2016 12

Brick and Mortar Retailers 2006 and Now

Amazon gained a lot more value then the big brick and mortar retailers list.  But would this still be the case if the value destruction at all the small retailers that Amazon put out of business were accounted for? Think of Cody’s bookstore in Berkeley.  Brick and Mortar

2015 03

Getting a better sense of just how small a nanometer is

I am doing a bit of research on history and prospects of nano technology. Since 2000 the US government has an a nano technology initiative to ensure that the country stays what people consider a radical new technology to create new materials and structures. The chips in our computers and smartphones are getting ever more powerful because engineers are able to use nano technology to pack ever more transistors onto a chip.  In addition to providing useful short history of nanotechnology, Nano.gov gives an useful illustration just how small is “nano”?

2014 06

Laptops are a big distraction in the class room

I am inconsistent. I some contexts I have banned computers and more importantly smartphone use in classrooms because it became apparent that large number of students were distracted by it. It others I have allowed it because I myself like to take notes on a laptop. Here is the evidence why at least internet connections need to be turned off in classrooms.

Over time, a wealth of studies on students’ use of computers in the classroom has accumulated [...]. Among the most famous is a landmark Cornell University study from 2003 called “The Laptop and the Lecture,” wherein half of a class was allowed unfettered access to their computers during a lecture while the other half was asked to keep their laptops closed. The experiment showed that, regardless of the kind or duration of the computer use, the disconnected students performed better on a post-lecture quiz. The message of the study aligns pretty well with the evidence that multitasking degrades task performance across the board.
Pop quizzes, of course, are not the best measure of learning, which is an iterative and reflective process. Recent Princeton University and University of California studies took this into account while investigating the differences between note-taking on a laptop and note-taking by hand. While more words were recorded, with more precision, by laptop typists, more ended up being less: regardless of whether a quiz on the material immediately followed the lecture or took place after a week, the pen-and-paper students performed better. The act of typing effectively turns the note-taker into a transcription zombie, while the imperfect recordings of the pencil-pusher reflect and excite a process of integration, creating more textured and effective modes of recall.

Read full story in New Yorker

2014 04

CEO of Large German Publisher speaks out: Why we fear Google

This if one of the most interesting open letter I have ever read by a CEO. Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Axel Springer, closes his open letter:

Dear Eric Schmidt, you do not need my advice, and of course I am writing here from the perspective of those concerned. As a profiteer from Google’s traffic. As a profiteer from Google’s automated marketing of advertising. And as a potential victim of Google’s data and market power. Nevertheless – less is sometimes more. And you can also win yourself to death.
Historically, monopolies have never survived in the long term. Either they have failed as a result of their complacency, which breeds its own success, or they have been weakened by competition – both unlikely scenarios in Google’s case. Or they have been restricted by political initiatives. IBM and Microsoft are the most recent examples.

Read full letter in FAZ: Why we fear Google

2014 03

What Employers value the most in MBA graduates

A recent survey of CEOs reveals what they are looking for in today’s MBA graduates:

Self-Awareness (62%)
Integrity (60%)
Cross-Cultural Competency (57%)
Team Skills (49%)
Critical Thinking (48%)
Communication (48%)
Comfort with Ambiguity and Uncertainty (41%)
Creativity (27%)
Execution (21%)
Sales (19%)

Source:  PoetsandQuants.com

SAP Founder, Hasso Platter, on the difficulty of changing a firm rather than starting a new one

Hasso Platter co-founded SAP. For the past two decades he has been involved in trying to adopt the SAP to area of internet and cheap clout computing.

When asked whether it is harder to set up a new company or to steer an existing company in a new direction, he does not hesitate with his reply.

“The bigger challenge, I’d say, is the latter one.”

To reinvent a successful company such as SAP is much more difficult. “You have to convince people that change has to come, and that is difficult,” he says, noting that it is easier to convince Americans about the future than people in Switzerland or Germany. “We are more conservative. We are a little bit afraid of the future. Americans are not afraid of the future.”

