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Category Archives: marketing

How Microsoft’s Human Resources Culture Drove Away Talent

“Microsoft’s implementation – “stack ranking”, a bell curve that pits employees and groups against one another like rats in a cage – plunged the company into internecine fights, horse trading, and backstabbing.

…every unit was forced to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, then good performers, then average, then below average, then poor…For that reason, executives said, a lot of Microsoft superstars did everything they could to avoid working alongside other top-notch developers, out of fear that they would be hurt in the rankings.

Employees quickly realised that it was more important to focus on organisation politics than actual performance:…”


One of the commenters on this article, a ‘mikesmith’ gives some real food for thought by challenging current conventional wisdom about the ascendancy of STEM.

“I was particularly struck by the very last line, quoting Jobs: ‘Microsoft never had the humanities and liberal arts in its DNA.’ That is so insightful and so true, and says so much about why Apple is now the world’s biggest company. And it’s now fundamentally an arts company, nont a tech company. Sure it has to have great technology. But the purpose of the technology is to sell the arts products. It’s the products created by musicians, writers, filmmakers and others sold on iTunes that is financing Apple’s growth.

And it’s not just true about companies but about countries as well. Those that prosper in coming years will be those that promote the arts, the humanities, the liberal arts. Education in those areas should be a country’s number one priority, and those countries that do that will be the leaders and will have the most prosperous economies. People who study business and technology simply aren’t capable of coming up with the creative ideas. They are good at bean-counting, or finding ways of making the creative peoples’ ideas work better, but they shouldn’t be in charge and they certainly shouldn’t be receiving the bulk of the investment. It’s the artists and the creatives who matter, who now generate the ideas and the profits. Consider how much economic activity just two artists, Tolkien and Rowling, have generated in the past decade. Huge streams of billions, stemming from the work of just two artists! And they will continue for decades.

I’ve read numerous articles in this paper and others recently that young people are studying business and the sciences more than the arts and the humanities. That is just disastrous, both for the individuals and for their countries. And I feel so sorry for those young people who have been brainwashed into thinking that that’s the way to go. There’s no future for them. They should consider well Jobs’ insight, it’s quite brilliant.”

What Marketing Simulations Haven’t Shown Me

Complex systems are built up by connecting diverse agents with interdependent relationships that change over time.

What all of the surveys, opinion polls, and other marketing data doesn’t tell us is the complex web of interactions that lead to a sale, or an individual forming an opinion. That’s the mistake – data from opinion polls measures current opinion when you need tomorrow’s concept. When you try to cross-correlate it, you are only looking at the output of multiple systems and mashing them together and expecting something meaningful. The key is to go back to the inputs, then move forward tracking the finite states of each agent inside of the system.

To put it another way, is a soccer mom going to buy an energy efficient car to save the environment, or a larger car that is obviously safer? Does anyone think that the majority of people, particularly women as they make the most purchase decisions now, would choose a car that obviously isn’t as safe for themselves and their family, including the children who ride along, just for the sake of an abstract concept of helping the environment? This is basic stuff from Drew Whitman’s Life Force 8. If you wish to map the future you have to move beyond the numbers into higher levels of abstraction while keeping in mind the nature of the agents and the connections between them. Add the finite effects of tools and resources on an agent’s environment and you have an idea of what could happen. And you don’t even need a computer to crunch the numbers.

The real fun begins when you can alter the simplest inputs of the agents.

SUV sales have actually been growing in recent months, according to CNNMoney, from about one in five vehicles sold back in the 1990s and early 2000s, to almost a third of all vehicles sold today.

The vast majority of SUVs sold today are actually smaller, more diminutive versions of their ancestors, and have fuel economy that’s as good or better than many passenger cars on the road. For instance, the Chevrolet Equinox gets better combined city and highway mileage than some models of the Honda Accord.

Their economic power is truly revolutionary, representing the largest market opportunity in the world. Just look at the numbers: Women control 65 percent of global spending and more than 80 percent of U.S. spending. By 2014, the World Bank predicts that the global income of women will grow by more than $5 trillion. In both emerging markets and developed nations, women’s power of influence extends well beyond the traditional roles of family and education to government, business, and the environment.

