Mobilizing our Ideas and Ideals
- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 1 Feb 1951, p. 206-218
- David, Donald Kirk, Speaker
- Media Type:
- Item Type:
- A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club of Toronto.
The decisions to be made by Canada and the United States in the months ahead to "determine whether we shall continue to advance toward or fall back from the positive goals which have made our two countries great." A general discussion follows, beginning with remarks under the heading "Our Common Beliefs and Goals." Facing the new crisis by mobilizing our ideas and ideals as well as our material resources. A response to the question "But what can any of us do to contribute to this essential mobilization?" An examination of "Our Material Resources" in terms of production capacity and manpower. Some estimates as published in the January issue of the "Harvard Business Review." Three major problems in achieving preparedness to meet Russian aggression, from the same review. A look at "Our 'Other Resources'." Sharpening our personal understanding of what our ideals are. The speaker's list of things which are "as typical of the United States as the hot dog." Briefly, they are" the right and opportunity of an individual to amount to something; taking a stand for a risk-taking, daring, venturesome climate on all fronts—territorial, economic, artistic, in medicine, and even in sports; the ideal and love of competition; sales and marketing techniques that have made possible a freedom to choose what we will or will not buy." The want of a positive kind of freedom. What can be done by groups with which the speaker is familiar: the businessmen and the universities. Concrete suggestions, with details, as to what these two groups can do. Programme details of the Harvard Business School and other departments at Harvard. Determining changes that should be made. New fields of endeavour; a "new frontier" which will be the means whereby our countries continue on the road toward their ideals.
- Date of Original:
- 1 Feb 1951
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- Full Text
"MOBILIZING OUR IDEAS AND IDEALS."
An Address By DONALD KIRK DAVID, A.B., M.B.A., LL.D. Dean, Graduate School of Business Administration, Harvard University
Joint Meeting with The Canadian Club of Toronto
Thursday, February 1st, 1951
CHAIRMAN: The President, Mr. Sydney Hermant.
MR. HERMANT: Members and Guests of The Canadian Club of Toronto and The Empire Club of Canada: It is most appropriate that this should be a joint meeting of these two great Clubs. Dean Donald K. David, of the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration, has received numerous invitations to address both Clubs but the first sign that the irresistible force was to make some progress with the immovable body came just a year ago when Mr. Edgar Burton, a past-president of The Canadian Club and a member of The Empire Club, obtained a tentative acceptance from Dean David. This opening was exploited frequently and resourcefully by Mr. H. G. Colebrook, the President of The Empire Club and a member of The Canadian Club. The deal was finally consummated several months ago by Professor Edward Ballon of the University of Toronto, a most recent graduate of the Harvard School, who was able to obtain a specific commitment from Dean David for this meeting. All of this shows that salesmanship is still one of the prime motivating forces in our economic life, a lesson that Mr. Ballon probably learned at Harvard. This is a great victory and we are delighted to have Dean David here as our guest today.
The unofficial motto of the Harvard School of Business Administration is "Learn to Do by Doing", and Dean David most certainly exemplifies this. A graduate of Harvard himself he served on the staff as Instructor, Professor of Marketing, Assistant-Dean, and in 1942 he became Dean of the School. Mr. David is on the firing line as well. He was for some years Vice-Pres., and later Pres. of The Royal Baking Powder Co., he was a VicePres. of Standard Brands; and is at present a Director of Standard Brands, The R. H. Macy Co., The American Maize Products Co., The General Electric Co., The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and The First National Bank of the City of New York. He is also a trustee of the Ford Foundation, and of the Rockefeller Institute of Medical Research. Of particular interest to Canadians is the fact that Mr. David has just been named as one of three Public Trustees to administer a substantial block of stock of Aluminium Limited.