Source:  Financial Times

2014 02

The Three Rules: How Exceptional Companies Think

In their new book, The Three Rules: How Exceptional Companies Think, Michael E. Raynor and Mumtaz Ahmed carefully identified from all publicly listed American firms those firms that performed very highly over long periods of time. When they tried to find out what they had in common, they could not identify concrete behavior. What made the companies different, according to the authors, where their mindsets. This leads Raynor and Ahmed to articulate three rules for success.

  • Better before cheaper: Compete on differentiators other than price.

  • Revenue before cost: Drive superior profitability with higher prices or higher volumes, not lower cost.

  • There are no other rules: Change anything/everything in order to abide by the first two rules.

  • The Economist wrote a very thoughtful review about the entire genre of business books that tries to glean lessons from studying successful players.  I agree with their assessment that in the end,

    The difficult question is how to find that profitable niche and protect it. There, The Three Rules is less useful.

    2013 10

    Letters from China: “Breathtaking Beijing”

    In early June, I visited Beijing for the first time. The Chinese capital is breathtaking in every sense of the word. The city has gone through an amazing development and is more glitzy than many American and European large cities. It definitely feels more modern and dynamic than Philadelphia, whose neighborhoods I explored while living there for most of 2012.

    Guy Kawasaki on Lessons he Learned from Steve Jobs

    Lessons of Steve Jobs from Guy Kawasaki

    PM: Guy also shows how to put together a great simple slide presentation.

    2013 05

    Announcing a Special Feature: “Letters from China”

    During the first two weeks of June,  I will visit China for the first time. To share my impressions, I plan to write a few Letters from China.  Today I want to give you a bit background on the trip. For a long time, I wanted get out behind my desk and see China with my own eyes. This visit is long overdue given that I started to research the development of the Chinese synthetic dye industry five years ago.

    How to tell stories in graphical way

    With his books on how to present data in a graphical way, Edward Tufte has taught many of us to be more creative in how we try to communicate a story based on quantitative data. Here is a short video that explains the power of communicating complex data in a graphical way. Tufte appears in the video.

    David Gonski on Leadership

    Gonski is a towering figure of Australian life. But his ideas of leadership apply everywhere in the Western world. To appreciate a bit more Gonski’s words, read this profile on him.

    2013 04

    Daniel Kahneman: The riddle of experience vs. memory

    This is a very thought-provoking Ted talk on happiness and how we construct our judgement of happiness. TED summarizes: Using examples from vacations to colonoscopies, Nobel laureate and founder of behavioral economics Daniel Kahneman reveals how our “experiencing selves” and our “remembering selves” perceive happiness differently.

    2012 12

    Jeff Bezos on how to build organizations for innovation

    Here are Bezos thoughts on n how to build organizations for innovation:

    A willingness to fail and to be misunderstood “then what you can do is you can ramp up your rate of experimentation”. “So successful inventions [are] inventions that customers care about. It’s actually relatively easy to invent things that customers don’t care about, but successful invention, if you want to do a lot of that, you basically have to increase your rate of experimentation.

    “And that you can think of as a process: how do you go about organising your systems, your people, all of your assets, your own daily life and how you spend time, how do you organise those things to increase your rate of experimentation because not all of your experiments are going to work.”

    Bezos advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is “never chase the hot thing”. “That’s like trying to catch the wave, and you’ll never catch it. You need to position yourself and wait for the wave.”

    From CIO Magazine

    2012 11

    BBC Documentary on Facebook

    The Hollywood movies about Facebook gave us an outline of the history Zuckerberg and the firm he founded. While this BBC documentary retells some of the facts from the Hollywood film, it brings to light many other interesting features of the facebook phenomenon.

    10 Management insights courtesy of Carol Tice

    Carol Tice summarized the 10 lessons in recent management books.

