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Some Types of Buoyancy From Brainstorming

(TNU 2008)



Job Satisfaction


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Storms of Chaotic Fluctuations in the Economy Affect the United States


(By Beverly Foust, Leslie Stone, Glenda Washam, UoPhx 2008)


A possible recession in the United States (U.S.) has been in the news for the last two months. However, a recession in the U.S. is nothing new. Since the beginning of the 21st century, the U.S. has experienced extreme changes in the economy. These changes are sometimes called fluctuations or business cycles in the economy. These economic instabilities have caused companies to look to the future with uncertainty and to rethink how they do business. “In the most basic terms, business cycles refer to fluctuations in the economic growth of a nation's economy. Sometimes, business cycles are simply referred to as ups and downs in the economy” (Thomson Gale, 2006, p. 1).


A number of key factors can lead to fluctuations in the economy. These factors include “volatility of investment spending; variations in inventories; fluctuations in government spending; politically generated business cycles; fluctuations in exports and imports; and variations in the money supply” (Thomson Gale, 2006, p. 6). Thomson Gale (2006) points out fluctuations in the economy have been effective in “moderating business cycles” (p. 7) so they must not be eliminated. Business cycles can influence some fluctuations in the way institutions among the realm of business remain buoyant in their industry. This paper will show how fluctuations in the U.S. economy can affect the government, businesses, and higher education in connection to the components of the elements of buoyancy in Westbrook Stevens’ Storms of Chaos Model.


U.S. Economy


How the U.S. Economy Works


Conte and Karr (2001) say the U.S. is a mixed economy with both privately owned businesses and the government playing important roles. “In this mixed economy, individuals can help guide the economy not only through the choices they make as consumers but through the votes they cast for officials who shape economic policy” (Conte & Karr, 2001, Chap. 2, p. 1). The graph below shows when comparing “the total time spent in recession, globally, the U.S. is about average” (Numbers, 2008, p. 011).


Percentage of Months Spent in Recession 1962-2007
(Data: Economic Cycle Research Institute)

Buoyancy in the Storms of Chaos Model


What Buoyancy Represents in the Storms of Chaos Model


The word buoyancy means either “the tendency or capacity to remain afloat in a liquid or rise in air or gas” or “the ability to recover quickly from setbacks such as in resilience” (Answers, 2008). Westbrook Stevens (2001b) states, “. . . ships often describe people and organizations. The metaphor is useful to describe how hard it is to turn those ships or for organizations to change” (p. 2). In the Storms of Chaos Model from the Westbrook Stevens website, the element of buoyancy represents the supporting strength that helps a company stay buoyant whenever it runs into any unsettling territories, such as fluctuations in the economy. The chart below depicts the Storms of Chaos Model and shows how the element of buoyancy helps keep the ship, which represents the company, afloat.


Buoyancy in the Storms of Chaos
(Westbrook Stevens, 2001b)


Many supporting components reinforce the groundwork of a company and help the company recover from various barriers and obstacles. In the Storms of Chaos Model, these components include political, personal, and societal elements, along with supporting markets (Westbrook Stevens, 2001a, p. 1). “So we have a choice, we can master the storms of chaos or be mastered by it” (Westbrook Stevens, 2001b, p. 5).


The United States Government


Political Alliances


Having political alliances play an instrumental part in the effects of the economy. The United States (U.S.) government became more involved in the economy during the 1929 stock market crashed. This collapse caused the Great Depression and began Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal era. The U.S. enacted many economic laws during this time. Government activities have a powerful effect on the U.S. economy in at least four areas: “Stabilization and Growth; Regulation and Control; Direct Services; and Direct Assistance” (Outline, n.d., p. 1). “In a chaotically changing environment, one never knows what is going to happen next” (Westbrook Stevens, 2001b, p. 3). This statement is especially true in the ever changing U.S. economy. Anything in the economy’s favor, such as maintaining positive political alliances, will help the economy stay afloat.


