Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Competing in the Global Economy (Understanding the Essence of Survival )

Are you the leader or the chaser?

"Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed...every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle...when the sun comes up, you'd better be running."

Does your strategic process enables your company's marketing development team to create a lead position or a chase position in the marketplace? If not, Collaboration360 Consultants provides a strategic solution that enables your company's team to accelerates their influence in the marketplace

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Installing Risk Into your Grand Plan (Tangible Vision)

When collaboratively defining the Tangible Vision, the team must define the state of their settings before assessing the risk in their Tangible Vision

November 18, 2007
Economic View
Crazy Little Thing Called Risk

BACK when I was managing other people’s money, I had a client, a doctor, who enjoyed giving away money to his daughters. He was lucky, because an extended bull market was under way with only minor interruptions. The more he gave away, the more the market replaced what he had parted with. As generosity appeared to be a cost-free form of recreation, he considered the whole thing a riskless enterprise.

Whenever I saw my client, he immediately thanked me for making him whole after his most recent spate of giving. I always had to remind him that his gratitude was misplaced. Don’t thank me, I warned him. Thank all those nice people who are willing to pay higher prices today for the stocks you bought earlier at lower prices.

This client, who assumed that the steady multiplication of his money would continue indefinitely, without risk, keeps popping up in my memory. Although this episode happened back in the 1950s, it contains a deep truth worth exploring now, because his experience gets to the roots of what investment risk is all about.

A naïve approach to risk might have been appropriate in an era when economic activity was almost totally agricultural. For most of human history, in fact, the main source of economic risk was the weather. But nobody can do anything about the weather. Risk management in those days was therefore a matter of religion, incantation or superstition. Rain dances in one area were
matched by novenas in another. Appeals to God’s will or the fates seemed to be the only way to deal with the risks that weather could wreak.

That model of risk management changed radically during the Industrial Revolution. As more and different kinds of goods and services came to market, a wide variety of risks replaced the longstanding and single-minded concerns about the weather. What will our suppliers charge? Will customers pay the prices we set? Will they want the new products we are developing? Will our competitors beat us to the punch? Will they start a price war? Should we raise our employees’ wages, and, if so, by how much? Can the engineers rearrange our production to be more efficient? Will our bankers smile or frown when we seek credit? Will our interest rates rise or fall?

Today, risk has shifted from a bet on what nature will provide to an intricate series of bets on what other players in the economy will decide — and how each will respond to the others’ decisions. Instead of a throw of the dice, economic activity has become an intense interchange among companies, employees, suppliers, customers, owners, borrowers, lenders and financiers.
The interaction has become more complex over time, so the answers to the above questions will in turn provoke new questions, answers and decisions among these groups.

Most important, the essence of risk itself has been fundamentally transformed. Risk today depends upon the consequences of what somebody else will do, not on what God or nature will provide. Risk management means protecting oneself from the adverse and unexpected decisions others may make and, in the process, making better decisions than they do. John von Neumann, who developed game theory, referred to these interactive patterns of decision-making as the sphere of combat and competition.

My client acted as if his portfolio was immune from others’ adverse choices. He wasn’t alone in that thinking then, and he wouldn’t be alone now. A look at recent events shows that many investors are following in his footsteps. Three months ago, for example, subprime paper was an investment rated Aaa for most investors, which meant they believed they were virtually certain of receiving the return they expected. But then homeowners began to default on their subprime mortgages, and suddenly, the paper was risky, because other investors were making adverse decisions. People who wanted to sell their homes found that prospective buyers were offering much less, and homeownership was suddenly transformed from riskless to risky.

In recent weeks, chief executives have departed from leading financial institutions like Citigroup and Merrill Lynch. Such institutions have hit the headlines for the magnitude of their losses, which occurred because other investors wanted to pay lower prices for the exotic financial assets the banks had been so comfortable holding. Those assets appeared risky. And then investors reduced the prices they would pay for all types of financial assets that they feared had become too risky to attract buyers. And so on down the line.

It is not the market that is rising or falling at any moment, even if we commonly speak as though it were. In truth, prices move in response to the buying and selling decisions of countless investors, who are constantly considering the likely decisions of countless others. Incantation may still go on — for example, “In the long run, stocks will always go up” — but it may not change the decisions of other investors.

In the 1950s, those other investors made my doctor-client happy. Today, he would have no reason to thank them or me.

Peter L. Bernstein, a financial consultant and economic historian, is the editor of the Economics & Portfolio Strategy newsletter.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A 360* View From the C360 Desktop

As a strategist, it is always a challenge to explain to potential clients about doing the right thing.

Following are some of the things that they do not consider:
  • The importance of thinking long-term;
  • The importance of mastering the basics while implementing elaborate plays;
  • There is a risk and reward in everything;
  • The flaws behind managing their team in transition;
  • The importance of having a positional overview instead of grinding day by day;
  • The importance of seeing a tangible path in each and every venture;
  • The importance of preparing for the up-cycle during the down-cycle; and
  • The importance of devising a complete strategy.

These potential clients tell us that they do not have a problem, but they ask for our viewpoints. ... Just another day.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Applying Sunzi (Sun Tzu) Principles in the 21th Century

Alicia Keys performed at a union rally in Hollywood.
Misha Erwitt for The New York Times


Another poor use of Sun Zi concepts. Love it when the amateurs pretend that they are strategy professionals.

There is nothing like amateurs who begins with an goal in mind. But forgot to devise a tangible strategy that possess a critical path.

Targeting the minds of the people on top w/ a combination of unorthodox and orthodox tactics is the
key to absolute victory.

November 21, 2007
Hollywood and Strikers Watch Clock

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 20 Sun Tzu, the Chinese sage, warned of the danger in prolonged conflict. Let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns, he wrote in The Art of War.

In the next week, that advice will probably be on the mind of David Young, a leader of Hollywood’s striking writers, who has closely studied the famous treatise in his time as a hard-nosed union organizer. Now 16 days into a work stoppage, screenwriters and their employers are scheduled to talk on Monday for the first time since Nov. 4.

A rapid settlement would jump-start the entertainment industry. But anything less, and Mr. Young and the writers could be stuck on the wrong side of yet another of the master’s admonitions: Not to besiege walled cities if it can possibly be avoided.

A protracted war, much like the sides fought during a five-month strike in 1988, would pose a particular threat for writers. They have been operating under a strategy intended to shock their employers into an early settlement by shutting down as much television production as possible before alternative programs were in place or guild morale began to flag. A lengthy strike, however, could sap the staying power of the writers, who do not have the resources their media conglomerate opponents possess.

Screenwriters, represented by the Writers Guild of America East and the Writers Guild of America West, took to the streets of Hollywood with supporters from other unions on Tuesday afternoon in a demonstration that was meant to telegraph resolve. The show was complete with a performance by Alicia Keys and the presence of eight aging actors who played Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz.

