Goldman Sachs’ Environmental Policy Framework

Do you believe this:
Goldman Sachs believes that a healthy environment is necessary for the well-being of
society, our people and our business, and is the foundation for a sustainable and strong
economy.
Goldman Sachs recognizes that diverse, healthy natural resources – fresh water, oceans,
air, forests, grasslands, and agro-systems – are a critical component of social and
sustainable economic development. Forests are particularly important for the
environment and biodiversity. They are vital to water and air quality, and help regulate
climates. Forests are home to thousands of wildlife species, and, at the same time,
represent a natural source of timber. The key challenge for society is to manage the
competing human demands on land, soil and vegetation without undermining crucial
ecosystem functions.
We take seriously our responsibility for environmental stewardship and believe that as a
leading global financial institution we should play a constructive role in helping to
address the challenges facing the environment. To that end, we will work to ensure that
our people, capital and ideas are used to help find effective market-based solutions to
address climate change, ecosystem degradation and other critical environmental issues,
and we will seek to create new business opportunities that benefit the environment. We
will work to identify policy measures that are creative, meaningful and provide real
solutions to environmental problems while recognizing the importance of economic
growth in contributing to the alleviation of poverty. In pursuing these objectives we will
not stray from our central business objective of creating long-term value for our
shareholders and serving the long-term interests of our clients.

Go GS! Make sure you practice what you preach…
Read the full text here >>

Clicks and Conversion Rates in 2005

I just read a Brian Eisenberg article in which he says:
“Depending on whom you ask, average conversion rates are between 2 and 4 percent. By today’s standards, you get bragging rights and the full dose of hero treatment if you can maintain a conversion rate of 5 percent or above. You have deity-like status if your conversion rate approaches double digits. the world’s finest players sport double-digit conversion rates of somewhere around 12-14 percent.
“Of course, I’m referencing top-line conversion: Tthe number of visitors who take the macro action you want them to divided by the total number of site visitors.Aa double-digit conversion rate seems unimaginable to some, but experience demonstrates it’s certainly possible. We’ve seen it happen time and again.”
The funny thing is I have a client, who for some reason, is unimpressed by a 44% conversion rate I’ve gotten for them over the past year. Some months it went down to 39%, in other months it was up as high as 53%. I’m not kidding. And the client still doesn’t understand how amazing this is.
What’s amazing about Double Loop Marketing is just how effective it can be. For instance, my record-breaking conversion rate was 98% for an offer on a landing page from John Hagel and JSB. Now granted, JH3 and JSB are smart people, and when they give away something for free, it’s not difficult to see that they’d have a great conversion rate. That said, 98%?!! I’m still in shock over that one.
This year I’ve resolved to publish a book on the power of Double Loop Marketing, with a few, real-life case studies comparing traditional online marketing approaches with Double Loop Marketing tactics. God and the devil are both in the details, as they say. John Hagel’s has committed to writing the foreword for the book, so I think that itself will make the book worth reading 🙂

Another Service in Googlespace

Google keeps on introducing micro-services. Here’s one I find very, very interesting: Blogger Web Comments for Firefox.
Despite the geek-inspired name of the service, it’s another brilliant move. Here’s how it works:
As you visit any given page in Firefox, a comment panel featuring blog posts linking to this page will appear on the bottom right of your browser. Clicking on any of the entries will open that blog post in a new tab. You can toggle between the compact and extended comment lists, or even hide the panel completely. To bring it back, just click the icon or the icon in the lower right corner of your browser and select “View comments.” When there are lots of comments, you can click on the “Show lots more…” link, which will open a new tab in your browser with all Google Blog Search results.
Pretty nifty, ha?
Of course, to add your own comments on the page you’re on, you’ll need to have a Blogger account.
What it does for Google is take it one giant step further into the social-networking-wisdom-of-crowds space. And they didn’t have to acquire anyone to do it.
Learn more about Google’s product development process >>

Capturing Attention Data

When you pay attention to something (and when you ignore something), data is created. This “attention data” is a valuable resource that reflects your interests, your activities and your values, and it serves as a proxy for your attention.
I like the AttentionTrust.org model of rights:
Property
You own your attention and can store it wherever you wish. You have CONTROL.
Mobility
You can securely move your attention wherever you want whenever you want to. You have the ability to TRANSFER your attention.
Economy
You can pay attention to whomever you wish and receive value in return. Your attention has WORTH.
Transparency
You can see exactly how your attention is being used. You can DECIDE who you trust.
This is what Google should have done if they were serious about their vision: “Don’t Be Evil.”

MBA Blowback? The Chinese B-School

B-School’s are booming in China, says BusinessWeek:
“For U.S. companies, the emergence of China’s new managerial class has positive and negative implications. For those seeking to penetrate China’s massive market of 1.3 billion people, the graduates of the nation’s new MBA programs will supply a steady stream of local talent with in-depth knowledge of China, something their Western managers can’t provide. But as Western management ideas take root in the nation’s corner offices, multinationals could find themselves confronting a newly powerful adversary: Chinese companies suddenly in possession of the management knowhow needed to go head to head with global giants. Those same ideas — about efficiency, productivity, profitability, and growth — hold vast potential to ignite China’s already blistering economy, raise living standards, and transform the nation from a low-cost manufacturing center to a make-or-break battleground for the global economy.”
Read the full article: China’s B-School Boom
Is this the MBA Blowback? Read JH3 and JSB’s paper on “Innovation Blowback” to see where I’m coming from.
By contrast, in a BW article earlier this year, here’s what they reported about US B-Schools:
“In 2005, just 19% of full-time programs in the U.S. reported an increase in application volume, down from 21% in 2004 and 84% in 2002, when applications reached an all-time high.”
The news for US B-schools just keeps getting worse. A study from the Graduate Management Admission Council shows applications to full-time U.S. MBA programs down for the third consecutive year.
A tale of two empires? One going up, one down? Or is the world just getting flatter?

William Dunk: Systems on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown

Says Dunk:
“The world of broken systems is also a world of broken communication where citizens will have to be ingenious beyond belief to fight entropy. Broken systems turn ordinary citizens into guerilla fighters.”
Read Dunk’s brilliant “letter” here >>
Better yet, subscribe:
Simply send an email to join-globalprovince@lyris.globalprovince.com. Leave the subject field and the body of the email blank. You will automatically be subscribed to the Global Province.

