[FoRK] The Kaavya Viswanathan ("Harvard Novelist") plagiarism case

Ken Meltsner < meltsner at alum.mit.edu > on > Tue Apr 25 12:44:24 PDT 2006

At least she's mostly owned up to plagiarism, unlike the chairman of Raytheon:


April 24, 2006
Raytheon Chief's Management Rules Have a Familiar Ring

William H. Swanson has become something of a management guru thanks to
"Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management." It is a compilation of
folksy business advice from Mr. Swanson, the chief executive of
Raytheon, that the company distributes as a free booklet. No. 3 in his
list of 33 rules begins: "Look for what is missing."

What is missing from Mr. Swanson's 76-page booklet, as an engineer
discovered last week, is any reference to what appears to be the
source of many of his rules: the 1944 book "The Unwritten Laws of
Engineering" by W. J. King, an engineering professor at the University
of California, Los Angeles.

When USA Today published the list of rules on its Web site on April 14
with an article about management and character, Carl Durrenberger, a
chemical engineer and blogger in San Diego, thought some of them
sounded familiar.

He was in the process of moving to a new office at Hewlett-Packard and
had recently come across a copy of the 1944 book that he had received
when joining the company five years ago.

"I was looking through it so all these aphorisms were fresh in my
mind," Mr. Durrenberger said. "It was written in a way that was very
archaic in the language it used. Then, a couple days later, I came
across the USA Today article, with the same archaic language, and I
immediately knew."

In fact, a comparison of the list published by USA Today and a copy of
the 1944 text available on the Web site of a California engineering
firm indicates that 17 of Mr. Swanson's rules — Nos. 6 through 22, to
be exact — are similar to advice in the older book, in most cases
using similar or identical language.

Mr. Swanson's Rule No. 20 says: "Cultivate the habit of boiling
matters down to the simplest terms: the proverbial 'elevator speech'
is the best way." The 1944 book says: "Cultivate the habit of 'boiling
matters down' to their simplest terms."

No. 21 from Mr. Swanson reads, "Don't get excited in engineering
emergencies: Keep your feet on the ground." The 1944 book recommends,
"Do not get excited in engineering emergencies — keep your feet on the

Mr. Swanson's booklet, with its modest tone, has helped polish his
image as someone who has special insight into what it takes to be
successful in business and life. It was pictured on the July 2005
cover of Business 2.0 magazine under the headline "The C.E.O.'s Secret
Handbook." An article inside quoted business legends like Warren E.
Buffett and John F. Welch Jr. praising Mr. Swanson's insights.

The booklet has also helped to put a softer face on a company that
specializes in high-technology warfare and has benefited as military
spending has increased from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Raytheon promotes the free booklet on the home page of its Web site,
asking that those who order many copies make a donation to a charity
that promotes math education. The company says the request has raised
$55,000 so far, and that 250,000 copies are in print.

Pamela A. Wickham, a spokeswoman for Raytheon, acknowledged that some
of the rules were "absolutely on track" with those in the 1944 book,
but she said that the final booklet had been shaped by Mr. Swanson's
own experiences.

"Bill readily admits that a lot of these rules come from many
different places, some original, some he has learned, heard and read
from others," Ms. Wickham said. She added that the material "came from
professors, mentors and from his entire career."

Ms. Wickham also pointed to Mr. Swanson's introduction to the booklet,
which says, in part: "I urge you to be sure to share the credit. I
happily do so here and now. This is really a product of experiences
over the better part of a lifetime, of people I have learned from and
things I have heard and read." The booklet does not cite any specific

In a separate article about the booklet in USA Today last December,
Mr. Swanson was quoted as saying that since joining Raytheon as an
engineer in 1972 he had jotted down insights and quotes on scraps of
paper. When he was asked to give a speech about entering management,
he said, "I grabbed my scraps and turned them into a presentation. One
day we sat down with a tape recorder and turned it into a book."

In a letter to USA Today last week that he also posted on his personal
blog (neuromatix.net/Blog), Mr. Durrenberger listed the rules that
were near-perfect matches with lines in the older book. (The rules
that do not match up include: "You can't polish a sneaker," and "Beg
for the bad news.")

"I'm calling him a plagiarist," Mr. Durrenberger said in an interview.
"It may be a little hard. But the definition of plagiarism is taking
someone else's work and putting your name on it. So I'm calling it the
way I see it."

Mr. Durrenberger said yesterday that he had not yet received a reply
from USA Today.

He said "The Unwritten Laws of Engineering," which is still published
in an updated edition by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers,
was recommended reading. "It's dated," he said. "But it's fantastic."

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