We’re here to show our teeth, Patric M. Verrone, president of the West Coast guild, said in kicking off the rally attended by thousands. Later, the actress Sandra Oh stepped up the anticorporate tone, suggesting that the crowd boycott Disneyland.

/// Ms. Oh should be aware that Disneyland owns her show. In Hollywood, rising stars can be transformed falling stars in less than a year.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which negotiates labor contracts for the studios and networks, maintained silence.

To make progress despite continued animosity, the sides would have to close a wide bargaining gap and no public signals have shown that either is ready to make a substantial move.

For the sale of shows and movies via the Internet, producers have been seeking to impose a payment structure that mirrors the residuals paid over the years for home video showings. Writers, deriding that formula almost from the time they agreed to it two decades ago, have sought far more. Similarly, the sides are in sharp dispute over writer payments for free showings of programs on the Web.

Representatives for both sides declined to discuss the coming talks, in keeping with a mutual agreement not to discuss them publicly.

In e-mailed communications, union representatives told members that employers had been forced back to the table by heavy pressure from the writers. Numerous shows, including Grey’s Anatomy and Two and a Half Men, have ceased work on previously written scripts because the writer-producers who oversee these shows withheld their producing services. But the renewed discussions were also intended to lure these writer-producers, known as show runners, into resuming their nonwriting duties.

We agreed at a meeting a couple of weeks ago that if the C.E.O.’s went back to the table then we would go back in our producer capacity, said Neal Baer, the show runner for Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Mr. Baer said many of the show runners he knows have already returned albeit quietly. At least some television executives have hopes that going back to the table would give cover for others to return to work, notably late-night comedians whose shows were instantly shut by the strike. NBC Universal notified the 100 or so employees of The Tonight Show With Jay Leno on Nov. 6 that they could be laid off as of Nov. 19. So far the company has not done that.

Television networks and movie studios are well positioned to withstand a prolonged walkout, Wall Street analysts say. Because of widespread consolidation in the industry, all of the big players are housed inside giant conglomerates. The lights do not even flicker at General Electric, which had $163.4 billion in annual revenue last year, if its $16 billion NBC Universal unit has a bad quarter or even year.

Even the CBS Corporation, viewed as the most vulnerable to a strike because television makes up the bulk of its business, is not in any immediate financial danger. Ratings for the late-night shows have not dipped drastically. And the company has enough original episodes of prime-time shows to stretch into January.

And some studios and investors are actually bullish about the media companies’ near-term fortunes and largely because of the strike. My guess is that during fiscal 2008, a strike is probably a positive for us, as lower production costs would more than make up for any loses from advertising, said Peter Chernin, president of the News Corporation, in a conference call with analysts on Nov. 7.

Mr. Young, who is executive director of the West Coast guild, is well acquainted with corporate strength, something he confronted during the mid-1990s as a leader in the unions that sought unsuccessfully to organize garment workers employed by Guess Inc.

Writing of that campaign in the fall/winter 2005 issue of The American Sociologist, Edna Bonacich, a sociologist who worked closely with Mr. Young both then and later at the writers guild, noted that he studied Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War’ with deep attention, trying to find its applicability to union struggles. (The fascination has been shared by modern students of conflict as diverse as Douglas MacArthur, Lee Atwater and Michael S. Ovitz.)

/// *** Studying the principles from Sun Zi 's essay is one thing. Using it as a process is another.

Yet another threat to be confronted is the possibility that the Directors Guild of America, its own deal set to expire next June, will soon open its own negotiations and perhaps reach an accommodation with companies, undercutting the writers’ bargaining stance.

In an e-mail message last week, Peter Lefcourt, who is on the board of the West Coast writers guild, told writers who also belong to the directors guild that any near-term move by companies to talk with directors would be like Hitler dangling a separate peace in front of Stalin.

/// *** If the competitor is not positioned to stay ahead of curve. he is behind the curve. @ Collaboration360, our axiom is: "If you are not positioned to win, you are grinding. In a conflict against a larger competitor, you do not want to be grinding. ..."

Gil Cates, who will lead the directors guild in its negotiations, told Mr. Lefcourt in an e-mailed response that his fellow members could do without the writers’ advice. It will be the membership and the membership only who will make the decision about accepting any deal, Mr. Cates wrote.

Progress on any front would be welcomed by many of the directors, production managers, actors, assistants and others who are being shut out of work.

In a grass-roots movement, hundreds of such workers are now trying to organize their own Strike a Deal demonstration in Hollywood on Dec. 2.

It was born out of frustration by people who were working on films and television shows, said Christopher L. Griffin, a producer of the Nip/Tuck series on the FX Network. There’s a general sense of desperation and helplessness.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company


Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Psychology of Compass AE

During the initial build and connect process, the Compass team establishes structure, order, technical reliability and accountability into their Tangible Vision. When they team believe in their Tangible Vision, they will connect to it. (Note: Smart professionals only want to work with people who are accountable, reliable and believe in the same cause)

When a Compass team leads with their Tangible Vision, positive results are expected.

Positive results = Profits.

The greater the profits are, the greater the team expectations will be, when they are assembled as a team.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Compass AE vs. The "To-Do" List

The "To-Do" list is good for individuals, but our Compass AE process is better for the team that collaborates as a team.

Users of the "To-Do" List focus on completing the current objective without any conscious regard to any of the milestones ahead. While the Compass AE implementers focus on understanding the grand outcome and how a tactical objective can connect to the other objectives and finally the goal. They have foresight of opportunities and know how to capture it.

They also know which specific tactical list fit into which objective and what part of the list must be adjusted to the objective.

By " . . . focusing on the tactical specifics of their Tangible Vision while minding the Tangible Vision,” the Compass team will complete their grand goal.

# # #

An abridged version of the article.

The Way We List Now

In today's harried society, maintaining 'to do' lists has become a competitive sport, inspiring an array of new products. Katherine Rosman on how to avoid becoming a slave to them.

September 29, 2006

Let's jot down a few reasons why lists are the defining organizing principle of the 21st century.

In the era of Google, Wikipedia and TiVo there is too much information and content and not enough time.

Mothers leaving executive jobs to stay home with their children are embracing corporate time-management techniques to run their households.

As BlackBerry usage eradicates complete sentences, items that can be quickly ticked off have become the accepted shorthand.

In a post-Sept. 11, post-Hurricane Katrina world, people see lists as a way to prepare for inevitable disasters.

A range of companies, including Amazon.com, book publishers, stationery makers and Internet sites, are pushing new products aimed at the growing appetite for list-making. Within the next year, publishing houses will roll out at least eight books of lists. One will feature images of nearly 300 food-shopping lists that were found near supermarkets around the country. Others include a memoir culled completely from one woman's collected to-do lists, and "Mountain Man Dance Moves: The McSweeney's Book of Lists," a compilation of satirical lists like "The Collected Apologies of Lawrence H. Summers, President of Harvard."

