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31.7.08

Saving Detroit’s Big Three: the Portfolio letter in full 

I didn’t want to preempt the publisher of Condé Nast Portfolio by running the full version of my letter that appeared in the August 2008 issue when it was originally written in May. Now that that issue has arrived here—which means it’s been on sale in the for three weeks or so—I can share the full text for anyone interested.
   I am grateful to the for allowing me the first slot in the issue. I think the edits made by Andy Young are excellent—in fact, I prefer it. But here’s a little more context if needed. It’s also been written to the magazine’s house style, with American spellings (yes, I do know them). The salutation and closing are omitted.

Mr Paul Ingrassia deserves applause for his ‘Who Will Survive?’ in the May issue of Portfolio, which arrived in my mailbox in the antipodes today.
   He highlights on numerous occasions the importance of non-U.S. sales for the , so a viewpoint from outside the U.S. may be instructive.
   First, I am unsure if fewer will bring success. Rationalizing occurred at the once-mighty British Leyland. At one point, its predecessor, the British Motor Corp., was the second-largest in the world. Now its remnants reside with the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp., principally in two models and a handful of unused brands.
   The trouble with B.L. was that it had brands which overlapped in but not . In an age of increased , need these brands. This is the lesson U.S. automakers need to learn, yet fail to do so.
   There is no reason either Ford or G.M. could not look to its overseas divisions for product. G.M. is already doing this with Opel and Holden supplying Saturn and Pontiac. Daewoo is another operation that had been selling to Americans under other names. The trick is to define the brands properly and consistently to avoid psychographic overlaps. Bob Lutz of G.M. knows this and the company is integrating its plants more wisely.
   Rationalizing models does not necessarily help G.M. Mr Ingrassia notes that the company offers six midsize sedans, while only offers the Camry. But in Japan, Toyota offers six midsize sedans. It just chooses to build only the Camry in the U.S. We should also bear in mind Toyota offers a couple of Lexus sedans in the same size bracket.
   Ford, to which Mr Ingrassia gives a better mark than the others, is more worrying from a standpoint. While I defer to Mr Ingrassia’s knowledge of the internal workings of Dearborn, all the observer sees is a company totally frightened of non-American designs. The Ford Contour was largely killed in the U.S. through lackluster .
   He rightly points to the 2010 Fiesta as a sign things are changing there. However, when that nameplate was last in the U.S. in the 1970s, it was sold while there was support for it. Take away that endorsement, and Ford slipped back into its old way of thinking. Even its next “world car”, the Escort of 1981, was very different to the model sold in Europe—and it wasn’t even offered in the Asia-Pacific.
   He is right about Mazda, and as a radical idea, how about rebadging some Mazdas as Mercurys? The range is broader in Japan, and Mercury might recover some cachet.
   As to Chrysler, Daimler-Benz A.G. ruined its potential. However, there may still be some life in the parent yet—the 300 has enormous goodwill in overseas markets. It’s closely identified with the brand. Even as a single-model marque it would bring in a slightly different customer to the performance-oriented Dodge buyer.


   This leads neatly into my Medinge Group paper for this year, ‘Saving Detroit, by Not Making the Same Mistakes’, which will be presented in Sweden in September. It will also appear in The Journal of the Medinge Group, which, I understand from CEO Stanley Moss, is the most popular part of the site.
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30.7.08

Five embarrassing songs 

Normally I don’t do but since this has come from a real-life friend of mine, as opposed to someone I only know online, I am making an exception. So, Laura, here are my songs. (And you know me, I break all rules, which I will kind of do here!)

The rules
   1. Link to the person who tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
   2. Share five you are embarrassed to admit to others that you like and tell why.
   3. Tag seven random people at the end of your post.

