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How to use the Blog for next four weeks March 30, 2007

Posted by Jordi in Class announcements.
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A student emailed me and asked about my suggestion that you use the blog to advance your thinking and writing.

A good question.

Here was my response:

In short: the blog is a learning resource for you and everyone. Imagine three students writing blog posts. First has vague idea of topic and writes about 2 companies that may or may not be better understood in organizational decline. Second has taken idea of organizational decline and realized that there is an unresolved question about the role of management turnover (does it help or hurt recovery?). Student writes this up and wonders if there are examples of both possibilities. Third student has a clear argument and example. She writes up first two paragraphs of paper and posts them on blog for feedback.

All three are entirely acceptable.


The Future of Books March 28, 2007

Posted by breichen in civil society, innovation, Internet, Knowledge economy, Retail, Technology.

Employees of Google, the world’s largest web-search company, are scanning books into computers using secret methods at secret locations. Although Google has not released any official tallies, Daniel Clancy, the project’s top engineer, has given some clues as to what is actually going on. He has stated that Google has a contract with UC Berkeley requires them to digitize some 3,000 books a day for the university. Google also has contracts with 12 other universities and a number of independent publishers. Some conservative estimates are that Google will be digitizing books at a rate of 10 million per year. The total number of book titles said to exist is estimated at 65 million.

This is not the first project like this to exist. The Internet Archive is a non-profit organization created in 1996 by Brewster Kahle in the attempt to recreate a contemporary Library of Alexandria containing all public-domain texts and videos. Other organizations such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Yahoo! have all been scanning books but the scale to which Google is digitizing them is far greater than any of them.

As books go digital, new questions, both philosophical and commercial, arise. How, physically, will people read books in future? Will technology “unbind” books, as it has unbundled other media, such as music albums? Will reading habits change as a result? What happens when books are interlinked? And what is a book anyway?

The physical medium of books is unlikely to disappear in the digital age. Sony already sells an electronic book reader with about 12,000 titles available for download. Ron Hawkins, head of marketing for the Sony Reader, states that ““our mission is not to replace the print book.” You may be wondering then, who is going to be reading the millions of pages being digitized by Google and their competitors? The idea is that some people will read the books on a computer screen, some will use Google as a method for previewing books they are considering purchasing in paper form, and some will use the service to “look for specific snippets that interest them.”

Print media is already being diminished by digital replacements. Wikipedia for example, is a free online encyclopedia which is said to have severely reduced the sales of paper-bound alternatives. It is speculated that books which people would not ordinarily read all the way through or that require frequent updates will likely migrate to the digital medium. Other examples of print media being accessed in a digital format more and more frequently include dictionaries, cookbooks or recipes, telephone books/directories, etc.

It will be interesting to see how Google’s project turns out. I think it would be pretty amazing if you could get a digital copy of ANY book in the world just by searching Google Books. I don’t think, however, that paper-bound books are likely to disappear behind the shadow of the digital book.

Problems at Wal-Mart March 28, 2007

Posted by collage9 in Retail.

It was interesting to see that one of the world’s largest and most successful corporations is actually facing some difficulties.  I feel like most people see Wal-Mart as untouchable, when in reality they are not immune from facing obstacles just like any other company.  We all know about the company’s success in the U.S., where it currently operates 4,000 stores, but this can’t be said yet for their global operations.  Recently, Wal-Mart actually pulled out of Germany and South Korea.  In other important countries, such as China, Wal-Mart is behind in market share to European competitors like Tesco and Carrefour.  They need to figure what appeals to each region they operate in and have to realize that what appeals to the American market won’t exactly translate well over seas.  They are beginning to take some minor steps, such as putting live seafood in its 73 stores located in China. 

It is essential to the company that they straighten out their foreign operations because they really don’t have any more room to grow in the US.  They are concerned with stores taking sales from one another since there are so many throughout the country.  In addition to this lack of space, sales growth at older stores (stores open at least a year) is actually behind that of its archrival, Target.  They have been growing about 1 to 3 percent on average in the last 3 threes, compared to more than 5% previously.  I’m not saying that Wal-Mart is in jeopordy by any means, just that it needs to take a closer look at and improve its global markets if it wants the continued growth it has experienced throughout its lifetime.

Microsoft Xbox 360 March 28, 2007

Posted by Charley S in innovation, media, Technology.