Major media companies are funding, buying and starting up list-centric Web sites. Next week, Barry Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp will launch a beta version of Very Short List (veryshortlist.com), an email newsletter and Internet site dedicated to quick recommendations of media and culture. Amazon.com is funding a company that runs several list sites, including allconsuming.net (where people catalog the books, movies and music they own) and 43things.com (where users list up to 43 things they want to do before they die). On the networking Web site Consumating, which was bought last year by CNET Networks, users' main profiles consist of a simple list of adjectives and interests, also called tags. "It's a succinct way of explaining to someone who you are," says Ben Brown, the site's founder.

Looking for Order

Several factors are feeding the commercial growth: Lists are a cheap, fast way for publishers and Internet sites to generate new content -- especially online, where users are often creating the lists themselves. As consumers face more ways to spend their time and money, companies hope their bullet-point, short-attention-span offerings will appeal to even the most time-starved. Lists also offer order, real or perceived, in a chaotic world. "People have a hunger for patterns and order and stability in a rapidly changing world," says Ben Dattner, a professor of organizational psychology at New York University.

Executives often manage by lists. Bob Cancalosi, the chief learning officer for GE Healthcare, a division of General Electric, keeps "microlists" for daily tasks, which he constantly compares to his "mothership list" about the company's management philosophies and goals. Individual projects get their own lists -- for one leadership class, he writes a 450-item checklist 125 days before the event. Weekends are no different. Every Saturday morning, he brews a pot of coffee and makes a list, with items like "buy gallon of milk," "take daughter to piano" and "run three miles." "I think I'm a little anal," he says.

A crop of new Web sites allow people to create and share lists, on everything from a baby's nap schedule to an action-figure collection. Below, five sites that aim to help people get organized.
diyplanner.com1 Douglas Johnston, a multimedia project manager, founded this site devoted to downloadable paper lists and planning kits while he was living in Newfoundland, Canada. (It was too far to drive to a store for day-planner refill pages.) Available templates include "Goal Planning" and "Checklist." Since the site launched in September 2005, about 800,000 template kits have been downloaded, says Mr. Johnston.
recipething.com2 Influenced by Web site LibraryThing, RecipeThing (launched three weeks ago by a husband-and-wife team) allows home cooks to enter and organize their recipes by tags like vegetarian or tailgating -- and access those of others. So far, 800 users have added 2,014 recipes.
squirl.info3 On this site, introduced last month, nearly 1,000 people have logged lists of their collectibles, including records, "Star Wars" action figures and autographed copies of Sports Illustrated. Co-founder John McGrath says that he plans to integrate an option allowing users to sell their items at online auction houses.
tadalist.com4 Ta-Da allows users to create online to-do lists that can be shared, free of charge. For project collaboration, several users can access the same tasks and check off items as they're accomplished. The site was launched in January of 2005, and in the last year, users have added 1.4 million to-dos.
trixietracker.com5 After maintaining a blog for three years that listed his baby's feedings, sleep patterns and dirty diapers, Ben MacNeill of Chapel Hill, N.C., created software for other new parents to do the same. (A subscription costs $14.95 for three months.) Since the site's launch in March 2006, members have logged more than 100,000 naps.

Every Sunday night, Pamela Salzman, a 36-year-old M.B.A. in Los Angeles who worked in marketing and public relations before having kids, says she writes a master list of the errands and obligations she must complete in the coming week. Each morning, she creates a daily list, pulling tasks from the weekly list. Then there is her "major project list" with items such as "reorganize my 2005 photo album," and lists of gifts given, what to do when the kids get sick and a timeline for preparing Thanksgiving dinner. Mrs. Salzman says making lists is a stress-reliever. "When I can see everything in front of me," she says, "it feels like it's more within my control."

Nancy Paul, one of Mrs. Salzman's best friends, has another system, which she credits to her corporate experience. In a small binder she keeps at the ready, Ms. Paul, 40, jots notes on specially designated pages, indicating such things as gifts to buy, people to call and things to tell the interior designer. She also gives the family baby sitter a list of tasks to complete while the children nap, like replacing old markers with new ones. "I graduated from business school, and I use a lot of techniques I learned" there, says Ms. Paul, a former executive at Walt Disney Co.

Along with three other close friends, Ms. Paul and Mrs. Salzman discuss, borrow, covet and critique one another's lists. "I wouldn't call it competitive list-making," says Mrs. Salzman. "But it is envious."

Lists, of course, have been around since man put chisel to stone. The British Museum in London houses what is thought to be one of the oldest surviving lists -- it's a menu or grocery list dating back to around 80 A.D. written on a thin wooden tablet in Latin. (Not much has changed: It calls for olive oil and wine.) Historians say the Buddha and Thomas Jefferson were inveterate list makers. Charles Darwin notably wrote one titled "To Wed or Not to Wed" that included one advantage of a wife: "better than a dog anyhow." In the 1970s, "The Book of Lists," covering topics like movies, animals and crime, became a best-seller. A revised edition, "The New Book of Lists," was released last November.

Technology is a big part of what's driving the interest in lists. The new online sites make it possible to maintain and search through giant inventories of content. Apple Computer's iTunes, for example, offers over 3.5 million songs.

This also comes as consumers are overloaded with options. The average Barnes & Noble store holds 100,000 books. In 2005, 549 new films were released, up 5.6% from 2004, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. Netflix has an inventory of 65,000 DVD titles. People are struggling under an unparalleled glut of information and media, says John Warner, editor of the forthcoming book "Mountain Man Dance Moves." "Choice is paralyzing," he says.

... Stationery companies are cashing in on the list's new luster. Knock Knock, a company with paper products sold in 5,000 retail outlets, stocks 21 different list-formatted pads this year, representing 22% of the company's year-to-date revenue of $2 million. That's up from eight pads totaling 12% of revenue in 2005. Reading-tool and desk-supply retailer Levenger is counting on "list-building" products as its greatest growth opportunity. Year-to-date sales of its best-selling list product (a $38 pocket-sized leather note-card holder) are up 56% over last year, says Steve Leveen, the company's co-founder and chief executive. "We'd like to be the Starbucks of note-taking and list-making products," he says. Another stationer, MomAgenda, says revenue from notepads with to-do lists doubled in the first nine months of this year over last year. Its top seller: a menu planner affixed with a magnet for display on the refrigerator.