    1. Instead of hiring people with fancy resumes, hire people who fit your culture and are teachable.
    2. Build a strong brand and don’t change it.
    3. Focus all your products on the consumer by studying and listening to customers and innovating accordingly.
    4. Appoint a DRI, or Directly Responsible Individual, for every task.
    5. Create a confrontational workplace culture where workers feel free to challenge others’ opinions.
    6. Have a system of secrecy that builds excitement and a sense of ownership—from launching projects in an outbuilding that flies a pirate flag to erecting walls around off-limits “lockdown rooms.”
    7. Create a recognition culture. Novak was once horrified to find a 30-year company executive who only heard how great people thought his contributions were a few weeks before his retirement. Now, Yum! managers all over the world give out unique recognition awards, from miniature Taj Mahal statues to rubber chickens.
    8. To lead people and achieve big goals, ask three questions: What’s the single biggest thing you can imagine that will grow your business or change your life? Who do you need to affect, influence or take with you to be successful? What prescriptions, habits or beliefs of this target audience do you need to build, change or reinforce to reach your goal?
    9. When you build strong relationships with your management team before you launch, it makes it easier to execute on your vision.
    10. Execution is more important than the idea.

    Full Story on entrepreneur.com.

    2012 06

    Different skills are crucial for managing corporations, non-for-profits and government organizations

    People who have had very successful careers in corporations frequently underestimate how much they have to change their style to be effective in academic and other non-for-profit sectors.  Here is a illumnating quote from Donna Shillalah who was quite effective in the government sector but found academia much more challenging.

    “Everybody thinks university presidents are hierarchical and top-down,” said Donna E. Shalala, president of the University of Miami, and a former president of the University of Wisconsin and secretary of health and human services. “But we are not corporate chieftains, and we cannot rule from the sky. We are more like tugboat captains, trying to get our ships aligned and pulling them in the right direction.”

    The great research universities, she said, have achieved their dominant position in the world through shared faculty governance, and leaving faculty both academic and research freedom.

    “It was a lot easier to run a cabinet department than the University of Wisconsin,” Ms. Shalala said. “There are a lot of different constituencies at a university, and the president cannot be successful without buy-in from all of them.”

    Souce: NY Times


    2012 05

    A Gravity Defying Idea

    2011 12

    Understanding Introverts

    I discovered a very useful article describing introverts. All managers, especially if they are extroverts can benefit from getting a deeper understanding of introverts.

    Caring for Your Introvert: The habits and needs of a little-understood group.
    Do you know someone who needs hours alone every day? Who loves quiet conversations about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but seems awkward in groups and maladroit at small talk? Who has to be dragged to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recuperate? Who growls or scowls or grunts or winces when accosted with pleasantries by people who are just trying to be nice? If so, do you tell this person he is “too serious,” or ask if he is okay? Regard him as aloof, arrogant, rude? Redouble your efforts to draw him out? If you answered yes to these questions, chances are that you have an introvert on your hands—and that you aren’t caring for him properly. Read more in the Atlantic.

    2011 11

    Flat World Knowledge Provides Textbooks for Free

    Do you need to learn a new subject but you want to do it on your own and not pay for it. Flat World Knowledge publishes free textbooks if you simply want to read them online and not print them. I found it useful to look up a textbook on project management. For a full category of free textbooks, go to flatworldknowledge.com.

    2011 05

    Burt Teplitzky on Using Humor in Sales Pitches

    THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: How do you go about incorporating humor into sales presentations?

    I use humor to reinforce a point in selling a product or service. My formula is punch them with the joke, stick them with the point and leave them with the benefit. When you take a joke and incorporate it into a conversation or a presentation, it carries a lot more power. It carries the power to change people’s minds, reinforce what they think or feel, and to sell something. That chosen joke is no longer just a joke. It becomes a gem, a humor gem.

    Speaking in front of an audience for fun and profit only requires one laugh every three to six minutes. This should be your goal. In a comedy club, you need to have at least three laughs per minute to get regular stage time.