This, gentlemen, should explode once and for all the myth of the academic cloister. Harvard University has pioneered in the field of Business Administration by emphasizing the corelation that should exist between the academic and the practical aspects of modern business and in this way has made an outstanding contribution to the economic system of the United States and Canada. Similar Courses are now being offered at the University of Western Ontario, and at the University of Toronto. We have every reason to be proud of our Universities and we are at last coming to realize to the full the outstanding practical contribution that they are making to our way of life through all their spheres of activity. The subject of Dean David's address is: "Mobilizing our Ideas and our Ideals".
MR. DAVID: I appreciate deeply the honour of addressing The Empire Club. Events of the past few weeks have made me aware of the responsibility such an honour places upon me. For the decisions which our two nations made in the months ahead will largely determine whether we shall continue to advance toward or fall back from the positive goals which have made our two countries great.
Our Common Beliefs and Goals
I have chosen to talk about our ideas and ideals because the common beliefs and goals of Canada and the United States are becoming daily, almost hourly, of increasing importance to all of us--as vitally important as your insulin became yesterday, your nickel and uranium today.
In what may appear to be a small way--but what to me is a very significant way--I have seen first hand evidence of the basic similarities of our two countries. Since World War II we have had 136 students come to the Harvard Business School from your colleges and universities, and 28 executives from your industries. In their day-today work and conduct we see that the quality of their training is excellent; their understanding of current business and economic problems is sound; their fundamental ideals more closely match our own than those of the students of any other country. That is, to me, basic. In the common spirit of the youth of the United States and Canada I believe we have convincing, conclusive evidence of the depth and spread of the roots of our common ideals.
I will not attempt here to analyze the history of this spiritual kinship. I believe, however, that it has been intensified and strengthened by the crises we have faced together in the last 30 to 40 years. Two wars and a depression produced some very similar problems for our two nations. Our independent, but co-operative, efforts to face these problems have taught us how to work together and how to understand each other. Out of such experiences we have come to realize that our basic heritage is that we, as pioneers, have always sought a positive goal and have been unafraid to state that goal in the spiritual and moral values toward which we want to move. Though we know that we have never attained the goal completely, we have at least been able to measure whether we have been moving toward or retreating from it.
Now side by side and with a high degree of mutual dependency we face another emergency. In facing this new crisis we must mobilize our ideas and ideals as well as our material resources. This is the positive way to insure continued progress toward our common goals.
BUT WHAT CAN ANY OF US DO TO CONTRIBUTE TO THIS ESSENTIAL MOBILIZATION?
I am convinced that for most of us the answer lies largely within the procedure of our normal occupations. Since the occupations with which I am most familiar are business and education, I shall draw illustrations from these two fields. I hope that people in other fields will find the process valid and will draw out illustrations from their own experiences.
Barbara Ward, the attractive and brilliant English writer, in her recent book, "Policy for the West," uses two separate sentences which can serve as the framework for finding answers to our question. The first is this: "Unmobilized resources, however vast they may be, do not win wars." The second: "Never yet in human history has an ideal been defeated by no ideal at all."
Our Material Resources
Everyone knows that Canada and the States have vast resources. But in my country at least there has been a commotion of discussion of what resources were needed, what were available, how long we could stand a period of sustained mobilization, how much the people would be willing to sacrifice over a sustained period, and similar basic, practical questions. I do not claim to know the answers. But, as an illustration of certain answers that have been attempted, I should like to refer to an article appearing in the January issue of the Harvard Business Review, written by four Business School professors and signed by 14 others. In it they make some estimates of what the United States economy could produce on a sustained basis of huge military preparations.
They conclude that the production capacity and manpower of the United States are large enough to support armed forces of 6 million men and annual military expenditures of $84 billion without "serious impairment" of the civilian economy, for as long a period as may prove to be necessary. This is significant when you realize that both the 6 million men and the $84 billion were substantially higher than most public estimates made by our political leaders.
They also point out three of the major problems in "achieving preparedness to meet Russian aggression." First they say it is "not merely a problem of having a given number of troops and quantity of weapons available at any moment but of maintaining the basic capacity for whatever military operations may develop; nor is it so much a problem of peak effort and a swift culmination as of sustained readiness over a period of unknown and perhaps unknowable duration. . . ."
