Thursday, August 31, 2006

You cannot order people to be curious or open-minded

Among the characteristics which we say we value most are curiosity and open-mindedness. Yet so many people have that shut down as they grow up. Children who ask many questions are told to shut up and do as they are told. Parents and teachers show unshakeable beliefs in many things. Society tends to respect people who will not consider alternative viewpoints. Changing one's mind is considered a sign of weakness. Young people not only often have poor role models, but are intentionally limited in their thinking by adults.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Company turnarounds are not only financially driven

There is a growing turnaround industry. The Turnaround Management Association has grown in 15 years to over 6,000 members. Yet, so much of the industry looks like its predecessors, the liquidation and bankruptcy industries. While in many cases, use of Chapter 11 gives companies much needed breathing space, it may not be enough. This is particularly true outside the US, where bankruptcy laws look more like Chapter 7, and there is less room to manoevre in bankruptcy.

Companies in trouble, such as Quantum, whose shareholders just administered a stinging rebuke to management and the Board, need to have a two-pronged approach. This addresses financial issues such as debt, expenses, etc., but also customer loyalty, pricing, and market share. All too often, companies in trouble simply hunker down.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Afraid of Michael Moore

"Sick" is the name of Michael Moore's upcoming movie. According to Advertising Age, the industry is so afraid of it, even though they do not know what it will say, that it is already trying to discredit him.

Again and again we see management in companies living in their own insular world. They really believe that they can control information about themselves. Ater the Tylenol crisis, everyone praised J&J for allowing unfettered access to the media, yet other companies have not taken this to heart. The best way to make people convinced that you are hiding dark secrets is to keep outsiders away.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Business people and politicians do not understand technology well enough

C.P.Snow coined the term "The Two Cultures" over 50 years ago. Since then, they have grown further apart, not closer. So many of the isssues which face us today require understanding of science and technology - global warming, nuclear energy, industrial policy, defense, education, etc. Yet, the people who are most likely to have to make the decisions are the least likely to understand the problem, the solutions, and implications of their decisions.

Everyone needs to spend some time learning and even keeping up to date with science and technology. These issues are too important to be overseen by people who do not understand them.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Predictions of doom are usually correct

One of the facts which so many forget that is that what goes up, must come down. The booming stock market, drops. The surging housing market will inevitably collapse. Interest rates will go up and down. We live in a world of cycles. Not just predictable Kondratief cycles, but irregular cycles.

Those who are aware of this do well. Those who forget it, can run into trouble.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Can we really pass on knowledge? The evidence says no!

It seems that each generation has to relearn most of what its parents know. As is well recognized, each new generation thinks of the one before as rather to be pitied for their lack of knowledge. So each generation has to learn for itself. Furthermore, the learning is no faster than for the previous generation. As has been written before, we none of us know what we do not know. The really smart thing is to assume that there is more we do not know than we do, and approach each situation with a spirit of discovery. Unfortunately, so many people approach each situation as though they already know everything they need to.

As a result, this very much slows down learning, because, at best, we have to make mistakes to learn.