Recently, White House representatives have said the U.S. economy is on a “solid foundation” and is only “going through a period of economic uncertainty” (Spetalnick, 2008, para. 1). According to the Hoover Institution (2008), “During a recession, consumer confidence often erodes as several negative economic conditions occur simultaneously” (para. 8). What this assertion means is that during a time of economic aversion, people tend to lose their confidence in not only the economy itself, but also with the government. On February 1, 2008, President George W. Bush stated, “Today's jobs report is a troubling sign that the U.S. economy is weaker and decisive action must be taken to help people stay in their homes” (Rosenkrantz & Runningen, 2008, para. 1). President Bush says the government plans to help the economy and he has urged the Senate to pass an economic stimulus plan. On February 7, 2008, Congress passed the emergency plan that will give rebates of “$600 to $1,200 to most taxpayers and $300 checks to disabled veterans, the elderly, and other low-income people” (Taylor & Davis, 2008, para. 1). President Bush wanted the plan passed quickly because “the sooner we can get money into our consumers' hands, the more likely the economy will recover from this uncertainty” (Rosenkrantz & Runningen, 2008, para. 8). The President believes the economy is only going through a rough time and will pull through with this new plan. He also hopes the plan will help foster the people’s confidence in the country again. However, this plan will only prove to be successful if the money goes back into the economy instead of people saving it. Lonski (2008) points out, “Provided that a contraction of employment is avoided, consumer spending ought to grow by enough to keep the U.S. out of recession. However, if employment shrinks as home prices fall, the retrenchment of consumer spending could be severe” (p. 38).


Economist Brad DeLong (2006) says, “If business cycles are simply fluctuations around the economy’s long-run growth trend with production being sometimes above and sometimes below its sustainable level, then it is hard to get too worried about them” (para. 1). What DeLong means by this affirmation is that whatever is lost in a recession, the economy can gain back in the next boom. In looking at previous economical experiences in the U.S. economy, fluctuations in the economy seem to be nothing more but a normal economic trend.




Personal Relationships


In private business, companies often spend countless dollars to determine what the best course of action is when it comes to their people. In fact, businesses tend to lean to other businesses in order to gain information about what makes them a super power in their industry. Southwest Airlines allows other business executives to come under its wing to learn about the company’s people factor. This action is what makes Southwest Airlines a prime example of an industry leader. A recent article written by Terry Maxon of the Dallas Morning News refers to Southwest Airline’s corporate buoyancy. These references came in part from a new book written by former Chief Executive Officer James Parker. In the article Maxon (2008) says,


For many years, companies have flocked to Southwest Airlines Co. to learn the secrets of its success, ex-chief executive officer James Parker says. Yet they never seem to absorb Southwest's lessons. More accurately, they never accept the basic point: Take care of your employees, and everything else falls into place. So they see employees as expenses to be cut, rather than assets to be cherished. (para. 1-3)


“Americans had a strong need for spiritual support and a positive outlook in coping with the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks . . .” (Schwarz, 2004, para. 1). After the 9/11 attack on the U.S., Southwest held together a staff of significance when most airlines were letting employees go. Southwest finds its corporate buoyancy directly attributed to the people, not only the people who receive their paychecks from Southwest, but also the customers. People are the key to the success of this industry. Southwest believes in doing the right thing. This principle has proven to be a viable marketing technique.

Southwest has used this technique to take hold of corporate buoyancy when it comes to societal, as well. Consumers like to do business with Southwest and therefore, continue to do so. Consumers recognize that Southwest is making every effort to make its flying experience as cost-effective and enjoyable as possible. Other airlines have not followed suit.


As the economy begins the shifts that are currently being forecast, companies like Southwest will again rise to the occasion, floating along as if there were little storm to be considered. Its buoyancy is credited to its business practices and the people who carry those out each day. Other companies will stand by and take note, hoping for the same fate even with the historical odds not in their favor.


Societal Elements


For businesses to remain at the top of their respective industry, they cannot ignore their social responsibility to society. In December of 2006, Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer wrote a piece for the Harvard Business Review titled, Strategy & Society, The Link Between Competitive Advantage and Corporate Social Responsibility. In this article, the authors tell the readers of the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as it relates to successful business practices. This article is supportive of the Buoyancy Theory from Westbrook Stevens. “When looked at strategically, corporate social responsibility can become a source of tremendous social progress, as the business applies its considerable resources, expertise, and insights to activities that benefit society” (Porter & Kramer, 2006, p. 1).


