Archive 2011

Since its humble beginnings, the French clothing firm Lacoste has always targeted the upper classes with its preppy look. The exclusive brand invests heavily in marketing, positioning its crocodile logo as a symbol of opulence. But one issue outside the company’s control has undone a lot of the firm’s hard work: Has anyone noticed Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik’s penchant for the brand? Lacoste even earned a mention in Breivik’s online manifesto prior to the murders, when he was living in a rural town: “Refined individuals like myself are a rare commodity here so I notice I do get a lot of attention. It’s the way I dress…mostly very expensive brand clothing, Lacoste sweaters…people can see from a mile away that I’m not from around here.” The terrorist insists on wearing a sweater boasting the signature croc on trips outside the Oslo prison where he currently resides, devastating Lacoste’s associations with elite preppy society. Lacoste executives have appealed to Norway’s law enforcement to prohibit Breivik from wearing Lacoste branded clothing. The firm has yet to release a statement regarding the issue.

Similarly, Abercrombie & Fitch has offered to pay Michael Sorrentino, a character on the reality TV show Jersey Shore, not to wear its garments. According to a statement released by the business: “We understand that the show is for entertainment purposes but believe this association is contrary to the aspirational nature of our brand, and may be distressing to many of our fans.”

If you are an executive in the fashion industry and you are facing a similar situation, here is some advice on how to deal with the nightmare of having a bad friend:

Fashion Brands

Crisis Communication

Celebrity Sells

No one and no organization is safe from judgment on the Internet. The world’s most open communications portal has the power to make or break an individual’s or a corporation’s reputation with just one click. To cope with this formidable but threatening tool, you need to be proactive. Consider the German cleric community’s positive move forward: In the wake of revelations of grotesque clerical sex abuse in the Rhineland area of Germany, priests’ reputations suffered greatly. But one group of clerics wasn’t going to let the actions of a few wicked men tarnish the good name of the entire pastoral community. They set up a ratings website, Hirtenbarometer, or “Shepherds’ Barometer,” where people can rate their local clergymen (from numerous denominations) on a scale of 1 to 6 (6 being the highest). Around 8,000 religious leaders have signed up to allow the public to rank them on their service performance, work with youth and the elderly, credibility and ability to stay in touch with modern life. Such a rating system builds trust between the preachers and their congregations. Thus far, Pope Benedict XVI has rated 3.82 out of a possible 6.

To learn how you and your firm can emulate the purpose behind this idea and build trust with your audience online, take a look at the following links:

Wild West 2.0

Trust Agents

Socialnomics

Once upon a time, official lamplighters wearing stilts attended to street lamps at dusk every evening to brighten their city’s throughways and avenues, but the dawn of electricity rendered the lamplighters’ careers obsolete. The court jester, the cooper, the town crier – all jobs of the past. But job extinction is not a phenomenon of the past. Improved technology, the proliferation of globalization and outsourcing, and societal changes forebode extinction for many more careers. If you are a cashier, a milkman, a telephone operator or a photograph developer, be afraid – or at least be retrained. As Robert E. Kennedy and Ajay Sharma, the authors of The Service Shift, have highlighted, even radiology, a service many would consider to be safe, is undergoing outsourcing.

How can you protect your job and career in this unstable environment? To learn why certain careers are becoming extinct – or outsourced – and to protect your job from that fate, read these summaries:

The Service Shift

Linchpin

Disaster Proof Your Career

Digital downloads are so passé. The music industry’s fastest growing format is not MP3s, or even CDs; it’s vinyl. In 2010, vinyl sales grew 13.6%. Music aficionados bought 2.8 million new vinyl records last year – the vinyl industry’s highest sales figure since 1991 – and vinyl sales accounted for 1.2% of all new album sales in 2010. And the sale of second-hand vinyl records is booming – just check your local flea market for evidence. Vinyl’s resurgence is linked to many factors: the growth of the indie rock industry, better sound quality, the nostalgia associated with setting the needle in the groove, and so on. Last year’s top 10 best-selling vinyl albums illustrate the eclectic mix of tastes that are helping to bring back vinyl’s popularity:

