Friday, April 23, 2010

Cell Phones?

I have noticed a buzz (no pun intended) recently around the potential health risks associated with cell phone usage. Harpers recently published an article that tried to make sense of the conflicting signals that we the public have been getting.
The relevant management issue that came to mind for me is the ethical dilemma faced by the cell phone companies. The telecommunications industry has funded many (the majority) of the studies to investigate the effects of radiation emitted by cell phone. I believe they should. However, along with conflicting findings, an interesting trend has arisen. Those studies funded by the telecommunications industry are also statistically more likely to show that cell phones are safe. An interesting correlation. Can we assume that because the telecommunications industry funded studies are accurate because they were well funded or should we take pause? Given the ethical track record of corporate America, I am going to go with the later.

Why Do We Go to Work Sick?

Thomson Reuters' health unit recent conducted a research project to investigate the reason people go to work when the know they are ill. For those making less then $25,000.oo a year, over half of the respondents cited lost wages as reason for going to work.

For those making $100,00 or more, only 6% cited lost pay as a reason to take time of to get better.

From a management perspective, this caught my eye. Sick workers are not productive. They also put their fellow employees at risk for what ever illness they are coming to work with.

As I am currently working in a restaurant, putting my self through school this article grabbed my interest. Where I work doesn't provide health insurance. We are frequently avoiding people who come to work complaining about their current a cold or flu or cursing their name for having passed it along to the rest of us. I am very happy that research is being done on the subject and hope it sheds some light on how health care impacts workers. Very little consideration or value is place on the employees on the bottom of the totem pole. My hope is that upper management starts to realize the pressure that employees on the bottom of the totem pole face. Without the resources to get better, we are infecting each other, working sick and less productive.

The Work Place Autonomy vs. the SEC Porn Scandal

In class we have been discussing the types of management styles conducive to high productivity, happy employees, and new emerging corporate cultures. Much of the discussion has centered around allowing people more freedom in the work place which often would include an open internet access.
I believe this management style works and hope to someday develop my own company with a corporate culture similar to that of Tom's or Zappo's. My only question is, if you allow people the autonomy in the work place, how do you keep them on task?
My concern stems from a recent report about the amount of time that multiple senior level employees at the SEC spent watching porn as the economy crumbled around us. Jobs with lots of autonomy are good for those in higher level positions. How then was a senior level attorney spending up to eight hours a day watching and downloading pornography. When his hard drive was full, he amassed boxes full of DVDs which he burned. Seventeen of the employees who were found out to have been watching porn earned salaries over $220,000.
My guess is that we wouldn't be reading about this in the headlines if we weren't coming our of the worst recession since the Great Depression (but still raises an eyebrow).
My proposed solution for issues like this is to still allow for free web browsing but communicate openly about the stringency with which SEC like behaviors will be monitored. Also, depending on the business, open communication seems like a natural control to keeping people honest about their productivity.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Facebook Innovation Giving Google a Run for Their Money

The article, "Facebook May Not Be Skynet, but It Is Getting Smarter, and That's Bad for Google" by Ian Schafer discusses the F8 (Facebook Developer Conference) announcement about how Facebook plans to take it to the "next level".
The F8 announced the open graph initiative which could, if successful, revolutionize how people surf the web. The general concept behind the open graph is to collect non-personally identifiable data to customize and deliver a more relevant web surfing experience for the user.
Of interest to business owners and managers, Schafer argues that if Facebook is successful in their efforts, they will become direct competitors with Google AdSense. The reason this poses such a threat is due to the fact that Facebook has been so successful in the social networking area, where Google has not. The platform for collecting data that Facebook will offer will, in theory, provide better information for advertisers, which will make the decision as to where they take their dollars much easier.

The Secrets To Apple's Success?