Secondly, they indicate that "we cannot concentrate solely on capacity to produce military-end-items. We must also protect civilian morale and worker efficiency, which in turn imposes the requirement of maintaining our capacity to produce an adequate supply of civilian goods and services."
Thirdly, they declare: "We must accomplish this high output of arms, this tolerable standard of living, and a steady flow of investment in new plant and equipment without running into a disastrous inflation . . . To lose our economic health in order to achieve adequate preparedness would be tantamount to losing the main battle."
I believe I am right in saying that their net conclusion is that the job can be done, IF . . . , in the words of the title of my address today, "If we mobilize. our ideals and our ideas."
Our "Other Resources"
Important as is the mobilization of our economic and material resources, important as was the contribution made by these professors in trying to define the requirements more realistically and in bringing them to the public attention, they know and we all know it is not enough. It is not enough, simply because it leaves unmobilized vast parts of our greatest resources--our ideals--and Barabara Ward's statement is just as true of moral, spiritual, and ideal strengths as it is of economic resources. "Unmobilized resources, however vast they may be, do not win wars."
I should like to make some positive suggestions for mobilizing these other resources. As a first step, we must sharpen our personal understanding of what our ideals are. Many of us are much clearer in our understanding of what we are against than what we are for. We need a positive programme so that we, our peoples and others in the world, may have a clear picture of those things for which we stand. Some months ago I started for myself a little game-trying to list some things which, as I put it, were "as typical of the United States as the hot dog." I find it interesting and instructive to try to observe additional things to add to the list. I believe these I am about to mention apply with equal force to Canada.
First, I put the right and opportunity of an individual to amount to something. Ideally, every individual should be able to amount to something, to the limit of his own merits, abilities, and ambition, unrestricted by class or artificial barriers such as race, colour, creed, or economic position of his family. I say "ideally" because, as we all know, we can cite many instances where the ideal has not been achieved. For our purposes, however, the failure to attain perfection is not so important as the fact that the ideal exists and persists.
Secondly, I think we stand for a risk-taking, daring, venturesome climate. On all fronts--territorial, economic, artistic, in medicine, and even in sports, we have--at our best--stood for a creative, unafraid-to-try-the-new spirit, pioneering. When in the States the words "mature economy" crept into our vocabulary in the '30s, something was happening to the country.
The third idea I'd like to mention grows quite naturally out of the first two: we have been brought up on the ideal and love of competition. As youngsters not only did we take naturally to competitive sports but our entire growing atmosphere organized the same lesson. School teams met with one another. From sand lot to Rose Bowl we competed on our playing fields; in our spelling bees and debates, our hog calling contests, ski runs, professional sports, and even marathon dances. No wonder our elections are on a competitive basis. But our salvation--yours and ours--is that we believe we should compete in a fair and sportsman like way: play the game hard, but fair.
Fourth, our sales and marketing techniques have made possible a freedom, for us, as individuals, to choose what we will or will not buy. It is interesting to note that in none of the writings of the leaders of Soviet thought, from Marx and Lenin to their current-day economists, are there references to the field of distribution or the science of marketing. I suspect that the development of our knowledge and skills in the area of distribution is the thing least understood or appreciated by our critics and may well prove to be the basic flaw in their arguments. I also believe that this freedom to choose what goods and services we will buy is one of the foundation stones of many other freedoms and must, therefore, be carefully guarded.
There are more than these characteristics which are common grounds of what makes our countries what they are. Our public school systems which are established to give additional meaning to the right of the individual to amount to something; the spirit of fair play which assures us protection and care of the aged, the infirm, the diseased, disabled, or deserted. But these will suffice to illustrate what I am trying to propose, if we remember that in our countries they are all set in the framework of millions of centres of initiative. It is this fact which offers the opportunities necessary and makes it possible to preserve the freedom of choice so necessary to carrying out our goals.
