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Balance and Fall

by Ross Smith on September 26, 2011


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Balance and Fall

Hipparchus was a Greek astronomer and mathematician whose work surfaced last week, as we recognized the Autumnal Equinox.

Twice a year, the hours of daylight and the hours of darkness are equal across the land. On the day of the fall equinox, the sun crosses the equator, providing the earth with 12 hours of sunlight and 12 hours of darkness. This event initiates the changes that result in winter for the northern hemisphere and summer in the south. After the fall equinox, the northern hemisphere of the earth begins to tilt ever so slightly away from the sun, slowly decreasing the amount of sunshine received until the winter solstice, after which the days begin to lengthen again.

Persephone, of Greek mythology, kicks off the start of autumn when, according to her agreement with Zeus' brother Hades, and her mother, the harvest goddess Demeter--she goes to live with her husband Hades in the underworld for half a year. Demeter suspends all growth and regeneration of the earth's vegetation while her daughter is away.

The September 23rd fall equinox is a time of balance--where the length of the day equals that of the night. According to myth, it is believed that, by some mystical force, one can balance an egg on its end within a few hours before or after the exact time of the equinox.

Hipparchus was an accomplished individual. He is credited with early work on trigonometry and was the first to propose dividing a circle in to 360 degrees. When we think today about 360-degree feedback or spinning on a snowboard or skateboard, we owe a tip of the hat to Hipparchus for that number.

Tony Salvaggio's hack Advanced Management Insight talks about the importance of Web 2.0 systems and 360-degree feedback. Gary Hamel's Nine Ways to Identify Natural Leaders alludes to the importance of the 360-degree view of people. In her story, Heartbeat City, Marie Hauser-Adee talks about basing compensation on a 360-feedback system.

In fact, when we think about the idea of the Moonshot itself, we can again acknowledge Hipparchus. He was the first to accurately calculate the distance to the moon--how far do we need to travel to realize this moonshot!--and he created the first map of the stars, noting the position and brightness of over 1100. Today, great employees are known as "stars." Fanjun (Jackie) Sun explores the importance of stars in the hack Develop your own leaders: "Star Employee" to utilise diversity.

Hipparchus also created the first globe, and calculated the length of a year as 365.24667 days, correct to within 6.5 minutes.

As we reflect on the September Equinox, and think about balance in our organizations, a few more MiX contributions come to mind. Maria Paula Oliveira has a great story of balance and democratization with Idea Market: A stock exchange metaphor for empowering collaborative innovation.

Jim Lavoie's story, Nobody's as Smart as Everybody--Unleashing Individual Brilliance and Aligning Collective Genius discusses their efforts to "scrap the pyramid" and build a better neighborhood--what it means to be a good neighbor.

The Idea Palette is a collaborative forum where employees are allowed to participate with any virtual personas that express their inner creativity.

The word "equinox" derives from the Latin words meaning "equal night" and refers to the time when the sun crosses the equator. Many cultures, religions, and societies point to the sun's crossing as ceremonial --the balance between day and night --Persephone leaving for the sunless underworld.

From the hallways of the "Take the work out of work" labs, we propose that people treat the September equinox as a metaphorical opportunity to re-balance --to level the playing field and shift power and responsibility from the top down in to the organization. Recognize September 23rd as a day when your organization began to provide more autonomy and empowerment for individuals. In the spirit of Hipparchus, this event offers the possibility of 360 degree decision-making and collaboration. See the "memo-list" at Red Hat, as described by DeLisa Alexander in Fueling Passion: The employee-led evolution of memo-list at Red Hat. Management 2.0 offers the promise of balance --an increased degree of empowerment, autonomy, and distributed decision-making. While Demeter prepares to cast her influence and bring darkness and desolation to the land, we must take advantage of the Equinox as a time to ensure that we are balanced.

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