Yet too many lists can cause problems. Grant Newman, a first-year M.B.A. candidate at Duke University, has been making lists since middle school. Each day, he writes "tactical lists" with items like "do problems for statistics" class and "make sure I send Mom a birthday card." He throws away those lists when the tasks are complete. But he holds onto all of his "strategic lists" -- "get into a top M.B.A. program" (mission accomplished!) and "learn Spanish" -- and only occasionally consolidates partially completed lists. The list pileup was the cause of many arguments with Mr. Newman's ex-girlfriend. "His whole dining room table was covered with lists, bills and old newspapers. Just covered," says his ex, Ana Perez, who lives in Chicago. "It was really bad."

It's a good idea to go through lists periodically to knock out unnecessary items, and consolidate as much as possible, organizational experts say. Keep all resource lists in one place -- books to read, museums to visit -- whether it's in a notebook or in a single computer file. And to-do lists shouldn't become endless "mind dumps," says Julie Morgenstern, a New York time-management consultant who advises corporate and individual clients on how to get organized. After writing down what needs to be done, list-makers should identify how long a task will take and when it will be completed. "A 'to do' that is not connected to a 'when' rarely gets done," says Ms. Morgenstern, who has a line of paper day planners coming out next month from FranklinCovey.

/// *** Our Compass AE covers that and more

As a vast repository of information, the Internet has given rise to many kinds of lists that aim to help consumers make sense of it all: Frequently Asked Questions, the Netflix "queue," craigslist and Amazon.com's Listmania. Social-bookmarking site del.icio.us, which was bought in December by Yahoo, categorizes sites recommended by others, with tags like "interesting" or "oil." Membership on Angie's List -- a clearinghouse of user ratings for service providers in 72 cities nationwide -- has doubled to more than 500,000 in the past year, according to a company spokesman.

Subscribers to the new Very Short List will receive a free daily email with one pick -- such as a book, song, video or movie. The company plans to earn revenue from advertising and other transactions. "People feel they're drowning in choice and are desperate to go into a curated space," says Michael Jackson, IAC's president of programming.


At least eight publishers plan to release books about lists in the next year. Here are five titles in the works.
"Milk Eggs Vodka: Grocery Lists Lost and Found"

HOW/May 2007
After finding a discarded grocery list outside a supermarket 10 years ago, St. Louis-based photographer Bill Keaggy began a collection, and he now has more than 1,000. His book is divided into chapters, like lists that seem to be for party preparations (chips, salsa, beer, paper plates) and "sad lists," some of which include a lot of medications.
"Things to Bring, S#it to Do... and other inventories of anxiety"

Stewart, Tabori & Chang/September 2006
Writer Karen Rizzo compiled this memoir after she discovered her father's boxes full of old lists -- and realized a list can say a lot about a person. Her book reprints some of her own, including a to-do list from October 1989 with items like: "new black Reebok sneaks" and "toss everything with shoulder pads." A November 1993 list entitled "I must read before I get married" includes Dante's "Inferno" and "Crime and Punishment."
"To-Do List"

Simon & Schuster/October 2007
Sasha Cagen, the former editor of the defunct To-Do List magazine, is editing this compilation, which includes a color-coded accounting of 69 people one woman had amorous relations with and how to start your own church. "They're even more revealing than a diary entry," she says. "They're written about what people want in a way that's not very self-conscious."
"Trivia Lovers' Lists of Nearly Everything in the Universe"

Random House Reference/October 2006
This is Barbara Ann Kipfer's 15th book on lists, which will weigh in at 656 pages -- she is the author of "14,000 Things to Be Happy About" and "The Wish List." She has also worked up lists of synonyms: She's the editor of "Roget's International Thesaurus (Sixth Edition)" and "Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus."
"Your Personal Assistant"

Barbara Guggenheim has managed a bicoastal career -- she is an art consultant with offices in New York and Los Angeles -- and a marriage to a member of the Hollywood power structure -- her husband is attorney Bert Fields -- by keeping lists. She plans to publish 300 of them, with co-author Nadine Schiff, along with a CD-ROM to download and edit each one.

Part of the draw of list sites is voyeuristic. By early next year, Very Short List users should be able to create their own recommendations and share them online. "It's always fascinating to look at someone's list," Mr. Jackson says.

Another site, LibraryThing, allows users to publicly catalog their books and organize titles in multiple ways, such as era, subject matter or genre -- or just browse through other people's libraries. Since LibraryThing launched in August 2005, about 84,000 members have listed almost 5.9 million books.

A growing clutch of Web sites are using lists as a launching pad into the booming social-networking market. The Robot Co-op, a two-year-old company that is wholly funded by Amazon.com, has five list-centric sites on which users can post their own lists and find people with similar tastes and interests -- from books to DVDs to lifetime goals. Its goal-oriented site, 43things.com, had nearly 1.4 million unique visitors in August, more than three times the number in August of last year, according to comScore Media Metrix.

Posting recommendations from other consumers can also appeal to companies looking to replicate the experience of "social shopping," with a little peer pressure mixed in, at home. "If someone else has all of the records that I have, but there is one they have that I don't have, that could induce me to buy," says Patti Freeman Evans, Jupiter Research's senior retail analyst.

Jennifer Scully-Lerner, a vice president for private wealth management at Goldman Sachs in Manhattan, considers lists an easy-to-digest language that is compatible with the quick pace of BlackBerry-influenced corporate culture. Ms. Scully-Lerner has become well known at Goldman Sachs for her "Organization List to Prepare for Baby." It recommends buying more than 90 separate items and makes 15 suggestions under the heading "General Notes." The list has been widely circulated throughout her office and beyond.

Using Microsoft Word, Excel, errant scraps of paper and her BlackBerry, Ms. Scully-Lerner makes lists that govern almost every aspect of her life. She has lists of work projects all around her desk. There's a packing list on her closet wall, to simplify the preparations for her frequent business trips. She has emergency lists at home and at work. She keeps lists of books to read, phone calls to make and presents to buy. She also maintains a list of gifts she'd like others to give to her. "My husband tells people it's my purchase order," she says. "I'm a list freak."

Write to Katherine Rosman at katherine.rosman@wsj.com6



More information on "The List":

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Compass AE: The Importance of Strategic Power (1)

What is Strategic Power?
"... The critical, highly complex concept of shih ("strategic power") that figures prominently in the Art of War and underlies all subsequent military theorizing and much political thought presumably originated in the martial realm. ... " - Ralph D. Sawyer, The Tao of Deception: Unorthodox Warfare in Historic and Modern China

"... In warfare the strategic configurations of power do not exceed the unorthodox and orthodox, but the changes of the unorthodox and orthodox can never be completely exhausted. ..."
--- One Hundred Unorthodox Strategies: Battle and Tactics of Chinese Warfare (pp, 121)

King Wu asked the T'ai Kung: "What is the Tao for aggressive warfare?"
The T'ai Kung replied: "
Strategic power is exercised in accord with the enemy's movements. ... One who excels at warfare will await events in the situation without making movements. When he sees he can be victorious, he will arise; if he sees he cannot be victorious. he will desist. Thus it is said he does not have any fear, he does not vacilate. Of the many harms that can beset an army, vacillation is the greatest. Of disaster, that can befall an army, none surpasses doubt. --- Tai Gong Six Secret Teachings, Chapter26: The Army's Strategic Power


A connective understanding of the grand goal and the specific objectives produces strategic power.

