Paying Attention to Bad News

Bad news can be really disheartening. When you get news of a product failure, there’s a real temptation to think, oh, that’s as much as I want to know about that! I think I’ll go home now. I think I’ll work on something else. Meetings in which colleagues try to explain away a product failure or a lost customer are the worst. But they are preferable to the meeting that isn’t called, to the silence and inactivity when nobody tells you something negative is going on.Only the Paranoid Survive is Intel chairman Andrew Grove’s book about the need for a business to stay alert to change at what he calls “major inflection points” in the market. In the book Andy talks about how important it is for a company’s middle managers, “often the first to realize that what worked before doesn’t quite work anymore,” to confront senior management with bad news. Otherwise, he says, “senior management in a company is sometimes late to realize that the world is changing on them-and the leader is often the last of all to know.”In one example of a major inflection point, Andy describes Intel’s slow response to a crisis over early versions of its Pentium chip in late 1994. Certain chips contained a minor engineering flaw. Intel reacted to the problem on the basis of it being a relatively insignificant bug that would affect only a very small number of users. Customers, however, felt differently. Intel endured “unrelenting bombardment,” as Andy described it-much the result of customers rallying together on the Internet-before offering a free replacement part to anyone who wanted it. Few customers took the company up on its offer, but the public.An engineer himself, Andy confessed that he was one of the last to understand that his company now had to respond to a customer crisis as a consumer products company would-not in a month, as it had taken Intel this time, but in a matter of days. It took a barrage of relentless criticism and that to make me realize that something had changed t we needed to adapt to the new environment. The lesson is we all need to expose ourselves to the winds of change.We need to expose ourselves to our customers, both the ones who are staying with us as well as those that we may lose by sticking to the past. We need to expose ourselves to lower-level employees, who, when encouraged, will tell us a lot that we need to know. Some experts say that companies struggle with the need for change because they haven’t been designed for change.Lower-level staff may hesitate to bring bad news forward, and many managers don’t want to hear it. A change in corporate attitude, encouraging and listening to bad news, has to come from the top. The CEO and the other senior executives have to insist on getting bad news, and they have to create an appetite for bad news throughout their organizations. The bearer of bad tidings should be rewarded not punished. Business leaders have to want to listen to alerts from salespeople, product developers and customers.In commercial aviation Douglas Aircraft, with its DC series, had a major lead over Boeing immediately after World War IL Douglas was so focused on filling all of its orders for the propeller-powered that it failed to move quickly enough to jet engines. Boeing built the jet powered 707 on speculation, without a single customer order in hand and never looked back. Communication of the bad news of potential war was flawed, too. Cable after cable warned US. Yet cryptic cables made for confusing orders to the forces in Hawaii. In the last twenty-four hours lower-level officers with tantalizing clues to the time and place of the attack scurried around, hand-carrying paper folders up through the chain of command. Today’s digital technology can ensure that you get the news and that you can put your organization into action fast.

Good News – Work From Home Business Has a Higher Success Rate!

Are you fed up with all the doom and gloom in the news? Just forget the news work from home instead. Here’s why. Things are tough for the large corporations and the country as a whole. It is difficult to avoid all the bad news. It is everywhere and is having an effect on everything.The sub prime mortgage market initiated the collapse of many well known organizations which in turn caused the housing market meltdown, banks collapsing and the stock market crashing to an all time low.Is your job safe? No one really knows. Even the large multinationals are cutting back big time. Just thinking about all these things brings you into a negative state of mind.You may already know the well known fact that new traditional business start ups have a 80% failure rate in their first 3 years. But did you know that a new business started from home has an 80% success rate! The main reason for this is low overheads and flexibility for change according to market demand. If a new traditional business had a success rate of 80% than the banks would be falling over themselves to lend them money.Unfortunately, in the current economic crisis banks are not eager to lend money to many well established businesses, never mind lending to new business. They know the risks too well. When they do decide to lend they want security so their risk is virtually nil. It seems large companies will have more bad news and a work from home business will not become just a possibility but a necessity for many budding entrepreneurs.Large corporations have been around a long time and are part of this countries wealth and infrastructure. They are necessary in certain industries and different areas of the economy to provide stability as well as support a large number of jobs. But they have to get leaner and fitter to survive. Here are some of the reasons why large corporations have to change:They have far too many overheads.The wages bill can be crippling for many hence outsourcing to third world countries.Government taxes and compliance with Health and Safety legislation is expensive.They are unable to change with the times quickly, easily and cheaply.As more jobs are shed by streamlining, it is inevitable that more small businesses will start up from home (especially in the beginning to keep their overheads low). With all the bad news work from home has become a strong possibility for many thinking of going into self employment. Especially for people who are not sure if their job is safe. Do not forget the good news, work from home has a 80% success rate especially with the emergence of the internet.

Is Google Killing the News?

