The Fortune Under the Pyramid


From the Economist:
“For workers from poor countries who venture abroad to earn a better living, sending money home to relatives can be hugely expensive. Such remittances have become an important source of income in many developing countries, dwarfing other inflows of capital from overseas such as foreign direct investment and multilateral aid. But if the money is being sent, say, from America to Venezuela, charges can amount to as much as 34% of the sum involved, according to Dilip Ratha of the World Bank.
“Why are the poor so badly served? The easy answer, that people who have little money do not make suitable clients for sophisticated financial services, is at most a half-truth. A better explanation, this survey will argue, is that the poor have been hurt by massive market and regulatory failure. Fortunately that failure can be, and increasingly is being, remedied.”
Read the article here.
All I know is that when money trickles down to the poor, it usually gets siphoned off by a middleman, or the neighborhood mafia.

Daniel Yankelovich: Poll This, America

A great interview from S+B.
Daniel Yankelovich – the “father of the public opinion poll” – says:
“…attitudes were replaced in the 1960s and 1970s by unenlightened self-interest: Win at any cost. Strip away regulations and constraints. Anything that isn’t illegal is OK. Conflict of interest isn’t a real issue, except for a few straitlaced dummies. Everybody bends the rules, and you have to do so to survive. Someone caught in an ethically
questionable situation might say, “Well, I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t break the law.” For someone from my generation, ethics doesn’t have anything to do with breaking the law. Essentially, there was a dumbing-down of morality that came in with the baby boomers in the 1960s.”
Hello! Maybe he’s been reading On Value and Values!

Diego Maradona vs. George Bush?

The lead article in this week’s Economist: “Tired of globalisation” has a skewed view of what’s happening in Latin America. The article even takes a pot shot at Maradona (maybe they’re still upset at that “hand of god” goal in the World Cup).
Globalization cannot ignore the consequences and effects on people. This is the lesson that business never learns. That’s a fact. And so Maradona and Hugo Chavez have fun at the expense of the US.

Dragon, Tiger and Mouse: China, India and Me


A while back BusinessWeek devoted an issue to the issue of China and India.
I particularly liked “Asking The Right Questions” because it looked at new non-western business models being built in India. In India, that’s called being non-aligned!
John Hagel has an instructive blog post on China and India titled: “Patterns of Business Innovation in China and India”. Read it!
Where does this leave us? You, me, and our kids? What are we going to do for a living? What options are there for kids who go through our stellar educational system?
I decided to look up the high school curriculum in a) Kansas and b) India. Here’s what I found:
– Kansas: A Guide to Kansas Curricular Standards [high school]
– India: CBSE [12th grade] – Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Political Science, History, and more.
Looks like we lost the race before we even got started!
So, what are our kids going to be doing? Are we destined to be a nation of used-car salesmen? One nation-under-E-bay…
What would poor Ben Franklin say if he saw us now? How would he earn his living today? Join the military? Wal-Mart? a band? a gang? an evangelical church?

Family Values: Costco vs. Wal-Mart

Let’s compare some workplace statistics, as reported by the companies…
Employees covered by company health insurance
Costco 82%
Wal-Mart 48%
Insurance-enrollment waiting periods (for part-time workers)
Costco 6 months
Wal-Mart 2 years
Portion of health-care premium paid by company
Costco 92%
Wal-Mart 66%
Annual worker turnover rate
Costco 24%
Wal-Mart 50%
Read more about this here.
The Wal-Mart people need to go read Doug Smith’s On Value and Values.
Why does Wal-Mart want this? This is not a PR problem, Wal-Mart. It’s a values problem. Again, read Doug Smith.

Measuring Knowledge Management: OECD Report

The results of an OECD survey on Knowledge Management practices in Canada, Germany, Denmark and more. Interesting, but not earth-shattering.
What they state as findings:
● KM practices have spread across the economy, just as technology diffuses;
● KM practices are implemented to deal with a great variety of objectives
(static efficiency, innovation, co-ordination);
● Size matters: firms manage their knowledge resources differently,
depending upon their size, and with little regard to industrial classification;
● KM practices matter for innovation and productivity performance;
● Cluster of practices: although this is a bit premature to make this kind of
statement, cluster of practices makes it possible to see the two main
strategies: codification and personalisation;
● Survey respondents showed a high level of interest, which in fact increases
as the size of the firm grows.
PDF download here.
I’ve always thought that different cultures view knowledge differently. Some cultures value knowledge more than others. In India, for example, I classify people into two groups- the devotees of Lakshmi and the devotees of Saraswati.
Lakshmi reminds me of Aphrodite. She’s the goddess of beauty, fortune and prosperity. Gold coins fall from her hands. Two white elephants, symbols of luck, accompany her everywhere. During Diwali, the festival of lights, people light up their houses with candles (or electric lights) so Lakshmi will find her way to their house.
And Saraswati reminds me of Athena. She’s the the goddess of wisdom, the arts, and eloquent speech. She’s seen as the mother of the Veda, creator of the Sanskrit language and Devanagari letters. The protector of fine-arts and sciences. In her hands are a Vina (a musical instrument symbolising the arts) and a lotus (or a parchment – symbolising learning) and a rosary . Her Vahana (vehicle) is a swan (or sometimes a peacock).
My dad used to worship Saraswati once a year (on her “feast” day) in a very modest ceremony. His wealthy friends used to worship Lakshmi in much more elaborate (and expensive) rituals.
To me this works across cultures- either you worship money, or you worship the truth. The numbers of Saraswati followers are dwindling fast.

Blogging Youth: A Report from Pew

The Pew Internet & American Life Project finds that over half of all teens have their own blog or have contributed photos, text or artwork to a blog or other Web site.
“American teenagers today are utilizing the interactive capabilities of the internet as they create and share their own media creations. Fully half of all teens and 57% of teens who use the internet could be considered Content Creators. They have created a blog or webpage, posted original artwork, photography, stories or videos online or remixed online content into their own new creations.
“Teens are often much more enthusiastic authors and readers of blogs than their adult counterparts. Teen bloggers, led by older girls, are a major part of this tech-savvy cohort. Teen bloggers are more fervent internet users than non-bloggers and have more experience with almost every online activity in the survey.
“Teens continue to actively download music and video from the internet and have used multiple sources to get their files. Those who get music files online believe it is unrealistic to expect people to self-regulate and avoid free downloading and file-sharing altogether.
Download the PDF here.