When a team has strategic power. It means that they have built and connected with their Tangible Vision and ready to lead with it. They also know the following:
  • The measure and constraints of every situations;
  • The component forces;
  • The unorthodox;
  • The fundamentals to manipulate competitive forces;
  • The outstanding tactical variables;
  • The background of the competitors;
  • The basics of the specific terrains;
  • The understanding of the specific tactical fundamentals;
A team that collaboratively build, connect and lead with the Compass of their Tangible Vision, has an advantage that enable them to implement the following:
  1. Complete the goal by determining the critical path;
  2. Avoid the negatives and focus on positives;
  3. Anticipate opportunities;
  4. Perform proper strategic adjustments;
  5. Shape the target; and
  6. Lead by strategic collaboration.

Is your company moving with strategic power?

Copyright: 2007 Collaboration360 Consultants (C360).
Copying, posting and reproduction in any form (without prior consent) is an infringement of copyright.

--- More to Come ---

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Tangible View That is Determined by One's Position On the Value Chain

The tangibility of Mr. Ferris view is depended on one's position on the value chain. The higher his/her position in the value chain of their profession, the greater the emphasis is on completing the outcome with less importance on the process.


November 11, 2007
Too Much Information? Ignore It

AS one of Silicon Valley’s most respected entrepreneurs, Marc Andreessen is something of a connoisseur of what he calls productivity porn, or techniques to maximize personal productivity.

But in recent months, Mr. Andreessen a founder of Netscape Communications and more recently Ning, which allows users to create their own social networks has become enthralled with an unlikely purveyor: Timothy Ferriss, a boyish first-time motivational author from Long Island whose curriculum vitae includes stints as a competitive kickboxer and tango champion.

Mr. Ferriss’s business lessons, focused on cutting out useless information, have been culled from his six years running a modest sports nutrition company that sells, mostly over the Internet, supplements used by athletes to increase reaction speed and muscle power. Mr. Andreessen, a luminary in technology circles, does not seem to care.

Tim basically takes all of the time management and personal productivity theories of the last 20 to 30 years and pushes them to 11, to paraphrase ‘Spinal Tap,’ Mr. Andreessen explained in an e-mail message. In Silicon Valley, Mr. Andreessen is not alone in his enthusiasm for Mr. Ferriss.

After reading Mr. Ferriss’s recent best seller, The 4-Hour Workweek (Crown), Jason Hoffman, a founder of Joyent, which designs Web-based software for small businesses, urged his employees to cut out the instant-messaging and swear off multitasking. From now on, he told them, severely restrict e-mail use and conduct business the old-fashioned way, by telephone.

/// It depends a lot on your business, your role, your responsibilities and the prioritization of your boss,

All of a sudden, Mr. Hoffman said of the results, their evenings are free. All of a sudden Monday doesn’t feel so overwhelming.

Last spring, Jason DeFillippo, a founder of Metroblogging Global Blog Network a company that oversees more than 700 city-specific blogs heard Mr. Ferriss extol his low information diet to a crowd of high-tech devotees at a tech conference this spring. Before the speech was finished, Mr. DeFillippo, who lives in San Francisco, had ordered his book on Amazon. Soon after reading it, he embarked on a crash diet of his own. His nasty addiction to RSS feeds is now a thing of the past, he said.

It’s hard to describe, said Mr. DeFillippo, 36, but life was suddenly just more peaceful.

/// To simplify, minimize, and optimize one's life, start by building and connecting with a Tangible Vision that delineate a big picture with specifics. It must includes the prioritization of values and specific objectives.

Mr. Ferriss, 30, has never run a technology company. He never made millions on an initial public offering. Rather, Mr. Ferriss, who now lives in San Jose, Calif., comes off more like a half-pipe snowboarder than a traditional lacquer-haired motivational guru.

Nevertheless, without appearing on Oprah Winfrey’s show or doing a book tour, Mr. Ferriss has seen his book quickly become a best seller, largely on the strength of blog chatter in the tech community. Subsequently, he has become a pet guru of Silicon Valley, precisely by preaching apostasy in the land of shiny gadgets: just pull the plug. Crawl out from beneath the reams of data. Stand firm against the torrent of information.

HIS methods include practicing selective ignorance tuning out pointless communiqués, random Twitters, and even world affairs (Mr. Ferriss says he gets most of his news by asking waiters). Work crisis? Pay someone else to worry about it ideally in Bangalore. On a bet, Mr. Ferriss even hired low-paid, high-skilled workers abroad to find him dates online. (It worked.)

Once the e-clutter is cleared away, he argues, there will be plenty of time to scuba dive the Blue Hole in Belize, just as he does.

Or at least fantasize about it.

The technology community, after all, shares a great desire for escapism, said Fabio Rosati, the chief executive of Elance in Mountain View, Calif., which provides outsourcing for professionals and small businesses and now features Mr. Ferriss giving an unpaid video testimonial on the company’s Web site. This is why everyone is working 14-hour days in the first place: to strike it rich and cash out.

But Mr. Ferriss is selling the alluring promise that you don’t have to wait for the monster, and perhaps mythical, initial public offering.

As Mr. Rosati said: Silicon Valley is unique in that there is a deep entrepreneurial spirit and a highly ambitious workforce, but they’re always thinking, ‘Gee, if I could only squeeze an extra hour out of the day, I could actually go on that bike ride, I could actually go surfing.’ Tim is evangelizing that lifestyle.

Not that everyone in the Bay Area is sold. Po Bronson, author of The Nudist on the Late Shift: And Other True Tales of Silicon Valley (Random House, 1999), agreed that Mr. Ferriss’s book had made a mark in the tech world. You can’t seem to go two hours without someone mentioning it, he said.

Still, Mr. Bronson said he didn’t know anyone who had actually read it, much less abandoned a cubicle to study yabusame (horseback archery) in Japan, as Mr. Ferriss did last month. What has really turned heads is not the specific ideas, Mr. Bronson speculated, but its provocative title. In Silicon Valley, the promise of a lifestyle revolution or hyperbole to that effect will always find an audience.

It’s not saying the ‘20-Hour Workweek,’ Mr. Bronson explained. That would be something that lots of people can live. It’s 40 hours a week versus four. It’s very important in the tech world that consequences are exponential, not geometrical.

