Posted on Friday, December 5, 2008
The window is open for the One Laptop Per Child “Give 1, Get 1” program. It’s a chance to buy an XO laptop, a revolutionary educational computer designed and built from the ground up for children while, at the same time, donating another XO that will be given to a child in a developing country. Last year’s program resulted in more than 100,000 XO laptops being distributed to children in developing countries, including Haiti and Rwanda. Get it for your child (or the child within you) and, perhaps, change the life of another.
Posted on Thursday, December 4, 2008
Sometimes, what we see as our being decisive can, in fact, shut down important discussion. That’s what we take away from “Arrogant, Abusive and Disruptive — and a Doctor,” a New York Times article by Laurie Tarkan about how domineering doctors shield themselves from information that challenges their diagnoses and, in the process, can make life-threatening errors. While doctors certainly believe in the Hippocratic oath, their unwillingness to encourage dissent is a major problem.
Posted on Wednesday, December 3, 2008
We’re impressed with the thinking behind President-elect Obama’s national security team nominations, which include his former rival Sen. Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and the current Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, who will stay in that role. This is how the President-elect explained his decisions in a Q&A:
Posted on Tuesday, December 2, 2008
“When You Shouldn’t Go Global,” by Marcus Alexander and Harry Korine, in the December 2008 issue of Harvard Business Review, does precisely the kind of analysis that companies should be doing continually as they evaluate whether to pursue a strategy. In evaluating whether it makes sense for a company to expand globally, the authors don’t just look at success stories–which is what strategists typically do as they search for companies to emulate. The authors dig up examples of companies that went global and flopped. They then suggest pitfalls to avoid.
Trying to avoid failure may not sound as glamorous as aspiring to great success, but, then, having your career derailed because of a catastrophe isn’t so glamorous, either.
Posted on Monday, November 24, 2008
While many executive teams work hard to build teamwork, the excellent article about Citigroup in the New York Times over the weekend shows that getting along isn’t always such a great idea. The piece demonstrates the need to foster disagreement, even when that disagreement is painful and may cut into short-term results (and bonuses).
The piece says that the person who was in charge of evaluating the risks being assumed by two major parts of Citigroup was good friends with the two executives who ran those groups, to the point that he’d often wait outside the office for 45 minutes so they could drive home together. Not surprisingly, the risk executive seldom said no to his friends, who proceeded to put Citigroup into such a precarious position that this grand institution is having to plead for government help to avoid disappearing.
Posted on Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Microsoft’s announcement that it will offer 0% financing on many software purchases of as much as $1 million is the sort of creative approach that healthy companies can take to win market share during the economic crisis.
Flush with cash, Microsoft can afford to offer financing at a time when other sources of credit have just about dried up for many businesses. In fact, the financing will cost Microsoft little. Once Microsoft has paid the huge costs for developing software, producing additional copies costs almost nothing, so even if the vast majority of customers defaulted on their 0% financing Microsoft would still come out ahead.
Posted on Monday, November 17, 2008
When Bank of America announced its deal to acquire Merrill Lynch in mid-September, we noted in this space that we were skeptical. Based on the research for our book, we thought Bank of America was making a classic mistake: focusing so much on the benefits of an acquisition that it glossed over the potential problems. Merrill seemed to be fraught with potential problems–and they are now coming into painfully clear focus
Posted on Tuesday, October 21, 2008
We are exceptionally sympathetic to the plight of General Motors. In researching 2,500 business failures over the past 25 years for our recent book, “Billion-Dollar Lessons,” we rarely came across an industry that faced as many challenges as the auto industry—and that was before the spike in gasoline prices turned car buyers away from GM’s profitable SUVs and the onset of current economic crisis dried up credit and forced potential customers to put their wallets away.
Given the onslaught from so many fronts, it’s hard to see what the right answer is for GM. It is, however, easier to identify wrong answers, and our research suggests strongly that acquiring Chrysler would be a disaster.
Posted on Saturday, October 18, 2008
We’ve just set up a “briefing materials” discussion thread there. It currently includes slides of a presentation recently given by Chunka to the Payments Strategy Forum and (for a time) a link to free reprints of our HBR article “Seven Ways to Fail Big,” which is drawn from our book. We’ll continue to add other materials over time. We hope that members will find these materials useful.
If you’ve not a member, click here to learn more. Membership is free.
Posted on Wednesday, October 15, 2008
While much of Mr. Buffett’s methods can’t be duplicated — genius is genius, after all — “The Snowball” usefully emphasizes a few core Buffett imperatives: taking a close look at an investment’s intrinsic value, making a brutal evaluation of its risks, and calculating a margin of safety. The book also underscores the importance of learning from failures. The Buffett-Munger approach is to “invert, always invert. Turn a situation or problem upside down. Look at it backward. What’s in it for the other guy? What happens if all our plans go wrong? Where don’t we want to go, and how do you get there? Instead of looking for success, make a list of how to fail instead.”
Here’s the link to the full article.