Mapping peaks and valleys

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Articles - March 2012
Friday, March 02, 2012


Mapmaker Dave Imus is based in Eugene.
Mapmakers generally toil in obscurity, tending to the small details that help put landscapes in context. But public acclaim sometimes comes to the cartographer, bringing a reminder that people still love to look at beautiful maps.

About 20 years ago, fortune smiled on Stuart Allan of Medford’s Raven Maps when The Wall Street Journal called his U.S. state maps the most beautiful maps in the world. Dave Imus of Eugene’s Imus Geographics likewise got a taste of fame recently when an article in the online magazine Slate extolled his 50-by-35.6-inch U.S. map, which had been named best new map in North America for 2010 by the Cartography and Geographic Information Society.

How convenient that Allan and Imus, widely regarded as the two top cartographers in the country, are friends and University of Oregon geography alumni who support each other’s work. So when the Slate article resulted in an avalanche of online orders (8,000 in the first week) for Imus’ prize-winning map, Allan, no stranger himself to cartography prizes, stepped in to assist with order fulfillment, shipping the paper map either folded ($12.95) or laminated and rolled ($39.95).

Allan and business partner Michael Beard have operated Raven Maps since 1987, Allan making the maps (or building them, in cartography parlance) and Beard selling them. They offer a plethora of large paper maps, ranging from the individual states to views of North America and the entire planet. The 43-by-56-inch Oregon map, for example, sells for $30 plain or $50 laminated. Raven Maps has a large international audience of admirers. Before postage costs grew prohibitive, they mailed out more than a million catalogs a year.



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There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.

This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay. 

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.

New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”

That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

— Linda


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