Recently in Management Category

Michael Hraba:

What does it all mean? (that link is a funny Youtube clip, as a palette cleanser).

Depending on how this one goes, I think this is my second to last or last post *ever* haranguing on, or thinking this deeply about, Facebook. Blue in the Face makes one look crazy, especially if no one is listening... and beyond the simple fact that I may be wrong, and happily eat humble crow as I become more aware..... I do see some meaningful interaction on Facebook. It takes some time, and for me it took *opening* my network. This concept of a "closed" network seems bizarre to me, and it limited real, meaningful interaction, the likes of which I remember from IRC or topical boards.

At the time of posting 9,084,488 people "liked" the Oreo fanpage. In the above, .0005586 / .05586% liked (a little more than one twentieth of one percent or 1/20%) and .0003344 / .03344% commented, the second posting was .0001671 / .01671% liked and .0000216 / .00216% commented.

I think you get the point.... even the most successful brand pages are creating interaction and real community involvement that is such a small percentage of their supposed community, we have to ask how this actually works?

I understand it's a distribution channel, and you need to be available to guests and consumers that wish to interact with you on their own terms in their own comfort zones.... but numbers this small are almost impossible to fathom. The way people are prostelytized by brands, I, personally, would imagine interaction levels much higher... at least into whole percentage points. Is this Facebook's fault? Is this something greater involving the crisis of perception in social media?

A Dream House After All

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Karl Case:

This financial crisis has made us all too aware that we live in a Catch-22 world: the performance of the housing market drives the economy, and the performance of the economy drives the housing market. But housing has perhaps never been a better bargain, and sooner or later buyers will regain faith, inventories will shrink to reasonable levels, prices will rise and we'll even start building again. The American dream is not dead -- it's just taking a well-deserved rest.
Karl E. Case is a professor emeritus of economics at Wellesley and co-creator of Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller housing index.

A Visit to the US Treasury on Fannie & Freddie

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Bill Gross 185K PDF:

Ninety-five percent of existing mortgage creation over the past 12 months were government guaranteed. The private market was nowhere to be found because they charged too much. It was the cost of private origination and securitization, perhaps more than any other factor, that justified government involvement. Prime, but non-conforming, mortgages (jumbos, insufficient down payments) were being purchased by PIMCO in the hundreds of millions of dollars every week, but at yields of 6, 7, and 8%. If that was the risk/ reward tradeoff, compared to FNMA and FHLMC yields at 3.5-4%, how could policymakers pretend that the housing baton could be quickly and cost-effectively passed back to the private market? Few, if any, could afford a new home at those interest rates. If you were a believer in the dominance and superiority of private markets, how could you deny the signal that markets were sending - that the risk was too high given the substantial losses of recent years?

My argument for the necessity of government backing was substantially based on this commonsensical, psychological, indeed sociological observation that the great housing debacle of 2007-2010+ would have a profound influence on homebuyers and mortgage lenders for decades to come. What did we learn from the Great Depression, for instance: Americans, for at least a generation or more, became savers - dominated by the insecurity of 20%+ unemployment rates and importance of a return of their money as opposed to a return on their money. It should be no different this time, even though the Great R. is a tempered version of the Great D. Americans now know that housing prices don't always go up, and that they can in fact go down by 30-50% in a few short years. Because of this experience, private mortgage lenders will demand extraordinary down payments, impeccable credit histories, and significantly higher yields than what markets grew used to over the past several decades.

Clusty search: Bill Gross, Pimco.

Interfluidity's notes after a recent Treasury meeting.

Crowdsourcing: Amazon's Kindle Commercial Contest

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Patty Seybold:

Once again, Amazon is running a "Design your own Kindle Commercial" contest. The deadline to submit a single video with original soundtrack and footage is August 29th. You have to be a resident of the U.S. to enter this contest. The winner will receive a $15,000 Amazon gift card and the four runners up $2,500 gift cards. These kinds of contests seem to provide great opportunities for under-recognized professionals to strut their stuff, although I'm sure that the submissions include a lot of good amateur ones as well. Last year's submission helped the careers of the winning producer-director team, the team who wrote and recorded the music, and the team who did the actual video.

Here's the winning submission from last year's contest:

The hottest housing market: Information

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Michelle Singletary:

In the real estate world, there was one word that used to be the cardinal rule: location, location, location.

Just about anybody -- the informed and uninformed -- could buy a house in a good location and easily make money by flipping, selling or refinancing the home, sometimes after just a short ownership.

That was then, before the Great Recession.

This is now, and the new cardinal rule of real estate is information, information, information.

"For decades, the real estate industry has operated under the principle that the less information buyers and sellers have, the better it is for agents, lenders, title companies, and all the other folks who eat from the trough," writes Ilyce Glink in "Buy, Close, Move In: How to Navigate the New World of Real Estate -- Safely and Profitably -- and End Up with the Home of Your Dreams." "But the real estate tide seems to be turning, as the housing and credit crises of 2008 have heightened awareness in Washington, D.C., and on Wall Street about the catastrophic consequences of a closed information loop."