Clayton Christensen: The Innovator’s Battle Plan

Here’s a quick look at a slice of Christensen’s book- Seeing What’s Next.
According to Christensen, the more interesting scenarios occur when there are asymmetries—important differences of motivation or skills. Asymmetries of motivation occur when one firm wants to do something that another firm specifically does not want to do. Asymmetries of skills occur when one firm’s strength is another firm’s weakness.
In this excerpt, he discusses three topics:
1. How asymmetries power the process of disruption
2. How to identify the company with the shield of asymmetric motivation and the sword of asymmetric skills on its side
3. How to identify circumstances in which a high-potential disruptive development will prove disappointing, ending in either a brutal fight or incumbent co-option
See also my archived interview with Clayton Christensen.

Robots Easier to Talk to than Humans

“When answering the android’s questions…Japanese subjects were much more likely to look it in the eye than they were a real person.”
The Economist highlights the agenda behind Japan’s race to perfect their robots:
“Many workers from low-wage countries are eager to work in Japan. The Philippines, for example, has over 350,000 trained nurses, and has been pleading with Japan—which accepts only a token few—to let more in. Foreign pundits keep telling Japan to do itself a favour and make better use of cheap imported labour. But the consensus among Japanese is that visions of a future in which immigrant workers live harmoniously and unobtrusively in Japan are pure fancy. Making humanoid robots is clearly the simple and practical way to go.”
Ouch. Read the article here >.

Eric Schmidt’s 70 Percent Solution

In an interview in Business 2.0, Google’s CEO explains the magic behind Google’s success: 70/20/10.
What is 70/20/10? It’s how they spend their time at Google:
– 70 percent on the CORE BUSINESS (AdSense, AdWords, Google Search)
– 20 percent on RELATED PROJECTS (Froogle, Google Desktop, Google Local, Google News, Google Print, Google Stocks, Google Toolbar, Google Video)
– 10 percent on NEW BUSINESSES (Blogger, Google Mini, Google Movies, Google Reader, Google Talk, Google Wi-Fi, Picasa)
Here’s how Schmidt describes it:
“…how it works for management: We spend 70 percent of our time on core search and ads. We spend 20 percent on adjacent businesses, ones related to the core businesses in some interesting way. Examples of that would be Google News, Google Earth, and Google Local. And then 10 percent of our time should be on things that are truly new. An example there would be the Wi-Fi initiative — which I haven’t kept up with myself. God knows what they’ve done in the last week. I’ve been too busy on core search and ads.”
There are some more interesting things in the article. Read it here >>
For more on the Google R&D process, read my post: Google’s Product Development & Management Process Revealed >>

Japan’s Recovery Lies through China: Knowledge@Wharton

Interesting set of articles in the latest Knowledge@Wharton. I was struck by this one: “One Road to Japan’s Recovery Lies through China.”
Wharton management professor John Paul MacDuffie outlines a Japanese theory that describes two major approaches to product architecture: modular and integral. An example of the modular approach to producing a personal computer would have each component designed and manufactured separately in plants around the world. “The integral approach is when all the individual pieces are designed together with [a high degree] of communication and simultaneous engineering.” He says Japan appears to excel at the more integrated approach, while the United States is more modular.
Following this theory, Japan should concentrate on products that benefit most from an integral approach, including automobiles. “Another example is video games,” says MacDuffie. “Unlike other kinds of software, the development of the story, the visuals and the music all have to be done in an integral fashion to end up with a game where everything works and the experience is also satisfying.”
Another professor – Adrian Tschoegl – concludes that “pretty soon, in the next two generations, most of the good ideas will come out of China and India.”
Read the article here >>

John Hagel: Unbundling Time Warner

Three years ago, strategy guru John Hagel was urging Time-Warner to:
– Divest the distribution business and retain the content business.
– Create audience segment business units to address specific audiences that are economically attractive and fit with some of Time Warner’s existing properties – some natural examples: business executives, sports enthusiasts and teen-agers.
– Assign content businesses to report to specific audience segment business units (e.g., Sports Illustrated would report to the sports enthusiast business unit) or establish content production businesses as shared services units (e.g., Warner Brothers movie studio) to support the targeted audience segments
– Build distinctive overarching audience-centric media brands aggressively
– Invest in businesses and skill sets to deepen database marketing capabilities
– Acquire businesses selectively to broaden share of attention and share of wallet within targeted audience segments and develop licensing relationships to access an even broader range of relevant resources to serve target audience segments.
Read his latest blog post on the topic >>

Eric von Hippel: Democratizing Innovation

Eric von Hippel is the Professor of Management and Head of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Here’s a downloadable video of his April 2005 lecture on “Democratizing Innovation.”
What’s it all about? From the description:
“If you have ever come up with a work-around or improvement for a balky product only to find that it performs better than the original, you are not alone. Eric von Hippel proffers multiple examples where an ordinary user, frustrated or even desperate, solves a problem through innovation. His research found innovative users playing with all manner of product: mountain bikes, library IT systems, agricultural irrigation, and scientific instruments. Often, manufacturers keep at arm’s length from these inventions. He describes the Lego company “standing like a deer in headlights” when technologically adept adults discovered they could design their own sophisticated Lego robots. User communities arise, freely communicate with each other, advance ideas and sometimes even “drive the manufacturer out of product design,” according to von Hippel. This widely distributed inventing bug is a good trend, believes von Hippel, because users “tend to make things that are functionally novel.” Not only is it “freeing for individuals” but it also creates a “free commons” of product ideas, parallel to the more restrictive world of intellectual property governed by less creative manufacturers.”
And here’s his downloadable book: Democratizing Innovation >>

What is Yahoo Really Doing?

“You can probably stitch together our plan from the moves we’ve made, the acquisitions we’ve made, the products we’ve put out to market,” says Bradley Horowitz, Yahoo’s senior director of technology development.
That plan: to try and make social search the next stage in the evolution of search engines.
First Yahoo bought photo-sharing site Flickr, and now it has snapped up bookmarking phenomenon Delicious. Why is Yahoo investing so heavily in the social networking stars of Web 2.0? And why team up with Six Apart to offer blog hosting?
“the real point seems to be the building of an innovative culture that can widen Yahoo’s lens.”
Read all about it in the Guardian

Top 13 Web 2.0 Moments of 2005

Richard Mc Manus has a great post on Web 2.0 highlights in 2005:
– Bloglines acquisition by Ask Jeeves and weblogsinc sale to AOL
– Amazon’s innovations- the Mechanical Turk and Alexa web services
– Microsoft embracing RSS (I’m not impressed with SSE, however)
– Asynchronous JavaScript + XML or AJAX
– Memeoradum and diggs.com
– Googlebase
– Yahoo acquires Flickr and del.icio.us
– eBay buys Skype
– Microsoft’s wakeup to software as a service (see leaked memo here)
– Web 2.0 Conference
– iTunes support of podcasting
– HousingMaps
– Tsunami-help blogs
Read the post here, and add your own highlights to the list!

Innocentive: Open Source Innovation?

