I've been looking for it for almost two decades, and now that I've found it, I'm savoring it—and I hope you'll savor it with me, bit by bit, as I make my way through.
It's the first book on employee communication—written before the birth of most communication practitioners and our communication buzzwords, habits of thought, sacred cows, tired arguments, lost causes and artificial limitations.
Plainly titled Sharing Information with Employees and published in 1942 by the Stanford University Press, it's written by an Alexander Heron, about whom all I know so far is that he was a "Director of Industrial Relations for a large and far flung enterprise." ("Industrial relations" was a department without a precise modern-day equivalent, which generally oversaw the relationship between management and labor.)
The introduction, by a Paul Eliel of Stanford and signed Jan. 8, 1942, claims that a survey of business literature revealed not a single previous book about "sharing information with employees."
And it's in his introduction that Eliel introduces the first potentially debatable idea, by claiming: "Implicit throughout Mr. Heron's treatment is consideration of the business as a social institution as well as an organization designed to carry out economic objectives."
Before our first proper installment in this series—which I grandly hope through my commentary and our discussions will amount to a white paper—can we all agree to stipulate that corporations (to which we give so many of our precious hours and so much of our hearts' blood, whose products and services we use, and whose vast resource-taking and refuse-making we live with, whose varying financial stability makes and breaks our livelihoods and sometimes our very lives) are social institutions and not mere economic engines?
Or can we not?