NACD - National Association of Corporate Directors
Small Talk

Small Talk

by Jesse Rhodes |

Cut and Paste

Kirigami, the art of folding and cutting paper to create a design, might seem most at home in a hobbyist’s craft room. But the technique could have a wider range of applications. In 2016, a Chinese medical supply company approached researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Mechanical Engineering to design a bandage that did a better job of adhering to joints as they bend and stretch. They discovered that by making a pattern of slits in a polymer film, the cuts allowed the bandage to expand and cling to a test subject’s knee even after 100 bends. Beyond adhesive bandages, the researchers see potential in using kirigami cutting techniques with heating pads,gel patches to diffuse medicine directly onto injured skin, and in the emerging field of flexible electronics. The Chinese company is now planning to create products that feature this technique.

A Healthy Ecosystem

Annie’s Homegrown is showing that a company-driven focus on regenerative agriculture is not only beneficial to the environment—and to investors and consumers who keep ecological issues top of mind—but that it can encourage stronger business partnerships. Regenerative agriculture espouses organic farming practices that fortify soil and, according to the Rodale Institute, help mitigate the effects of global warming by trapping carbon dioxide in the ground. Annie’s Homegrown, which manufactures prepackaged organic foods, was founded by Annie Withey in 1989 and bought by General Mills in 2014 two years after it went public. It recently started featuring the names of the farms and farmers it partners with on its boxed macaroni and cheese products. It reinforces these practices by using a scorecard to gauge which farms excel with regenerative agriculture and which ones need help. General Mills will use material produced on non-certified farms in its non-organic product lines, maintaining those relationships and helping them attain organic certification, which also allows farmers to sell their goods at premium prices.

Born This Way?

Are some people born to lead? The answer is yes, according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research—and birth order may be a predictor of who is likely to step into those roles. Researchers looked at data from hundreds of thousands of personality tests taken by Swedish men as a part of their mandatory military service. Firstborn sons on average scored higher on qualities such as emotional stability, persistence, and general enthusiasm for taking on leadership roles. Outside the military, firstborn sons were 24 percent and 29 percent more likely to enter into top management roles than second- and third-born sons, respectively. Because Sweden’s military service requirement applied only to men at the time the study was done, the question of whether birth order signals potential future female leaders was not explored. However, researchers did find that men with older sisters tended to have the personality traits of a firstborn son and were more likely to be employed than men with older brothers. Having a big sister, however, seems to have no influence on a brother’s likelihood of securing a C-suite position.

Steps in the Right Direction

Johnny Walker revamped its classic “striding man” logo to depict a striding lady. Dubbed Jane Walker, the logo was rolled out to coincide with Women’s History Month in March, with a dollar from the sale of each bottle being donated to two organizations that support women’s causes. Critics lashed out, drubbing the logo change as pandering at its worst. However, a closer look at Diageo, Johnny Walker’s parent company, positions the campaign as an extension of its strong diversity and inclusion practices. Not only does the Diageo board have gender parity, but women make up 40 percent of the company’s global executive team. Need more potent proof? Nearly half of Johnny Walker’s whiskey blenders are women.