HR Pioneers: A History of Human Resource Innovations at Control Data Corporation will soon be published by North Star Press. I started this book five years ago with a team of former Control Data executives –Norb Berg, Frank Dawe, Jim Morris, and Gene Baker. The project has been a terrific journey, and for the next few blogs I will write some “behind the scenes” entries about my experiences from researching to writing to marketing and now, publishing. It’s been quite an honor to tell the story about the HR innovations and social business initiatives launched by Control Data Corporation. Much of this history did not exist in much detail before, and some information that did exist was either inaccurate or misunderstood.
I’m a playwright by passion, so how did I end up writing a historical book about Control Data Corporation’s approach to business and community ethics? In a roundabout way it started at the Playwrights’ Center of Minneapolis. Kristen Gandrow, the playwrights’ liaison at the time, connected me with the New Prague City Council. New Prague was nearing its 150th anniversary, and a group of local historians had written a rough draft for a historical pageant. They needed help from a playwright to shape it into something they could perform. Since I grew up near a small Minnesota town like New Prague, Kristen thought I would be a good match for this rural town pageant.
I met Jim and Janet Morris, two leaders in charge of developing the project. They gave me a tour of New Prague, a stack of stuff to read, and introduced me to several people who knew the local history. The rough draft of the pageant was also full of historical details. So after I got well acquainted with the town story and Czech culture (the town was settled by Czech immigrants, and so, New Prague), I started shaping their script into a more performable piece of theatre. Jim and Janet were really happy with the play we developed. Unfortunately the historical committee didn’t have the resources in time or people to stage it (sigh). But they paid me, so the project had a halfway decent outcome.
About eighteen months passed. I had just finished a whirlwind fall during which three of my plays were performed at nearly the same time. Now all those productions were done and I was in that “well, what can I do next?” mode. I got a phone call. Jim Morris. It turns out he was an executive at Control Data Corporation, and he had a project he would like me to consider, could we meet over coffee? I said yes, and my CDC journey began.