Archive for June, 2011

June 27, 2011

Machiavelli never went away… and St. Benedict has a point or two to make!

From 1531 till now some behaviors haven’t changed…not in the corporate world and not in politics. The word ‘Machiavellian’  has become synonymous with  heartless, selfish manipulation of others, controlling outcomes at any cost. New corporate wisdom it seems still flows equally from Machiavelli, The Prince and Sun Tzu, The Art of War.

Corporate survival lesson from a monk and a fifth century Christian saint….just goes to show that most human wisdom and certainly the best of it last a very long long time because it is rooted in real life experiences. Too much intellectual cogitation may not be that good for business!

June 27, 2011

Consider this…

Do you have to act like a man to succeed in business?

Women see emulating male behavior in the corporate world as the road to success. While this is an objective look at what is happening, the more interesting investigation would be into why it is happening. Why are women not playing to their natural genetic gender strengths? Maybe because, the soft skills they use to enrich corporate culture are devalued by the overwhelmingly male population in the workplace. ‘Out-aggressing’ male corporate aggression doesn’t seem to be getting the women very far. Their numbers at the top remain small in every country in the world. Their presence on corporate boards everywhere in the world remains minuscule. Workplace policies/amenities in offices are way behind real needs that a working mother has.

Are women better managers as some experts believe? Some acknowledged innate skills of women managers are: high adaptability, high delegation skills,good at building emotional compacts,  take risks with caution, more creative, more right-brained (Read Daniel Pink’s  book ‘A Whole New Mind’ to learn more about right and left brain thinking). Is there any acceptable truth in these ‘generalizations’? The body of knowledge is growing, evidence is coming in, the snowball is rolling and the day of the house husband has arrived!!

And then there is the ‘Queen Bee’ syndrome where women who succeed and reach the top are particularly nasty to other women. Gender bias in the workplace  it appears nurtures this type of peer aggression. Women who belong to this group prefer to stay in a state of denial.. Here is a study that touches on this issue:

And then there is the evidence that counters all this:

Why you need women leading in your organization

June 21, 2011

A new ‘person’ brand…

Can Matt Damon Bring Clean Water To Africa

June 16, 2011

Do Brand Ambassadors influence Consumers?

Who knows? Celebs are being used all over the globe to lead brands into winning more and more competitive space. But is there any way to check whether the huge amounts being paid to these celebs are giving any measurable returns?  Here are some facts on what is happening in the US market. Chances are most sophisticated consumer markets will yield the same results.

Another interesting point to ponder is what happens when these brand ambassadors fall from grace. In a sense there is no need for worry because if they never did any good what harm can they now do?

The heaviest use of brand ambassadors is for advertising purposes. Surprisingly this doubly compounded expense is something brands are willing to carry while other worthwhile solutions to reach consumers are summarily dismissed.

Some of the worst advertising has brand ambassadors in it. It is vacuous, listless and relies too heavily on the glitter of the celeb to pull it through. This is not creativity it is a crack up.

June 16, 2011

Behavioral Economics and Public Policy

Richard Thaler co-authored “Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness” (Yale University Press, April 2008) with Harvard Law School professor Cass Sunstein. This book talks about how to apply ideas from behavioral economics to public policy planning. Here is an interview with Richard Thaler talking more on just how this works for governments and corporates.

Please register on the McKinsey site to access the full article.

June 13, 2011

Panasonic’s greening effort….but what are they really doing?

This news piece tells us about the great advertising campaign Panasonic North America is releasing to ‘highlight its growing leadership in green business innovation’ by 2018. ( Interesting and ambitious thinking to protect home and social environments. But why go for an expensive  World Heritage advertising campaign on the National Geographic? With an anthem and theme song all in place. First of all, all greening claims have come under suspicion and scrutiny. Most have turned out to be too little too late. Most have been viewed as unabashed self promotions without any real commitment backing them. All promises are for the far future with no time line or details shared. So in this context it is difficult to understand how a heavy spend advertising TV program on heritage sites helps the Panasonic cause. Who believes  advertising any way? For serious issues probably no one. Advertising is for when no one else wants to tell your story or hear it. No one wants to get involved with you or engage with you. No one believes you will do as you promise. Okay so there has been plenty of truthful and engaging advertising in the past and we assume Panasonic and its agencies will pull off this one as well. But we wish Panasonic would ‘do’ more to show what ‘greening’ means to them and through them for us.

June 12, 2011

Living Companies….

On June 16th IBM turns 100 years old. Here is an interview with Sam Palmisano:


The Living Company 

Arie de Geus (Author), Peter M. Senge (Author)

June 12, 2011

POSCO back in the news…

“Now kids lead anti-Posco war screams the TOI headline today.”

The issue is the same:  Land acquisition. The protagonist is the same: The Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti. The form of protest is new: 400 children lying on the ground to stop government  officials from moving in to acquire the disputed land. A new refrain: why should we send our children to school when we are going to lose our land. A serious and potentially violent protest is in the making. The administrative machinery is using its muscle to steam roller wherever they can and the protesters are firm that they will lose neither  face nor land.

Strong, entrenched adversarial stances are fairly standard in India. “Activism” and dedicated NGOs will take on companies who are not willing to see community well-being as integral to any commercial deal they strike with government. Political  involvement particularly of groups opposed to the government of the day is almost a given. Added to the flexing of political muscle is the show of  ‘tough’ by the local administration and law enforcement machinery: heartless, corrupt, negligent by and large. Beating up locals is routine. Conniving with politicians is expected. Co-opting local thugs is a done deal. And into this tumultuous mix enters the MNC!! No wonder they are scared of coming up front to say anything. How are they to know who they will antagonize? Both media and NGOs prefer to remain sceptical and uncooperative when it comes to listening to a corporate viewpoint. Why? Because business every where is still viewed as a heartless exploiter. It is assumed that MNCs wanting to be part of this country will only protect their own interests and not that of the local community. Why not? These are the same companies that make corporate responsibility commitments to the poor around the world.

In India today there is a new kind of competition between state governments to see who can attract the largest amount of foreign investment. And this competition it is clear is as brutal as any in the corporate world. And once again who suffers the most in this fight? The poor and the deprived. And the end beneficiaries of this struggle almost always prefer to stay in the background watching and waiting. What is their real corporate responsibility in these cases?

There are normally two parts to almost all local protests, particularly in vastly under developed areas of India. One is the value at which land is purchased by the government, particularly when there are natural resources under the earth or on it. And the second is the issue of livelihoods. Neither should be intractable in this age and time but both have become sticking points for all parties concerned.

June 8, 2011

Right Brain or Left Brain?

Check here:


June 6, 2011

Mother Teresa and Lady Gaga as new corporate leadership icons……

This sure breaks bounds and barriers and takes us right out of every conceivable box.