I have no doubt that many professionals in the real estate industry will take great exception to Glink's observation. But the evidence is on her side. We ended up in one of the worst housing market collapses because far too many borrowers were uninformed, ill-prepared and overly optimistic about potential gain because of bad information they received and gladly embraced.

Bob Sutton:

My last post made me nostalgic for the old HP. Those of us who are faculty members in the Stanford School of Engineering have a special place in our hearts for the company that Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started. They were students here and started the company with $500 borrowed from Fred Terman, who was dean of the school for many years. They also donated very generously to the school; a building is named after Bill, another after Dave, and a third after Fred Terman -- all built with HP riches. I also have been influenced by the old HP's values, which helped shape my belief that a good company or boss ought to be judged on both performance and humanity -- indeed, that is is exactly how I define a good boss in my new book.

I have blogged about it before, but it is a good time to revisit David Packard's wisdom. His quote in the title is wonderful. The worst managers and companies often seem to be doing too many things, making things too complicated for insiders and outsiders, and suffering from scattered attention rather than a sharp focus on what matters most. If you think about Apple, a big part of their brilliance is how few things they do -- they have a remarkably small product line for such a big company, for example.

I especially love Dave's 11 Simple Rules, which he first presented at a company meeting in 1958 but are just as valid now as they were then. Here are the first five:

It's the End of the Web as We Know It

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Steve Rubel:

Wither the web? It's hard to believe but soon, if not already, the web is going to become a lot less interesting to consumers -- and just as it approaches its 20th birthday.

According to Morgan Stanley, within five years global internet consumption on mobile devices will surpass the same activity on PCs. This sounds like good news. It's natural to think that browsers on the third screen (phones) and the fourth screen (tablets) will simply replace time spent in front of the same on a PC. That's not the case.

Mobile devices, by their nature, force users to become more mission-oriented. As more internet consumption shifts to gadgets, it's increasingly becoming an app world and we just live in it. Innovation, fun, simplicity and single-purpose utility will rule while grandiose design and complexity will fall by the wayside.

It won't be enough just to build branded mobile applications that repurpose content across all of the different platforms. That's like newspapers taking the print experience and replicating it on the web as they tried back in the 1990s. Rather, we will need to rethink, remix and repackage information for an entirely different modality than platforms of yore.

First, let's look at the trends.
Virtual Properties broker iPhone / iPad / iPod app; v2.5 is now available.

Internet Trends

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Mary Meeker, Scott Devitt, Liang Wu: 1.2MB PDF.

Henry Blodget comments:

Some key points:

The iPad is one of the fastest-selling gadgets of all time (1mm in 28 days)

Android smartphone shipments almost now equal iPhone shipments (Apple's app leverage may disappear fast)

Global 3G wireless penetration just hit 20%, which is usually the inflection point to very rapid growth

Mobile app and search usage is up 2X year over year

iPad Internet usage is more similar to desktop usage than smartphone usage (more pageviews)

Japan shows the potential for mobile advertising: Japan mobile ad spending now $11/user, up from $1 per user six years ago.

Japan shows potential for mobile commerce: 19% of Rakutan's sales now from mobile.

Learn more about Main Street and our iPhone app. Cloud & mobile computing from leads to closings, and everything in between!

Is Our Fashion Also Our Identity?

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Linda Grant:

It is a commonly held view that fashion and makeup are trivial concerns: Superficial, unnecessary, and concealing by trickery what is held to be 'real' beneath. Fashion is surface, fad, transient. Yet time and again one uncovers moments when clothes and makeup become the things that render us human. Stubbornly, humankind resists the Puritan instinct. In mid-17th-century England, 10 long years of Republicanism, black clothes with no adornment, and the closure of those pleasure pits, the theatres, were forcibly rejected with a return to the monarchy and the adoption of long curly wigs and a great deal of lace and bosom.


The writer is supposed to be above fashion. The writer's eye gazes ever inward toward deep consciousness. The writer cares nothing for how he or she dresses and of course their characters walk about naked, or all they wear is actually described. This myth does not survive the lightest scrutiny. Photographs of Saul Bellow show him in a series of loud checked jackets and snazzy headgear. The history of literature shows that the high-minded denunciation of dress and personal appearance appears to be a late 20th-century phenomenon. Chaucer carefully describes the attire of each of his pilgrims setting out for Canterbury, Shakespeare's Malvolio wears cross-gartered yellow stockings, George Eliot's Dorothea Brooke, on the opening page of Middlemarch, is described as wearing plain dress because she knows it sets off her fine figure.

Jon R. Katzenbach and Zia Khan:

A few years ago we were studying a dozen front-line supervisors at a large telecommunications company in North America. These supervisors had been selected because of their widely recognized ability to motivate the people they worked with -- emotionally as well as rationally. Their people simply did not ever want to disappoint them. The managers counter-intuitively simplified the guidance they received from HR into a singular focus on making people take pride in their day-to-day work. As we came to understand what they did that most "good managers" did not do, we realized that this was a learnable skill. What they did could be captured in a few simple behaviors.

When we shared these behaviors with the CEO, he became impatient. "This seems pretty straightforward -- so why don't more supervisors do this stuff?" he asked. At first we suggested the obvious: faulty recruiting, selection, training, incentive and performance management programs. His response stopped us in our tracks:

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