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Posts Tagged ‘Titanic

“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire”*…

In the year 578AD Germanic tribes were warring over the remains of the Roman Empire, an eight-year-old boy named Muhammad was growing up in Mecca, the Mayan Empire was flourishing in Central America, and the world’s longest continuously operated business was founded in Japan. When Prince Shōtoku Taishi (572–622) commissioned the construction of Japan’s first Buddhist temple, Shitennō-ji, Japan was predominantly Shinto and had no miyadaiku(carpenters trained in the art of building Buddhist temples), so the prince hired three skilled men from Baekje, a Buddhist state in what is now Korea. Among them was Shigetsu Kongō, whose work would become the foundation of the construction firm Kongō Gumi.

In the centuries that followed, the maintenance, repair and reconstruction of Shitennō-ji (ravaged a number of times by wars and natural disasters) provided Kongō Gumi’s main source of income, but as Buddhism spread throughout Japan the scope of the company’s work also expanded to include contributions to other major temple complexes such as Hōryū-ji (607) and Koyasan (816), as well as Osaka Castle (1583). Kongō Gumi would continue to flourish under the Tokugawa shogunate (1603–1867), a period during which Buddhist temples received substantial financial support. The company weathered the pro-Shinto Meiji Period (1868–1912) and its often violent efforts to eradicate Buddhism from Japan, which included the destruction of tens of thousands of Buddhist temples. Kongō Gumi also survived the Shōwa Financial Crisis of 1927, keeping pace with economic and technological developments until it finally succumbed to financial difficulties and became a subsidiary of Takamatsu Kensetsu in 2006, after more than 1,400 years of independent operation.

Although Japan boasts six of the world’s oldest companies and an estimated 20,000 firms over 100 years old, Kongō Gumi’s longevity is certainly remarkable and worthy of study. Fortunately, the principles that guided the company over the centuries have been preserved by the Kongō family itself. The 32nd leader of the company, Yoshisada Kongō, writing during the Meiji Period, left a creed, later titled Shokuke kokoroe no koto, or ‘family knowledge of the trade’, a list of 16 precepts distilled from the company’s successful past and intended to guide and preserve the family’s operations into the future. Western observers might be surprised to discover that while the creed addresses ‘business’ subjects such as quality control and customer satisfaction, it puts equal emphasis on ‘personal’ issues such as how to dress (in keeping with one’s station), how much to drink (in moderation) and how to treat others (with utmost respect). Indeed, the first article of the creed states that minding the precepts of Confucianism, Buddhism and Shinto, and training to use the carpenter’s rule are ‘our most important duty’, suggesting that the standards against which a Kongō measures his life are as critical to success as the instrument by which he measures his work…

Learning from the long-lived: “Building on Tradition — 1,400 Years of a Family Business.”

See also: “The Data of Long-Lived Institutions” from @zander at The Long Now Foundation.

* Gustav Mahler

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As we take the long view, we might recall that it was on this date in 1911 that RMS Titanic was launched from the boatyard in Belfast in which it was built, the largest passenger ship of its day. A state-of-the-art steamship, it set sail from Southampton on its maiden voyage on march 10th of the following year, bound for New York City.  Four days later, after calls at Cherbourg in France and Queenstown (now Cobh) in Ireland, the “unsinkable” Titanic collided with the iceberg that sent it under in the North Atlantic, 375 miles south of Newfoundland.

(For perspective on scale)

source

“If you want to know what an institution does, watch it when it’s doing nothing”*…

 

Depression

 

Realizing an institution is near failure is a difficult epistemic problem. There are many outwardly visible pieces of institutions that do not reflect their actual health.

Before the collapse of financial institutions starting in 1929, naive observers were optimistic on the basis of soaring stock prices. Even after the Black Tuesday stock market crash, most observers expected a normal depression and recovery. Instead, the system continued to deteriorate, bank failures wiped out savings, the gold standard was abandoned internationally, and the Great Depression ensued.

Particularly in mature organizations, many automated systems handle tasks. Such systems can persist and even fulfill their function, while the institution as a whole is failing.The default is decay, maintenance of old abilities is difficult, and growth of new abilities is rare. One must look at what features of an institution indicate the current health of the core organization itself, while carefully distinguishing these from features reflective of past health and support from outside institutions.