The video game industry is a very competitive market.  Manufacturers don’t make money on actual console sales, they have to make all of their profits on the games that are sold at ridiculously high prices now approaching $60.  Realizing this, Microsoft with its Xbox 360 has moved to take advantage of this trend.  Through Xbox live, owners of the console can download movies, tv shows and complete games to play on the Xbox.  This program has been an unparalleled success, so much so that now Microsoft is releasing a beefed up Xbox system that has 100 more gigabytes of storage space for music and movies. 

What we are witnessing here is the increased trend towards technology combining into more integrated systems.  We’ve discussed the trend in cell phones that are now practically computers on their own, however the trend is evident in the video game arena now.  For companies like Microsoft and Sony this is a way for them to increase profits at very little cost to themselves because they are not enduring any of the creation costs of the media they sell and are basically acting as a middle man between media companies and consumers.  You can already link up your Xbox to your computer and tv, what’s next?  Before you know it alarm clocks, cell phones, stereos, game systems and refrigerators will all be linked together.  Microsoft is currently in the lead compared to rivals Sony and Nintendo when it comes to online content and as such they will probably enjoy considerable first mover advantages.  In addition, being the giant corporation that Microsoft is, I believe that they will be able to capitalize on this advantage and sink the necessary capital into this program to achieve market domination.

Siemens Executive Arrested March 28, 2007

Posted by silviamocanu07 in Business-Society Issues, Organizational Environment.

     Johannes Feldmayer, one of Siemens’ top executives, was arrested and is suspected of having used company funds to influence the result of its negotiations with IG Metall, Germany’s largest industrial union. Siemens, Europe’s largest engineering firm, is negotiating an increase in workers’ wages with the union. IG Metall is requesting a 6.5% increase, while Siemens is only willing to match half of that percentage. Feldmeyer is thought to have been wrongfully directing company funds to a consulting firm which works with the labor union. Siemens is also undergoing a separate investigation by authorities, as it is believed that the top management of the company has paid millions of Euros for fake consulting contracts, and actually used the money in order to bribe potential customers abroad. The company’s response to the investigations was to cooperate with the authorities, to place stricter internal financial controls, as well as to seek outside legal advice in order to address this situation.

    It is hard to imagine that top executives in such a reputable organization are capable of such unethical and blatantly illegal behavior. One of the main reasonings behind such actions would probably be the desire to reduce labor costs, which can become quite substantial, particularly in a country such as Germany, where labor unions are very strong and hold significant bargaining power with employers.  This is a clear instance of the external environment directly influencing the company’s costs. Do you think that the charges against Feldmayer are justified? What do you think would drive a high-up executive to such actions?

Link to the article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB117500626744850396.html?mod=home_whats_news_europe

Allstate March 28, 2007

Posted by Stephanie in advertising, Auto's, Government.

While flipping through Business Week for an article to grab my attention I became frustrated and tired.  Closing the magazine and tossing it next to me I noticed the words on the back.  “The #1 killer of teenagers doesn’t have a trigger.  It has a steering wheel.”   A personified car and several paragraphs of information followed.  Who was responsible for this information? The back cover was actually an advertisement for Allstate.

With their motto “It’s time to make the world a better place to drive,” the company forcefully focuses on informing drivers about vehicle safety and how to avoid dangerous situations. 

Their newest campaign is directed towards teenagers, as their lives are greatly impacted by motor safety, even if they think they are invincible.  The advertisement states, “[motor vehicle crashes] take nearly 6,000 [teenage] lives and injure another 300,000 every year.”  Their new safe-driving program, “Keep the Drive” empowers teens with information and the ability to influence others by making smart decisions.  Allstate hopes that teens will recognize and enforce “smart driving is the key to keeping their licenses, their cars, their friends and their futures.”

This advertisement, filled with information triggered more thoughts about motor safety.  Why was this company spending so much time, energy and money to look after the well being of so many people? Is it their job to do so?  After all, they are not the ones even making the cars. I was curious to see what role the government plays in creating and maintaining safety regulations. 

On the U.S. Department of Transportation website I learned that since 1967, standards have been established for all manufacturers of motor vehicle and equipment items.  Constant changes and amendments are made to the regulations.  The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and Regulations are minimum requirements written  “that the public is protected against unreasonable risk of crashes occurring as a result of the design, construction, or performance of motor vehicles and is also protected against unreasonable risk of death or injury in the event crashes do occur.”