    Remember, your audience wants humor and they fear that if they don’t laugh, you will stop using it. They don’t want to have to suffer through a dry presentation.

    Read full interview in the WSJ.

    PM: The general point being made here is that you need to figure out how to establish a relationship with the person you want to sell to. In the end, you need to provide them with reason to go with you rather than competitor. Everything else being equal, the reason might be that they like you more because it fun to be around you.


    2011 04

    Andy Penn’s Tips for Doing Business in Asia

    1. Be patient.
    2. Focus on building relationships.
    3. Get the right people and invest in them.
    4. Have a high level of cultural sensitivity and awareness.
    5. Diversify across Asian markets as the risks are higher.
    6. Build a regional model with a distinct platform that can handle all different tax and regulatory environments.

    Common Mistakes when Doing Business in Asia

    1. Barriers to entry are very high, so don’t overestimate how long it will take to reach objectives.
    2. Don’t underestimate the importance of relationships. Early discussions probably won’t focus on business but on areas such as family and interests.
    3. Don’t underestimate cultural differences and how they can lead to a situation of being exploited or causing exploitation.
    4. The rest of the world is not blind to the opportunities Asia represents. Competition is fierce and there is a higher risk of failure. Don’t go unprepared.

    From BRW, April 14- 20, 2011, pp. 30-31   Biographical Information on Andy Penn

    2010 08

    New Management Focus: Invest in Relationships!

    Designing an organization requires making a million decisions both large (e.g. picking a strategy) and small (e.g. picking out paper for the PC printer). It is easy to get lost in the trivial instead of focusing on getting the critical elements right. In my courses, I try to present ideas and frameworks that help identify what is important. At the recent Academy of Management Conference in Montreal I came across a phrase that was new to me. In my view,  it crystallizes what managers need to do to design an organization that is able to respond to all the unexpected events that invariably occur in the life of an organization:

    Invest in relationships!

    You Don’t Have to Pay Employees More Than the Competition to Keep Them Happy

    Returning to Chicago for the first time in three years, I went to two of my favorite restaurants. In one, Lulu’s, most of the waitresses and busboys I had seen three years ago were still there. In the other, I recognized no one except for the owner. So I asked the owner of Lulu’s if he was paying his people more.  He said: “No.” I asked him a second time. He still said:  “No.” Confirming the lesson that many management professors emphasize in the context of the Southwest airline example, you don’t have to pay people more than the competition to keep them happy. Lulu’s is a fun place and the interior design is attractive, providing employees non-monetary rewards. Evidently the owner is also not getting on the nerves of his staff.  Jokingly he says in front of one of his female employees: “I cannot even get rid of the people I would like to see go.” The lady—who must have been working there for at least 8 years—interjects: “I knew you were going to say this.” The general lesson (except perhaps for Wall Street before the crash) is: You don’t need to pay people more than the competition. But the total rewards of working for you have to be more than the total rewards of working for someone else. Otherwise people will leave.

    2010 07

    The Wrong Stuff Blog

    We seem to have a built-in tendency to want to learn from successful people and pay little attention to failures. We also have a hard time admitting mistakes. In fact, what dintinguihses mature and, dare I say, clever,  indivdiuals is precisely that they can admit mistakes and learn from them.  Kathryn Schulz, who is about to publish a book on the subject, has published on Slate a number of great interviews and reflections on being wrong. The one with Alan Dershowitz is particularly interesting. If you want to start with the most recent entry, start here: The Wrong Stuff

    2010 05

    CEO Q&A: Greg Bourke

    What is your number one tip for managing people?

    Be empathetic: When you understand the issues that constrain staff from doing their job you will usually identify bigger issues in the organization.

    Is there a lesson you have never forogotten?

    Progress is not perfection.

    From BRW, April 29-June 2, 2010, p. 12.

    2010 04

    CEO Q&A: Lincoln Crawely

    What has been your greatest regret in Business?