  1. The Beatles – Abbey Road
  2. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
  3. Black Keys – Brothers
  4. Vampire Weekend – Contra
  5. Michael Jackson – Thriller
  6. National – High Violet
  7. Beach House – Teen Dream
  8. Jimi Hendrix Experience – Valleys of Neptune
  9. Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon
  10. The XX – XX

Vinyl records are not the only trends making a comeback: 1980s fashion is back in vogue, and movie producers are remaking cult classics Footloose and Dirty Dancing. For ideas on how you can profit from retro trends, take some advice from brands that have written the rules on nostalgia marketing:

Getting the Bugs Out

The Real Thing

Guinness

Which energy sources have a viable future? Does China’s growth threaten Western values? What illnesses afflict the global economy? How can firms win customers in the digital age? getAbstract has nominated authors whose works provide answers to some of the world’s most pressing questions.

For the 11th year running, getAbstract will present its award for the Business Book of the Year at the opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair on October 12, 2011.

Two English titles and two German titles will receive the prestigious award, which over the course of 11 years has come to be highly regarded in the publishing world. Take a look at the finalists below. Click on any title for a preview.

English

The Corporate Whistleblower’s Survival Guide
The Master Switch
The Thank You Economy
Triumph of the City
Why the West Rules – for Now

German

Aufbruch – Unser Energiesystem im Wandel
Der Währungscrash kommt!
Die Weichmacher
Hacking für Manager
Managerismus

Since 2001, getAbstract has awarded the prize to esteemed authors such as George A. Akerlof, Robert J. Shiller, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Benoît Mandelbrot, Joseph Stiglitz, Malcolm Gladwell, Thomas Sowell and Chris Anderson, as well as their publishers. To learn more about previous getAbstract International Book Award winners, visit www.getAbstract.com/Bookaward.

What are you hoarding in your basement? Do you have bric-a-brac, stamp collections and baseball cards stashed in your attic, accumulated from your childhood? Do you have family mementos hidden under the stairs? Economic hard times heighten the temptation to sift through your old junk to see if you can find any potentially valuable treasure.

Last week, the US Public Broadcasting System television program The Antiques Roadshow stopped off in Tulsa, Oklahoma. One man brought in an unusual collection for the panel of experts to appraise: a set of five 17th and 18th-century Chinese rhinoceros-horn cups, which he had been collecting cheaply since the ’70s. To everyone’s surprise, Lark Mason, the show’s Chinese art consultant, estimated that the cups would fetch between $1 million and $1.5 million dollars at auction.

So take thee to an antiques dealer, and have all your unusual bits and bobs analyzed. Fortunes can lie in the most unlikely of places.

Now that the price of gold – a traditional safe haven – has soared, you may want to consider some other alternate investments to retain your assets’ value during the recession. Click on these links for some ideas:

Collectible Investments for the High Net Worth Investor

The $12 Million Stuffed Shark

Pawnonomics

When Mike Morrison of the University of Illinois and Neal J. Roese of the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University surveyed 370 Americans about their biggest regret, they found that women were more likely to regret a love decision, whereas men were more likely to regret a career decision. In total, “regrets involving romance were the most common (18.1%), followed by family (15.9%), education (13.1%), career (12.2%), finance (9.9%) and parenting (9.0%).”

Writers have observed and documented the differences between men and women throughout the ages. For some curious insights into their findings, check out these titles:

Is There Anything Good About Men?

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus

Evolution of Desire

And to warm the cockles of your heart, close the office door and take 10 minutes to watch this beautifully assembled video about regret: Fifty People, One Question – Galway, Ireland. It is a poignant reminder that life is for living.

One of today’s beacons of globalization is the abundance of expatriates – people living and working (temporarily or permanently) outside their home countries. This cyclical stream of individuals moving abroad, moving on and moving home is growing as the global economy becomes more integrated. The financial crisis has forced even more people to emigrate in search of work and financial security.

Mercer’s 2011 “Cost of Living Survey” finds that Luanda, Angola’s capital city, is the most expensive city for US expats to live in, and it awarded N’Djamena, Chad, the bronze medal. Surprised? Well, the data make sense: Mercer analyzes two key factors: “the relative strength or weakness of the relevant currency against the US dollar over the prior 12 months and price movements over the prior 12 months compared to those in New York City as the base.” Finding comfortable, safe accommodation is a costly challenge in Luanda, which emerged from a 27-year civil war in 2002, so goods are scarce and, thus, expensive. Conditions are similar in N’Djamena.