The answer to your problem lies outside your company. Why? Because there are more smart people outside your company than in it.
That’s the premise behind InnoCentive, a web-based community matching top scientists to relevant R&D challenges facing leading companies from around the globe.
Here’s how it works:
– Companies contract with InnoCentive as “Seekers” to post R&D challenges to the Innocentive web site
– Each Challenge includes a detailed description and requirements, a deadline, and an award amount for the best solution.
– Award amounts are determined by the Seeker and range from $10,000 to $100,000. You can view the list of previous award recipients here.
– The name of the Seeker company posting the Challenge remains confidential and secure.
– Scientists worldwide are eligible to register on the web site as “Solvers.”
– Anyone may view summaries of Challenges at InnoCentive.com. But to view detailed descriptions and actually work on challenges, registration is required.
– To register as a Solver, scientists fill out a short online form, select a username and password, and log in.
– InnoCentive has registered scientists from over 170 countries around the world.
How about that for open source innovation? Vist the site >>

Ricardo Semler’s Grupo Semco: The Democratization of Work

Back in November I blogged about one of my early heroes when I first got interested in business- Ricardo Semler. Now I’m happy to see a wonderful article about Semler and his management style in Strategy+Business (S+B).

Grupo Semco, as I mentioned earlier today, is the company that’s had 14 straight years of double-digit growth.

Semler has literally turned our current understanding of management on its head. He has taken the philosophies of Deming (“management is the problem”) and Drucker (“dedicated employees are the key to success of any corporation”) seriously and implemented them in a way that no one dreamed possible.

Drucker’s main thesis, as the Motley Fool opines, was “that workers were no longer interchangeable units of production. Instead, they needed to have some level of independence, which Drucker deemed critical for a company’s growth. He saw employees as “knowledge workers.” Take that to the extreme, and you get Semco.

Here’s what Charles Handy has to say:
“I just wish that more people believed him,” laments Charles Handy, the British management guru and social philosopher. “Admiring though many are, few have tried to copy him. The way he works — letting his employees choose what they do, where and when they do it, and even how they get paid — is too upside-down for most managers. But it certainly seems to work for Ricardo.”

Also from the S+B article:

“Semco’s 3,000 employees set their own work hours and pay levels. Subordinates hire and review their supervisors. Hammocks are scattered about the grounds for afternoon naps, and employees are encouraged to spend Monday morning at the beach if they spent Saturday afternoon at the office. There are no organization charts, no five-year plans, no corporate values statement, no dress code, and no written rules or policy statements beyond a brief “Survival Manual,” in comic-book form, that introduces new hires to Semco’s unusual ways. The employees elect the corporate leadership and initiate most of Semco’s moves into new businesses and out of old ones. Of the 3,000 votes at the company, Ricardo Semler has just one.
“In Mr. Semler’s mind, such self-governance is not some softhearted form of altruism, but rather the best way to build an organization that is flexible and resilient enough to flourish in turbulent times. He argues that this model enabled Semco to survive not only his own near-death experience, but also the gyrations of Brazil’s tortured politics and twisted economy. During his 23-year tenure, the country’s leadership has swung from right-wing dictators to the current left-wing populists, and its economy has spun from rapid growth to deep recession. Brazilian banks have failed and countless companies have collapsed, but Semco lives on.”

I remember an article by Rajat Gupta years ago in which he wrote about the irony of businesses in democratic countries. They were all run as totalitarian regimes! At the time, I thought- surely there must be companies that run on the principles of democracy (tells you how naive I was). Now Ricardo Semler changes the world of business forever.

I tell you, this is not a flash in the pan. Semler has uncovered the secret to sustainable business, and if you read Maverick : The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace or The Seven-Day Weekend: Changing the Way Work Works you’ll agree that something more spectacular than futbol has emerged from Brasil, er, Brazil.

Read the S+B article here.

Keep your eyes open- eg. Semco does not, repeat not, have an HR department. Note also Semler’s non-profit work and his eco-resort idea.

More fun:

– the Wikipedia entry on Ricardo Semler and Workplace Democracy

– the official Semco Management Model Manifesto:

1. Be a serious and trusted company
2. Value honesty and transparency over momentary interests
3. Search for the balance between long term and short term profit
4. Offer fair prices for our products and services and be the best in the market
5. Provide diversified services to clients, putting our responsibilities before profit
6. Stimulate creativity, prizing people who take risks
7. Incentivize participation, and question decisions imposed from the top down
8. Preserve an informal environment with professionalism and without preconception
9. Maintain safe working conditions and control the industrial process to protect the environment
10. Be humble and recognize mistakes, knowing that there is always room for improvement

– Chapter one from Semler’s book- The Seven-Day Weekend

– ‘Idleness is good’ in the Guardian

Lessons from Semco on Structure, Growth and Change by Wally Bock

– transcript of a CNN interview with Semler

– a somewhat dusty case study from Thunderbird on Semco

Fun quote:
“Semco has no official structure. It has no organizational chart. There’s no business plan or company strategy, no two-year or five-year plan, no goal or mission statement, no long-term budget. The company often does not have a fixed CEO. There are no vice presidents or chief officers for information technology or operations. There are no standards or practices. There’s no human resources department. There are no career plans, no job descriptions or employee contracts. No one approves reports or expense accounts. Supervision or monitoring of workers is rare indeed… Most important, success is not measured only in profit and growth.” – Ricardo Semler

Pheed Read: RSS ads blow away Banner ads

Findings from a very interesting study on RSS advertising by Pheedo:
– Standalone RSS ads are far more successful than inline ads
– Placing RSS ads in every other post yields the highest percentage of click throughs
– RSS content CTR varies significantly based on day of the week
– Mid-week readership of RSS feeds highest
– RSS ads are outperforming similar Web ads
[standalone RSS ads= average CTR of 7.99% versus 20% to 1.17% CTR for rich-media ads]
– Bloglines leads RSS readers in market share
I must say I’m impressed by Pheedo.
Here are the details on their research.