    That I didn’t really get to know and accept my strengths and weaknesses earlier.

    What is your number one tip for managing people?

    Fairness and balance, which must not be confused with compromise.

    From BRW, April 15-21, 2010, p. 10.

    2010 03

    Warren Buffet’s Symbolic Leadership

    Watch this great advertisement staffed by employees of Geico. Warren Buffet, whose companey fully owns Geico, participates in the ad to demonstrate that he is one the many co-workers. It is funny to see the 80-year-old billionaire impersonate Axl Rose.

    2009 12

    Apple did not forsee the success of the application store

    It is hard to forsee the future as the recent episode with Apple’s application store demonstrates.  The NY Times reports:

    The App Store’s success — as much a surprise to Apple as it has been to competitors — has given rise to a new digital ecosystem. Today, hundreds of software aspirants, from individuals tinkering in their bedrooms late at night to established companies looking for lucrative new revenue streams, are jumping into the App Store fray.

    When making a decision, managers often make the mistakes of only considering the potential upsides, but not the cost of downsides. Positive surprises don’t kill firms. It is the negative surprises that bring you down. 

    2009 11

    Benefits of the Knwoledge Economy

    Figure 1 from the ETH Strategy Report: Knowledge is the main engine of economic growth. A strong correlation can be observed between the Knowledge Economy Index (KEI) and GDP per capita. The KEI is calculated by the World Bank and is based on the four pillars of the Knowledge Economy framework: 1. An economic and institutional regime to provide incentives for the efficient use of existing and new knowledge and the flourishing of entrepreneurship; 2. An
    educated and skilled population to create, share, and use knowledge well. Click on More to see a powerful picture.

    2009 10

    The Economist on Annoying Bussiness Guru and the Problems with MBA Curricula

    The Economist has a wonderful new column called Schumpeter. The October 22 issue revists the shortcomings of management gurus that I highlight in my classes. The Sepember 24 column encourages business schools to teach people to be more sceptical. 

    The three habits…of highly irritating management gurus

    Business schools have done too little to reform themselves in the light of the credit crunch


    2009 08

    Phil Tetlock Critically Reviews Three Books on Forecasting the Future

    Telock does us the service of giving a close reading of three books that what to overcome the obstacle that Yogi Berra identified in his qib: “Prediction is very hard, especially about the future.”

    The Fat Tail: The Power of Political Knowledge for Strategic Investing by Ian Bremmer and Preston Keat.

    The Predictioneer’s Game: Using the Logic of Brazen Self-Interest to See and Shape the Future by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

    The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century by George Friedman

    Read Telock’s excellent review at National Interest.

    Debate: Do Women Make Better Managers

    The jury is still out. But read this interesting exchange on NYTimes.com. Rember that just because on average women may be different than men, this does not mean that it is true for the person in front of you.

    Susan Pinker: Whether we’re talking about mentoring, managing or office politics, the research is clear: “Men and women together are the best.”

    Sharon Meers: Women often take an alternative approach to leading teams — encouraging more open discussion, cultivating talent and sharing credit. Feedback is the place where women bosses may add the most value.

    2009 06

    Three Books on the Origins of the Financial Crisis and its Lessons

    John Lanchester reviews three books on the origins of the financial crisis and its lessons in the New Yorker.  Two of them are useful for the general reader.

    Gillian Tett, “Fool’s Gold” (Free Press)

    Richard A. Posner, “A Failure of Capitalism” (Harvard)

    I personally personally found Fools Gold the most rewarding of all the books and a higly recommend it to anyone who works in the finance industy or simply wants to understand what caused the recent financial crisis.

    Read full review here.

    2009 04

    CEO Q&A: Bernie Brooks

    Chief executive, Meyer (Australia)

    What is your number-one tip for managing people?

    You never get in trouble for over-communicating with them.

    What is your number-one tip for managing a business?

    Give the team more responsibility than they expect and measure everything in the business that can be measured.