The remainder of the top 10 list is composed of the usual suspects: Tokyo came in second; Moscow, fourth; and Geneva, fifth. Osaka, Zürich, Singapore, Hong Kong and São Paolo make up the rest of the top 10. Karachi in Pakistan is the cheapest city for US expats. Time to pack your bags!

If you are considering moving abroad for work, here is some helpful advice:

New Directions in Expatriate Research

The Expert Expatriot

The Art of Coming Home

Mr. Popper’s Penguins with Jim Carrey had the third biggest opening in US movie theaters this weekend (after Green Lantern and Super 8), marking the return of penguins. Have you noticed what successful movie careers penguins have had in recent years? Let’s take a look at the penguin résumé: After many years in theater school, penguins embarked on their acting careers on the small screen. In 1986, the penguin community garnered recognition in Pingu, the Swiss stop-motion television show, which ran for four series. The plot centered on one penguin, Pingu, and his everyday adventures in a cold Antarctic world.

After years toiling as extras and accepting bit parts in movies, the penguins’ hard work finally paid off: In 2005, they landed leading roles in March of the Penguins and Madagascar. Penguins had hit the big time: Their movie careers soared, garnering rave reviews from audiences around the world. The release of Happy Feet in 2006 led to further accolades. Penguins became hot property, and every director and producer wanted to feature the birds in their movies. Was this all too much too soon? Critics panned their flightless, lackluster performances in Surf’s Up (2007) and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008). The penguins were overexposed and burnt out, and their careers spiraled out of control. They stepped out of the limelight and took some time out to rediscover themselves. After a brief spell in rehab for “exhaustion” (close friends of the birds have hinted at herring abuse), 2011 marks the return of the penguins to the silver screen, not only with Mr. Popper’s Penguins, but also with Happy Feet Two (to be released later this year).

“What’s the secret to your new balanced, stress-free life?” we asked the penguins. “Yoga and meditation,” they replied. To help you unwind and avoid burnout, Hollywood’s favorite birds recommend these links:

ExecutiveHealth.com’s Leading Under Pressure

Make Every Second Count

The Power of Less

Imagine this dialogue :

Patrick: Ireland has named Frances Fitzgerald as minister for children’s rights in its new government.

Mary: Yeah? What does the minister hope to accomplish?

Patrick: She will outlaw the use of the word “children.” From now on, minors will be referred to as “differently adult.”

Has the world gone mad for political correctness? When a “chairman” or “chairwoman” is reduced to an item of furniture (a “chair”), and when “manhole covers” have become known as “personnel access units,” you have to question the steps people have taken to tiptoe around some very important issues. Next we will be reading our differently adult offspring stories about Caucasian Frozen Precipitation and the Seven Vertically Challenged Gentlepeople.

However, even if you view the rules on political correctness as overly stringent, being politically correct in the workplace is of utmost importance. You can never assume that a quip you make in jest will be received that way by your audience. Obviously, equitable language should be applied to all personkind (ouch). And heuristics for political correctness exist for a very important reason – to minimize social and institutional offense, and rightly so. To learn more about the do’s and don’ts of sensitive discourse, check out these titles:

The Diversity Code

Perfectly Able

Making Diversity Work

Industry Intro

Social networking within organizations has risen so quickly it has now become standard practice. It is so prevalent that it also facilitates and encourages social learning, which is a necessity in order to remain competitive and profitable.

Here are some of my definitions of terms I will be using. Social media are tools for social interaction (a relationship between two or more people) using available and scalable communication systems.  Social networking is the use of social media to share information with other users, or to locate people with related interests. Social learning is the process in which one observes the actions and lessons of others and adjusts their own behavior as a result; this in turn drives collective transformation. Social media promotes social learning by leveraging technology to help employees find and share information and communicate in original ways.