8 Big Ideas for the 21st Century

Coming soon in Ben Hammersley’s new book: “Octet: The Eight Big Ideas You Need to Understand in the 21st Century”
1. Information wants to be free (vs. copyright).
2. Zero distance (vs. borders).
3. Mass amateurisation (vs.censorship).
4. More is much more. (vs. network blocking).
5. True names (vs. identity cards & databases).
6. Viral behaviour (vs. more network blocking).
7. Everything is personal (vs. everything is trackable).
8. Ubiquitous computing (no privacy).
Hat-tip to Hugh at Gapingvoid.com

Sustainability: The Stumbling Block is Culture

From a back issue of Harvard Design Magazine:
Environmental prophets come in four types: the hysterics, who warn of the apocalypse, the assuagers, who adhere to hope, the disclaimers, who see no dire threat, and the fatalists, who see the future as steady, unavoidable, irreversible decline.
The first three types, the hysterics, the assuagers, and the disclaimers, dominate current discourse. Their views make for more effective hype for whatever public media share their political allegiances. The view of the fatalists is least palatable to society in general and the media in particular, which are thriving on a mix of fear and hope. In the absence of the fatalists, all kinds of compromises are considered able to promote sustainability, from the Kyoto Protocol to emissions trading to Smart Growth. Yet even their proponents admit that these measures cannot stop, let alone reverse, global climate change.
The reason for this is as plain as it is simple. The change in global climate is not caused by financial or technological factors alone and will not be solved just through financial or technological solutions. Global climate change results from the realities of Western, post-industrialist, capitalist culture. It is embedded in unsustainable lifestyles.
Also in the same article >>
The five material principles for a sustainable architecture:
1. Build less. Frei Otto wrote: “To build in a sustainable way means not to build at all.”(2) The replacement of existing built fabric cannot be the long-term goal of any society.
2. Everything built should be given as long a life expectancy as possible.
3. Reuse and recycling of material should be maximized.
4. Non-recyclable materials should be not be used in buildings.
5. Anything that is built should be retained, sustained, and maintained.
Read the article by Wilfried Wang.

Mystery of the Narwhal’s Tooth Solved

Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) researcher Martin Nweeia, DMD, DDS, answers a marine science question that has eluded the scientific community for hundreds of years: why does the narwhal, or “unicorn,” whale have an 8-foot-long tooth emerging from its head, and what is its function?
The narwhal has a tooth, or tusk, which emerges from the left side of the upper jaw and is an evolutionary mystery that defies many of the known principles of mammalian teeth. The tooth’s unique spiral, the degree of its asymmetry to the left side, and its odd distribution among most males and some females are all unique expressions of teeth in mammals. The narwhal is usually 13 to 15 feet in length and weighs between 2,200 and 3,500 pounds. Its natural habitat is the Atlantic portion of the Arctic Ocean, concentrating in the Canadian High Arctic: Baffin Bay, Davis Strait, and northern Hudson Bay. It is also found in less numbers in the Greenland Sea, extending to Svalbard to Severnaya Zemlya off the coast of Russia.
Nweeia has discovered that the narwhal’s tooth has hydrodynamic sensor capabilities. Ten million tiny nerve connections tunnel their way from the central nerve of the narwhal tusk to its outer surface. Though seemingly rigid and hard, the tusk is like a membrane with an extremely sensitive surface, capable of detecting changes in water temperature, pressure, and particle gradients. Because these whales can detect particle gradients in water, they are capable of discerning the salinity of the water, which could help them survive in their Arctic ice environment. It also allows the whales to detect water particles characteristic of the fish that constitute their diet. There is no comparison in nature and certainly none more unique in tooth form, expression, and functional adaptation.
“Why would a tusk break the rules of normal development by expressing millions of sensory pathways that connect its nervous system to the frigid arctic environment?” says Nweeia. “Such a finding is startling and indeed surprised all of us who discovered it.” Nweeia collaborated on this project with Frederick Eichmiller, DDS, director of the Paffenbarger Research Center at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and James Mead, PhD, curator of Marine Mammals at the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution.
Nweeia studied the whales during four trips to the Canadian High Arctic. In the past, many theories have been presented to explain the tooth’s purpose and function, none of which have been accepted as definitive. One of the most common is that the tooth is used to display aggression between males, who joust with each other for social hierarchy. Another is that the tooth is a secondary sexual characteristic, like a peacock’s feathers or a lion’s mane.
Nweeia’s findings point to a new direction of scientific investigation. Fewer than 250 papers have been published about the narwhal, and many offer conflicting results. Because of its Arctic habitat and protected status in Canada, the whale is difficult to study. Nweeia has brought together leaders from the fields of marine mammal science, dental medicine, engineering, mathematics, evolutionary biology, anatomy, and histology.
The sensory connections discovered by Nweeia and his colleagues also are capable of tactile ability. Narwhals are known for their “tusking” behavior, when males rub tusks. Because of the tactile sensory ability of the tusk surface, the whales are likely experiencing a unique sensation.
Results from the team’s research already has practical applications; studies about the physical makeup of the tusk, which is both strong and flexible, provide insight into ways of improving restorative dental materials. (An 8-foot-long tooth can yield one foot in any direction without breaking). Nweeia also leads the Narwhal Tooth Expeditions and Research Investigation, founded in 2000, which combines scientific experts with Inuit elders, who have collected notes for hundreds of years, to discover the purpose and function of the narwhal tusk.
“Now that we know the sensory capabilities of the tusk, we can design new experiments to describe some of the unique and unexplained behaviors of this elusive and extraordinary whale,” said Nweeia.

Sense outta NonSense

Brand structure establishes the shape of how a company and its operating units and brands communicate…

also from Sensepage 9. Did I say it was brilliant?

Edge View: John Hagel’s Visit to Dubai

“Why should business executives care about what is happening in the container port business in Dubai? It provides insight into much more fundamental trends that are re-shaping our global economy at an awesome pace. It shows that countries and companies on the edge have an opportunity to become significant global players by understanding and harnessing the forces at work. It also drives home that our most well-known and well-established companies, even those granted royal charters in 1840, are vulnerable to these same changes and can succumb quickly to the initiatives of more aggressive competitors, even those just formed in 1999.”
read John Hagel’s post here >>

Innovation: inversely proportional to size of budget


BAH gives us a “special report” on innovation by Barry Jaruzelski, Kevin Dehoff, and Rakesh Bordia: “Money Isn’t Everything.”
“The myth that higher R&D spend translates into competitive advantage has been around for decades, but it appears to be particularly strong now. Pick up any business magazine or newspaper. You’ll find ample evidence of the belief in the effectiveness of larger budgets, for both corporate and national competitiveness:
“U.S. spending on R&D will also have to increase if the country wants to remain technologically dominant.” —Fortune, July 2005
“We need at NEC to increase our R&D spending by as much as 50 percent to keep ahead of the competition.” —NEC Corporation (#41 on the list of 1000) senior vice president, quoted in The Age, July 2005
“The European Commission will today appeal to E.U. countries to increase spending on research and development, or face being out-paced by competitors such as China.” —Financial Times, July 2005
“[Yahoo] spends as heavily on product development and R&D as Google and Microsoft…falling behind in this arms race would spell big trouble.” —Fortune, August 2005