Like most motivational gurus, Mr. Ferriss gives readers a dramatic back-story filled with recollections of the grim days in which he was lost in the wilderness or at least the Internet cafes of Florence, Italy, working 10-hour days on his supplements company in 2003 instead of enjoying what was supposed to be a vacation. Following the predictable arc, he then offers his road-to-Damascus story of enlightenment, wherein he rebounds out of a work-induced nervous breakdown with a vow to eliminate everything that was standing in the way of happiness starting with his Treo.

BlackBerrys and e-mail aren’t inherently bad, he said. It’s just like medicine: it’s the dose that makes the poison.

Putting his beliefs into action, he said, he set about dumping all the clients who involved more work than they were worth. He reduced and outsourced his staff, from 250 eventually down to fewer than 15, and instructed underlings to deal with all but the biggest emergencies themselves.

Most fundamentally, Mr. Ferriss turned ruthless against e-mail. He hired personal assistants in India and the Philippines to sort through and respond to most of it, and ignore the rest. Even today, he said, he typically checks e-mail messages only once a day, at 2 p.m., and only sees those few urgent ones his outsourced assistants forward to him. (He is, however, very quick to respond to media requests, in this reporter’s experience.)

With all the time left over, he said, he has lived the life that most postpone until retirement. In the last two months alone, he said, he has traveled to Scotland, Sardinia, Vienna and Bratislava, as well as Japan, all while technically running a company that he claims kicks off a high five-figure personal income every month.

It’s this have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too tale that has made even the jaded tech establishment take notice.

Robert Scoble, who writes the influential tech blog Scobleizer, praised Tim Ferriss’s approach, as just another techie trying to dig out from under the information rubble.

Our lives are just getting busier, the world is starting to throw more stuff at us, he said. Five years ago it was still pretty rare to have relatives sending you IMs. No one had Flickr feeds or Twitter. YouTube, Facebook and MySpace didn’t exist.

Unsurprisingly, some Tim Ferriss acolytes found that sticking to his information crash diet brought a shock to the system.

/// Your grand goal, your profession, your position and the market change determines your informational intake.

Ryan Carson, 30, who runs technology conferences around the world from his headquarters in Bath, England, said that since reading The 4-Hour Workweek, it can take me two or three days to get back to people on e-mail.

People will get a little angry, he admitted.

More strikingly, Mr. Carson shifted his company, Carsonified, to a four-day workweek after hearing Mr. Ferriss speak at the South by Southwest media and technology conference in Austin, Tex., in March.

I just thought, who made these rules you have to work five days a week? Mr. Carson said. His employees now churn out five days’ worth of work in four, in part because of reduced distractions. (You can believe that they are now Ferriss fans, too, he said.)

Critics might argue that Mr. Ferriss is hardly the first self-improvement guru to preach the clutter-free life. Indeed, it’s possibly the most overused self-help trope.

Even his admirers, like Mr. Andreessen, scoff at the idea that anyone in Silicon Valley least of all the busy Mr. Ferriss could ever realistically slash office face time by a factor of 10 or more.

Indeed, Mr. Ferriss makes little pretense of practicing what he preaches, at least if you count self-promotion as work.

LAST Monday alone, Mr. Ferriss who has served as a guest lecturer on high-tech entrepreneurship at his alma mater, Princeton, for several years spoke at Harvard Business School, followed by an afternoon doing an interview about his book, then finally another talk in front of 130 students at M.I.T. Mr. Ferriss, ever stimulated by yerba mate tea, was still there, hashing out personal-productivity theories over beers with Sloan School of Management graduate students at 11 p.m. on Monday night. All this, while recovering from jet lag after a flight from Japan, where he had taped a pilot for a television show part self-help, part adventure travel developed for the History Channel.

If your definition of work is something primarily financially driven that you would like to do less of, like with my company, I spend far less than four hours a week on it, he said.

All that other stuff lecturing at the corporate campuses of Google and PayPal, blogging incessantly on his www.fourhourworkweek.com that’s, well, evangelizing, he said.

Which is not to say he plans to become an Anthony Robbins for the geek set, touring relentlessly and hawking DVDs on late-night infomercials.

I’d be much better off putting my time into three or four really good blog posts, he said.

But, of course. That would take much less work.
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company


Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Dao of Compass AE Leadership

The Chinese classics emphasize that the grand settings and the planned outcome usually decides the leadership type for a specific endeavor.

If the senior leadership decides not to adjust to the changes, they will fall. The top tier leadership survives (and sometimes thrives) by hiring the right people that can make the transition of achieving the planned outcome for that grand settings.

This is the Dao of Leadership. ... Compass AE Leadership

Point #1: Define one's grand vision.
Point #2: Hire ultra professionals.
Point #3: Hire Collaboration360 to teach them how to build, connect and lead with their Tangible Vision as a team.
Point #4: Have Collaboration360 monitor the team progress with their Tangible Vision
Point #5: Team completes their Tangible Vision as a team.

--- More to Come ---


November 10, 2007
C.E.O. Evolution Phase 3

Has the time come for C.E.O. Version 3.0?

The first iteration made its mark in the 1990s, as chief executives like Sanford I. Weill, Gerald M. Levin, John F. Welch Jr. and Michael Eisner built empires, not to mention their profiles, at the companies they ran: Citigroup, Time Warner, GE and Disney.

When the shares deflated earlier this decade after the burst of the tech bubble and various corporate scandals, a new cadre moved in: the Fix-it Men. They were lower-key leaders like Charles O. Prince III of Citigroup and Richard D. Parsons of Time Warner, whose job it was to repair the excesses and mistakes of their predecessors.

Now, management experts and longtime watchers of corporate America say the current environment demands, and is attracting, yet another kind of chief executive: the team builder.

It’s someone who can assemble a team that functions as smoothly as a jazz sextet, said Warren Bennis, a professor of management at the University of Southern California and author of many books on leadership.

In the last week, Mr. Prince and Mr. Parsons both announced they would be stepping aside. Mr. Prince’s abrupt exit followed huge losses that dragged down Citigroup’s long-stagnant stock, while Mr. Parsons is retiring at the end of 2007 after a five-year tenure, during which he stabilized the company but failed to move Time Warner shares higher.

A third chief executive, E. Stanley O’Neal of Merrill Lynch, was forced out late last month after his firm announced an $8.4 billion write-down.

Mr. O’Neal substantially increased Merrill’s revenue and profit during his tenure but has been criticized for forcing out subordinates he perceived as rivals, while several top executives left Citigroup during Mr. Prince’s reign. Now both companies find themselves searching for permanent replacements.

They’ve got to have not just the cognitive ability to run a major firm, which Stan O’Neal definitely had, but the ability to make people feel like they’re working together, Mr. Bennis said.

Merrill and Citi might consider looking at chief executives like A.G. Lafley of Procter & Gamble or W. James McNerney Jr. of Boeing as archetypes of the new model, according to Mr. Bennis.

