Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Forced to defend your country's ideas?

Back in the days of the Vietnam war, I noticed that Americans traveling abroad were forced to defend US foreign policy even if they did not agree with it. This is happening now. So should Americans be blindly loyal and defend something they may hate, should they be totally honest, or something in between?
It seems that there is a middle course, defending the intentions and goals of the nation while acknowledging that you might have done it differently.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Are payments to Interviewees unethical or required?

One of the tenets of journalism is that journalists should not pay interviewees for news information. It is regarded as unethical "check-book" journalism to pay news sources. Yet, often the news gathering organization makes considerable money from its news gathering, while the news sources are poor, or even dying. In Africa, for example, should a journalist who interviews someone who is dying of malnutrition or disease, refuse to pay for food or medicine?

There is no easy solution, as no one wants money to influence the story. However, we probably need clearer and more sensitive rules, as no one should put life above news gathering.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Fly the friendly skies of United US Northwest American Continental Delta!

It looks as though competition in the US skies will soon be between one mega legacy carrier, and a multitude of smaller, low-cost carriers. Can't you just wait to fly from LA to London on a Southwest 737?

In the past 20 years, although flying has become cheaper, it has become extremely unpleasant. It is clear that passengers are voting with their wallets to save money over all else. They may complain about the service, but they have again and again shown that service is not as valued as money. So while customer satisfaction has dropped, that is by public demand, and most cannot complain - though they will.

It shows how totally the airlines have failed to communicate value in anything they do other than ship warm bodies from A to B. Air travel has become a total commodity whatever passengers may say about preferred airlines.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Healthcare and education are investments

Too many in the US think of Universal Healthcare and Education as purely costs. Yet, for the US to be competitive, it must recognize that all other countries regard them as investments in the future. The health and education of people from pre-natal care onwards make the greatest contribution to the productivity and prosperity of the nation.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The high price of gas. Ease the pinch?

The growing price of gasoline in the US, driven by the high price of oil, has consumers angry, frustrated and scared. The natural reaction of politicians is to promise ways to ease the burden. Yet the US uses too much oil. The price of gas in the US has long been the lowest in the Western world. If we want to reduce gas consumption, which we must, we have to either ration it, or take its price up. Given that, is it responsible for politicians to promise price reductions?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fiddling while Rome burns.

We may be approaching the point at which oil consumption exceeds the production of oil. We could be running out of food for a world population which is still growing. As global warming continues, floods and droughts will make living more difficult for most people. On a more parochial level, the US faces a worsening balance of payments deficit, a falling dollar, more people without health-care, fewer people who can afford a college education, and less and less mutual understanding between people.

Yet, many people just cannot internalize the issues. So those who can postpone the day of reckoning are doing so by not facing the facts.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Ford listening to Customers? Now read this...

Today's New York Times carried a story in which the following statement occurred:"In January, Mr. Farley brought dozens of Ford dealers to Michigan for an experiment. He split them into groups of five and had them discuss Ford’s marketing challenges while Mr. Farley and his managers watched from behind a one-way mirror."

What is so amazing is that listening to the market seems to be such a new idea. One of the most basic elements of a successful business is to listen to end-users and distribution channels. Find out what they think, though be very wary when a customer tells you what an end-user/consumer thinks or does. Sadly, many companies do not listen to consumers or customers. The successful ones do not always do what customers ask, but they always use market input as the key driver for their businesses.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Do "the good times" depend on which nation you are from?

In the USA, the good old days tend to center on the 50s and 60s. Those were the "Happy Days." TV programs and movies, from "Mad Men" to "American Graffiti" are frequently about those days. In England, it often goes back to WW II and the years before - the 50s and 60s were rather grim. In France, it goes back several hundred years. Each country has a different version of the "good old days." We need to be aware of these differences as we travel or do business.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Cellphones have restructured thinking

"Just in time" has hit the world. We do not have to plan ahead any more. My undergraduate son, if he wants to get involved in something social, just steps out and starts calling friends to see who is available and what they want to do. When I was a student, we had to arrange meetings and activities in advance. Even if you decide you want to go somewhere new, a GPS capability lets you find it.
Now with the new generation used to this, how will it affect business meetings, when someone can set up a meeting on the fly as they walk, and much prefers to do that.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Confrontation - rarely the best way

Frequently, the first reaction when faced with behavior we do not like, whether it is in nations, corporations or individuals, is to confront. If we feel we have power, we may try to bludgeon the other into better behavior, yet we rarely consider how we would react to such pressure. While clearly it should be available as a last resort, humans tend to believe that they can force others to behave better, whether it is an occupying army, or a government which is behaving immorally. Sadly, we react badly to others who try to force us to behave differently. So unless you are prepared to invade or use extreme force, threats may well backfire.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

What are the implications of an out of office message?

To be able to access email wherever you go is the norm these days. With "smart phones," near universal wireless broadband access, and other options, What does an "out of offfice" notice imply. Now if you are on vacation, it may mean you are taking a well-earned break. However, traveling on business may not be seen as a legitimate excuse and a pure generator of unwanted email.