The results of the recent study of the Booz Allen Hamilton Global Innovation 1000 — the 1,000 publicly held companies from around the world that spent the most on research and development in 2004 — may provoke a crisis of faith. The study, which may be the most comprehensive effort to date to assess the influence of R&D on corporate performance, suggests that nonmonetary factors may be the most important drivers of a company’s return on innovation investment.
The major findings:
Money doesn’t buy results. There is no relationship between R&D spending and the primary measures of economic or corporate success, such as growth, enterprise profitability, and shareholder return.
Size matters. Scale leads to advantage. Larger organizations can spend a smaller proportion of revenue on R&D than can smaller organizations, and take no discernible performance hit.
You can be too rich or too thin. Spending more does not necessarily help, but spending too little will hurt.
There isn’t clarity on how much is enough. Instead of clustering into any coherent pattern, R&D budget levels vary substantially, even within industries. This suggests that no single approach to spending money on innovation development is universally recognized as the most effective strategy.
It’s the process, not the pocketbook. Superior results, in most cases, seem to be a function of the quality of an organization’s innovation process — the bets it makes and how it pursues them — rather than the magnitude of its innovation spending.
Collaboration is key. The link between spending and performance tends to be strongest in those areas most under the control of the R&D silo, such as product design, and weakest in those areas where cross-functional collaboration is most difficult, such as commercialization.
Meanwhile, the big boys keep flushing their money down the toilet:

Read the full report. Take notes. Forward it to your CEO.
see my post: “Have We Given Up on Science?”

McKinsey’s Peter Drucker Collection

The great and growing collection of outside work that Drucker’s thinking has generated testifies to the seminal place of his ideas on the role of knowledge in companies. These articles from the McKinsey Quarterly archive look at how companies might maximize the benefits from their in-house knowledge.
– Best practice and beyond: Knowledge strategies (premium)
– Managing the knowledge manager
– Do you know who your experts are?
– Making a market in knowledge
– The 21st-century organization (premium)

I particularly liked this diagram in “Managing the knowledge manager”:

Check out the collection here >>
Did I mention I hate McKinsey’s “premium” content policy? Those McK-partners are just penny-pinching millionaires. The Mercer people get it: their content is open. Open-up, McKinsey!

McKinsey: Knowledge Worker Productivity- The Key to Competitive Advantage?

McKinsey spits out an interesting article today- “The next revolution in interactions.”
“In today’s developed economies, the significant nuances in employment concern interactions: the searching, monitoring, and coordinating required to manage the exchange of goods and services. Since 1997, extensive McKinsey research on jobs in many industries has revealed that globalization, specialization, and new technologies are making interactions far more pervasive in developed economies. Currently, jobs that involve participating in interactions rather than extracting raw materials or making finished goods account for more than 80 percent of all employment in the United States. And jobs involving the most complex type of interactions—those requiring employees to analyze information, grapple with ambiguity, and solve problems—make up the fastest-growing segment.”
What they’re saying is that knowledge work is up, manual work is down– and they do a good job of breaking this down by industry.
“Over this past year, we looked closely at different kinds of interactions. Companies in many sectors are hiring additional employees for more complex interactions and fewer employees for less complex ones. For instance, frontline managers and nurses—who must exercise high levels of judgment and often draw on what economists call tacit knowledge, or experience- are in great demand. Workers who perform more routine interactions, such as clerical tasks, are less sought after. In fact, companies have been automating and outsourcing jobs that involve many of these transactional interactions.
“The shift from transactional to tacit interactions requires companies to think differently about how to improve performance—and about their technology investments. Moreover, the rise of tacit occupations opens up the possibility that companies can again create capabilities and advantages that rivals can’t easily duplicate.”
Worth reading.
The McKinsey folk need to spend some time chatting with Tom Davenport. His latest book – Thinking for a Living: How to Get Better Performance and Results from Knowledge Workers – gets into this in some detail.

The 80-20 Rule Online: 18% of Shoppers do 46% of Buying

Nielsen//NetRatings reports that nearly a fifth of the online buying population, or 18 percent, accounts for nearly half, or 46 percent, of total online spending. These buyers, dubbed “Most Valuable Purchasers” (MVPs) by Nielsen//NetRatings, spend more dollars online and make more purchases on the Internet than the rest of the online buying population.
The Nielsen//NetRatings MegaPanel online retail study segmented online shoppers into four categories based on the amount of their online spending (low or high) and their frequency of purchases (low or high). The MVPs, shoppers who spent the most money online and made the largest number of purchases, comprised 18 percent of the online buyers, driving 46 percent of total online spending. In comparison, those spending the fewest dollars online and making the fewest purchases made up the majority, or 55 percent, of online buyers; this group accounted for 21 percent of online purchases.
MVPs are heavy users of comparison shopping tools as compared to other online buying segments. In addition, they skew towards a higher household income, are more likely to be connected via a broadband connection, and are heavier Internet users in both overall time spent online and time spent on retail Web sites.
Takeaway: E-tailers should focus on building extraordinary online experiences for their MVPs. Also their demand generation tactics should target the MVP crowd.
Read the press release for details >>

BusinessWeek: Holiday Tricks

BusinessWeek reports:
“Forrester Research Inc. says online retail sales this holiday will surge 25%, to $18 billion. The increasingly strong profitability of Net commerce is giving retailers the chance to experiment with a stockingful of new sales and marketing tactics. They’re tapping into technologies such as blogs, social networking, and wireless phones to draw shoppers to their sites.
“The experiments are coming from startups to Web giants alike. Yahoo! Inc. is testing Shoposphere, a networking site within Yahoo! Shopping that offers thousands of reviews, blogs, and shopping lists generated by members. Rob Solomon, a vice-president at Yahoo! Shopping, says relying on users lets Yahoo serve markets too small to command space on its front pages.
and
“Yub.com, a site with thousands of product reviews, offers visitors cash-back rewards of up to 10% when they make purchases at more than 60 other sites, including Macy’s and cosmetics retailer Sephora. Yahoo plans to let people earn cash for posting reviews that lead other users to make purchases.”
Read the article >

The Globalization Index: How Global is Your Country?