Both felt the need to make sure the top hundred people know that they’re in this together, that their fates are correlated, Mr. Bennis says. That’s what it will take to succeed in this century.

Mr. Lafley and Mr. McNerney have won plaudits not merely for their personal style, but also for their bottom-line performance, with shares of Procter & Gamble and Boeing easily outpacing the likes of Citigroup and Time Warner, as well as the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, over the last two years.

That’s no coincidence, according to Michael Useem, a professor of management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management there. The academic research says if you want to predict what the future financial performance over the next one to three years will be, you need to know the top team, he said.

Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld, senior associate dean for executive programs at the School of Management at Yale, says the style of today’s best chief executives differs from both the empire builders and the cleanup specialists.

The former were known for public swagger and boardroom-size egos, while the latter often excelled at a narrow set of skills, Mr. Sonnenfeld said. He cited Mr. Prince’s skills as a lawyer who was able to get his company back into the good graces of regulators after Mr. Weill’s departure. Others say Mr. Parsons was a strong administrator, but failed to offer a strategy that satisfied Wall Street.

Mr. Sonnenfeld says Mr. Lafley and Mr. McNerney, along with Anne Mulcahy, chief executive of Xerox, possess the vision of the empire builders without their overpowering egos, while also bringing more personal warmth to the corner office

Ms. Mulcahy, for example, was able to cut jobs and restore Xerox’s profitability without coming across as mean-spirited, Mr. Sonnenfeld said. Mr. Lafley is disarmingly unpretentious, he added. He never comes to my summits and I’ve never been a consultant for him, but he towers over other C.E.O.’s when it comes to putting in people stronger than himself or his ability to talk about setbacks.

Mr. Lafley has spent his entire career at Procter & Gamble, while Mr. McNerney arrived at Boeing after decades at General Electric, long regarded as something of a management boot camp, and after a successful stint as chief executive of 3M. Although clearly an outsider at Boeing, Mr. Sonnenfeld said, he learned to listen to the culture there.

This approach, he said, means these leaders were able to introduce change but people don’t hate them for it; the team comes to them.

Mr. O’Neal, on the other hand, fired people who shouldn’t have been fired, Mr. Bennis said. Mr. Prince, he added, was always in the shadow of Mr. Weill; he never was able to build his own team.

And when disaster struck in the form of billions in losses from the subprime meltdown, these weaknesses came back to haunt Citigroup and Merrill Lynch.

Whenever you have such a stunning decline, errors become much more visible, Mr. Bennis said.

Of course, just as chief executives shape the times, so do the times shape them. There’s a theory that the people who get to the top at big companies should be best at solving the problems of their era, Mr. Useem said.

In fact, Mr. Sonnenfeld said, the original archetype was what he called the custodian, leaders who came of age during the Organization Man era of the 1950s, but were overwhelmed by the rapidly shifting economic landscape of the 1970s and 1980s.

They were followed by the empire builders who focused on mega-mergers and financial management in the 1990s to deliver the growth Wall Street demanded while getting big enough to achieve economies of scale and beat back foreign competitors.

The cleanup artists arrived on the scene in the wake of the collapse of Enron and WorldCom and the passage of Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, which tightened government oversight of public companies.

At the same time, investors were demanding quick fixes. In Time Warner’s case, Carl C. Icahn, the billionaire activist investor, pressed for a quick breakup of the company, something Mr. Parsons was able to stave off.

Business schools are also opting for the 3.0 approach. At the Yale School of Management last year, Mr. Sonnenfeld said, the dean and faculty threw out the old first-year curriculum that emphasized individual disciplines like finance and marketing and replaced it with a team-oriented approach, with professors teaching these subjects jointly. In addition, he said, We have students, faculty and staff assemble their own teams as part of their training to be future execs.

What will be the main challenge in the next 5 to 10 years? Mr. Useem predicted it would be achieving double-digit growth internally, without the benefit of huge deals or accounting sleight-of-hand. That’s why I think the baton will go to the manager who will stimulate a division and will be creative and innovative, he said.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Friday, November 9, 2007

Does your Project Team Anticipate or React?

One who excels at warfare, seeks victory through the strategic configuration of power, not from reliance on men. Thus he is able to select men and employ strategic power.
- Sunzi Art of War, Chapter 5: Strategic Power


Ever work on projects where people are reacting not anticipating? They work from a ground up perspective that prevents them to connect to the specific objectives and the grand goal.

In some cases, people say that is ok.

Some of the news media and business leaders propagates the message of immediate results and instant gratification without any regard to long-range objectives. It also propels the concept of grinding it out is acceptable because it is so romantically adventurous.

From our view, the grinders are those who possess no tangible vision and relies on a tactical checklist to complete their objectives. They waste time and money by replicating tasks while squandering away important resources that can be used for something else.

When smart people are collaborating, they need to view the big picture while deciding on their objectives and task lists. Then determining how everything connects as one unit.

With Compass AE, smart people can do that.

The Compass project team is usually strategically positioned to stay ahead of the change curve instead of grinding it out step by step. There is no guessing or paralysis in analysis in understanding the goal and objectives during the Compass Cycle, They are always two steps ahead of the game. With their Tangible Vision, the Compass team anticipates the opportunities while prepared for negative circumstances.

When the the change curve is steep and deep, the Compass AE team looks for the critical path of least resistance.

The bottom line is that the Compass team is strategically positioned for all general and specific situations. Remember, being
ahead of the curve is always more fun than grinding step by step.


Monday, November 5, 2007

Different Applications of the Tangible Vision (2)

It does not matter whether the company is in midst of an economic shift. With a properly-built Tangible Vision, their "Compass" project team always know the proper approach for whatever the circumstance is.

@ the end, making proper adjustments at the right time means great profit.

fyi- Included with our Compass AE process is a specialized template that is based on the ancient Chinese strategists viewpoint of strategic circumstances. This process enables the team to strategically position ahead of the competition.


With Growth Slowing, eBay Gets Innovative

By Julie Sloane Email 11.05.07 | 12:00 AM

CEO Meg Whitman told the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco in October that eBay is making lots of changes.

How does a billion-dollar company with sagging growth get its mojo back? If it's eBay, it throws dozens of new features at the wall to see what sticks.

When Meg Whitman took the stage at the Web 2.0 Summit in mid-October, she announced that eBay had made more changes in the previous months than in the last three years combined. She wasn't kidding. The 11-year-old auction site's interface had long been a confusing morass of links and menus. No longer. Now the focus is on making the site more appealing to buyers through easier navigation, new ways to browse and more reasons to hang around. The strategy seems to be working: There's a feeling of freshness and fun the site hasn't had in years.