Porter and Kramer (2006) dive deeply into the realm of what truly understanding CSR can mean for a company’s survival in today’s aggressive business markets. While most companies have voluntarily submitted to the rise of CSR, not all went willingly. Some arrived at their decisions based upon “being surprised by public responses to issues they had not previously thought were part of their business responsibilities” (Porter & Kramer, 2006, p. 2). Porter and Kramer (2006) used examples like the Nike boycott due to unfair labor practices and Greenpeace protests when Shell Oil sank an oil rig. Suddenly these companies faced CSR head on. These companies had to exhibit a certain amount of corporate buoyancy to survive. They had to choose to behave in a manner that gained them favor in their respective industries. The public was watching, prepared to hold them fiscally accountable for their mistakes.

Higher Education


Supporting Markets


Economic fluctuations mostly affect business, but higher education is not immune to tough times. Compared to private business, higher education does have it easier. Universities run by the government have a built-in safety net. The government will always be there to fund higher education. The schools may face budget cutbacks, but few shut down due to a failing economy.

This portion of the paper will focus on how supporting markets and economic fluctuations affect private universities. The supporting markets of these private higher education organizations are the students, faculty, donors, suppliers, alumni, and parents. These individuals keep the colleges and universities afloat. A college does not exist without the students and teachers. The donors and alumni are essential also since they provide financial support. Another tool that private institutions have is an endowment.


Purdue University’s website states, “An endowment is a gift that is held in perpetuity and invested in a manner that protects the principal from inflation. Investment income provides a stable funding source for such purposes as scholarships, professorships, lecture series, and research centers” (2008). As donors make gifts to the endowment, the university pools these gifts into one endowment fund. By combining the gifts, this “allows Purdue to achieve greater diversity in its investments, lower its investment costs, and attain the maximum return on donors’ gifts” (Purdue University, 2008).


Concordia University of Wisconsin’s website states that earnings from its endowment go toward funds specified by the donor. “The rest of the earnings are reallocated back into the fund’s principle to insure that the endowment continues to grow and yield more interest for future scholarships and support” (2008). The university defines an endowment as “an amount of money (fund) that is given to the University with a stipulation that the funds are invested to earn annual interest rather than spent immediately” (2008). Endowed gifts allow the donor to establish a legacy since the endowed funds are there after he or she is gone. Purdue’s website says, “Because endowments are held in perpetuity and invested for the long term, these gifts provide one of the most secure sources of future revenue” (2008). Given their perpetuity, endowed gifts are part of the buoyancy of private universities.


Having endowed funds assures the university can carry out business in any economy. Essentially universities are major businesses with many operating units. University of Oregon President, Dr. Edward Ray said, “In many respects, a large public research university like Oregon State University is a major business” (Oregon State University, 2003). In 2003, Dr. Ray was responsible for a $580 million budget that covered buildings, a library, dining facilities, a football field, and many other areas of the university. A university is a major multi-faceted business. Most businesses would not attempt to undertake a business with that many areas.


Universities need project management in order to manage all the areas. The university’s leadership has a fiduciary responsibility to manage the money wisely. If the university leaders are good stewards of donor’s money, they can bring in more gifts. If the university squanders donor’s money, donors are not inclined to give again. The University of Wisconsin spent $26 million to install the new payroll software Larson, but the project fell apart, and the project was aborted. Edward Meachen said, “We would have probably been operating Lawson right now if we had excellent project management” (Carnevale, 2006, p. 1). The lack of good project management hurt the payroll installation project as well as the rest of the university.


Another area of an university that uses project management is the medical center. The book, The Project Surgeon: A Troubleshooter’s Guide to Business Crisis Management addresses the role of project management for the medical center (Hornjak, 2001). “According to Hornjak, a good project surgeon will apply three therapies: emergency management, crisis management, and crisis prevention” (Rose, 2001). Hornjak says that surgeons face these situations in their jobs. Sometimes they face these situations in one surgery.


These examples illustrate how universities can benefit from project management in the different areas. Private universities are fortunate to have endowed money to help them operate. They have a responsibility to spend their endowed fund wisely and not waste money. Like any organization, universities have to cut costs when the economy dips. The endowed funds keep the university running while organizations without this money source would make major cuts.




