Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Punishment of Employees

Wandering around the other day, in the Post Office, in stores, going to the bank, I was struck by how few people were given stools. In Europe, even store clerks get stools. I guess the theory in the US is that if you put your employees into pain and discomfort in their customer-facing jobs, they will be more effective - more cheerful, helpful. Perhaps the assumption is that employees deserve punishment for being employees, or perhaps that they are masochists who will work harder if they are being whipped. While totally contrary to all the motivation theory so eagerly adopted by business, it continues.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Wells Fargo Bank being casual with accuracy

Wachovia Bank has been bought by Wells Fargo and the airwaves are full of commercials saying that Wachovia is Wells Fargo. However, if a Wells Fargo customer goes into a Wachovia branch, he or she will no more be able to make a transaction than a Citibank or HSBC customer. This is a casualness with accuracy which we should not expect from a bank or any major corporation. Just saying "is" does not make it so!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Can President Obame be so perfect?

The entire world continues to be in awe of Barack Obama. If we look back on past Presidents - even great ones - they all had one or more personal flaws. Yet President Obama does not seem to. Is it really possible? I am idealistic enough to believe that it may be. Not that he will not make mistakes, but that he will be honest, faithful, and fair. Difficult as it is to believe that anyone can climb through the ladder of politics without being corrupted, perhaps the smooth and fast climb protected him from having to make too many compromises. This is one issue about which I do remain optimistic - we need to be, the USA and the world, needs a strong, considerate, and effective President.

Chrysler and Fiat? I'm skeptical

We have seen this before. The theory is that you take two struggling behemoths, poorly managed, combine them and go on to glory! In practice, usually, the combination fails. That was the theory behind the merger of British Motor Corporation and Leyland Motors (which was actually doing OK), with the result of one far larger, failing, company. I think it is a rather naive belief, or perhaps just desperate, on the part of the owners. While it is possible that the combination will succeed, there is no evidence that the existing management can make it happen.

Friday, January 16, 2009

so how is CT different from CA?

For a start, it's colder - a lot more snow. It is also clearly a part of the New York business community, which means it is more in the center of things. It is easier to get to places and people. However, it is clearly still America - a fact that Americans take for granted as the 44th President takes his oath of office on the 20th, but a huge advantage for US business vs. most other countries in the world. Having a large, essentially homogeneous, market, provides great strength to the economy, and opportunity to its citizens.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

What are the real implications of the 2009 MENG Trends survey?

The Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG) has just released the latest Trends Survey: http://www.mengonline.com/visitors/newsroom/

While I encourage you to look at the results, the interesting points are the implications. Over time I have seen many trends surveys and it is always instructive to look back on them. The emphasis on innovation is no surprise. We all have learned that in times of recession, the companies which are best positioned when it is over are those that continued to spend heavily on innovation and advertising. Yet, we all know that most companies will cut back as short-term needs win out.

The drop in emphasis of "green" and environmental issues is also not surprising. Business people react to consumers, and they have become bored for now. Web 2.0 has become less interesting because it is theoretical to many people, who do not know what to do about it. Many large companies are spending money and effort on this without getting real benefits. Thus, disillusionment is setting in.

No understanding of retro-reflective materials in the USA

The "cat's eye," originating in the UK in 1933, consists of two pairs of reflective glass spheres set into a white rubber dome, mounted in a cast iron housing. This is used to mark lane dividers on roads. The rubber housing has a fixed rubber wiper which cleans the glass each time someone drives over the dome, which sinks slightly into the road. In the US, Bott's Dots, used since 1966, do not have most of these features. Furthermore, in Western Europe colored glass (red normally, green for exits) are used on nearside lanes so that drivers do not go off the road, or exit in appropriate places. The US never seems to have understood the value of Cat's eyes. Furthermore, about 20 years ago, I worked with 3M, an American company, and the world's largest manufacturer of retro-reflective materials, such as ScotchBrite, or retroreflective paints. These are commonly used on road signs in Western Europe to make them visible at great distances at night. Research has proved that at night, even someone wearing white clothing is virtually invisible until the last moment to a car driver with headlights on, but the use of retroreflective clothing saves lives. Yet, this is rare in the US. Our research showed that this is linked to a perverse machismo. It is regarded as weak or cowardly to use such materials. Driving long distances at night it is obvious that use of retro-reflective materials would save lives and save money in the long run, yet it does not happen.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Shades of 40 years ago - the real America

Forty years ago I spent three months traveling across America on Greyhound buses. I met some of the nicest people I have ever met. Few could encapsulate the "idea of America" in a few short sentences, but they epitomized it. Of course, the enforced intimacy of sitting next to stranger for hours helps to get to know people, but I am finding the same this time as I drive across America.

Back then, I stayed largely with friends of friends, and saw yet another side of Americans - hospitality. That is still there, though there is more suspicion of strangers.

Exploring America at ground level

No Veggies in the USA?

Do Americans really not eat Vegetables? Having been driving for three days now and finding it almost impossible to find anything to eat with vegetables, I finally found a Chinese restaurant for lunch. It seems that whether you visit Wendy's, BK, Chilis, Subway, or Red Robin, if you want any real vegetables (Iceberg lettuce does not count), you are out of luck. The implication is that we are mostly malnourished, even though we eat staggering quantities. Since we should be eating 5-8 servings of high-fiber/nutrition vegetables a day, most of us are going to be in trouble when we are older.