and 101 seconds is one more step toward sustaining longer and hotter reactions.

Why does this matter? No one denies that humankind needs a clean, unlimited source of energy.

We all recognize that oil and gas are limited resources. But even wind and solar power --- renewable energies --- are fundamentally limited. They are dependent upon a breezy day or a cloudless sky, which we can't always count on.

Nuclear fusion is clean, safe, and environmentally sustainable --- its fuel is a nearly limitless resource since it is simply hydrogen (which can be easily made from water).

With each new milestone, we are creeping closer and closer to a breakthrough for unlimited, clean energy.

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