The songs
   Here’s the thing: not a heck of a lot embarrasses me, especially not song preferences. So I will name some songs that you’d expect me to be embarrassed about but I am not.
   1. ‘Gin and Juice’, as performed by Richard Cheese. I know next to nothing about hip-hop though I eventually did hear the original done by Snoop Dogg. However, I heard the lounge version of this by Richard Cheese and his band first. It’s quite pleasant to listen to.
   2. ‘Jerusalem’. ‘Did those feet in ancient time / Walk upon England’s mountains green?’ Grand stuff.
   3. ‘On the Inside’, the theme from the Australian soap Prisoner, or as it was called in the UK, Prisoner in Cell Block H. My mother was a midwife and after school I would wait for her at the hospital while she finished work. I’d go into the TV room where the mothers were smoking away and watching Prisoner. Being a child, in those days, you couldn’t go and switch the channel while adults were watching. So I tended to see the end credits and the haunting song, and I can probably still sing parts of it today.
   4. ‘Diamonds Are Forever’, performed either by Shirley Bassey in the original or David McAlmont in a cover version conducted by Nicholas Dodd. Boys aren’t meant to like this song, but I love it. And McAlmont’s androgynous version is actually very good. And come on, it’s composed by with lyrics by Don Black. That makes it cool.
   5. ‘Have You Never Been Mellow?’, performed by Olivia Newton-John. It might have been composed by John Farrar. O. N.-J. rocks. There, I said it.

As I once blogged, I tend not to tag people and leave it to them to take up these memes at their leisure. So, if you wish to share your embarrassing songs, please go ahead.
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28.7.08

I didn’t spend years at the University of Denver to be called Ms 

[Cross-posted] While the did not say much about the visit of US Secretary of State at the time—too much time spent on the Barack Obama world tour, perhaps—the industry can at least be happy with TV One’s prime-time report that she indulged in shopping for Kiwi clothing while here, with local designer Adrienne Winkelmann.
   It is trivial, and it’s probably more coverage on a -related item than any other broadcast here over the last week, since the Secretary popped by on Friday for a 24-hour visit.
   But the report, by a woman, did the Secretary of State no favours on several counts.
   While it’s lovely for our economy that she did indeed shop, it’s not the sort of news report that one would do if the Secretary were male. Well, at least not as part of the main programme. Human interest stuff, yes.
   But to refer to her twice as ‘Ms Rice’ I thought was plain insulting.
   I know: I called her Condi just now, which could be highlighted by some feminists as being inappropriate, but I have on occasion referred to men in positions of power by a diminutive form of their Christian names.
   But when someone has a doctorate and is commonly known for it, this either showed ignorance on the part of the reporter, the usual bias that one sees in New Zealand that appeals to the majority, or, even worse, in a country that first recognized the women’s suffrage movement.
   She has, after all, been in her position for over three and a half years.
   And now we must look nearly as bad as the whites during Birmingham, Ala.’s pre-Civil Rights era that she witnessed first-hand.
   It is about respecting the person in question. The Prime Minister here, I understand, prefers Miss. The Deputy PM—a man—prefers Dr. Both are addressed accordingly in the press.
   It was a real shame Dr Rice’s qualification could not be recognized in the broadcast and I cannot help but think her gender had something to do with it.
   Fortunately, the same network’s web page about the story uses her full name, her surname or ‘Secretary of State’.
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27.7.08

Evolving Jack Yan & Associates’ home page 

I’ve always wanted our corporate home page to reflect the fact that we made it to 21 years in business since the beginning of the year—finally, here are the before and after.

JY&A home page—old design

   Before: I can’t remember when we did this but I dare say it was 2002. People didn’t want to scroll much then, so we made the page wide. All three businesses had to appear equal, so no one could appear below another. Back then, press coverage was important to us, so we mentioned it. There was an additional link to my main blog that got put in c. 2006 as an afterthought.