The course of acceptance of social networking in the workplace has been comparable to the embracement of email, instant messaging and even the Internet itself. At their birth, some people did not see the significance and others believed them to just be productivity killers. However, social networks, along with the Internet and email, are permanent communication methods proven to be dynamic collaboration and information sharing tools for companies. 

Below are some interesting stats that illustrate the rising significance of social networks:

  • Radio acquired 50 million users after 38 years, which took TV 13 years, the Internet 4 years, the iPod 3 years, and less than one year for Facebook to add over 200 million users.
  • Recently, Facebook had more than 500 million users and growing.
  • LinkedIn has 60 million users, of whom about half are international.
  • Executives from all Fortune 500 companies are LinkedIn users.
  • YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world.
  • The number of Twitter users has reached 75 million.

Social networking is here to stay and increasingly relevant for large corporations as well, an observation backed by bold remarks from some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs. Jeff Bezos, CEO at Amazon, stated “If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.” This is the power of social networking! 

Getting Over Your Fear

Most companies strive for their employees to learn on all levels, but some remain hesitant to implement social networking due to fears around things like brand protection, leakage of data, lack of control over corporate content, negative commentary, decreased productivity and more.  

To many people, the term social automatically means leisure. This is not always the case. Work in itself is social in nature, but not leisure; employees learn from engagement with their co-workers, and this occurs beyond the training classroom, seminars and workshops. Some argue that no other type of learning is as effective as social learning because it has a greater lasting impact on most individuals than that of formal learning initiatives. So, if social networking were referred to as networking leveraging technology, more business leaders would immediately see the value.

Your workforce is changing rapidly. The increase of social web usage can partly be attributed to Generation Y’s strong presence in the workplace. However, employers need to realize that although these Millennials (Gen Y) bring the highest level of technological sophistication and expectations to the workplace, even those other generations (The Silent Generation, Baby Boomers and Generation X) expect social media to be available.  Looking ahead to 2020, Generation Z will use social media as a second nature. So, if you want to attract and retain top workers you’ll need to cater to what your talent expects, wants and thrives with.

To some, social networking may seem to be an annoying fad. But the intense engagement users have with them, the simple distribution of information and the sense of cooperation among people exposes that social networking tools, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype, GoToMeeting and so many others, prosper where many company knowledge management and knowledge sharing plans have crashed. These online communities offer immediate answers to employees’ job-related inquiries, a place for contemplation and an equal opportunity to partake in the organizational and individual strive for excellence.

Why You Should Get Onboard 

Your employees are using “it” already! The use of social media in the workplace is validated by Bill Jensen and Josh Klein’s groundbreaking book Hacking Work: Breaking Stupid Rules for Smart Results. The following examples described in their book clearly illustrate just how essential, powerful, and uncontrollable social media in the workplace can be:

  • An Apple employee couldn’t get anyone to own up to changing faulty product documentation, so he cc’d Steve Jobs in an email. Within minutes there was a stampede of people rushing to correct the error.
  • A woman who was ordered not to bring up unhappy customer reports snuck filmed testimonials onto YouTube. The public outcry was huge, and the problems were fixed.

Jensen and Klein also explain that today, information can be assembled, managed and distributed at scale by anyone who has Web access, and that the resources available online usually outperform those that companies provide by a huge margin.

The writers explain that companies need to start treating employees as partners and assist them in creating original solutions to the company’s issues. Below are some examples of how companies use social media successfully and how the customary firewall dividing external and internal audiences is diminishing.

PepsiCo – They launched a global campaign called “Pepsi Refresh.” People submit grant proposals to a website, then Pepsi urges online voters to select the winners (amounts: $5,000 to $250,000). 

Starbucks – Starbucks asks for suggestions on how to make the company better and the CIO actually discusses the idea on the site and explains his rationale for implementing or not implementing the idea.

H&R Block – They use their Facebook page as a means to offer tax advice.

McDonalds – They used Facebook to virally spread the word about their “Day of Change” campaign. As a result, online donations increased in 130% in 2010 compared to 2009.

SkittlesTheir “Win the Rainbow” promotion urges users to upload a photo or video on Facebook illustrating what they would do to win a full-size vending machine filled with their new product Skittles Blender.

These examples validate how companies foster greater dialogue with their customers / stakeholders and leverage that dialogue to deliver better results and solutions.

