Posted on Sunday, August 1, 2010
We touched a nerve recently with an op-ed in the Washington Post, if the 131 online comments, a letter to the editor, and numerous direct responses are any indication. The piece argued that the U.S. Postal Service needs to change its strategy radically if it is to avoid the fates of other icons such as Kodak and General Motors. Some agreed wholeheartedly. Some called us clueless. While we won’t spend much time defending ourselves, there a few points that we’ll make, given the liberty of these additional column inches.
Posted on Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Boeing is doing a smart thing by bringing back distinguished, retired engineers to render a second opinion on its plans. (See WSJ, Seattle Times, Seattle PI) Because of the dynamics of how design is done, it’s unlikely that anyone employed full-time at Boeing, with a career path to pursue, would say the bosses were smoking dope, as one of the retirees did. And, yet, sometimes people are smoking dope (metaphorically) when thinking about design. We certainly found that to be the case when organizations were setting strategy, in the research project we did for our book. Who can forget the huge cement company that started selling lawnmowers, based on the hazy notion that cement is used in homes and homes have lawns, so the cement company should sell mowers? (The company, Blue Circle Cement, soon filed for bankruptcy and was sold to a rival.)
Posted on Monday, July 12, 2010
The New York Times documents the numerous times that British Petroleum had problems with its deep-sea drilling program, yet failed to heed the warnings and proceed more cautiously. The tone of the article is one of shock. But, sad to say, we’re not at all surprised. What BP did is, too often, business as usual.
As we documented in our book and have said many times in this blog, it’s hard to be the guy saying no. If you’re the safety guy at BP, you’re the one who’s raising costs by insisting on safeguards. You’re the one who may kill a project entirely. So, you’re the one who’s taking down everyone’s bonus, at least in the short run.
Posted on Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Some recent consulting work led us to investigate the impact that social media like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn will have on the worlds of investing, investor relations and corporate governance. We found a surprising number of misconceptions–but also a huge amount of opportunity.
While we can’t give away all the secrets, we do have clearance to provide a public version of our work. Read the report below, or download a PDF of it: Social Media and Investing–Misconceptions and Opportunities–6-2010. (Although we tuned the report for investing and those dealing with investors, some of the insights also apply to social media in other sectors. If you’re interested in exploring the implications for those sectors–or investing, of course–let us know.)
Posted on Thursday, July 1, 2010
While marksmen use laser sights to line up their targets, eBay is using Red Laser. That is the name of a popular smartphone application that eBay recently purchased . Red Laser was already going to cause enough disruption for retailers with a physical presence but, with eBay behind it, it could be a game changer.
Red Laser is based on an elegantly simple idea: It uses the camera in smartphones to scan the UPC barcode on a product. Next comes the hard part: Red Laser queries Amazon and other online retailers for the price of the product. It also uses Google product search to find stores nearby where the product is also available, and at what price. The user sees none of the complexity. He just knows that, within a few seconds, he gets a list on his phone of alternative sources and their prices.
Posted on Thursday, July 1, 2010
While technology is providing loads of exciting ways for businesses to know more about customers and how they act, it’s important to never lose sight of how leery people are about giving up privacy. Companies need to examine all the potential pitfalls related to privacy and must be prepared to change course quickly–even if they feel customers are being irrational and overreacting.
A fascinating recent blog post by David Thompson, co-author of “Wild West 2.0: How to Protect and Restore Your Reputation on the Untamed Social Frontier,” explores how seemingly innocuous advances in technology can add up to major changes in privacy.
Posted on Monday, June 21, 2010
Reports are that AOL, having bought social-networking company Bebo for $850 million two years ago, has agreed to sell it for $10 million. Oops.
While we didn’t write anything at the time of the purchase–we were in the throes of finishing the writing of “Billion-Dollar Lessons”–we’ll go ahead and comment now because one of the main mistakes that AOL made seems like it’s being repeated by many others.
Posted on Saturday, June 12, 2010
Here is a link to the book review that Paul wrote earlier in the week for the Wall Street Journal about “Delivering Happiness,” the memor by the founder of Zappos.com that has spent the week among the Top Ten best-sellers at Amazon.
In addition to what’s in the WSJ review, which mostly lays out Tony Hsieh’s improbable journey from a failed venture selling earthworms to his fabulous success selling millions of pairs of shoes every year, there are a few things worth noting. The book is generally a quick, easy read. It is quirky, but enjoyably so. Hsieh does spend too much time exploring all the aspects of the Zappos culture, as though it’s right for everyone, when it clearly is not. He also falls into the trap that is common among memoirists, of quoting himself at full length. We don’t need every one of the words in his long memo announcing the acquisition of Zappos by Amazon last year; sure, some of it is funny, and those parts need to be quoted in full, but most of the rest could have been summarized with no loss. The book does contain some underdeveloped, but potentially very interesting, sections on how to apply lessons from poker to the business world and on how the “science of happiness” could inform relations with employees.
Posted on Friday, June 11, 2010
Acting with surprising swiftness, General Motors has repudiated the silly decision we wrote about yesterday, the one that would have officially done away with the nickname “Chevy” and required that employees refer to the division and its products by the formal name “Chevrolet.” Good for GM.
We don’t believe for a second that the memo reported in the New York Times was simply “poorly worded” or that the memo was just a “rough draft” and “a bit of fun,” as GM said.
Posted on Thursday, June 10, 2010
The New York Times reports the stunning news that General Motors has mandated that everyone associated with its Chevrolet division stop using the term “Chevy” and always say “Chevrolet.”
This should not just be the subject of a bit of fun, though the Times certainly does have a good time with the news. It notes all the places on GM sites that use the offending term, points out the famous racecar driver who will have to change his website to take “chevy” out of the name and even reminds us that Don McLean would have to amend “American Pie” so that he’d drive his Chevrolet to the levee to find that the levee was dry.
Beyond its sheer goofiness, the decision points to a problem that causes many companies to fail when they try to innovate: They can’t get out of their own heads and think like their customers.