JY&A home page—2008 redesign

   After: I like to think this is still a work in progress. It occupies a little more real estate by being more vertical, but surprisingly, it is 1 kbyte smaller in file size. A few links were removed, this blog’s RSS feed is on the front page (the newest three headlines), and many of the elements were recycled (that’s my ethos). , rather than revolution, with the main aim accomplished and a tidier page resulting. I think we have data on that page that was used in 1995 (the original corporate site was done in 1994)—we have never taken a carte blanche approach to our company site.
   The rest of the site does not match this exactly—but we will likely roll it out across some parts of the site. At the moment the new look does not leap out at me, so I suspect there will still be some changes.
   JY&A Fonts is next for a nip–tuck.
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Political profile, as measured by Google 

If mentions are an indicator of how much impact you are having on the global dialogue, then here are how the various leaders or candidates are doing (names entered in quotes).
   Notes: in the US figures, the sitting president has been added for comparison. No adjustment has been made for namesakes, different spellings, etc. (giving Australian senator Bob Brown, the UK Democratic Unionist Party’s Peter Robinson, the Respect Coalition’s Linda Smith, Northern Ireland’s Alliance Party’s David Ford and New Zealand Alliance co-leaders Kay Murray and Andrew McKenzie more than one might expect). As I am unsure of the leadership of the various green parties in the UK, they have been omitted from the count. First- through third-ranked candidates marked in parentheses.

New Zealand
Jim Anderton 123,000
Larry Baldock 4,930
Helen Clark 1,050,000 (1)
Peter Dunne 151,000
Taito Phillip Field 13,200
Jeanette Fitzsimons 65,900
Rodney Hide 65,800
John Key 220,000 (2)
Andrew McKenzie 54,700
Kay Murray 11,500
Russel Norman 37,200
Winston Peters 196,000 (3)
Pita Sharples 19,600
Tariana Turia 39,300

USA
Chuck Baldwin 275,000
Bob Barr 780,000
George W. Bush 56,200,000
John McCain 39,600,000 (2)
Cynthia McKinney 819,000 (3)
Barack Obama 62,900,000 (1)

UK
Gerry Adams 645,000
Gordon Brown 11,700,000 (1)
David Cameron 3,160,000 (2)
Nick Clegg 370,000 (3—see notes)
Mark Durkan 51,100
Reg Empey 38,500
Nigel Farage 69,900
David Ford 618,000
Robin Harper 36,800
Alison Johnson 4,510
Ieuan Wyn Jones 41,300
Dawn Purvis 5,260
Peter Robinson 1,310,000
Alex Salmond 352,000
Linda Smith 508,000

Australia
Bob Brown 1,010,000 (3—see notes)
Steve Fielding 24,800
Brendan Nelson 283,000 (2—see notes)
Kevin Rudd 2,570,000 (1)
Warren Truss 73,900

   One could do a similar measure using national leaders as a proxy for global influence.
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18.7.08

Obama more “exciting” than McCain—why this matters 

This is no surprise given the promotions that has been getting in the media: ‘Obama elicits more excitement than McCain’, according to USA Today.
   I want to be the voice of reason but 21 years in tell me that this is important. If your , or organizational, elicits excitement among its constituents, then you have a greater chance of mobilizing those people when you need them.
   Even when it comes to , to get messages across to voters, one has to resort to the tried and trusted techniques of and .
   There are few in the present generations who will, as many bloggers do, investigate someone’s voting record or dig deeply into their histories. It would be nice to say that presidents are not elected based on how much excitement they can generate. Or that we should place greater emphasis on other qualities like honour and sincerity.
   While some might point to exceptions, such as the Tory victory in the UK of 1992, I beg to differ. That was hard fought by the Conservatives and depended on party unity—which was sorely lacking in 1997 when Tony Blair was elected. The National victory in New Zealand of 1990 was a result of the cry for change and the belief that Labour was leaderless.
   And the cry for is such a powerful message in politics, because politicians understand our nature: even the vaguest change is better than the strongest, best defined policies if a party has been in power for too long.
   Labour in the UK in 1997, National in New Zealand in 1990, Labour in New Zealand in 1999, Clinton in 1992—all these are examples of that message. And that, too, “excites”.
    should not pursue an excitement route himself, but he should capitalize on mistakes that the Obama campaign is making with greater regularity. The New Yorker gaffe—where Sen. Obama felt the need to comment rather than appear presidential and above satire—was an opportunity missed. Meanwhile, I wonder if people appreciate the maverick, go-it-alone style of John McCain, which plays well in the Senate, but could be symptomatic of future Cabinet divisiveness under his administration.
   A winner is by no means clear, and a week remains a long time in politics. Months, as Sen. Clinton will attest as she went from dead cert to second-best, are an eternity.
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12.7.08