    A lesson you have never forgotten?

    How the mighty have fallen. Some six of the top 10 retailers in 1987 don’t exist today and that is a sign that you can never be complacent in retailing.

    Excerpted from BRW, Vol. 31, No. 12, FYI.

    2008 11

    Radical Rethinking of Cash Management

    The Economist summarizes the profound implications of the financial crisis for the management of cash in firms.

    SELDOM has corporate strategy been turned on its head so quickly. Barely a year ago, cash was a dangerous thing to accumulate: activist investors stalked companies, urging boards to return it to investors, to pay special dividends or to buy back shares. Ever since the 1980s the fashion had been to make companies as lean as possible, outsourcing all but your core competencies, expanding your just-in-time supplier system around the globe, loading up with debt to “leverage” your balance-sheet. Old-style defensive conglomerates, such as Arnold Weinstock’s General Electric Company, were dismantled. Companies that hoarded cash—even ones as good as Toyota and Microsoft—were viewed with suspicion.

    THE RECKONING: As Credit Crisis Spiraled, Alarm Led to Action

    Background:The NY Times reports on the what triggered Paulson and Bernacke to seek an immediate 700 billion fund to prevent the American markets from collapsing. Read full story on NYTimes.com.

    2008 09

    Risk will always equal potential reward

    Greed, as it periodically does when traders and bankers forget the lessons of the past, clouded judgments. Some very smart people talked themselves into believing in the repeal of one of the fundamental laws of economics: risk will always equal potential reward. The idea that risk can be eliminated and high yields guaranteed is as idiotic as the idea that gravity can be suspended. Remember Long-Term Capital Management? Ten years ago it figured out how to eliminate risk using highly sophisticated computer programs and rolled up annual returns averaging 40 percent — until it collapsed in a heap.

    Read more by John Steele Gordon on the Financial Mess: Greed, Stupidity, Delusion — and Some More Greed here.

    The F.A.Q.?s of Lehman and A.I.G.

    Doug Diamond and Anil Kashyap of the University of Chicago explain the recent financial crisis.

    For most of the last 20 years we have been studying banks, monetary policy, and financial crises. So for us the events of the last year have been especially fascinating.The last 10 days have been the most remarkable period of government intervention into the financial system since the Great Depression. In talking with reporters and our noneconomist friends, we have been besieged with questions about several aspects of these events. Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions with our best answers.
    Read more on NYTimes.com

    Management Wisdom Courtesy of Jeff Pfefer

    Jeff Pfeffer has spent the past twenty years figuring out what management ideas have some systematic data behind them and what ideas are make for a good story but are simply wrong. Guy Kawasaki (who wrote a fantastic little book on entreprepreurship, The Art of the Start, which I am using in one of my classes) has sat down with Pfeffer and asked him questions on his book What were they thinking?. Read the interview.

    2008 05

    Taming Your Inner Homer Simpson

    My Kellogg students will remember that I asked them to rate their intelligence vis-a-vis the average member of the class. I routinely had 75 percent of all student who rate themselves above average. That is 25% too many. A colleague of mine warned me that 90% academics feel undervalued by their institution. But until now I read Dahlia Lithwick review of Richard Thaler’s and new book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness I did not know that 94 percent of professors at large universities to believe themselves better than the “average professor.” Read Lithwick excellent review of the book.

    The Latest Reasoning about our Irrational Ways

    Elizabeth Kolbert reviews in the New Yorker the latest on findings on how people behave in irrational ways when making economic decisions.  Read her Reviews of two new books.
    “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions” (Harper; $25.95); by Ariely, Dan;
    “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness” (Yale; $25); by Thaler, Richard H.