The Global Top 20
1. Singapore
2. Ireland
3. Switzerland
4. United States
5. Netherlands
6. Canada
7. Denmark
8. Sweden
9. Austria
10. Finland
11. New Zealand
12. United Kingdom
13. Australia
14. Norway
15. Czech Republic
16. Croatia
17. Israel
18. France
19. Malaysia
20. Slovenia
The A.T. Kearney/FOREIGN POLICY Globalization Index™ explores the relationships between a country’s global integration and its levels of public education spending, political freedom, perceived corruption, and susceptibility to terrorism. The results show that:
– On average, more globally integrated countries spend more on public education. This relationship was particularly strong in developing countries.
– Citizens of globally integrated countries also enjoy greater political rights and civil liberties. And globalization may keep politicians honest, as the adoption of higher international standards for transparency tends to discourage corruption and increase government efficiency.
– Opening a country’s borders alone does not make the country more vulnerable to terrorism. Little correlation was found between a country’s level of global integration and the number of significant terrorist attacks on its soil.
Sounds to me like the US is going backwards not forwards in this area. Funny- we’re global when it comes to military incursions and insular when it comes to business.
The study finds that the United States rose on the strength of its growth in Internet hosts and secure servers, which are enabling factors for continued technological integration. But it was much less open in the economic realm, lagging behind in trade and foreign direct investment (FDI), due in part to a large and vibrant domestic market.
Another finding: in political and diplomatic terms the United States ranked 57th of the 62 ranked countries when it comes to signing international treaties.
About the Index: The A.T. Kearney/FOREIGN POLICY Magazine Globalization Index ranks 62 countries representing 85 percent of the world’s population, based on 12 variables grouped in four categories: economic integration, personal contact, technological connectivity, and political engagement.
How it Works: The index quantifies economic integration by combining data on trade and foreign direct investment. Technological connectedness is gauged by counting Internet users, Internet hosts, and secure servers. Political engagement is assessed by taking stock of the number of selected international organizations and the number of selected international treaties that each country signs, as well as each country’s financial and personnel contributions to U.N. peacekeeping missions and levels of governmental transfers. Personal contact is charted by looking at a country’s international travel and tourism, international telephone traffic and cross-border transfers, including remittances.
FREE FOOD: Download the report here. Get the detailed data here.

Harvard: “Business! Start your Blogging”

“Bloggers have damaged a number of companies, but it’s time to think of the blog as your friend. Skillful blogging can boost your company’s credibility and help it connect with customers.”
Finally, the folks at Harvard think the blogging is OK for business. Thanks for the green light, but I still don’t see Michael Porter or Clayton Christensen blogging, or Dorothy Leonard for that matter… what’s up with that? Harvard, time to practice what you preach.
Here’s why businesses may want to blog:
“…a blog is an incredibly effective yet low-cost way to:
Influence the public “conversation” about your company: Make it easy for journalists to find the latest, most accurate information about new products or ventures. In the case of a crisis, a blog allows you to shape the conversation about it.
Enhance brand visibility and credibility: Appear higher in search engine rankings, establish expertise in industry or subject area, and personalize one’s company by giving it a human voice.
Achieve customer intimacy: Speak directly to consumers and have them come right back with suggestions or complaints—or kudos.”
Here’s their blogging endorsement.

Tom Davenport on Personal Knowledge Management

Says TD: “Most interventions to improve performance in business are at the organizational or process level, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We can also improve individual capabilities. Ultimately, knowledge worker performance comes down to the behaviors of individual knowledge workers. If we improve their individual abilities to create, acquire, process and use knowledge, we are likely to improve the performance of the processes they work on, and the organizations they work for.”
Right on! Read this insightful post on Tom Davenport’s blog- BabsonKnowledge.org.

Shooting Birds or Catching Fish: Dunk on Branding

William Dunk gets it.
Here’s a letter he posted on his Global Province site back in 2004.
“Basically there are a couple of ways of making sales. Either you shoot them down or they come to you. For most of the mass market era, we took a shotgun, cost be damned, and pumped lead into the skies, hoping to knock as many pigeons—i.e., customers—down as possible. Right now, as we transition out of the mass era, we are using rifles, and assuming that with careful targeting, we can hit a choice quail, duck, or wild turkey on the wing, and then send a bird dog out to retrieve. The idea is to hit many less prospects, but to hit the choice ones that count. You should understand that any form of marketing that has targeting in its name is expensive and probably a poor return on investment. Nonetheless, targeting is the craze of this moment.
“But then there’s catching fish. We put a worm or fly down in the water and wait for the fish to come to us. Stream fishing. It’s more subtle. Less energetic. We use the inquisitive hunger of fish to lure them into our clutches. Sight and sound and touch are compounded. This is allure. It’s very, very related to “word of mouth,” which, at the end of the day, is the most effective form of marketing.
“We think longer term that it’s time to lay down lures in the water. That will drive companies to provide horribly accurate product information that tells the user how to get good results at low cost from a product, even suggesting alternatives to their own that may work better for some applications. Straight poop becomes the strongest form of advertising.”
He’s describing double-loop marketing… read the article.

Using Cheerleaders to Sell Drugs

“Exaggerated motions, exaggerated smiles, exaggerated enthusiasm – they learn those things and they can get people to do what they want.” – LYNN WILLIAMSON, an adviser at the University of Kentucky, on why so many former cheerleaders are hired as sales representatives for pharmaceutical companies.
This article in the NYTimes says that drug companies hire “sexy drug representatives as a variation on the seductive inducements like dinners, golf outings and speaking fees that pharmaceutical companies have dangled to sway doctors to their brands.”
“In a crowded field of 90,000 drug representatives, where individual clients wield vast prescription-writing influence over patients’ medication, who better than cheerleaders to sway the hearts of the nation’s doctors, still mostly men.”
“But pharmaceutical companies deny that sex appeal has any bearing on hiring. “Obviously, people hired for the work have to be extroverts, a good conversationalist, a pleasant person to talk to; but that has nothing to do with looks, it’s the personality,” said Lamberto Andreotti, the president of worldwide pharmaceuticals for Bristol-Myers Squibb.”
Right.
I’m comforted to know that our doctors, with all their years of “education,” are swayed so easily… Sex still sells. Maybe we should use cheerleaders as environmental lobbyists…

“Competing on Analytics” – Tom Davenport and friends

Competing on Analytics is a Babson Executive Education report by Tom Davenport, Don Cohen and Al Jacobson.
The report describes the emergence of a new form of competition based on the extensive use of analytics, data, and fact-based decision making. The analytics— quantitative or statistical models to analyze business problems—may be applied to a variety of business problems, including customer management, supply chains, and financial performance. The research assessed 32 firms with regard to their orientation to analytics; about one-third were classified as fully engaged in analytically oriented strategies. Both demand and supply factors for analytical competition are described. Of the two, demand factors are the more difficult to create. The presence of one or more committed senior executives is a primary driver of analytical competition.
Registration is required for download, but it’s worth it.