Preparing for Implementation

According to a 2010 Cisco study, only 1 out of 7 companies has a formal process which embraces consumer-based social networking tools for business intentions. So, what is a company’s first step after accepting the fact that they need to welcome the transparency and unfiltered communications that comes with social networking?  They will need to build frameworks so that one of their greatest assets, their employees, are inspired to be representatives of their brand. This will give them the power to communicate internally amongst co-workers as well as externally with their customers. To do it right, a social media plan needs to be put into place, and in order to increase the success rate of this plan, a social media policy should be established. Such a policy will allow the company to actively benefit from social networking, help employees understand how they are supposed to behave and can protect the company if the employees do something that calls for discipline.

Guidelines within a social media policy explain etiquettes and methods that employees need to consider when using and sharing information online. The rules within a social media policy don’t need to be much different than the basic do’s and don’ts that have been established for those who speak on behalf of a public company – there are limits in regards to what/how one is allowed to discuss things such as trade secrets, future strategies, company earnings, etc. Once you set rules, it is clear that there can be consequences if any of these rules are violated.

Along with trying to shape the social dialogue through guidelines, employers should realize that such communication is naturally self- regulating as well. For example, most professionals should understand that a careless opinion shared publically could result in “defamation of character” and have legal/financial ramifications. Adults know that what they say in public has social consequence for them as well. One thoughtless comment by an employee can result in a challenging situation with their employer or other stakeholders.

Learning in This “New World”

Now let’s talk about how information, and thus learning, is created and consumed in this “new world” where especially our generation Y thirsts for “immediacy”.

Consider the example below:

A photographer captures a moment during the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti. A journalist writes a one-page article describing this photo. A news reporter discusses the article in 60 seconds. A social media user comments on this one-minute clip with a 140 character tweet. 242 others tweet on the same topic.

Some may argue that the 140 character tweet may not be as specific as the one-page article and that the information may be diluted, but one can also argue that the reader’s investment of time has been used more wisely, because he/she receives better knowledge from 100 relevant “compressed” tweets in one day then they can by reading 10 different articles.

As the COO for getAbstract, I must relate the significance of my organization to the topic of discussion. Take the analogy above about the photo and think of it as a book. A relevant and concise summary of a noteworthy business book gives one the fundamental message needed. Combined with 10 other topic related high-quality summaries of business books, the aggregated lesson could be more beneficial and the time invested is less. If a reader wants to delve deeper, then they can do this only for those books which summaries were of greatest value to them.

getAbstract is not only a powerful informal learning tool with over 7,000 business book summaries, but also a medium for social networking. Our surveys reveal that every abstract that is read is also, on average, shared with 5 other people, which allows for social networking on a very basic level. It can also serve as a great tool for those companies who have only recently taken the initiative to encourage the use of social media at work. It will allow employees to learn socially through the use of get Abstract’s Virtual Business Forum, where users work together and share ideas about a particular abstract and the information’s applicability to their job. Users can also recommend a summary on Facebook or Twitter.

getAbstract is a great social learning stepping stone for firms for multiple reasons. First, getAbstract is a trusted information source that companies can rely on – our abstracts are created by more than 120 first-class, well-respected business writers, who work closely with our high-quality editorial staff to summarize leading business books from over 460 publishers. Second, our site is password protected and extremely secure. In addition, the use of getAbstract within your organization can be easily monitored through reports and real-time user statistics. But most importantly, we have over 10 million professional business users today including about 20% of the Fortune 500 companies as customers. Lastly, the solution is always delivered with a dedicated Learning Consultant who will work to ensure it is configured and integrated to your very specific company needs. So, while getAbstract’s learning solution is social in nature, its content and means of distribution are essentially risk-free.

The Verdict Is Clear

Social networking and impact on learning is happening faster than ever. Therefore, it is wise to embrace and leverage it within your organization. Knowledge exists everywhere and social media provides a great channel to find and digest this knowledge. So, go on and find your stepping stone into the realm where connections are endless and effortlessly sustained, it will prepare you to compete more easily on all levels.