Newspaper tries to drag down Miss New Zealand using racist agenda—and fails 

It’s quite easy to work out the agenda of the when it comes to an article like this, trying to harm Samantha Powell’s chances at tomorrow night.
   • Personal aggrandizement of the , or, if not the journalist, then the editors or management trying to look like they can set agenda. (The part about Val Lott hanging up the phone, I understand, is total fiction—so if something so minor is untrue, can we trust the rest?)
   • Trying to cause a split between pākehā and when in fact there is none. Fact: the photograph of Samantha Powell doing the pukana was actually published in mid-June—and even ran in a rival newspaper here! There were no complaints from anyone, Māori or any other group, until the Herald made it a race issue yesterday. Or the Herald is trying to play catch-up because it missed the photos a month ago and was desperate for a fresh angle.
   • : come on, the headline is clearly poking fun at Māori and the pukana. I don’t appreciate the newspaper doing that, and I would say my Māori friends would be more upset at that than the Herald’s false defence of the haka. Like a newspaper owned by Australians (it’s listed on their exchange) and the Irish really understands Māoridom.
   • Implying that two beauty queens are at odds with one another. False. Samantha Powell is in communicado for the most part in Nha Trong, Vietnam, and I severely doubt Miss World New Zealand, Kahurangi Taylor, would risk criticizing another pageant for fear of damaging her own chances when she goes to Miss World.
   • . (The newspaper failed there: the judges decided their top 15 last week.)
   • Lack of patriotism: you would never drag the All Blacks down a peg the day before a big international. And places like Venezuela treat Miss Universe with greater fervour than we treat a rugby match. Pity: their business pages are good, so it’s a shame some of these others are dragging them down.
   My views about the appropriateness of Samantha Powell’s haka are at the Lucire blog. I agree that Māori should be defended. But you couldn’t really call what Sam perfromed a haka. She just did a few moves. It would be like a Caucasian donning a lion mask and moving two metres and calling that a Chinese New Year’s lion dance.
   As I said in : ‘I know of no Māori who, while rightly guarding against improper use of their culture, would deny a chance for it to be promoted or be rendered so “untouchable” to those who came later to . In fact, one kaumatua I spoke to says it is our duty, regardless of our ethnic origins, to be promoting Māori culture when we are abroad.
   ‘Sometimes, because we have not been immersed in the culture, we err. It is to be expected. And, when the one who errs is not of our own race, we forgive and we educate, but we do not criticize.
   ‘All New Zealanders should be proud to propagate Māori culture as the alternative would be to ignore it and pretend we are mere facsimile of Great Britain, as many Kiwis did 50 years ago.’
   I’d hate to see us head back to those monocultural times—though it looks like the Herald wants that to happen by running a story like this.
   Since the newspaper has been shifting a lot of its work to Australia, I imagine an Anglicized makes it easier to take more editing work away from Kiwis.
   Marginalizing Māori makes it easier for newspapers to have less staff trained in the culture and outsource, buying in overseas stories that are sometimes cheaper to acquire.
   Any time you see a story about over-sensitive Māori getting upset about the way the culture has been portrayed, think again about the agenda.
   All the Māori I know put first and would probably see this as an opportunity to reach out and educate in order to promote their culture.
   A big fail for the Herald. Sam’s still going to wow the world tomorrow night.
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7.7.08

In memory of Colin Morley 

July 7 marks the anniversary of the passing of our friend , who was killed in the 7-7 terrorist bombings in London three years ago. Since then we’ve tried to keep Colin’s memory alive by giving an award named for him at the Medinge Group, for the best non-profit organization. My wishes go out to Ros and their children: Colin remains a great influence with his kindness, generosity and expertise.
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5.7.08