Basically we want a positive kind of freedom: freedom for the individual to do things--freedom to rather than freedom from. In my opinion, the "freedom from want" and "freedom from fear" slogans are not basically consistent with our goals: our freedoms are better expressed in the freedom of the individual to make the most of himself. And the only negative part is that he be free from unfair interference from others who might hinder his ability to show what he can do. Thus it is that the traditional role of our governments is to act as a referee,--to see that no individual, in his own freedom to, unfairly interferes with another's freedom. Our governments were not founded as guarantors that everyone would be a winner.
No doubt you each have your own words for these ideals, for words are coloured by the background of the person using them. Mine happen to be business-economic words. The Churchman may emphasize the dignity of man. The Statesman may use words similar to those in our own Declaration of Independence that "all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights" and that "to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." But no matter how you word it, these are the things we are really working for; these are the things we are really working with. These are the values we must maintain and strengthen, as we mobilize our economic strength.
Let me now be more specific with respect to what can be done by groups with which I am familiar, the businessmen and the universities.
The complexities of our modern industrial society--with mechanization of production, specialization and routinizing of jobs, 4 out of 5 people working for someone else, the growth of factories, corporations, and unions, and our greater interdependence one upon another--have thrown some serious roadblocks in the route toward the ideals I have mentioned. And business executives are right in the midst of the traffic jam. In my opinion, theirs is a great responsibility to devote themselves seriously to the task of seeing that individuals do have the opportunity to amount to something according to their abilities; that a risk-taking, daring, and venturesome climate is preserved and improved; and that they not only avoid standing in the way but take positive steps to assure the continuation of competition, hard but fair.
There are some who warn businessmen that if they fail to do these things, their right to be businessmen will be taken away. I believe that this negative attitude, this threatening motivation is neither necessary nor will it succeed. Businessmen have been recognizing this problem more and more and are learning how to deal with it under normal competitive situations. They have begun to draw effectively upon the skills of those outside business, such as our universities, psychologists, sociologists, students of administration, and the like. As I see it, by their right actions businessmen can produce, not only our economic needs but can contribute quite as much, if not more than, any other group toward the effective mobilization of our common ideals and ideas, both for sustained readiness and long-run welfare.
Out of my own experiences and conversations within my own university I have come to realize that those of us working in the area of applied social sciences face a tremendous challenge at the present moment. There can be no doubt that, within our lifetime, the physicists, chemists, and biologists have demonstrated that those who are working, at least in part as scholars, can effectively apply their knowledge to the solution of practical problems. You can cite examples such as atomic bombs, radar, and penicillin. The real question is can the scholars in the social sciences match these performances by demonstrating that they too can apply their knowledge to finding answers to practical problems, such as the strengthening and preservation of our democracy and our economy.
I think they must. I think they can. One reason for my conviction grows out of our experiences at the Harvard Business School where the Faculty has been aware of this problem for some time. Let me list some hopeful developments. I cite these in order to be specific, to show there are ways, and certainly not to claim that they are the only ways.
Some years ago a group at the Harvard Business School under the leadership of Wallace Donham, Elton Mayo, and Lawrence J. Henderson brought together economists, sociologists, social psychologists, anthropologists, and medical experts to study the problems of human beings in modern working situations. This group evolved the concept of "human relations" and has been working continually with our own Faculty of business administration. We have come to believe that administration is that ability to get the world's work done through human beings. Measurable progress has already been made, and I believe continuation of this type of co-operative effort among social scientists holds high promise of eliminating conflicts, increasing satisfactions, and adding to our personal and economic goals in all types of administrative effort.
Again, at the School we are studying and working with the problem of selecting men for admission to the School, following them through two years of study, watching them search for and select their jobs, and keeping in touch with them even after they are on the job. We are, through this process, learning much about how to avoid putting square pegs in round holes, and what is more to realize and deal with the fact that human pegs do not always remain the same shape--you have not finished when you put a round peg in a round hole--you must see that the peg and the hole continue to match. Success in this area can do much to save human frustration and great economic and social loss.