About us: getAbstract is passionate about finding valuable business knowledge, summarizing it at the highest-quality, making it available as an on-demand library at the point-of-need, aligning it to an organization’s business objectives- allowing professionals to make the right business decisions, develop employees into leaders and provide companies with innovation and agility.

Back in the early 1980s, when we still wore leg warmers, played with Rubik cubes, and recorded film on magnetic tape, a little-known corporate war was playing out in the video cassette industry. Sony developed and released its Betamax format, but eventually VHS’s larger video cassettes came to dominate the market instead. How did VHS gain so much ground over Sony, an industry giant? VHS allowed the adult movie industry to use its format; Sony did not. From a strictly economic perspective, that clearly was a mistake. Tech companies may hate to admit it, but in the movie-making business, once pornography producers decide what technology they will use, that dictates the path mainstream film makers will follow.

So Sony changed its mind, and, 20 years later, it wasn’t going to take any chances when it released its Blu-ray disc format, which competed with Toshiba’s HD-DVD format for market share. This time, Sony cooperated with the porn industry and made a fortune. Plus, by incorporating a Blu-ray player into every Playstation 3 gaming console, Sony made Toshiba’s HD-DVDs all but obsolete.

Will the adult entertainment industry continue to define technological standards? There’s another test case approaching: Japan has just produced the world’s first 3D pornography movie. It will be interesting to see if it will play any role in improving 3D special effects in mainstream cinema.

To learn some more oddities about the path technological evolution has taken, take a look at these titles:

When Computers Were Human

The Master Switch

The Laws of Disruption

getAbstract’s library is constantly growing. Today our English audio library surpassed the 1,000 milestone. We also have 850 German audios online for you to enjoy at your leisure. Our audio summaries are educational and entertaining, and they relay the most important points of a book in just eight minutes – the perfect length of time to hold our listeners’ attention. To browse through our extensive collection of audio summaries, click here.

Scientists have discovered a naturally occurring time machine. To date, they have documented one case of its ability to bend the space-time continuum. Now the time machine is set to strike again. It is located at 13° 34′ 59″ S / 172° 19′ 59″ W, and it answers to the name of Samoa.

For the second time in history, the small Pacific island of Samoa will move across the international date line. Samoa travelled back through time by one day 119 years ago, when it elected to move the international date line to its west coast, thus bolstering trade with the US and Europe. However, in recent years, Australia and New Zealand have emerged as Samoa’s biggest trading partners, but Samoa’s current date settings are not conducive to trade with its top customers. According to Samoan prime minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, “In doing business with New Zealand and Australia, we’re losing out on two working days a week. While it’s Friday here, it’s Saturday in New Zealand and when we’re at church Sunday, they’re already conducting business in Sydney and Brisbane.” Moving the international date line to Samoa’s east coast will push the island one day into the future, placing the island three hours ahead of Sydney instead of 21 hours behind.

According to Pareto’s Law, 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients. To retain these valuable customers, you should move mountains – or even the space-time continuum – for them. Here are some other good ideas on how to satisfy your key customers:

Loyalty Myths

Managing Customers as Investments

Customer Care Excellence

Osama bin Laden is dead. The markets have reacted positively, the prices of oil, gold and silver have fallen somewhat, and we can all breathe a sigh of relief and relax now, right? Wrong. In fact, it has never been clearer that a return to the pre-2001 utopic bliss of ignorance and pseudo security is not in sight. Although the primary figurehead of terrorism is no more, the sounding of bin Laden’s death knell has not vanquished terrorism. Once the initial elation from the news of Osama bin Laden’s death passes, a new reality will set in: Who will usurp bin Laden? What will the repercussions be? How will al Qaeda react to having the founder and chief of its movement gunned down? Will Islamic fundamentalists seek retaliation? The US and the UK have immediately moved to a status of heightened security. Expect political rhetoric to revert to the “code orange” and “code red” of yesteryear as global mistrust escalates and Westerners anxiously – rightly or wrongly – await retribution.

To learn more about how the world has reached the present standoff, take a look at these titles:

The Looming Tower

Unholy Wars

Fundamentalism

And coming soon to getAbstract, Osama bin Laden, a new best-selling biography of the founder of al Qaeda that is provoking plenty of water-cooler conversation about its controversial political views.