ANZ Bank: revelations from the executive level 

If you follow my ramblings, even when they don’t make sense, you know I had my knives out for the ANZ National Bank here in New Zealand for what I think is questionable practice. So it was interesting to meet a few people tonight who are employees of the , one of whom was very staunch about defending her workplace against my charges about, well, .
   Humble pie time first: Sir John Anderson left the bank as a director 18 months ago, so the criticisms I put at him were unfair. I apologize to Sir John.
   Tonight, I don’t know whether I should be applauding the for brainwashing its younger staff so effectively or whether I should be congratulating myself for closing the overwhelming majority of accounts held there, given that there are people who do not give a damn about the customer.
   While people should defend their positions, they should also be open to hearing others’ viewpoints. Respectfully. The customer is right. Not so, it seems, at the ANZ.
   ‘The bank must make a profit, so it should make it from the mass customer base,’ I was told. ‘How would you do it?’
   I answered, ‘Through investing, as you did years ago before charging us.’
   She argued the usual points of the bank providing a service, before I confronted her with some basic logic that I have stated here before.
   A deposit to the bank is, after all, my loan to the bank. When the bank loans to me, can I charge it a “Jack privilege fee”?
   Around this point I was asked if we could change the subject.
   There are several conclusions we can draw. First, an executive at the ANZ bank, a fairly high-up one, is not open to hearing from her customers. She has her own world, where she has been conveniently conned into thinking the solution is the only one, when history tell us it isn’t—and that the bank’s cutting of costs over the last 20 years should actually make it more efficient.
   Another member of the staff, a little older but I understand a little more junior, put forward her theory which made a bit more sense, about how mortgages no longer funded the bank’s costs as effectively. She did not know for sure.
   But this shows just how bad the ANZ is. Different answers from different people—but the higher up you go, the less they care.
   Front-line staff, as I discussed earlier, cannot offer a credible explanation about bank fees that any customer who has been there for 20 or more years can fathom. Fact: people do have memories.
   And it seems that it is accepted as gospel that customers are to be taken from even at a higher level, no questions asked.
   How well ANZ has managed to blind its staff.
   A good brand is one that listens to consumers about their concerns—and actually levels with internal and external audiences about its policies.
   This experience confirms that the ANZ cannot level to either executives or front-line branch personnel, which means consumers are too far down the food chain for it to reach.
   This Australian-owned bank has been profiting very well from everyday New Zealanders over the last few years, too.
   But I cannot see that continue.
   Any brand expert will tell you that for all the financial analyses that a client shrouds itself in, the minute the brand falters, the effects on the bottom line will be felt.
   One of the symptoms is what I describe above: one based around the hope that people simply do not remember how they behaved before they began cutting their services and putting up charges.
   It is a failure to be and to tell the truth to those consumers—and it only takes one who is aged over 30 to be able to remember the good ol’ days versus what I consider to be the treatment that is metered out today.
   Just as I said a few months ago, the TSB Bank seems to be the only choice New Zealanders have, and at least the profits don’t make their way over to Sydney.
   It was my ‘prerogative’, said the executive, for me to do as I wished with my money, if I had gone to the TSB.
   No attempt to get it back—no promises to look into things. Even others have offered that to keep me on as a customer. Higher up, I guess, no one really cares. A lost customer isn’t important.
   Even if the lost customer is a stubborn bastard with a big mouth.
   Meanwhile, TSB is getting clients left, right and centre among people I know—on a limited budget a fraction of ANZ’s, and only one branch here in Wellington.
   If the ANZ wishes, I am happy to run a seminar for them to inform them of the niceties of listening to their customers. Unsurprisingly, I understand tonight that its profits are heading south this year.
   This problem won’t be fixed with , or .
   It might be fixed by giving customers what they want and pursuing something other than short-term profit—but the latter is exactly the message the ANZ has been sending me year after year.
   Because if banks aren’t looking at the long term, then what heck are we entrusting a penny to them?
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3.7.08