The changes were propelled by a kick in the pants: The growth of eBay's core auction business is slowing. For the first nine months of 2007, the number of listings on eBay was down 3 percent from the same period in 2006. Amazon is making a play for eBay sellers -- with some success, observers say. Despite eBay's diversification through purchasing Skype (for which the company recently took a $1.4 billion write-down), PayPal, StubHub and smaller ventures like StumbleUpon and Kijiji, it's important to note that 70 percent to 80 percent of eBay's revenue still comes from its online auctions.

Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Derek Brown says the biggest concern for eBay sellers is that buyer demand seems to be on the decline. "If, as eBay says, conversion rates and average selling prices have increased, why are sellers not responding through more listings?" he asks.

Corporate spokesman Usher Lieberman says eBay's management acknowledges that growth has decelerated. "About a year ago, the leadership of the marketplace business got together and took a hard look at what had been a successful business for 11 years," says Lieberman. "The (buying) experience hadn't kept up with what people expect when they go online."

To that end, the number of new buyer tools introduced in the last several months is staggering:

* A downloadable eBay Desktop application allows users to bid and get streaming price updates without opening a web browser.
* Three new widgets can be used on blogs and social networks outside eBay's walls: eBay To Go, GiftBay and eBay Marketplace for Facebook.
* Bid Assistant automatically places bids for a buyer.
* eBay Countdown is an easier (read: more in-your-face) way to keep track of auctions that are just about to close.
* eBay Deal Finder helps you seek out items that will close soon but have no bids entered yet.

This fall, eBay also unveiled a site redesign with sleeker, simplified graphical interfaces and new pathways to search for items. On eBay Playground (a version of the site where eBay tests new features), for example, the "snapshot view" of items displays search returns as a tiled wall of photos. Mouse over them, and pricing info pops up.

Other discovery features hop on the social-network bandwagon. Neighborhoods, a forum for like-minded collectors to network, got buzz when it launched in early October, and the still-unpublicized EKG allows users to curate their favorite items and share them with others, a concept similar to craft-commerce site Etsy's Treasury.

Rolf Skyberg, whose title at eBay is "disruptive innovator," frames the new social features using the "hierarchy of needs" theory proposed by psychologist Abraham Maslow in 1945. Retail stores, he points out, frequently sell hot dogs. Why? Because they meet shoppers' basic need for food, thereby enabling them to shop longer. If eBay can meet a shopper's social needs, perhaps she will spend more time on the site. (Skyberg recently gave an amusing presentation on the subject.)

The company is also stoking the marketplace fires for sellers. Between Oct. 18 and Nov. 5, eBay is discounting insertion fees by one-third, presumably to encourage more listings. In an Oct. 26 webcast, eBay hinted for the first time that it was considering volume discounts on fees for top sellers.

"That is so contrary to eBay's philosophy since it started," says Ina Steiner, editor of AuctionBytes, a trade publication for online merchants. "High-volume sellers have been demanding volume discounts for years. It wasn't until Amazon increasingly moved in on eBay's territory that eBay reacted to the demand."

Hani Durzy, eBay's director of corporate communications, responds that the company has always run experiments with its pricing structure and this move is "absolutely not" a reaction to Amazon's competition. "We expect that our sellers, even our biggest sellers, are multi-channel," says Durzy. He does add that eBay will be considering more pricing options in 2008 than it has in the past.

In putting forth all of these changes, eBay's whole corporate persona seems softer, less arrogant. It's clear the last year has brought a self-examination process, the fruits of which are now being humbly offered to the public. It's not a bad lesson to remember: Even the market leader needs to keep its customers happy.



Friday, November 2, 2007

Tools for the Global Strategist (aka Road Warrior) @ Large and On Tour

Some basic tools for the global (traveling) strategist.

As a reminder. always think of security. Be hyper-aware.


The New Road Warrior

Ten apps for your cell phone that let you finally leave your laptop at home.
From: Issue 120 | November 2007 | Page 67 | By: Robert Scoble

If you're like me, you're on the road a lot. From February to September this year, I put 13,000 miles on my car driving around Silicon Valley, plus I'm regularly on a plane headed to conferences.

Of course, I need to stay in touch with people back home and get work done even when I'm running around.

In the past year, a series of new services for road warriors have hit the market, and they go way beyond email and calendaring. It's now much more possible to live away from your computer and stay fully connected. You do need a smartphone--such as an iPhone, Nokia N95, or
a newer BlackBerry--to use most of these apps, but if you're hard core, you've probably already got one. Spend a few minutes at home outfitting your phone, and you're all set. Oh, yeah: All the services are free, unless otherwise noted.

The basics
Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google all offer mobile versions of their online portals. If you do nothing else, you'll want to use at least one of them. They each provide dozens of features, including search, weather, and stock widgets. Whether you choose Google or not, get Google Maps
for travel directions. In some areas, it'll even show you traffic conditions--a major time-saver.

Phone number for life
Grand Central helpfully lets you control multiple phone lines, send calls to any phone, and then listen to messages from any Web browser.

Smart voice mail
When I worked at Microsoft, my calls were redirected automatically to my cell (à la Grand Central), and if someone left a voice mail, I got it as an email attachment, so I could listen to it even if I was using a friend's laptop in a foreign country. Today, because I don't have a
big IT department behind me, I use Callwave to manage office voice mails. It goes beyond the iPhone's visual voice mail, giving you lots of ways to manage calls. Its latest service converts voice mail to a text message (free during beta).

Voice notes
You can now capture ideas while driving 70 miles per hour. Just call Jott and leave a message. Within a few minutes, Jott will send back an email with both the audio message and text. Jott also now lets you use your voice to blog or send messages to Twitter.

Instant messaging
Using IM is a great way to communicate quickly, let someone know where you are, or save minutes and still talk using your all-you-can-eat data plan. Fring lets you use instant messengers such as Gtalk, Skype, ICQ, and others via mobile. I just made a Skype voice call over my phone's data pipe to Munich from my home in Half Moon Bay, California, and it worked great.

Photo and video sharing
By using ShoZu, you can automatically upload images to a variety of photo-sharing Web sites. During my son's birth, I used ShoZu to post pics to Flickr from the hospital. You can also use it to upload video to sites like YouTube.

It's not as sexy as some of the other apps, but if you do a lot of work in Excel, that's often the one program that forces you to lug along your notebook. EditGrid (free for personal use; corporate
account prices vary) is a really cool online spreadsheet program; its new iPhone version gives you full-featured spreadsheets in 4.8 ounces, not pounds. Next time you see me in the airport, feel free to thank me.

Robert Scoble is an influential video podcast pioneer and blogger. Watch him at Podtech.net and read him at Scobleizer.com. Road warriors: Pay it forward and send him your favorite mobile apps. For exclusive video podcasts and daily "Best of the Tech Web," go to

Feedback: scoble@fastcompany
Copyright (c) 2007 Mansueto Ventures LLC. All rights reserved.
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