The standards fall under three categories, Crash Avoidance, Crash Worthiness and Post Crash Standards.  Of the short overview I read, the standards at least seem to be adequate, but with such high numbers of motor vehicle deaths, are they doing enough?  Should there be stricter regulations, say on the placement of bumpers, since a bumper on an SUV is certainly not going to help the safety of persons in a sports coup if they collide. Heck, seat belts and air bags certainly weren’t originally in cars, but many lives have been saved because of new regulations.   

 What is your feeling about car safety?  Should it be left up to the government, manufactures, and insurance companies or are the present standards and regulations good enough?

A Saab’s Story March 27, 2007

Posted by Kira in Auto's, brand, Consumers, Marketing, Organizational Environment, outsourcing, Retail.

Saab was faced with the challenge of expanding its market to mid-size sports wagon drivers in the U.K. To accomplish this, Saab had to overcome two major disadvantages. Not only was their marketing budget smaller than their competitors but, their brand recognition and reputation was smaller as well. To promote the 9-3 SportWagon, Saab created a two-part campaign that combined direct mail and the internet. The campaign was a game called “The Race Against Time.” This campaign included a 100-page “choose your own adventure” book that was mailed to people who inquired about the car. The book put its readers in a Saab 9-3 and dared them to see if they could reach a weekend destination without falling into trouble. The story moved forward by choosing from optional actions listed on each page which all led to a different set of circumstances. The game was also offered online- so people could sign up for the game and for additional information about Saab. By playing online, the players could e-mail their results to a friend and challenge them to beat their time. Participants could also record their personal progress. As an incentive, participants who won the challenges were eligible to win a Saab 9-3 Aero V6 SportWagon and Saab-branded sports merchandise. Although Saab officials assumed that no more than 5,000 people would participate in the campaign, more than 29,000 people signed up to play online with 40% also signing up to receive electronic news updates from Saab. The game was also placed on other websites and on blogs (go figure!). Sales for the 9-3 rose in Great Britain from 2,000 cars sold in 2005 to more than 6,000 in 2006.

“We got a set of people who never would have considered Saab,” says Ed Birth, the Saab account manager for Draftfcb (Draftfcb created the campaign)

Saab’s campaign is an example of a recent trend in which marketers are targeting consumers enticing them to play games and activities in order to get them to spend more time with the brands. The longer the time spent with the product the more likely the brand will come to mind when making a future purchase.

Last class we were discussing survival strategies. I would say that Saab is a k-specialist- they had to break into an established market for sport wagons. Some of the reasons that Saab was probably successful as a k-specialist were because they already knew that a market for sport wagons in the U.K. existed and that games and activities were a marketing success. They were able to see trends in the existing companies in the sport wagon market that they could “mimic” and allowed them to see the correct way they could compete.

By using direct mail, online websites, and blogs, Saab was able to reach different potential consumers. The use of online websites allowed Saab to capture younger consumers while also capturing the names and e-mail addresses of potential consumers who registered. This could allow Saab to generate a database for future marketing tactics. Also, the game was a great way to tap into consumers’ emotions- I know it made me reminisce about the “Choose Your Own Adventure” book that I had when I was younger!


I think the game can still be played online- check it out for yourself!

Holy Spirit Hospital’s “religious” organizational culture March 27, 2007

Posted by Lady in civil society, Consumers, Customer Service, Employees, Organizational Culture, religious organizations.

So I happened to go home this weekend (Harrisburg) and found my idea for this week’s blog in the local newspaper, The Patriot News. The article was titled,Better bedside MANNER: Holy Spirit Hospital aims to cure ill will” and showed that since December, Holy Spirit Hospital has been sending walk-in patients directly to a bed instead of having them sit in the waiting area on those terribly uncomfortable benches. This is the first hospital that I have ever known to have such a generous policy. Personally, I am pleased with such a policy. I chose this article because a couple of weeks ago I read Holy Spirit’s mission and vision statement which is as follows:

Our Mission

Holy Spirit Health System is a community Catholic health system sponsored by the Sisters of Christian Charity to carry out the healing ministry of Jesus Christ to all in need. We provide high quality, cost-effective health services to develop healthy communities in the greater
Harrisburg area and South Central Pennsylvania.

