Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cultural Ethnocentricism

Each time I go into a US drugstore, I wonder why no one seems to find it strange that a store which sells remedies to make you well also sells tobacco and, in some states, alcohol. It would be regarded as quite bizarre in most other countries.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

They say one man's terrrorist is another's freedom fighter!

A few days ago, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. Western European couutries and the US were quick to recognize it, while Serbia and Russia denounced it. Yet, the West denounces Turkish Cypriots' efforts to have an independent state, while Turkey, which recognizes is, will not allow Kurds or Armenians to have self-determination. Basques, may not have it, while The forrmer Yugoslavia is now in 17 parts!

Perspective really does affect one's idea of right and wrong.

Friday, February 15, 2008

School shootings - the focus is on response, not prevention

There is a constant thread of school violence in the US, yet all the reactions relate to rapid response - warning systems, armed police being able to get there fast. In every other coiuntry which has had such incidents - from Australia to the United Kingdom, the response has been uniform, but very different from the US. Prevention has been the key tool addressed.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Infrastructure issues are holding the US back

You don't have to drive across the United States and see the crumbling Interstates and bridges to realize that US infrastructure is deteriorating faster than it is being repaired. All you have to do it live in many big cities, not just rural areas, and suffer the inevitable blackout from time to time - an unheard of occurrence in most other developed countries. Airports are in a state of constant rebuilding, and the rail system,which still carries a large share of freight, it in near collapse. Cell-phone service is poor, and even broadband networks are slower than in other nations.

In the 1950s and 1960s the USA was ahead and the lead was growing. The Interstate road system, the phone system, the utilities and other services were the envy of the world. To remain more competitive, this needs a major program to re-create the US lead.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

As Baby Boomers move out of the workforce, there are not enough people to replace them.

We cannot help observing that companies are having difficulty hiring senior managers, yet many talented senior executives are seeking positions. Companies have not yet become accustomed to a scarcity situation. As Baby Boomers move out of the work force, companies also continue to push out senior managers over 50 and seek to replace them with managers in their 40s. But the next generation is far smaller than the Baby Boomer generation, so companies will eventually have to get used to working hard to retain and hire managers over 50, even in their 60s.

what have top management turnover and "branding" to do with each other?

"Branding," as so many people define it, is part of the same impatience which results in high top management turnover. Today, management wants instant results. Too many expect the new person to sprinkle marketing pixie dust over everything and make the business fly. "Branding" is the result of such an attitude. A brand is defined at each and every point of touch, so how can a superficial change in look and feel change all that has to be? How can someone be fired only a few months, or even a year after joining a company?

Saturday, February 09, 2008

National cultural differences are hard to measure, but the results are there to be seen

In the US, car companies know that when your fuel gauge reads Zero miles to go, you want to have a few miles left. In Germany, consumers want it to be precise. In the US, consumers routinely eat and drink in the car, hardly ever in France - no wonder cup-holders came late to European cars!

In Europe, in the 1970s consumers went straight from manual washing machines to front-loaders with glass doors. In the US, they stayed with top loaders with opaque doors. In Japan, they consumers will pay very high prices for feature loaded cell-phones and use them heavily for M-Commerce (instead of a credit card). In Brazil, the most common pets are birds. Argentina has the world's highest consumption of psychotherapy as well as meat. The Japanese rarely have headaches, Germans can say the same about stomach-ache.

I could fill a book with the different behaviors, but the point is that while it may be a challenge to figure out why people behave so differently, they do, and when someone who has lived all his or her life in one country assumes that people in another country will react the same way, that can be dangerous. In Italy, focus-group participants go out of their way to please the moderator, while in the Netherlands, they will disagree with most of what the moderator presents.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Executives do not take the time to foresee the end-result

It is not easy to foresee the unintended result. If it were not, there would not be any. Yet in many cases it is possible. It is just that Managers do not spend the time to examine what could happen. The best approach is to assume that there will be a result which is not expected and spend some time with colleagues and subordinates considering the possibilities. Then planning for possible contingencies can take place.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Local news misleads

Even in the LA Market - clearly one of the top few markets in the US, each time I watch the local news I hear one or more major factual errors. From statements such as "the 911 system was invented in California" - untrue, to "the guerilla group trying to overthrow the government in Sri Lanka is called Tamil" - whereas it is the Tigers, known as the Tamil Tigers, with the prefix referring to the ethnic group which it fights for.

If many Americans get their news from local news, with even network news being quite superficial, how well informed are voters and even the decision-makers in the US. To make matters worse, when I have emailed the local station to point out the error, I have nver even receied an acknowledgement.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Are Liberals and Conservatives simply wired differently?

Recent research suggests that Liberals and Conservatives have very similar consciences. They are equally interested in "doing the right thing." However, conservatives tend to put the group over the individual, whereas liberals believe that individuals have primacy. So Liberals are more likely to be anti any war, because casualties come first, while conservatives will put honor and supporting the "team" first. Liberals will support programs which help the poor, while conservatives are more likely to allow some members to society to go under because they believe it strengthens society. So each cares about an ethical imperative, but it is simply read in a different way. Understanding this in others may be a huge step towards genuine bi-partisan actions.

Friday, February 01, 2008

92 miles of Wall and guards with orders to shoot to kill

could not entirely stop East Berliners fleeing to the West. Each year thousands of illegal immigrants die trying to enter the EU, then more die trying to reach England. Whether for freedom or economic necessity, people have always tried to reach lands which are seen as better. No one has yet succeeded in stopping it completely. The reality is that however tough we make it for people who immigrate illegally, those who make it will have a better life than if they had stayed in their home countries. The solution is not easy. No one wants to reward people who break the law, but penalties are likely to be less severe than the cost of staying at home for many.
All the evidence shows that it is impossible to stop immigration. Therefore, the key is to ensure that legal immigration is possible. When the difficulties of legal immigration, the risks of illegal immigration, and the needs of employers are balanced, then we reach the optimum balance that maximizes the benefits to the individuals, the employers and the country.