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

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, gives an useful illustration just how small is “nano”?

Nano Scale


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

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

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%)


Superb Video Illustration of Changes to USA Budget in the past 50 Years

American Budget

Click on “More” to play the video animation.


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

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.

    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.


    As a teenager in the early 1980s, I visited a number of communist countries: East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia. So I find it easy to imagine what Beijing would have looked like before 1978. In mere 30 years, a run-down and crumbling place was transformed into a modern city, which is far better developed than any city I have seen during my visits to formerly communist Ukraine in 2004 and 2009. Also in relation to Rio De Janeiro, Beijing seems newer, and lot cleaner especially compared to the outskirts of Rio.



    Guy Kawasaki on Lessons he Learned from Steve Jobs

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

    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.

    The goal of my visit is to get a deeper understanding of what the future of China will likely look like. More specifically, I want to become more knowledgeable about whether China will become the world leader in high-tech industries and if so how. For this reason, I want to build connections with people in China who are participating in or following these developments.  Until now I have been relying on Hong Jiang to be my eyes in China. I recruited her from China to write her doctoral thesis under my supervision. Together we published an article entitled Regional institutions, ownership transformation, and migration of industrial leadership in China, showing how the leading centers of synthetic dye production industry shifted twice in the period from 1978 to 2008 because of differences in the institutional composition of regions within China. Hong is currently back in the field trying to find more evidence on how personal networks allowed entrepreneurs to access crucial knowledge from established firms. Our particular challenge is to find knowledgeable people from companies that went out of business so we can establish with more certainty that they lacked the personal contacts that allowed their rivals to be more successful.

    It is important to realize that synthetic dye technology was developed in the West decades ago and has become stagnant.  This is why Chinese firms could become the largest producers in the world by simply imitating product innovations made abroad. Now, I am looking for one or more industries where Chinese firms are not simply copying innovations made abroad but where they are at the frontier of global knowledge. If you think you know such an industry, please contact me. After my trip to China, I hope to have a better sense of the kind of high-tech industries in which China may be pushing the global knowledge frontier.

    To avoid false expectations, let me emphasize that I am not writing my Letters from China as a “China expert.” I am very well versed in Western social theory and, more specifically, evolutionary theory in the social sciences: As an evolutionist, I have strong theoretical commitment that success is built on a mountain of failures. Or, to put it more simply: China cannot become the leader in a sector without trying out many things and figuring out what works through experience. (I lay out this perspective in non-technical terms in Scaffolding in Economics, Management, and the Design of Technologies). But I have modest credentials regarding the “facts on ground” in China.  Aside from what Hong Jiang taught me, I can trace most of my knowledge about China to three books that I found particularly useful.


    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.

    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.

    One of the interesting facts that he reports based on a Gallup survey of Americans is this:  People who make more than $60,000 do not experience more happiness as they make more money. Above this threshold, money does not make you happy. Below this threshold ever dollar less will make decrease your experience of happiness. This leads Kahneman to remark:  “Money does not buy happiness. But lack of money causes misery.”

    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

    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

    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


    A Gravity Defying Idea

    Daniel Pink: What really motivates us

    Page 1 of 4 pages  1 2 3 >  Last ›