Monday, August 30, 2004

Discontinuity creates opportunity

Most people fear discontinuity brought on by technology, legislation or competition. However, for many it provides great opportunity. It tends to be the biggest threat to dominating organizations, whether Ma Bell or Union Pacific Railroads, but to new organizations such as Charles Schwab or SouthWest Airlines, it can provide huge opportunity. As individuals also, it is threatening for those who are rigid in their thinking and do not continue to learn new skills. However, for many, not all young, it is a tremendous and exciting way to change ones position, job or even career path. The same applies to personal change too. Whether this is marrriage, divorce or relocation, the more open-minded will find opportunity in it.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

You need some distance to see things clearly

The biggest challenge for those who are trying to take a clear and objective look at our society, markets, politics and beliefs, is that we participate in them. As a result we observe it through a tinted pair of glasses. We are more likely to have clear vision if we have seen and participated in other societies. This is the principel behind anthroplogy - that an outsider can be a more accurate observer than a participant. Yet we continue to believe that we can interpret the society in which we live to others and ourselves. We need to understand that even a brief period of time spent in another country provides greater clarity, and living elsewhere for a while is the most useful thing we can do to appreciate and understand the culture where our roots lie.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

The social cost of inconsistent laws and regulations

When we see laws and regulations vary by geography, that teaches us that they are arbitrary and not necessarily based on facts or logic. When in one state, driving laws are different from the next, we learn that perhaps neither are correct. When regulators establish one set of rules for utilities in one state than in an other, we see that these too are arbitrary. For many people who see multiple laws and rules as based on whim or lobbying, they conclude that perhaps others are as well. In the end, this weakens respect for law and encourages people in their professional and personal lives, to skirt or break the law.
Unfortunately, most of the law-makers have not had the experience of living in multiple places and seen the absurdity of it all, and even less likely that enforcement officials have.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

How the more Walmart is attacked, the more successful it is

Increasingly, communities are fighting Walmart, or at least the people who run the communities do. Furthermore, the press, unions and others attack the company for paying too little, providing low benefits and treating employees badly. Yet customers continue to flock to Walmart. I believe that the more Walmart is attacked on these grounds the more consumers believe that it has the lowest prices. Consumers are not altruistic, if they see Walmart skimping pennies, they take it to mean that costs and therefore, prices, are low. The more Walmart is attacked, the stronger its brand positioning becomes.
Perhaps if unions and communities want to be successful in attacking it they need to point out ways in which Walmart does not provide value!

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Do we have to be victims?

As I scan the headlines, I see so many events in which the participants have not taken control over their environment. The headlines in the New York Times refer to the aftermath of a hurricane in Florida, the breakdown of truce talks in Iraq, and the destruction if children's lives in the Sudan. The essential randomness of these events is guaranteed to increase the feelings of insecurity so many people have. In turn, this paralyzes our ability to take the leadership role and shape our own destiny. It is critical that we all, move beyond these feelings and act to change our environment.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

How the airline industry has got into trouble

It has been said that since its inception the airline industry has not, in aggregate, made money. We hear that "hub and spoke" systems are the answer, then we are told that "point to point" is the solution. As a student of airlines, both as an advisor and a frequent traveller, it seems that there is one other key difference between the traditional carriers and the new, low cost carriers in addition to investment or cost structure. The older carriers treat the work-force as primarily a cost, to be cajoled, browbeaten and suffered. The newer carriers regard the work force as a marketing tool which can create or destroy customer satisfaction and loyalty. The ex-CEO of Scandinavian Airlines, Jan Carlson, who coined the phrase "moments of truth" to describe the times when a member of the work force was face to face with a customer. Yet, the airline industry has never internalized this fully.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Change is inevitable

For most people change is uncomfortable. We belive that if things chance we will somehow lose by it. Yet if we look back we see that change is inevitable and by welcoming it, we can prosper. When whale-hunting was clearly starting to drive their numbers down in the 19th century, it actually provided opportnities for many. Oil companies were formed to replace whale oil lamps with kerosene lamps, whalebone stays were replaced by stays made from processes turkey feathers. Fortunately for the whales, this made need for whale hunting obsolete. Yet just as this made the skills of so many people obsolete, we complain when we see skills of today made obsolete. Hard as it is, change is inevitable, and we can either reisist it and fail, or welcome it and put ourselves in the vanguard. Every change allows people and institutions that were not in the forefront to become movers and shakers. Not only Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, who helped to invent the future, but so many who are unsung, took control of change.