Of more recent origin is the simultaneous and independent development by the Medical School, the Human Relations group, economists, and the Business School of a growing body of knowledge and interest in geriatrics and gerontology, the study of old age.
By way of illustration, one problem which concerns them is the automatic retirement of workers at age 65.
There is evidence that using a set age limit frequently produces some unfortunate effects for the individual, for business, and for society, because calendar age and physical age are not the same for all people. Automatic retirement keeps some people at work too long, retires others too soon. Too many people are not prepared for a useful and full life in retirement. Such a process can deprive us of needed production, and it completely neglects the human aspects of the individual worker.
The developing science of gerontology holds great promise for arriving at practical answers to the immensely practical problems in this area.
I should also like to mention the most recent development at the Harvard Business School, the organization there of the Mobilization Analysis Centre. This has been set up to work directly with the government on research and fact finding projects dealing immediately with problems of defense and industrial mobilization. We hope that such research will tend to fall between day-today concern with operating problems and long-run explorations, and it will develop into an immensely practical way of allowing our trained specialists to participate in the successful mobilization of all our country's resources.
Finally, I should like merely to refer to an underlying problem faced by all universities in these times of stress. Many people question the advisability of allowing young men and women to take time out from immediate production and military service to go to school. Universities are under pressure to change, dilute, or suspend much of their regular programmes. There is, of course, a growing recognition of the need for exceptions to train doctors, engineers, scientists, and the like skills are urgently and obviously needed in time of emergency.
But as yet there is no such clear-cut recognition of the emergent need for training in and perfection of ideals, the skilled development of moral and ethical values, or training in human relations and administration--these, being intangible, do not appear to be "obviously needed." A continuing task of our colleges and universities, then, is to define clearly what their contribution to the mobilization of our intangible resources actually is and can become. For, if we are in for a long period of sustained preparedness, the need for what education should provide is far greater than in short periods of all-out war. To put it bluntly, real education is one of our basic civilian requirements.
In addition to some of the other programmes to which I have referred, we at the Harvard Business School are examining all our programmes of instruction and our research activities to determine what changes should be made--and many changes are under way.
I trust that these rather personal references to what we are doing will be taken in the spirit in which they are given, that is, to illustrate concretely my two main points: (1) the way in which each of us can participate in the mobilization of our ideas and ideals is intimately related to our regular occupations, and (2) from my own experiences I have developed a feeling of optimism that our two countries will in fact accomplish this necessary mobilization in a way which will keep us moving with steady progress toward our basic goals.
I have come to believe that these fields of endeavour constitute a "new frontier" which will be the means whereby our countries continue on the road toward their ideals.
We are all aware that throughout the history of our countries there were some who thought our progress must end as one frontier after another disappeared. When we had all but conquered our territorial frontiers, there were some unimaginative people who thought our growth was over; but, science, technology, and yes, business created new frontiers which raised our physical standards of living to heights the early pioneers had never thought possible. Now these frontiers have been pushed so far that some fearful people believe, not only that progress must stop, but that we have created a Frankenstein which will destroy us. As I see it, however, if we recapture, cling to, and accelerate our traditional approach toward ideals and human values, precisely the opposite can be true. A new frontier to conquer is opening up before us--the frontier of knowledge of human and administrative affairs--a frontier, like the others before it, filled with opportunity whereby we can push ahead still further toward our basic ideals and make them more of a reality.
Cautious persons may urge prudence, may suggest not probing the new frontier until the emergency is passed. To this I cannot in honesty agree, for the simple reason that what lies beyond that frontier is both what we are fighting with and what we are fighting for. The more we learn about it now, the better chance we have to win and the better chance we have to have something worth-while after victory.
True, we shall have to postpone some of the long-run explorations of the frontier; we shall have to adjust our immediate sights somewhat. But, I believe we must move on; that each of us individually can determine the part we should play; and that if we are true to our ideals and each and every one of us makes the effort, we shall succeed.
VOTE OF THANKS, moved by Mr. R. F. Chisholm, President of The Canadian Club of Toronto.