I am a massive Google fan. I think they have done more to open up the web and unlock the information on it than any other company. It’s all very well having browsers and content but finding what you need in the morass is what has made the web exciting, to my mind.But all this comes at a price – despite the recession, Google clocked up $5.7bn in revenue last quarter and while profits dropped to $382m, they have made as much as $1.29bn of profit in Q3 of 2008. It is, by any measure, an extraordinarily profitable business.One of its main functions is to aggregate content so that we can all easily digest information, like that from newspapers. While having amazing deals with newspaper firms which nets it enormous advertising revenues, papers are finding it hard. In a recent conference organised by the newspaper industry, Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, was both critical of papers and criticised by them.On the one hand, news companies saw the incredible revenues Google was making effectively off the back of their content, for which they have to pay handsomely to produce. On the other, Google believes that newspapers should revolutionise and get with the fact that they are useless at distributing their content. Schmidt criticised the newspaper industry for ‘pissing off’ its consumers and that Google were the heroes for distributing the content more effectively.The Big MachineProducing news is an expensive business, much more expensive than aggregating and distributing it. If someone delivered a paper to your doorstep which was just the information you liked as a synopsis of cuttings that would interest you from all papers in just one copy, small enough to digest the headlines but expandable if you want to read the detailed article, then that’s what Google does. With it comes all that context sensitive advertising, carefully targeted to get us to click through and earn fortunes for Google.It is, undoubtedly, a terrific service.But it is just that. The content is what drives the interest and it’s easy to forget that. I write this blog but the wider world beyond a clique of readers never get to see it as Google does not rate it and I do not pay them for anything. The result is that even if I have some practical advice for SMEs, beyond a few dedicated readers, the wider world never knows about it. If I wanted to expand my readership, I would have to pay Google to take interest. That does not stop them hosting the blog or popping adverts on the side. My content still earns them some money.Google was described by one source from within the newspaper industry as a ‘tapeworm’, parasitically dependent on the content produced at great expense by the news industry. The consumers, though, want it all ways. I read the Telegraph from time to time because I like to do the crossword but if I want to find out about something quickly I ‘Google’ the subject and choose a prominent news story – it may not be the best written, the best informed or indeed written by a factual journalist in this country even, but it will be from the company with the highest Google rating which is ultimately driven by money.The FutureRupert Murdoch, that bastion of honest content and fighter on behalf of the consumer, has asked if aggregators like Google should in future pay for the content. It’s a relevant question from the wily proprietor. There is a long term risk that if news is only ever presented on the web then Google and others will have all the power in terms of distribution whereas in the old days the news companies controlled the chain right down to the vendors in the street. It was easy to see how money could be made from news. Now it’s not so clear.Google always comes back to the ‘fair use’ argument – if this is what consumers want, why fight it? While newspapers would argue that the intellectual property rights to their content is being constantly eroded by having such ease of availability. The problem really boils down to, if content aggregation becomes the dominant way in which newspapers are distributed and read, then how will newspapers make money on their content? There is a small kickback of advertising revenue to newspapers, but you can rest assured that Google has the lion’s share for itself.Much of what is reported in papers is rehashed and blogged on – some bloggers making some pretty profits on the back of the original content. News opinion like mine, derives its subject matter from content on the web – I make no excuses for that. While I make no money from it, it would be quite an easy thing to do – so for once, I have some sympathy for the man who took away the Ryder Cup and stuck it on Sky.News has always been big business and while ticker feeds like Twitter claim that it is the new way to spread word faster when terrible events occur, feeds such as Reuters have specialised in this for years. The power is that Twitter could create a new army of ‘amateur journalists’ across the globe who provide short, sharp news from source rather than rehashing news on line.Or so we would like to think. It comes as no surprise that Google is rumoured to be targeting Twitter as a takeover. It is a short hop to believe that Google is then going to become not just the content aggregator but also content provider of millions of ‘news’ feeds.The News RevolutionThe problem for people like me is that in a busy day with other things to do, getting news needs to be in short bursts and I turn to quality sites like the BBC, Sky, Bloomberg and others to get my feeds. I have tried Twitter but it really is like sitting in a large room with thousands of people talking and maybe one person in the room, at just one point in the day says something of real consequence. The rest is just a blur of irritating noise. To get anything from it, you have to use the aggregation devices, many of which are available like Tweetdeck and these can even be fed to your mobile.You can then ‘follow’ your Tweeters into the toilet, through the supermarket and down the golf course and see what they are doing, reading and knowing. The problem is that the VAST majority of the ‘Tweets’ are just nonsense and trivial to the point of pathetic. Like watching Big Brother, unless you are interested in the armpits of yawning contestants lounging on a settee talking garbage, Twitter provides you nonsense.The world of news still is all about sifting through the mass of data and source bites and putting together something of interest – reporting both facts and content. Reading Michael Parkinson’s superb analysis of Jade Goody’s life in the Radio Times was brought to me by Google but the content was all Parky. Without his insight, and the thousands of writers who provide news content and make it interesting and informative, Google would be nothing.We have this dichotomy all the time. My wife’s Uncle, Terry Tyler, is a watercress grower and his cress is grown in the clean riverbeds between Sarrat and Chenies in Hertfordshire. He is not a big producer and he cannot afford the fees and chemicals to go ‘organic’ (perhaps another story of a sham industry awaits) but he uses no fertilisers at all to produce the most peppery and delicious watercress you will ever taste. You will never, ever buy it at any supermarket in the UK or even on market stalls in ‘market towns’ which advertise fresh, local produce. You will find it used by some of the top restaurants around Britain, however. The reason being is that he cannot afford to sell his product at supermarket prices as he hand grows and picks the lot. Despite knowing this, I still buy most of my watercress in supermarkets as it is more convenient, even though I am know I am buying inferior product and supporting large faceless suppliers who would put Terry Tyler out of business if they could.We are a consumer society, and we want our product here and now, conveniently and cheaply. I think what will happen to news will be the same as has happened in Terry Tyler’s industry – the value of the content will diminish and the value in distribution will grow. We will see a fall in quality but a gain in availability. No longer will stories arrive at us based on the quality of the journalism and the facts but on the who has paid to be at the top of the search.Don’t knock it, we asked for it.