From these signs, it’s possible to discover whether an institution has the ability to face new threats or is merely trudging through a slow process of decay. If an institution is unable to adapt to meet new challenges, it will lose again and again. Enduring defeat can only last for so long, no matter how large or well established the retreating organization. Eventually the inability to win dooms all institutions…

Samo Burja (@SamoBurja), from whom we’ve learned before, on the future of the social, political, commercial, and cultural organizations on which we depend: “Institutional Failure as Surprise.”

See also: “How Do You Know If You’re Living Through the Death of an Empire?” (Spoiler alert: it’s the little things…)

* P.J. O’Rourke, Parliament of Whores

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As we think systemically, we might recall that it was on this date in 1912 that the RMS Titanic, a state-of-the-art steamship, set sail from Southampton on its maiden voyage, bound for New York City.  Four days later, after calls at Cherbourg in France and Queenstown (now Cobh) in Ireland, the “unsinkable” Titanic collided with the iceberg that sent it under in the North Atlantic, 375 miles south of Newfoundland.

300px-RMS_Titanic_3

RMS Titanic leaving Southampton

source

 

 

Written by LW

April 10, 2020 at 1:01 am

The sincerest form of self-flattery…

 click (and again) for full infographic

Short of the Week explains how Hollywood has lost its way…

Much has been said over the last few days about the bleak year for theatrical films with year-end box office sales down 3.8% compared to last year and attendance down 4.7% (Box Office Mojo). But there’s been less coverage of a bigger problem looming over the film industry—one that would be hard to blame on a bad year—the growing scarcity of original stories coming from Hollywood…

And if that isn’t frightening enough, the success of The Lion King 3D is already kicking off what may become a new creative low—re-releases. The Lion King 3D, at a cost to Disney of less than $10M, took in nearly $100M—not a bad ROI for a struggling industry. Titanic, Beauty and the Beast, and Star Wars, all planned for 2012 releases, may mark the dawn of an era of blockbuster re-releases as Hollywood longs for its glory days…

As Roger Ebert observes, “Americans love the movies as much as ever. It’s the theaters that are losing their charm”… the theaters and the unoriginal material produced to screen in them…

As we remember that this is the anniversary of Mrs. Lincoln’s extremely bad night at the theater, we might recall that it was also on this date (in 1912) that an event featured in the discussion above occurred: the collision of a state-of-the-art steamship, the “unsinkable” Titanic, with the iceberg that sent it under.

 R.M.S. Titanic, headed for its appointment with destiny (source)

Written by LW

April 14, 2012 at 1:01 am

It’s that time again…

…time to start strategizing for that annual test of taste, that carnival of consumerism, Holiday gift shopping.

source: Amazon.co.uk

Happily,  Jolyon Fenwick and Marcus Husselby have ridden to the rescue with a guide to the perfect gift for those one one’s list for whom it’s not the thought that counts:  Einstein’s Watch: Being an Unofficial Record of a Year’s Most Ownable Things

From the publisher’s description:

What is the value of Gandhi’s glasses or a collection of Braille editions of Playboy? And how much is an artwork consisting of ten million $100 banknotes worth? In this gloriously eclectic overview of 2009’s most ownable objects, Jolyon Fenwick and Marcus Husselby present a treasure trove of over 100 desirable things bought or offered for sale this year. Ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, the cache of curios includes: a hard disk of MPs’ expenses over the last five years; Einstein’s watch; Uncle Monty’s cottage from Withnail and I; the last ever cheque issued by Woolworths (it bounced); a holy water sprinkler (made by Parker pens); official posters from the Obama campaign; Captain Cook’s boomerang; Super Lemon Haze marijuana; Black Canary Barbie (described as ‘filth’ by Christian Voice [pictured on the book’s cover]); and, the key to the binoculars storeroom on board the Titanic.

source: Designs Through Process

As we scrawl “Dear Santa,” we might note that today’s a great day to March right down the Middle, in honor of Victorian novelist, poet, and translator George Eliot– Mary Ann Evans– who was born on this date in 1819 in Warwickshire.

George Eliot

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