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Open Book 7Open Book 7

Writing about fads because everybody else does-or, an odd look at human motivation.

InformationWeek Staff

December 22, 2001

2 Min Read

The author holds the record for winning the most Hugo awards, but this week's book is only barely science fiction. The tale, about a scientist trying to discover how fads start and what they mean, is better described as a screwball comedy about human motivation. It also hits a bit close to home--the management of the fictional HiTek Corp. sounds very much like the one imparted by InformationWeek's Secret CIO.

"'Management went to another seminar,' she said. 'Which means a sensitivity exercise, a new acronym, and more paperwork for us.'""'Management is trying earnestly to win a secretly awarded scientific grant for divergent thinking by generating new forms to fill out.'""'This is exactly the kind of project that GRIM is all about. Interfac-ing scientific disciplines, implementing initiative and cooperation to create new workplace paradigms.' ""'He actually talks in acro-nyms, I thought wonderingly, and almost missed what he said next."'--exactly the kind of project the Niebnitz Grant Committee is looking for. I want this implemented immediately.'"Investigating the genesis of hair bobbing, our heroine finds a significant barrier in Flip, an office assistant whose incompetence knows no bounds, and her allies in a chaos theorist, a smoker, and a herd of sheep. "When they got to the corner, they stayed there, unable to figure out how to turn it, and kept grazing, eating the grass right down to the dirt. Then, for lack of better ideas, they ate the dirt." Additional Clue: Predictably, all the elements come together in one place. The sheep escape, and unerringly head straight for the part of the building where they could do the most damage: Management's office. "Wonderful, I thought, and looked up to see Alicia Turnbull glaring at me. 'Dr. Foster,' she said disapprovingly." 'Don't tell me,' I said. 'None of the Niebnitz Grant winners were ever involved in livestock stampedes.' " bookTo win an InformationWeek prize, identify the book, author, and the Robert Browning poem referred to frequently in the story. E-mail [email protected] by Friday; two winners will be chosen randomly from correct responses.Dec. 17 quiz: Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil by John Berendt. Third question: The narrator's job is magazine editor and writer. Winners: Ardith McComb and Bob Grabbe.

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