Why it still can be the American century 

In the spirit of July 4, I thought it would be interesting to explore the idea of the retaining its influence in the 21st century.
   What many see is dire. Beyond the anti-war types’ opposition to the War on Terror, there are , political and corporate, impeding progress on so many things, from innovations to ways society can function more progressively. The same institutions have led to a financial crisis. Economic management has led to a weak dollar, to the point where some reject it for the euro.
   So with the rise of , and less so of , where is the United States in all of this? How can I be so bold as to say it will remain the century?
   Because of Americans. Individuals. Those who have access to their own speaking platforms, highlighting what they see is wrong with their country, and having a nation that protects their as sacrosanct.
   The country that has championed individuality may well be saved, karmically, by individuals themselves.
   No anti-American I know stands firmly in his or her country and disses individual Americans. They spit their venom at the government or their corporations. The Iranian blogs that I visited, to see where their root cause of anti-Americanism lay, targeted abuse through . Maybe they have a point, because Americans themselves are not too happy about outsourcing. On one point their opinions do not differ much.
   And because many Americans have the skills to put their words across, in what remains the internet’s lingua franca—English—and because they can identify the sources of their problems, they can address them.
   What we, in the rest of the world should be doing, is engaging this dialogue. Putting forth our point of view.
   It’s frightfully easy for people to either have a case of nation envy or tall poppies, dragging down the richest country on earth and pointing out its problems for a short-term feeling of superiority. This is childish at best. While I do not deny the US has its faults—and Americans themselves would be the first to admit that—we should give each other perspective.
   I talk about our healthcare system: not the best in the world, but I would rather be sick here than in the US, because of universal coverage. And if we chat to our friends in the US about this, it will give them ideas on how they might accomplish it—or avoid it, if they see faults in our model. The idea of the internet is a beautiful one, even if spammers and pornographers threaten its sanctity: the ability to have a small world where we can have one-on-one discourses, and better ourselves.
   That free speech has to be defended at all costs, because even if the United States restricts the movement of people and the movement of capital, it needs to at least allow the movement of ideas.
   It is something to be guarded jealously and taught in its schools.
   It is, meanwhile, denied to many in Red China, unable to grow through dialogue. Instead its economy grows from the influx of capital, going in on growth figures that have been verified by none except a communist dictatorship, or from the misappropriation of intellectual property. Red China understands the latter cannot continue and has put up some restrictions—but until the opportunities for growth are open to all, then it will not have the support of its citizenry in the way the United States does. Red China can only become a great nation if all of China rethinks the republic, perhaps a commonwealth, but certainly one based around the principles of Confucius and Sun Yat-sen. It can happen as suddenly as the collapse of the Soviet Union, or it may take many more years than we imagine.
   Till then, the nation that may yet benefit is one that has great with the United States, and embraces it, seeing it as a blending of and an opportunity for growth.
   That nation is India and while its opportunities have not flowed through to everyone, and it, too, has its internal problems, it is poised to rise through the freedom of people, capital and ideas. The Indian century may follow the American century, but it may take a familiar form. Not far from now, if current trends continue, the Indian middle class will grow. It will form the basis of a strong national infrastructure. And the Indian century, too, will be based around freedom and liberty.
   However, in the immediate term, provided the United States can unite itself around its real values, those principles that, in reality, are not uniquely American after all, I see no reason for the American century not to continue.
   It is fortunate to have a holiday like the Fourth of July, a chance to remind everyone that freedom and justice are not buzzwords. That these principles really do mean something to the rest of the world—and that they need to be honoured. And that the power rests with everyone, because everyone has a voice.
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1.7.08