Staying afloat in an economic downturn is treacherous, but this paper has shown how the Storms of Chaos can help. It would be in the best interest of any company to evaluate its buoyancy and determine how to manage it. Companies that take advantage of this opportunity will survive any economic crisis. Companies not taking advantage of their buoyancy are victims of the lightning, waves, and overall storm. The U.S. government is a business in itself and manages its political alliances to keep the country running.


Businesses such as Southwest Airlines realize their employees are part of their buoyancy and keep the company running while their competitors are struggling. Lastly, private universities use their supporting markets to stay afloat. Their supporting markets are the students, faculty, donors, suppliers, alumni, and donors. This group and their endowments help the universities operate smoothly when the rest of the country is fighting economic uncertainty.


These examples show that the skill sets provided by the Storms of Chaos will help businesses and organizations survive in troubled times. As explained earlier in the paper, ships cannot make quick turns, but with notice and planning, ships can turn around. If businesses and organizations apply these principles, they can anticipate the storms and make corrections so they survive and maybe thrive in troubling times.



  1. Carnevale, D. (2006, July 21). The chronicle of higher education. U. of Wisconsin gives up on $26-million effort to install payroll software. Retrieved February 10, 2008, from Nexis Lexis database

  2. Concordia University of Wisconsin. (2008). Giving to CUW. Retrieved February 3, 2008, from

  3. Conte, C., & Karr, A. (2001). Outline of the U.S. economy. How the U.S. economy works. Retrieved February 3, 2008, from

  4. DeLong, B. (2006). Are business cycles fluctuations around trend or not? Retrieved January 31, 2008, from

  5. Hoover Institution. (2008). Recession and the U.S. economy. Retrieved January 31, 2008, from

  6. Hornjak, B. (2001, April). The project surgeon: A troubleshooter's guide to business crisis management. Newton Square, Pennsylvania: Project Management Institute.

  7. Lonski, J. (2008, December/January). Will the Fed cut enough? Treasury & Risk, 38.

  8. Maxon, T. (2008). Ex-Southwest Airlines CEO James Parker shares lessons in book. Retrieved February 5, 2008, from DNsouthwest_21bus.State.Edition1.2bd764c.html

  9. Numbers. (2008, January 21). BusinessWeek, 011.

  10. Oregon State University. (2003, October 15). The business of running a large public research university. Retrieved February 10, 2008, from

  11. Porter, M. & Kramer, M. (2006). Strategy & Society, The Link Between Competitive Advantage and Corporate Social Responsibility. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved February 12, 2008, from Porter_Dec_2006.pdf

  12. Purdue University. (2008). The Purdue University endowment. Retrieved February 3, 2008, from

  13. Rose, K. (2001, September). Review: The project surgeon: A troubleshooter’s guide to business crisis management. Project Management Journal. Retrieved February 11, 2008, from Nexis-Lexis database

  14. Rosenkrantz, H., & Runningen, R. (2008). Bush says `Serious signs' U.S. economy is weakening (Update2). Retrieved February 3, 2008, from ax4qT3UnRDBU&refer=us

  15. Schwarz, J. (2004). Americans had strong need for spiritual support following 9/11 attacks. Retrieved January 29, 2008, from

  16. Spetalnick, M. (2008). White House: Economy solid but uncertainty exists. Retrieved February 3, 2008, from;_ ylt=Aoaae6DKONbsR5UjsWaepjoN5LIF

  17. Taylor, A., & Davis. J. (2008). Stimulus bill’s OK to speed rebates. Retrieved February 8, 2008, from

  18. Thomson Gale (part of Thomson Corporation). (2006). Business cycles. Retrieved January 31, 2008, from

  19. Westbrook Stevens. (2001a). The buoyancy. Retrieved January 29, 2008, from

  20. Westbrook Stevens (2001b). The linked management models. Retrieved February 10, 2008, from


Buoyancy in The Storms of Chaos Model


By Tricia Sholar (UoPhx 2007) edited by Craig Stevens

Buoyancy in The Storms of Chaos Model represents those forces that help to support the organizational ship. Merriam –Webster defines buoyancy “as (1) the tendency of a body to float or to rise when submerged in a fluid; the power of a fluid to exert an upward force on a body placed in it; the upward force exerted, (2) the ability to recover quickly from depression or discouragement, and (3) the property of maintaining a satisfactorily high level - as of prices or economic activity” (Merriam-Webster, 2007).