When Tang, A Drink For Astronauts, Was A Status Symbol In China

“The year I turned 16, a new product caught my eye. Fruit Treasure, as Tang was named for the Chinese market, instantly won everyone’s heart. Imagine real oranges condensed into a fine powder! Equally seductive was the TV commercial, which gave us a glimpse of a life that most families, including mine, could hardly afford. The kitchen was spacious and brightly lighted, whereas ours was a small cube …

The drink itself, steaming hot in an expensive-looking mug that was held between the child’s mittened hands, was a vivid orange…

Until this point, all commercials were short and boring, with catchy phrases like “Our Product Is Loved by People Around the World” flashing on screen. The Tang ad was a revolution in itself: the lifestyle it represented – a more healthful and richer one, a Western luxury – was just starting to become legitimate in China as it was beginning to embrace the West and its capitalism…

To add to my agony, our neighbor’s son brought over his first girlfriend, for whom he had just bought a bottle of Tang. He was five years older and a college sophomore; we had nothing in common and had not spoken more than 10 sentences. But this didn’t stop me from having a painful crush on him. The beautiful girlfriend opened the Tang in our flat and insisted that we all try it. When it was my turn to scoop some into a glass of water, the fine orange powder almost choked me to tears. It was the first time I had drunk Tang, and the taste was not like real oranges but stronger, as if it were made of the essence of all the oranges I had ever eaten.”


If shiny little bits of trash or a sugary, artificially flavored drink mix were made scarce and claimed to be desirable by the herd, especially its fertile female contingent, we must predict that everyone would scramble to get it.

This is why I’ve long considered measures of intrinsic value(of a good to an individual) to protect ourselves from the caprices of an insane and self-destructive mass society.

I recognize that the individual cannot be held truly distinct from society, not even close, but I keep my model simple.  It’s a basic method to clear away unwarranted hype and come out ahead of the crowd.

I’m supposing the boy in the story got a generous short term hypergamous payoff for following the fad and buying a can of orange flavored junk.
But guess what probably happened to his fawning groupies as soon as the Tang bubble popped?
We would see him left with a worthless powder for which he paid dearly and no long term or tactical gain to show for it.

Indeed, with that much less resources in his wallet, the less capital he has to impress the next round of herd females.  Worse, he was probably spending scarce funds his family needed to feed itself and pay for rent and education.

Rockefeller: Oh the Joys of Deregulation

Railroads, factories, refineries…In the 19th century it became possible for a few people to control a few critical chokepoints of commerce and exploit them for all they were worth.

To some, these people were “captains of industry” to the worker on the street they were often known as “robber barons.”
Once one of them dominated a key commodity or transport system they could wield monopolistic powers with impunity.

Many people believed that “free” markets would naturally lead to the optimal public good, the regulations that could have stopped the near destruction of competition in the economy didn’t yet exist.

John D. Rockefeller grew up poor in rural America, his father absent most of the time womanizing and plying money-making schemes, his mother overworked at home on the farm.
Because they never knew when people would come calling to collect debts incurred by the father, they always had money in reserve and kept close track of finances.

When Rockefeller got his first job in Cleveland he started keeping a personal ledger poetically named “Ledger A” that he used to keep track of every penny that passed through his hands.
To put this worship of order and precision in perspective, Ledger A became Rockefeller’s personal Rosebud, a sacred artifact he later had locked away in one of his private vaults.

It was with this methodical spirit that Rockefeller continued to accumulate wealth and assets. He saw commerce itself and the accumulation of capital as a sacred mission.

Realizing that drilling for oil itself tended towards booms and busts, Rockefeller had the brains to focus on refineries that could bring in steady profits whether or not there were localized surges or shortages.

He also leveraged his growing economy of scale to get discount rates from the railroads which allowed him to sell his product cheaper than the competition. Soon everyone had to push for these discounts or go out of business. To a few victors who could push the railroad transport prices lowest went the spoils.

This price war over the railways is why today we have interstate commerce laws. Because Rockefeller could use railroads to help him sell more cheaply than the competition wherever he went, no one else stood a chance.

State governments and the feds tried to make regulations to prevent companies like Standard Oil from operating across state borders without having to answer to any set of local laws. Soon,companies had to operate under the laws of a single state.

Standard Oil simply split up into nominally separate companies, one for each state and all were governed from a seemingly innocuous holding company.

As government continued to try to restrict the reach of robber barons, men like Rockefeller kept finding ways to honor the letter of the law while circumventing its spirit.

Rockefeller responded to concern over the growing size of his company by maintaining every appearance of competition.
Companies he bought out would keep their old names and management. No one would even know anything had changed except for a few people at the top of the hierarchy.
He also allowed an insignificant sliver of the industry to remain somewhat independent so he could always make the claim that some competition existed.

Because of these stealthy tactics, few people realized just how big Standard Oil had become until it was too late. Whereas other Robber Barons liked to behave like celebrities, Rockefeller kept quiet operating largely behind the scenes. He didn’t truly become a household name until long after he had taken over.