John Byrne on Drucker: “The Man Who Invented Management”

A human look at Drucker’s contributions from John Byrne and Lindsey Gerdes at BW:

— It was Drucker who introduced the idea of decentralization — in the 1940s — which became a bedrock principle for virtually every large organization in the world.
— He was the first to assert — in the 1950s — that workers should be treated as assets, not as liabilities to be eliminated.
— He originated the view of the corporation as a human community — again, in the 1950s — built on trust and respect for the worker and not just a profit-making machine, a perspective that won Drucker an almost godlike reverence among the Japanese.
— He first made clear — still the ’50s — that there is “no business without a customer,” a simple notion that ushered in a new marketing mind-set.
— He argued in the 1960s — long before others — for the importance of substance over style, for institutionalized practices over charismatic, cult leaders.
— And it was Drucker again who wrote about the contribution of knowledge workers — in the 1970s — long before anyone knew or understood how knowledge would trump raw material as the essential capital of the New Economy.

read it here

Check out this very, very interesting podcast… John Byrne talks about his first meeting with Peter Drucker and his wife Doris at the YMCA in Estes Park, on how Drucker saw “business as an opportunity to build community” – the problem of executive pay – and much, much more.

Warren Bennis: “Peter Drucker, how do you learn?”
Answer: ” By listening, only to myself!”

Great podcast!

Neil French: The Strategy Interview

November 2005 – Strategy Magazine
One is enough
Q’s and cocktails with…Neil French, outgoing worldwide CD, WPP Group
by Lisa D’Innocenzo
By now, you surely must have heard about the Neil French kerfuffle. The short version: Last month, he resigned his post at WPP because of reaction to controversial comments he made about female CDs during a Toronto event, organized by ad site ihaveanidea.org.
Strategy interviewed French a day before that fateful night and felt he made some salient points about the state of the industry, as well as what it takes to be brilliant. So, despite the fact that he called said reporter “Sweetpea,” we thought this was still worth a read.
LD: What do you think of the state of the ad industry?
NF: What in Canada? Please don’t ask me, because I don’t know. I could have got somebody to brief me about Canadian advertising. That would have been wrong, because it’s like a politician being told what to say. I don’t do that shit. I’ve never been to Canada before – what the hell would I know about Canada? I like the place – I love the weather. [Spoken on a 28 degree day in late September.]
LD: How about overall?
NF: There’s this hysteria on at the moment about how television is dead and it’s all going to interactive. That’s such bollocks. Yes, in the Western World there are a lot of computers out there and interactive thingy-bobs. But actually 90% of the population of the earth is not sitting in front of an Apple tonight. You go to some huge shack city in Brazil, or Thailand, and that light from the shack is a television. Why is everybody panicking? I remember when radio was dead. I remember when newspapers were dead. They’re fine. Now television is dead. No it’s bloody not. It’s just a lot of inept people who think that with the next thing, there might be some good ads. There won’t be of course, because they are genetically inept.
LD: What do you think of the fact that more money is going into interactive then?
NF: If you put everything into mobile, it’s going to piss people off much more than the television ads. Mostly mobile’s used by kids. They are going to make the phone calls, they are going to text their mates, they do not want to be interrupted by some jerk who wants to sell them a soft drink. So this is more likely to burn out very quickly. They will watch the stuff they want to see, and that’s when you get them. Yes, TiVo can make sure you don’t watch the ads, but if it’s a really good ad that appears during the moto racing or the soccer, you’ll leave it on to hope the ad comes on. I’ve heard people say this: “I love this one. I’m not going out for a pee.” It’s human nature. If the media buyer’s clever enough, it’s going to always be in the same program. Having your ad liked by the consumer, that’s the Holy Grail. No more conversation needed on that subject; move on.
LD: So what does it take to make a good ad?
NF: Talk to people. That’s all it is. When Winston Churchill said: “We shall fight them on the beaches,” he was talking to one bloke. Every single person in his little house in the middle of England saw himself standing shoulder to shoulder with Winston, with a pitchfork in his hand on the seashore. And when Hitler said: “We’re going to take over the world; we’ve had a rough deal,” every soldier at Nuremberg, said: “He’s talking to me, and I must not let him down.” So good or evil, the great communicators talk to one person. That’s what advertising does – I’m talking to you, this is the right car for you, or beer, or insurance company, or whatever the hell it is. Only for you. Luckily, there are millions of people like you and they will all buy it, but you don’t say that in the ad. There’s no you plural in advertising, it’s you singular.
LD: How come more advertisers don’t get that?
NF: Because 95% of the people in this business are buffoons. They’re clowns. The creatives blame the clients and the suits, and that’s only because the suits frequently come into advertising because they couldn’t get into banking or retail, so you get an awful lot of those. But the client has every right to make his own decision on his own product. It is our responsibility to explain to him why this will work better than that, and if we fail to do that, we don’t deserve to do good advertising.
LD: What work have you seen recently that gets it right?
NF: I have to bring this one up, because it’s a great example of talking to the audience. It was an ad [I did] for [Panadol] in China. They researched aspirins and the Chinese got a bit upset that it said: “Take two,” because they thought: “It seems like such a waste, using all these aspirins up.” So they brought out the single pill.
If you want to talk to people, tell them something that’s relevant to them, and then twist it in the direction of your product. So I wrote the line of “One is enough,” and the picture was a picture of George Bush and George Bush. It was huge.
Next year’s big winner is going to be the Big Ad from Australia [for Carlton Draught]. It is the heaviest irony possibly ever used in advertising and utterly hilarious. If you look at it and deconstruct it, it’s the perfect ad for beer, without having to show a lot of people in the public going “yo-ho-ho.”
LD: Why do so many ads in categories like beer look the same?
NF: Why? I’ll tell you why, and this is where the client is to blame. He sees an ad, and says: “Oh, that’s good, can we have one like that?” And it’s the very thing he shouldn’t say. He should say: “Can we have one not like that.” Otherwise, how can a consumer, who doesn’t really care, ever differentiate? The client’s problem is only that his widget means to him his house, his wife, their kids, their education, their retirement and his funeral. Whereas to anyone in the street, it doesn’t come in the top million of things to worry about. Our job is to say: “This might be irrelevant, this widget,” but of course the client’s saying “No, no it’s really important; this is the best widget in the world.” But actually, they don’t care, mate. All we can say is: “When you need a widget, we do good ones.” So our job is to bridge the gap between the client’s enthusiasm and the audience’s apathy.
LD: How hard is that to do?
NF: It can be extremely difficult. The whole trick is to explain gently to the client why this is so. There are stupid people, but generally speaking the guy that runs the client is highly intelligent and highly motivated and a bit of a pirate. You don’t get to run a big brewery or big car company without being a little ballsy. Unfortunately for the hewers of wood and fetchers of water, further down the hierarchy, their interest is keeping their job.
I can’t remember a single occasion I’ve sold a decent campaign to anyone but the top guy. I did a campaign for Martel brandy, which was long copy and nobody had ever done long copy for brandy before. People down the line weren’t sure about it, but I made them let me present it to Edgar Bronfman, who in those days was the head of Seagram’s. The suits put me up front with great trepidation and I explained the ad. Edgar got it before I explained it to him. He understood the whole concept. He said: “Yeah, that’s great. We’ll go there. Looks like nothing we’ve ever seen before.” All the racks of suits sighed with relief because they didn’t have to make any decisions. At the end, he walked all the way down to the far end of the table, and said: “Neil, when these guys screw this up, you call me.” And I said: “You mean if?” And he said: “No, I mean when.”
LD: Are presidents getting more involved in marketing?
NF: No. I wish they bloody did. The only benefit of being old and wizened, like myself, is I can generally see the top man. Because I’ve been around forever, longer than God. The guy they want to see is the superstar, somebody like Bogusky, or an old bozo like me.
LD: How do you convince marketers to take a risk?
NF: Something I say to clients a lot is: “Are you actually just spending this money to mark time, or do you really want to make a difference? And how much of a difference do you want to make specifically? How much do you want sales to go up? How much can you supply if this was successful?” Ask all those questions and then you can say: “Now I know how brave you’re going to be. Not at all or very.” And of course, all bravery is risky, and so is safety.
LD: When do you know you can’t work with a marketer?
NF: There are three things important when running an ad agency. Someone called it the three F’s: fun, funds and fame. If a client gives you money and fame, that’s great. If he gives you fun and fame, but not much money, that’s still great. If he gives you lots of money and lots of fun, that’s ok. But if there’s no money in it, and no fun, but it will make you famous, you have to think about it. If it’s just fun, then you should have left years ago. One is bad. Two is ok, three is unbearably wonderful. After all, it is your life. The client doesn’t own you; you’re not a slave; you can say uncle.
LD: Why are boutique agencies becoming increasingly popular?
NF: The boutiques are attractive to big clients because they have a personal stake in the success of this relationship. The client joins and asks a smaller agency to help them in the knowledge that there might be a few moments of stress in this relationship, but in the end they will succeed. These are the mistresses, not the wives. The mistresses get the jewelry, the wives get the washing machine. It’s sad but true.
I was once talking to a boss of another very, very big agency. And I said: “You’ve had these clients so long. How do you do it?” He said: “Because they can’t be bothered to fire us.” It’s too much hassle.
LD: Like a divorce?
NF: Absolutely. “God, this is a problem. Oh, well, stick with it. It could be worse, not much, but it could be worse.” How sad is that? There comes a time, where you’re going to say: “Actually, screw this.” Or go get yourself a mistress, for just part of the time. And that’s what these big clients do. “We’re tied up to the teeth with these people, but I hate the bloody work, so I’m going to get a babe, and go out to dinner with a babe a lot, which will be great. It’s much more fun, makes us feel good, and hey, then we’ve got to get back to the sodding wife again.”
There will be more and more boutiques. There was a point where it was just about the big, big blocks taking over, but then the big, big blocks [started] buying the boutiques. Why do they buy the boutiques? Not for the money they’re making. They buy them to give themselves a certain sexiness – a nice set of legs, or high heels.
LD: A boob job?
NF: A boob job! Very good. Absolutely. That’s exactly it. Let’s stick them on to the front and it looks like we have big boobs. It doesn’t work.
LD: Does it help to have an ego in the ad business?
NF: I taught myself self confidence in my early teens. I was very shy. Pain and agony, and beating down embarrassment, teaching myself not to blush and all those awful things. Ego is really: “Do you really believe in yourself?”
[In Canada], there’s a cringe factor. There’s the permanent apology. I mean, I love the fact that people on the street are all saying “sorry” all the time. But, come on guys. Politeness is great, but sometimes it’s not said in a politeness way, as much as a “Please don’t hit me” way. That’s sad. I remember a young guy, saying: “You’re an egomaniac. You’re all ego and no talent.” That may be true. I said: “Do you have an ego?” “No,” he says. “Do you bathe? Then you have an ego. You care about what people think about you. You take a shower, you care.”