Seth Godin recently blogged a list of reasons he attributed to Apple's recent 150,000,000.00 iPad first day sales launch. I recently made the switch to MacBookPro for my computing need and I know why I was sold on the machine. I wanted to know why he thought the brand was so successful.
Many of the reasons on Godin's list identify obvious examples of a well executed marketing plan.
Number 3 however I feel contributed heavily to my decision to adopt Mac: Make a product worth talking about. I will never forget the day I was standing around at work, complaining about Mal-ware, spy-ware, and suspected viruses causing issues on my PC. A co-worker of mine asked me why I didn't just go get a Mac? Having been raised on personal computers, his brand loyalty confused me. It seemed obvious to me to own a PC because I am in business school. My perception of Macs was that they were only good for artist. I didn't believe my co-worker when he told me that Macs don't get viruses. I called him a liar. However, not unexpectedly, my PC eventually took a nap and never woke up. I needed a computer. I planned on making this computer an investment and did some shopping around. Not only did the people at the Apple store answer all my questions, and confirm the wild "no virus" claim made by my co-worker. They showed me how and explained why. I spent over an hour weighing the pros and my perceived cons of Apple machines. Once I talked about it, I could no longer find any cons. Apple makes great products that generate conversation.
Recently, another not so Apple savvy co-work posted a status up-date announcing his fervent hatred for Mac. Within hours, six of our co-workers had something to say. People get revved up about their Mac products and love talking about them. I have to say, my shift from PC to Mac was slow, reluctant, and based primarily on the fact that the machine was simply the best investment. Now I have bloomed into a very vocal Apple advocate who takes great pleasure in ganging up on PC users with my Apple using allies.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Different Perspective on Innovation..

The article "'Good' Beats 'Innovative' Nearly Every Time by Scott Berkun caught my eye immediately. As a senior in business school, we spend a fair amount of time discussing the importance of innovation in the business world. In his article, Burkun makes the distinction that what we as business professionals perceive as innovation, is rarely that. Rather, recent seemingly ground breaking successful products commended for the innovation have been results of successfully fulfilling a need that isn't being adequately being met by a lesser product. Using Firefox as an example, Burkun points out that Firefox was simply an answer to Microsoft's lack of attention to internet Explorer. After successfully winning the browser war against Netscape, Microsoft dropped the ball. Firefox simply saw the opportunity to improve upon an existing product riddled with flaws that were being ignored by the industry leader at the time. Firefox's success wasn't attributed to being a new or inventive product. They simply took what Microsoft was already doing and improved upon it.

Also discussed by Burken was the fast and loose usage of the term "innovation". While managers are focused on the next best ground breaking product revolution, they loose focus filling the market with new fangeled products that rarely meet customer expectations.

I feel the point that Burken is driving home is that the processes through which a perceived "innovative" company goes through to reach success is rarely focused on innovation; but, at simply being good at what they do. When approaching a business problem, one should be concerned with finding what customer want and being the best at providing it. Through this process, you, your company, and your product will reach the status of the elite business innovators.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Not my Health Police...

After reading about PepsiCo's hire of Derek Yach, a former executive director for the World Health Organization and expert nutritionist, a glimmer of hope twinkled within me. Upon hire, Yach unveiled his vision for PepsiCo and their growing team of Mayo groomed PhDs. In response to the growing demand for "healthy" snack alternative and the increasing scrutony descending upon the snack food industry, Yach hopes to create a new force within PepsiCo. With the help of his PhD army and the utilization of new technologies, Yach plans to develop PepsiCo's "healthy" foodstuffs portfolio significantly over the next 10 years (all this while admitting that people aren't going to give up their guilty pleasures which they happen to specialize in).

PepsiCo's most recent self described technological "success" has been the development of an "all-natural" zero calorie derivative of the stevia plant. This cutting edge sweetener is one that can go into multiple products. Which raises the question in my mind, "Isn't that what got us in this mess in the first place?" Why are we developing more empty calories that trick our bodies into storing more when we finally do decide to eat something with caloric value? Maybe I am a closeted granola loving hippie just waiting to come out in a organic food gloried frenzy, but I don't thing so.

The most frightening thing to me is that "all-natural" has lost it's meaning. How can something derived using technology be all-natural? Natural by definition means unprocessed, unrefined, pure.

PepsiCo had the right idea with their Thowback campaign. Not only is the Throwback campain a perfect answer to their rivals success with Mexican Coke(who's success can be attributed to the fact it is made with real sugar), it's much more affordable. An 18 pack of Throwback Pepsi cost me $4.99. A case of Mexican Coke would have cost $18.00. I don't buy Pepsi and I certainly don't buy regular pop. However, Throwback Pepsi's hip retro label caught my eye, and then I saw it was made with real sugar, and then I bought it! I figured, what the heck? I'll give my body a break from whatever it is in Diet Coke that is slowly killing me and give it a shot. I drank some. I enjoyed it. This is important because in my 27 years of life, I have NEVER purchased a Regular Pepsi(or Regular Coke for that matter), EVER.