Perhaps more than anyone, Rockefeller invented the modern corporation with its precisely organized state-sized bureacracies.
Because Rockefeller found himself in charge of so much, much of his effort was spent simply figuring out how to delegate tasks.

He also invented much of the modern corporate culture even becoming one of the first executives to organize much of his social life around holes of golf.

Like many magnates of his time, Rockefeller seemed to feel a certain tie to a homeland and people that today’s borderless tycoons would be hard-pressed to understand.

That Rockefeller retained some kind of moral vision and notion of a higher purpose even as he gained absolute power seems unthinkable after all the horrors of the 20th century and the dominance of disconnected kleptocrats in the 21st century.

It truly is amazing in retrospect that he actually tried to build things and give back to the society that gave him his wealth rather than relentlessly hoarding everything he had by running his operations out of multiple countries.

Indeed in the 21st century, today’s Robber Barons have transcended obsolete nation states.
They play the laws of one zone against the other for their gain much as Rockefeller once did with the laws of different U.S. states.

As unpopular as the notion of some kind of world governing system is, some kind of international commerce system may become necessary to stem the depredations of billionaires who reap all the benefits of playing a game of arbitrage within the current decrepit and outdated international system: If one nation objects to being exploited by them, they simply take their money somewhere else with a government more amenable to their desires.
If particular countries try to enforce regulations, elites can simply split different operations into different countries all under different names just like Rockefeller used to do in the states with bits and pieces of Standard Oil.

In our age of multi-national corporate entities effectively acting outside of the laws of nation states, we would do well to pay attention to the lessons we can learn from men like John D. Rockefeller.

Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller Sr.

Alternate Reality Shows

Present reality shows are reflections of the society that created them:

Jillian michaels yelling

-Obsession with zero sum competition.
Nearly every show focuses on eliminating others, often by isolating and removing the ‘weakest.’ This weakest is usually the one who made the least ‘friends’ or who may have been good, but simply lacked the right demographic appeal.

-Popularity is strength, money, virtue…winning.
There is often a host and/or judges, but this doesn’t change the fact that it’s a popularity contest. Approval of the collective body is what separates winners from the losers.

Whether on a tropical island or in a Hollywood studio, these shows are high stakes versions of the typical school or workplace social life.

This fundamental lack of imagination is the hallmark of reality shows as we know them.

What sort of alternate, worthwhile reality shows could be come up with?:

I know what alternate reality show I’d create.

I’d make a show that organizes groups of people into different types of governments and social structures and then observe the dynamics that develop over the course of several months. I’d explicitly keep the ‘losers’ on the island to see how the society deals with them. No voting out undesirables. Real societies have to find a place and role even for those on the margins.

Better yet, I would have society ‘teams’ in direct competition. Thus, groups that alienate their less competitive members would have to deal with the formation of an entire disloyal caste if they chose to be heavy handed with domestic policy.

For me, at least, this would be pure fun. Fun with a purpose. I don’t think English really has a commonly used word for something fun done for a higher end.
Meanwhile, ‘entertainment’ seems synonymous with something that is gratifying but pointless.

Nooks/Kindles Reveal What People Read, How Quickly & How Many Pages

Governments are too inefficient and behind the curve to execute a real 1984 type society. Corporations, particularly technology/internet ones, are the kind that have the engineering know-how to create the real big brother. That’s why the government bought Palantir’s products, the best engineers don’t work in government anymore. In a real martial law situation I would expect massive privatization to cover the gaps. Even Wal-Mart is using former intelligence officers now. This of course doesn’t cover the “black projects”, but no one can exactly put their finger on where that money goes and what comes of it.

Data collected from Nooks reveals, for example, how far readers get in particular books, how quickly they read and how readers of particular genres engage with books. Jim Hilt, the company’s vice president of e-books, says the company is starting to share their insights with publishers to help them create books that better hold people’s attention.

Sabido Methodology – Background

The Sabido Method is a methodology for designing and producing serialized dramas on radio and television that can win over audiences while imparting prosocial values.

This is of course the classic literary device of character growth, but Miguel Sabido developed the process in detail for television in a way that enabled it to tackle the most sensitive of subjects — sex, abortion, family planning, AIDS — in a non-threatening and even enlightening manner. By transmitting values through the growth and development of characters, the Sabido Method manages to simultaneously attract large and faithful audiences and stimulate thoughtful discussions. PMC President Bill Ryerson and Honorary Chair David Poindexter worked with Sabido for decades learning and applying the Sabido Method to programming throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America.


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