Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Another copycat caught

When a student plagiarizes for a research paper, you can chalk it up to laziness, dishonesty or naivete. When a young author does it and claims it's because she "internalized" another writer's material, you wonder if her publisher -- in the case of the Harvard girl (see below) it was Little, Brown & Co. -- can ask for their $500K check back. But when a CEO does it and quotes his little "rules for management" in an interview with a national newspaper, you have to believe ego got in the way of "truthiness." And check out the last quote in the "gotcha" piece from USA Today.

Raytheon chief says he didn't plagiarize
Updated 4/25/2006 12:20 AM ET
By Del Jones, USA TODAY

Raytheon CEO William Swanson said Monday that he is not guilty of plagiarism because he has never claimed to be the original author of the 33 rules in his popular booklet Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management.
However, in a Raytheon press release, he said the similarities between his book and a book written in 1944 are "beyond dispute."

About half of Swanson's rules can be found word for word or nearly so in the 1944 book The Unwritten Laws of Engineering, by W.J. (William Julian) King, a one-time General Electric engineer who retired as a UCLA engineering professor in 1969. He died in 1983.

One Swanson rule, "A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter — or to others — is not a nice person" was not in King's book. But it is the reason the many similarities were discovered. Swanson's waiter rule was the topic of a USA TODAY article on April 14 in which several CEOs agreed that the rule is an accurate barometer of character. USA TODAY also published a Q&A with Swanson on Dec. 19 that focused on several of the rules published in the booklet, which Raytheon gives away on its Internet site.

The waiter article caused Carl Durrenberger, 29, who does inkjet printer development at Hewlett-Packard, to note the similarities because he had found an old photocopy of the 1944 book while cleaning his desk days before. The New York Times reported his findings Monday. Durrenberger's discovery first came to USA TODAY's attention Sunday night when an editor was reviewing e-mails sent to a reader inquiry queue.

Not only were many rules nearly identical, but Durrenberger recognized the dated language. The rules in Swanson's book are also in similar order to those in King's book.

In a phone interview, Swanson agreed that many of his rules were exactly or nearly exactly the same as those written by King. But he says he has been scribbling down random words of wisdom on scraps of paper going back to his days at California Polytechnic State University, where he graduated in 1972. He became Raytheon CEO in 2003.

Swanson says it's possible he once read King's book, but he doesn't recall. But he says he never copied from the book. It is possible, he says, that his professors, managers and other engineers and mentors had read the book and passed the rules down through the engineering ranks before Swanson wrote them down and eventually published them.

"These rules were passed around in the '50s, '60s and '70s," Swanson said. "I think what happens is the author gets lost."


Blogger nnyhav said...

On cooking the books, NYTimes makes the connection, but Bloomberg 'closes the chapter' on the rewritten rules of management.

2:38 PM  
Blogger 9i7ox3 said...

This particular case seems a lot more serious than lack of attribution.

The King book (which was reissued in 2001) was about professional ethics in engineering. So here was someone being unethical in the very act of promoting ethics. Is it possible for employees and shareholders to trust a CEO that shows such contempt for ethics.

Making it even worse, intellectual property is an important part of Raytheon's stock in trade. Dealing appropriately with intellectual property is a critical part of every engineer's professional life, and of Raytheon's in particular. Swanson, in his apology, did not address that larger issue. If the CEO shows that he does not respect that intellectual property has an owner, that has to seep down to the employees of the company. If I were working on technology as a Raytheon partner, supplier or customer, I'd be really worried that they were ripping me off, and handing me Swanson's book on ethics to thorw me off the trail.

11:36 AM  
Anonymous Hans said...

it is hard to fight content theft these days. if there is no will...

12:50 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home