What do you believe?
Nancy Koehn is a historian at the Harvard Business School where she holds the James E. Robison chair of Business Administration. Koehn's research focuses on how leaders, past and present, craft lives of purpose, worth, and impact.
Her new book, Forged in Crisis: The Power of Courageous Leadership in Turbulent Times is an enthralling historical narrative filled with critical leadership insights that will be of interest to a wide range of readers—including those in government, business, education, and the arts—Forged in Crisis spotlights five masters of crisis: polar explorer Ernest Shackleton; President Abraham Lincoln; legendary abolitionist Frederick Douglass; Nazi-resisting clergyman Dietrich Bonhoeffer; and environmental crusader Rachel Carson.
Koehn is the author of numerous books, articles, and Harvard Business School cases. She writes frequently for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Harvard Business Review Online. She is also a weekly commentator on National Public Radio and has appeared on many national television programs. She has spoken at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Aspen Ideas Festival, and in many other venues.
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford University, Koehn earned a Master of Public Policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government before taking her MA and PhD in History from Harvard. She lives outside Boston and is a dedicated equestrian.
Question: Do you have a personal philosophy?
Nancy Koehn: I think I have been looking for a personal philosophy and a set of principles or precepts for a long, long time. I studied philosophy as a minor in college. I was in a great books program. My father was a philosopher. I am fascinated by religion and literature. And I think all of that … And have tried haltingly and fumblingly to understand the large metaphysical implications at a very general level of some of the most important achievements of, you know, of quantum physics and mathematics in the 20th century which have had such great important on how we think of our place in the cosmos. I think I’ve been looking for a long time for that system, or that set of beliefs. And I’ve realized in the last four or five years that it’s not there for me, that I can stop looking. And that really, my … What holds together my own outlook on the world and what I believe is much more like a chalk drawing on a London sidewalk than it is like one of those indecipherable equations on an MIT blackboard; and that I fundamentally believe … I think Einstein ironically said, “One of the most important choices that a person makes” – perhaps one of the most important – “is whether you believe the universe is fundamentally good or bad” – good or evil. And I believe very strongly in the goodness of the universe without in any way downplaying or ignoring the presence of evil. But the way I see that goodness is in pastels, and soft hues, and unexpected colors and parts of the drawing rather than with the clarity or neatness of much of more organized ways of thinking about the world and man’s place in it. I think my most important . . . my most important value is integrity to act, and to comport myself, and to be with others and with myself in a way that has a cohesion and adherence to all of who I am. And by that I mean all of my . . . all of the best parts of who I am. And so I think acting and living with integrity is the most important value of mine. And I think it’s the value from which the rest of my better self flows.
Recorded on June 12, 2007
Nancy Koehn sees life as a London sidewalk more than an MIT blackboard.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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