    2008 03

    Irrational fear: No good at risk

    The Economists reviews of “Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear” by Dan Gardner
    THE official death toll from the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001 was 2,974. But in 2002 America’s death toll on the roads grew by more than 1,500—casualties of the terrorism-inspired exodus from safe aeroplanes to dangerous motor cars. A swan washes up on a British shore, dead from bird flu, and the press panics, while the 3,000 people who die every year on the country’s roads (13 times the number of people who have ever died from bird flu) go largely unremarked. Human beings are notoriously bad at dealing with risk. Two new books explore why, and investigate the effects that misunderstanding risks can have on public policy. The first, an excellent work by a Canadian writer, Dan Gardner, is a broad meditation on the nature of risk, beginning with a psychological explanation for why people find it so difficult to cope. Mr Gardner analyses everything from the media’s predilection for irrational scare stories to the cynical use of fear by politicians pushing a particular agenda.

    2007 07

    What CEOs are Reading

    The common perception is that CEOs are reading the latest popular management books to help them with their difficult job. An article in the New York Times suggests otherwise. I am not sure if the CEOs that Harriet Rubin portrays in here article are representative of all CEOs and I think the title of the article “C.E.O. Libraries Reveal Keys to Success” is an overstatement, but any manager should read what she has to say. 

    Harriet Rubin: Michael Moritz, the venture capitalist who built a personal $1.5 billion fortune discovering the likes of Google, YouTube, Yahoo and PayPal, and taking them public, may seem preternaturally in tune with new media. But it is the imprint of old media — books by the thousands sprawling through his Bay Area house — that occupies his mind. “My wife calls me the Imelda Marcos of books,” Mr. Moritz said in an interview. “As soon as a book enters our home it is guaranteed a permanent place in our lives. Because I have never been able to part with even one, they have gradually accumulated like sediment.” Serious leaders who are serious readers build personal libraries dedicated to how to think, not how to compete. Ken Lopez, a bookseller in Hadley, Mass., says it is impossible to put together a serious library on almost any subject for less than several hundred thousand dollars. Perhaps that is why — more than their sex lives or bank accounts — chief executives keep their libraries private.

    2006 11

    The Global Climate Crisis

    The website for An Inconvenient Truth provides the basics facts about the science of climate change.  Watch the trailer for film.

    Give the DVD to your friends this holiday season.

    Commissioned by the British government, the economist Stern published on October 30th his study evaluating the economic consequences of global warming. He writes: “The scientific evidence is now overwhelming: climate change presents very serious global risks, and it demands an urgent global response (p. i) ...There is still time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change if strong collective action starts now.” (p. xxvii) You can download a summary of his review here. If you don’t have time to read the 27 page summary of the 600 page report, here is a short review of its conclusions in the New Yorker.

    2006 07

    Reflections On “The Long Tail” - Give me Good Data!

    A few days ago, I came across a very positive review of The Long Tail, a new book by Wired Maganize writer Chris Anderson. The book’s main thesis is that “the future of commerce and culture isn’t in hits, the high-volume head of a traditional demand curve, but in what used to be regarded as misses - the endlessly long tail of that same curve.” The books purports to show that the 80/20 rule (most sales derive from a few products) does not apply any more with internet retailing because internet retaling can stock many more items. This morning Lee Gomez in his Wall Street Journal column trashed Anderson’s analysis, claiming that Anderson’s data was flawed. (You can read the Gomez colum “Long Tail’ May Not Wag the Web Just Yet”  on WSJ.com or through your library’s article database.) Anderson in turn claims that Gomez did not get the data right and wrote a facinating rebutall on his website. What this exchange underlines is that getting good data and working meticulously to draw the correct conclusion often is worth a “fortune” for managers. More broadly, before you adopt a new fashionable business idea, ask yourself what data supports that the idea in fact is going to work. With more data you might have realized that the idea hurts as often as it helps.

    2005 09

    Even the Best Cannot Predict the Future

    It is very useful to recognize that the social world is too complex to predict well what will succeed and what will fail. Those who think they know with great certainty what will succeed run the danger of overinvesting in their pet scenarios. What is the lesson? Just like with stocks, we should always have a portfolio of beliefs about the future, reducing the risk of getting stuck with the wrong scenarios.

    Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance: Inside IBM’s Historic Turnaround

    In the early 1990s, IBM was in danger of going bankrupt. Loius Gerstner was called in to turn the company around.  Anyone who is trying to change a formerly successful orgazation will benefit from reading Gerstner’s thoughts on change management. Beware: the book starts out slow, turning off many readers. But after the first 20 pages, Gerstner’s training as an organizational consultant provides him the analytic language to lay out what are the key challenges in changing large organizations. Because he was an outsider at IBM, he has no reservations to analyze how IBM got itself into a near death experience.  I highly recommend this book.

    2005 07

    The Freedom Tower Case: Why is group decision making not better individual decisions

    Individual human beings have limited skills, knowledge,  and expertise can get carried away by emotions when making decisions. One would think that involving multiple people in a decision could overcome the limitations of individual decision making but social psycholgoists have long known that groups have their own limitations. The New York Times published a pertinent article on how a comittee came up with the redesigned Freedom Tower that architectual critics find dissappointing given the grandeur of the originial proposal.

    2005 04

    Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy

    Rarely have I seen such a powerful documentary about how ideas shape the world. The film traces the ideas that shaped macro-economic policy making over the course of the 20th century. The film will be eye-opening for people who know very little how economic policy powerfully effects the welfare of societies all over the world. Even if you are a scholar familiar with the history of the 20 century, you will enjoy this fantastic piece of work. One word of clarification. Sophisticated scholars who believe in “free” markets believe in a need for laws. (The film originally aired on PBS and is now available on DVD.)

    2005 01

    What Companies do to Make Life Easier for Their Employees

    The WSJ in today’s report on leadership published an interesting article on what kind of perks companies provide to boost the morale of people and to make work life easier. “Fun perks didn’t end with the dot-com bust. They just changed,” reports Jennifer Saranow.

    Read the full article on WSJ.com.

    Four More Years of Happiness

    Harvard pychology professor Daniel Gilbert predicts that most democrats will not be depressed during the next four years of George Bush. Here is the rationale that he offers in today’s New York Times: Research suggests that human beings have a remarkable ability to manufacture happiness. For example, when people in experiments are randomly awarded one of two equally valuable prizes, they quickly come to believe that the prize they won was more valuable than the prize they lost. They are often so surprised by their apparent good fortune that they refuse to believe the prize was awarded randomly, and they are generally unwilling to swap their prizes even when the experimenter offers to sweeten the deal with a little extra cash.

    Malcom Gladwell’s Book “Blink” is out!

    In my introductory management class I discuss the how cognitive heuristics (rules of thump) help us navigate our complex daily lives and make decisions before it is too late. Malcom Glawell new book describes this quick decision-making capability with many examples. I will review the book during the next couple of months, but in the meantime you can read excerpts from the book on Gladwell’s website.  David Brooks has written a very thoughtful review of the book in the New York Times that you can read here.

    Gladwell and Surowiecki Debate How Good Decisions are made

    Galdwell and Surowiecki have a new books coming out concerned with good decision making. I am presently reading Surowieki’s The Wisdom of Crowds and have Blink on my reading list. You can read a debate they both had about their books in Slate

    2004 12

    Experience Gestalt Pictures

    My former student John Tsau forwarded me some other examples of pictures that can be seen in different ways. What we can see is to a large extent conditioned what we expect to see in the world in the first place…

    2004 11

    The Tipping Point

    Defining that precise moment when a trend becomes a trend, Malcolm Gladwell probes the surface of everyday occurrences to reveal some surprising dynamics behind explosive social changes. He examines the power of word-of-mouth and explores how very small changes can directly affect popularity. Perceptive and imaginative, The Tipping Point is a groundbreaking book destined to overturn conventional thinking in business, sociological, and policy-making arenas.

    Overall judgement: This is a superb book and should be read by every student of the social world.