Buoyancy includes external elements that help support the ship and may include customers, society and its norms, the political and legal system, the economy, geographical location, and other environmental occurrences. Each element can also be described as stakeholders in the organization. Stakeholders can be defined as any one or thing that participates in any aspect of the organization whether intentionally or not. The stakeholders are concerned about or effect by the organization’s well being because of its relationship to the stakeholders’ well being (Charron, 2007).



One measure of success for an organization is market share. The primary focus of the organization should be its customers and customer make up the market. The goal of relationship marketing is to create a long-term value for the customer while measuring the success by long-term customer satisfaction (Knox & Gruar, 2007).

Political and Legal System

Organizations also have to understand political and legal systems. The laws that govern business are directly related to politics. Political leaders are the key to the easement, restriction, and/or control of the businesses. Adolf Berle and Gardiner Means wrote “The Modern Corporation and Private Property” which has become a popular as well as influential resource related to focus on governance. In this book, Berle and Means believed that the corporation’s control will diminish to the society’s political control (Charron, 2007).


The goal of society is to attain ideal values (Freeman et al, 2007). The political system that is in place was put in control by both past and current society for the good of future societies. Due to society choosing the politics in place, an organization’s leaders should be keenly aware of the societal and potential norms. The stakeholder theory began as an idea that the organization is not in sole existence simply to make a profit for the stockholders but rather is a social association. Furthermore, this theory portrays that the organizations are indebted for its security not to the stockholders but to society. Due to this security, the organization should carry out the social belief of the public (Charron, 2007). One demand made by society on the organization is to report to both internal and external stakeholders on the organization’s social and moral activity. While society demands that organization engage in morally responsible actions, captivating the stakeholders is usually seen as a morally neutral action (Greenwood, 2007). Society mandates that the organizational leaders are to maintain and keep morality in all decision-making so to avoid fraud in the marketplace. With this knowledge, society mandates that this constraint on the behaviors of everyone including those outside the organization is universally experienced (Charron, 2007).

The Economy

In order to create value in the global market environment, organizations are continually looking for the long-term competitive advantage (Lopez, 2007). Depending on the integration of core concepts such as management quality, environmental management, brand reputation, customer loyalty, corporate ethics, and talent retention, an organization may or may not be deemed successful (Lopez, 2007). A push by society in recent years has been for organizations to implement policies that will maintain sustainable development (Lopez, 2007). The macroeconomic stake also affects the financial behaviors that an organization discloses (Holder-Webb & Cohen, 2007). Depending on whether an organization has good investment prospects or not, an organization may choose to file bankruptcy with the economy as the primary reason (Holder-Webb & Cohen, 2007). An organization will use different aspects of income smoothing disclosure practices based on whether there is bull or bear market (Holder-Webb & Cohen, 2007). Researchers now understand that the market economy is a powerful means of organizing society and creating value (Freeman et al, 2007). The investor is viewed as the primary growth developer for the economy therefore, any obstacles to the investor are also viewed as obstacles to wealth creation (Freeman et al, 2007). An entrepreneur usually is the propeller to the demise of a current market in order to introduce the new market that buoys the upcoming trends (Freeman et al, 2007). Competition is necessary to future economic stability. It aids in value creation, prevents an oversaturated market as well as the depletion of resources, and resolves competitor demands and threats (Freeman et al, 2007).

Geographical Location

The language, culture, and location of an organization are key factors to the long-term sustainability of an organization (Cumming & Johan, 2007). An individual’s cultural membership is the basis for the identity and capabilities that an individual portrays (Westerman et al, 2007). The choices an individual makes are based on the cultural membership established. These choices usually affect the economics of the area in which all aspects of the individual’s life are contained (Westerman et al, 2007). Based on this information, the leaders of an organization should be aware of the demographics of the neighborhood so to attract the potential customers.