Our Vision

Holy Spirit Health system will exemplify God’s love through our service and Spirit of Caring.

Over the next three years, we will focus on achieving exemplary performance in service to our community, including:

  • Superior clinical outcomes.
  • Outstanding customer satisfaction.
  • Strong financial results.

So after taking a look at Holy Spirit Hospital as an organization, it led me to ponder some questions about their organizational culture. For starters, I wonder if their policy of sending patients straight to a hospital bed has to do with the religious culture that they seem to have instilled in their organization. Or might the policy just be in response to gaining a competitive advantage? Cheri Rinehart of the Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania said that it is uncommon practice to send patients directly to a bed, but that there is a trend of “looking at patient satisfaction and what the major dissatisfiers are”.

So is it culture or competition that most led Holy Spirit Hospital to act in this manner and treat their customers in this special way? In my opinion, I think that it is naturally part of Holy Spirit Hospital’s culture to act in this way. I honestly think that the culture of their organization is one that is filled with the “Holy Spirit” literally and this drives them to go beyond the call of duty for their patients. Now, I have never really been a patient there but I wonder what it would be like to be one of their patients. Being a Christian myself and having such a strong faith in God, I can imagine the type of organizational culture that Holy Spirit Hospital may have. Can you?

In general, do you think that an organization that has a highly religious climate can affect their organizational culture? Does that particular religion then define the culture of the organization? How might a religious culture be bad for an organization? How might it be bad for individual employees or patients?

Hate Static on the Radio? March 25, 2007

Posted by K.C. in Auto's, Manufacturing, media, Technology.

Radio broadcasters and audio tuner companies are finally using digital Radio, a new type of radio technology. The technology is called HD radio, not an abbreviation for High Definition, was developed by iBiquity Digital Corporation and was introduced about three years ago. Compared to analog radio, which is currently broadcast, this new radio technology will supposedly produce much better sound quality without any static interference.

In its first introduction, the high cost of implementing the new technology deterred radio stations and audio component manufacturers from introducing the technology to consumers but because of a recent drop in costs have began to adopt it. When HD radio was introduced, broadcasters were hesitant to adopt the technology because of the high cost consumers would have to pay for the new HD head units (car stereo). However, prices have dropped and companies now offer HD head units for around $200 and installation is comparable with satellite radio conversions.

Aside from the quality of sound from HD radio, what is interesting is the fact that no subscription is needed to receive HD stations and most large radio stations offer or will soon offer HD radio broadcasts. Furthermore, HD radio broadcasters can also offer several different broadcasts on the same frequency. This will therefore allow radio stations to target several niches of listeners and give their audiences a choice of several different broadcasts. However, thus far only BMW has announced they will offer HD radio tuner options in their cars.  

Do people see this as a viable alterative to satellite radio? Can HD compete with Sirius/XM radio?   

Is Wikipedia a Reliable Source? March 25, 2007

Posted by Elaine in Internet.

Wikipedia has become one of top websites visited even though it was created just six years ago. This online encyclopedia is educational and has viewpoints from various sources, but it may also contain inaccurate information. Their unique “edit” button allows any user to edit or add information to the page on any topic.

Wikipedia’s co-founder, Larry Sanger, did not expect this website to contain such erroneous data. He feels that people use Wikipedia, even with its inaccuracies, because there aren’t better similar sources online.

If there’s going to be a free encyclopedia, I’d like there to be a better free encyclopedia. It has bothered me that I helped to get a project started, Wikipedia, that people are misusing in this way, and yet the project itself has little chance of radically improving.

His discontent is motivating him to create a new online encyclopedia called Citizendium. It will be nonprofit and devoid of ads. It will also enable users to edit and add information. However, contributors will be expected to provide identification. Then, the web page will be given to experts to check for accuracy.

Do you use Wikipedia? Do you think the advantages (large amount of information from various viewpoints) outweigh the disadvantages (inaccurate information)? Would you consider Wikipedia to be a legitimate source for research? Would the new program, Citizendium be successful if created?

I believe that if we need information, we should have accurate information. I don’t trust people to edit/add their own knowledge on these “informative” websites unless they are licensed or expertise in the field with a degree, etc. I personally don’t use Wikipedia for my academic papers.