Ratan Tata: The $2,200 “People’s Car”


Tata speaks about the Indian group’s international strategy, his plan to create a $2,200 “people’s car,” his vision of India as a knowledge center for the world, and his dedication to the social responsibilities required from companies operating in developing markets.
On the car:
“Today we’re producing a $7,000 car, the Indica. Here we’re talking about a $2,200 car, which will be smaller and will be produced in larger volumes, with all the high-volume parts manufactured in one plant. We’re also looking at more use of plastics on the body and at a very low-cost assembly operation, with some use of modern-day adhesives instead of welding. But the car is in every way a car, with an engine, a suspension, and a steering system designed for its size. We will meet all the emissions requirements. We now have some issues concerning safety, mainly because of the car’s modest size, but we will resolve them before the car reaches the market, in about three years’ time.
“In addition—and this again touches on the social dimension—we’re looking at small satellite units, with very low breakeven points, where some of the cars could be assembled, sold, and serviced. We would encourage local entrepreneurs to invest in these units, and we would train these entrepreneurs to assemble the fully knocked-down or semi-knocked-down components that we would send to them, and they would also sell the assembled vehicles and arrange for their servicing. This approach would replace the dealer, and therefore the dealer’s margin, with an assembly-cum-retail operation that would be combined with very low-cost service facilities.
On India:
“If we play our cards right as a country, we could be a supplier of IT services and IT solutions to the world. We could also be a product-development center for pharmaceuticals. We could be a very good global R&D center in biotechnology and in some of the emerging technologies, such as nanotechnology, provided we really give them the focus they would need.
On bringing talent back to India:
“Indians coming back to India really go through a cultural shock. They give up a lot in terms of the quality of life, the education of their children, the availability of medical facilities. This will also have an impact when we want to hire people who are not Indians, as we will have to do in a world without boundaries. Even if we start only with pockets of the country and make those pockets less of a cultural shock, the benefits will spread. In some ways, this is what China did with the economic zones.
On values:
“What I feel most proud of is that we have been able to grow without compromising any of the values or ethical standards that we consider important. And I am not harping on this hypocritically. It was a major decision to uphold these values and ethics in an environment that is deteriorating around you. If we had compromised them, we could have done much better, grown much faster, and perhaps been regarded as much more successful in the pure business sense. But we would have lost the one differentiation that this group has against others in the country. We would have been just another venal business house.
“I think it is wrong for a company in India to operate in exactly the same way, without any additional responsibilities, as if it were operating in the United States, let’s say. And even in the United States, I think if you had an enlightened corporation that went into the Deep South, you would see more of a sense of social responsibility, of doing more for the community, than the company might accept in New York City or Boston. Because it is inevitable that you need to be a good corporate citizen in that kind of environment. And companies that are not good corporate citizens—those that don’t hold to standards and that allow the environment and the community to suffer—are really criminals in today’s world.”
Read the McKinsey Quarterly article >>