Archive for the ‘Business Ethics’ Category

Holiday shopping? Caveat emptor

Have you been venturing onto the internet lately, or (shudder) actual mall stores in search of those killer holiday deals?  You might want to compare prices before you buy.  This New York Times article confirms what I’ve always suspected:  Most of those amazing deals are not so amazing after all. Researchers from The Wirecutter and The Sweethome found less than 1% of the 54,000 holiday deals they reviewed are actually good deals.  ”When we find a deal that we think is good, it’s a needle in a haystack,” says Editor in Chief Jacqui Cheng. ”We’re super-excited when that happens.”  Puts a whole new meaning on Black Friday, doesn’t it?

Never again!

Following the horrific collapse of the infamous Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh in April 2013 that killed over 1100 garment workers, a collection of western companies has tried to impose safety standards. The European-dominated Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a group of more than 150 firms and brands, has been arranging inspections of apparel factories that supply many of the developed world’s biggest clothing firms. But this has not proven to be an easy task, and the Accord now finds itself squaring up against both the company Florence Fashions and the Bangladeshi government. The Accord claims the factory building is unsound, presenting the possible spectacle of a repeat of Rana Plaza. Read more  about this ongoing battle to bring social responsibility to an industry that is so critical to the survival of this developing country. Let us hope that whatever happens, we will not turn on the news to watch yet another nightmarish factory disaster; that must never happen again.

The Roaring Twenties

Have you ever thought that it doesn’t matter what you do in your early adult years, as you still have plenty of time to change course and take another path later? Clinical psychologist Meg Jay argues that the choices you make in your twenties have more of an effect on the rest of your life then any you make in the decades after that, and provides true life examples to illustrate it. In The Defining Decade: Why your twenties matter and how to make the most of them now, Dr. Jay discusses: 

  • the concept of “identity capital” (which might be described as the qualities that make your resume stand out) and how to build yours;
  • the value of mining “weak ties” to open unexpected doors;
  • the effects of “sliding, not deciding” in relationships; and
  • making your own certainty

The Defining Decade is in our Popular Books section, and circulates for two weeks.  Check it out!

For another take on life lessons geared toward your third decade, take a look at Tina Seelig’s What I wish I knew when I was 20: A crash course on making your way in the world. This lively and readable account of life lessons and cogent observations is food for thought at any age.  Seelig, MSE professor and Executive Director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, uses anecdotes from many luminaries and her own life to illustrate principles such as:

  • the influence of direct and indirect messages
  • the advantage of challenging assumptions
  • the value of viewing problems as opportunites, and turning failure into success
  • what a successful career really looks like (hint: not a straight line)
  • the importance of doing the right thing instead of the smart thing

What I wish I knew when I was 20 is in our main stacks on the lower level, call # LC 1037.5 S44 2009.  Check it out!

Staggering stats

Article in the March 31 New Yorker cites French economist Thomas Piketty and his new book Capital in the Twenty-first Century, being hailed as a major intellectual event. While Piketty himself is interesting, I was drawn to the economic portrait described in the article. These statistics would be utterly astonishing … were it not for the fact that I’ve read something like them before. For example, author John Cassidy writes that in 2010 the richest 10% of American households owned 70% of the nation’s wealth, while the bottom 50% owned a mere 5%.  The top 1%  alone owned 35% of the wealth. According to Piketty, 95% of all the income growth in the U.S. economy between 2010 and 2012 accrued to the top 1%. Piketty avers that, in the level of inequality in terms of income generated by work, America is “probably higher than in any other society at any time in the past, anywhere in the world.”  I will leave that for economists to decide. No doubt Piketty has his critics — and Cassidy himself offers a critique — but the article is still a sobering read. (This New Yorker issue is on the Library’s magazine rack on the entry floor.)

The Pope and Poverty

Pope Francis has issued Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), particularly notable for its strong opinions about capitalism. Standing in the tradition of Rerum Novarum of Leo XIII and Pacem in Terris of John XXIII, the Pope has offered a vigorous critique of capitalism, peppering the document with calls to conscience. “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” he asks, as the 84-page letter denounces the ‘idolatry of money’ and calls for financial reform by world leaders. “Money must serve, not rule!” The Pope goes on to urge governments to guarantee all citizens “dignified work, education and healthcare.” Of course the document also addresses other eccelesial matters as well, setting the tone for his papacy  — “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”  This is the latest foray of the Pope into world thought, and will no doubt cement his image in the popular imagination as a force to be reckoned with. Should we expect anything less from a Pope who took his name from Francis of Assisi?

Battle of Wits

Apple notoriously ran afoul of public monitors of labor conditions in China. Other firms have also been called on the carpet of international opinion over the years for debatable working conditions in suppliers’ factories, including Disney and Samsung. One group with claims to ferreting out such dubious corporate behavior, for example, is China Labor Watch. All this is illustrative of the fact that a worldwide social consciousness in business is gradually emerging. But will it be able to keep pace with the ingenuity and cleverness of those trying to conceal unwholesome factory practices?

What Should a CEO Do Now?

You’ve hired the engineers and executive team, you’ve started delegating, now what? Andreessen Horowitz General Partner, Scott Weiss has some everyday advice for CEO’s that can be used throughout a company’s growth.  Weiss believes it is a CEO’s job to challenge the team to do extraordinary things.  His checklist includes:

  • Set aggressive goals
  • Give frequent feedback
  • Hold Weekly Staff Meetings
  • Schedule 1:1s
  • Sell the vision
  • Arbitrate disagreements
  • Manage by Walk ing Around
  • Talk to Customers

Not a CEO yet, his advice can help any team leader be successful.


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