The Environment

One example of environmental effects on an organization is a historical meteorological and oceanographic event called El Nino Southern Oscillation, or El Nino (Laosuthi & Selover, 2007). El Nino is believed to be responsible for the 10 to 20 percent change in the gross domestic product growth as well as the global consumer price inflation (Laosuthi, & Selover, 2007). The effects of El Nino on the United States are generally indicated by increased rainfall in the South along with flooding on the West Coast, warmer climates in the Northeast, a decrease in tornadic occurrences in the Midwest, and decreased hurricane development on the East coast (Laosuthi & Selover, 2007). Lasting 12 to 18 months and described as the warm phase, El Nino has a counteractive second phase that lasts the same amount of time and is usually believed to be the cold phase called La Nina (Laosuthi & Selover, 2007). The potential impact on the economy by these changes in weather patterns is substantial to the agricultural, fishing, and construction industries (Laosuthi & Selover, 2007). A second example of an environmental event that had a devastating impact on the economy and a geographical location happened in August 2005. When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of the United States, the region was crippled by the devastation. The heartbeat of Louisiana, New Orleans, was flooded for multiple weeks ending years of business development and impacted the law of supply and demand. The petro-chemical industry in particular was disabled due to a large refinery in Gulfport, Mississippi having been destroyed. The industry’s offshore oil rigs as well as some corporate offices sustained substantial damage leaving parts of the organizations as inoperable for many months.


Ideal values are attained by society based on aspects of consumer activity. Organizational success is measured by the industry as well as marketability. These areas as well as the internal infrastructure must be maintained. Attracting and retaining customers should remain the organization’s primary focus, however the organization must also look to the factors that allow the customers to spend. If any of the additional factors of buoyancy are out of balance, the entire organizational buoyancy is affected. The primary political parties in the United States have polar opposite agendas yet economic functionality is impacted by the party in power. Based on the agenda of the party, the types of laws passed can be either beneficial or devastating to the organization. Financial conservation is determined by the customer based on the strength of the market.


  1. Charron, Donna Card. Stockholders and Stakeholders: The Battle for Control of the Corporation. Cato Journal , Vol. 27, No. 1. Winter 2007. Retrieved from EBSCO Host on October 12, 2007.

  2. Cumming, Douglas and Sofia Johan. Socially Responsible Institutional Investment in Private Equity. Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 75 pp 395-416. 2007. Retrieved from EBSCO Host on October 12, 2007.

  3. Freeman, R. Edward, Kirsten Martin, and Parmar Bidhan. Stakeholder Capitalism. Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 74 pp 303-314. 2007. Retrieved from EBSCO Host on October 12, 2007.

  4. Greenwood, Michelle. Stakeholder Engagement: Beyond the Myth of Corporate Responsibility. Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 74 pp 315-327. 2007.

  5. Retrieved from EBSCO Host on October 12, 2007.
    Holder-Webb, Lori, and Jaffrey R. Cohen. The Association between Disclosure, Distress, and Failure. Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 75 pp 301-314. 2007. Retrieved from EBSCO Host on October 12, 2007.

  6. Knox, Simon, and Colin Gruar. The Application of Stakeholder Theory to Relationship Marketing Strategy Development in a Non-profit Organization. Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 75 pp 115-135. 2007. Retrieved from EBSCO Host on October 12, 2007.

  7. Laosuthi, Thanarak, and David D. Selover. Does El Nino Affect Business Cycles?. Eastern Economic Journal, Vol. 33, No. 1. Winter 2007. Retrieved from EBSCO Host on October 12, 2007.

  8. Lopez, M. Victoria, Arminda Garcia, and Lazaro Rodriguez. Sustainable Development and Corporate Performance: A Study Based on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 75 pp 285-300. 2007. Retrieved from EBSCO Host on October 12, 2007.

  9. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved from http:  on October 12, 2007.

  10. Westerman, James W., Rafik I. Beekun, Yvonne Stedham, and Jeanne Yamamura. Peers Versus National Culture: An Analysis of Antecedents to Ethical Decision-making. Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 75 pp 239-252. 2007. Retrieved from EBSCO Host on October 12, 2007.


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