Living up to its promise 

A review for Dan Herman’s Outsmart the MBA Clones: the Alternative Guide to Competitive Strategy, Marketing and Branding has been due on this blog for months. It’s taken me a while to get through it, not because there’s a single thing wrong with the writing, but because of my own time, my own ease at which I can be persuaded to buy more books from Amazon, and because of .
   I am very sensitive to the composition in any , probably because of my type design background, and it’s really the only thing that lets Dan down. It’s likely my copy was an advance review one and this is all a mystery to those who have bought Dan’s book since, but what I see looks like a digitally printed Sabon. Offset does make a difference, and there are some of us who can still tell.
   It’s such a tiny criticism and one of the very, very few I can make. For a start, Dan begins with the idea that an isn’t that great. Those that have them do tend to, unless they have or can forge a more solid background in business, engage in . The don’t distinguish themselves from each other too well, so why should their teaching enable graduates to stand out?
   He’s not wrong. In my own academic history, I purposely pursued a Master of Commerce and Administration rather than the MBA because I was told by my professor, Peter Thirkell, that the MCA was more academically rigorous. He was right.
   I am willing to bet that any B.Com. graduate who wound up doing the first parts of the MBA found it a walk in the park, and while the study does get more complex beyond that, it’s not really that huge an advance on what I found in my honours’ year in B-school.
   One major reason you might not see Dan’s book reviewed in university publications is pretty obvious in light of the above.
   But he doesn’t rubbish the universities. He proposes an alternative model and goes on to say one thing that I always have in my consulting work: differentiation is the number-one rule in .
   As with most strategies, Dan spends a lot of time dealing with finding opportunities rather than executing them—but he is right to do this. This is the problem I face when doing seminars and people say I don’t give enough execution. Folks, sorry, but I don’t know what your company is like. All I can do is give you pointers on what to spot. And in this context, Dan has done things marvellously well—and in that respect I think his methodology does indeed outsmart the MBA clones.
   In between there’s a slice of consumer behaviour.
   It’s one of the few books I can recommend this year on branding, for companies thinking, ‘How can I differentiate my brand for greater success?’ Accidental Branding, which I am reading now, could be another—more when I finish that.
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‘Why?’ may be a futile question in Ruslana Korshunova suicide 

[Cross-posted] As some of you may have expected, the media are analysing why Kazakh model Ruslana Korshunova committed suicide. Part of it is because the analysis keeps the story alive. Another part is because people are fascinated by this world, and why shouldn’t a newspaper, normally covering dull stories, have an excuse to put the late Miss ’s face in its pages? (New York even thinks New York might have killed her. Other are, as I predicted, attempting exposés on the cruelty of the modelling world, such as The Scotsman.)
   I suppose I am doing the same thing, by critiquing the fourth estate and having an excuse to publish her name again. But perhaps we will refrain from posting an image of her in this post: this little opinion is not about beautifying a page to get some extra eyeballs.
   I don’t know anyone who had unsuccessfully attempted well. I met one woman who had survived slitting her wrists, but it was a verboten topic so I never raised it. I do know a friend who succeeded in his attempt in my university days.
   No one, not even his closest friend, David, knew that Andrew was or confused before he took his life with a shotgun in the early 1990s.
   It unleashed a whole bunch of emotions with us, his friends, from sadness to downright anger. And knowing Andrew, the ever-alert cynic that he was, he might have had a chuckle at us, if there is an afterlife. (Then again, he didn’t think there was.)
   But his decision remains a mystery after nearly 17 years.
   And that is probably the folly of trying to rationalize why Ruslana Korshunova leapt to her death out of a ninth-storey window in ’s Financial District last Saturday.
   Anyone who rationalizes the action of suicide probably wouldn’t be committing suicide—because says there are ways out, there are family members left behind who are hurting, and that there is always some hope. There are exceptions: it is possible that a very rational person sees no exit to their situation.
   Suicide is, from my layman’s point-of-view (one which I am prepared to be corrected on), something usually irrational, and trying to judge Miss Korshunova’s last few months on earth through her blog postings won’t tell us too much.
   The Daily Mail tabloid in the UK speculates that there were relationship woes for her, while friends report that they saw nothing that would cause her to take her own life.
   Yet the rational part of me tells me that even at age 20, no relationship wound is deep enough for suicide. Heartache, yes. Even emotional turmoil for a period.
   Why Ruslana Korshunova leapt out of her window on Saturday will probably be a mystery to all of us, not least her family who had to identify her body this week.
   Perhaps we should stop speculating. ‘Why?’ is a very powerful question in newsmedia and we are always desperate for answers, but in some cases, such as suicide, it may be futile to seek them out. We should let the Korshunova family grieve privately.
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Entries from 2006 to the end of 2009 were done on the Blogger service. As of January 1, 2010, this blog has shifted to a Wordpress installation, with the latest posts here.
   With Blogger ceasing to support FTP publishing on May 1, I have decided to turn these older pages in to an archive, so you will no longer be able to enter comments. However, you can comment on entries posted after January 1, 2010.


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