Robert W. "Doc" Hall

Author Archives

  • Quality Over Quantity

    Food and agriculture illustrate clashes between “learning organizations,” especially local ones, and industrial economies of scale to supply consumer societies. In industrial economies few people now grow what they eat or prepare meals from scratch. Instead they buy processed ingredients and plate-ready restaurant food. Research suggests that people who don’t cook know less about food […]

    Share
  • Telling New Stories

    Nearly all the stories we tell ourselves ignore the obvious, that ultimately we cannot consume more than nature can provide. Perhaps we keep telling them because a realistic story seems to be such a downer. On a macro scale, our economic theories (stories) presume that jobs and return on investment depend on voracious consumption. As […]

    Share
  • Doing Better; Using Less

    This issue begins a series intended to picture a world that is improving quality of life while consuming far fewer natural resources. Can you help us visualize this very different future? Doing better while using less – much, much less – is simple to understand, but it bucks existing systems of thought in business and […]

    Share
  • Global Squeeze Plays

    Sadly, the graphs below have a similar pattern. In each case, the lines closing together coincide with increasing political unrest. There’s much more to the story from the resource shortage angle, but standard journalism is not designed to probe that deeply very often. Graphs are from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. However, Gail Tverberg spotted […]

    Share
  • The Compression Issue

    Economic growth depends on expanding use of physical resources, but it has been the easiest and fastest road to improved quality of life – or to a high life that we think is quality at the time. We became really good at it. The Chinese miracle converted resources to economic development and their tidal wave […]

    Share
  • Action Time

    After long delay, The Compression Institute recently received 501c3 status from the American IRS. Our web page will soon explain how you too can make a tax-exempt contribution. We’re not greedy, but contributions will be welcome. So what might you contribute? Time and energy, of course. But also money so that others can contribute time […]

    Share
  • Blinded by Light

    Artificial lighting illustrates another principle of Compression Thinking, quality over quantity, always. Several other principles align with quality over quantity, including trying to avoid being blindsided by unintended consequences. This is the second in a series on Compression Thinking Principles. For most of us excess lighting does not pop to mind as being a waste, […]

    Share
  • Redefining Development

    This post is the first of a series on “principles” of Compression Thinking, which is so different that it can redefine what is meant by economic development. Let’s begin with a key principle, global return on energy (EROI) decreasing for many, many reasons. Less discussed, but related is that obtaining large quantities of common raw […]

    Share
  • Out of Our Own Complexity

    Complexity is automatically difficult to discuss because something truly complex is murkily understood, therefore impossible to precisely define. Yogi Berra nailed complexity: “If I understand it, it’s simple; if I don’t, it’s complicated.” Something intricate, like a fancy mechanical watch, may not be very complex. If we apply our minds to the mechanism for a […]

    Share
  • Bubbles of Trust

    Executives loved Francis Fukuyama’s 1995 book, Trust. It posited that broad social trust is necessary to form big corporations, complex economic systems, and innovative start-ups. People must quickly learn to trust strangers. However, that trust is thin. It’s over-lawyered with contracts and typified by the phrase “trust but verify.” A modern financial bubble is also […]

    Share
  • Battling the Blob

    Discussion of issues on a global scale usually mires in philosophical wishing with few feasible ideas for concrete action. That also happens with systems that are much smaller, but still too big for anyone to grasp how they work in detail, so they take on “a life of their own.” If you have worked for […]

    Share
  • Food Security

    Although obscure to most of us, the phrase “food security” is significant to those serious about global food. To them, food security denotes food adequate in quality as well as in quantity, or non-interrupted sources of nutrition on which humans can thrive, not just stay alive. Very few people today feed themselves entirely with food […]

    Share
  • Evaporate Our Problems

    Lean practitioners are familiar with the wonders of system simplification. Simplify a work process and the baggage needed to manage a complicated mess evaporates with it. For example, eliminate the reasons for using a warehouse, and poof; the inventory control systems for the warehouse also disappear. Why do we complicate simple processes? One reason is […]

    Share
  • Soil Biodiversity and Glyphosate

    Of all the Jeremiads that environmentalists invoke, declining biodiversity is probably the easiest to see, because it is all around us, but hardest to fully comprehend. The notion that biodiversity is essential to ecosystem survival is hard to technically grasp, so environmental arguments too often degenerate into campaigns to save a cute critter threatened with […]

    Share
  • Green Infrastructure Overview

    Green Infrastructure Lets Nature Help Carry the Load of Our Cities Ashwani Vasishth Associate Professor, Environmental Studies Director, Sustainability Studies vasishth@ramapo.edu (201) 684-6616 http://phobos.ramapo.edu/~vasishth Our urban areas desperately needs investment in infrastructure. However, we have come to a place, removed from nature, where we think of infrastructure rather narrowly. We plan to build with concrete […]

    Share
  • Trends in Books

    Several recent books reflect an environmental movement broadening and shifting into a higher gear of urgency. Keeping up is becoming harder. Below is a quick rundown on three books. The first two are “think” pieces that diverge from the norm. However, for those into lean thinking, scroll down to the third one. Starting a transition […]

    Share
  • Honeybee Crisis

    Last winter, between 40 and 50% of U.S. honeybees disappeared in the worst season of colony collapse disorder (CCD) since it was first reported in 2006. For a day or so, this penetrated national news. Both beekeepers and growers of crops dependent on pollination (about 25% of items in an American diet) are deeply concerned. […]

    Share
  • Compression and “Deep Innovation”

    Axiomatic to Compression Thinking is that the world is finite; therefore for all practical purposes, all resources in it are finite. Almost all other thinking is up for grabs. Therefore we must deal with the consequences of the depletion of all kinds of natural resources, not just energy and water, plus deal with the consequences […]

    Share
  • Why Issue Learning Groups?

    We are struggling to form these groups. They are intended to be full-scope system learning laboratories, larger than the internal operations that are the usual domains in which lean conversions begin. There are similarities, however. We’re looking, for example, for a local or regional system where everyone has a chance of personally “seeing” a system […]

    Share
  • The Journey Beyond Waste

    Suppose you have made the commitment to make dramatic changes reducing use of resources. Now what do I do personally? What should a company do? Experience with lean operations is good training for the next transition. Our friends in Australia, Ian Young and Anthony Peyton, developed the hourglass figure to help coach companies through this […]

    Share
  • Why Must We Innovate?

    Innovation is widely regarded as the key to the future. Almost everyone wants to promote innovation, but nearly all of us dislike change disrupting our life. So why must we innovate? Beyond the sheer joy of being cool, why innovate? Promoters of innovation note that more of it occurs in urban areas where a greater […]

    Share