Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

There aren’t any good cold call marketing or sales campaigns anymore: some thoughts concerning general principles

Posted in reexamining the fundamentals, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on May 14, 2017

There are a set of basic principles that keeping proving themselves as relevant and even compellingly so and across wide ranges of potential application. They usually more commonly arise in discussion in specific specialized contexts, but the principles that underlie them keep coming up and in a diverse range of otherwise seemingly unrelated contexts and circumstances besides the ones that they might be best known for. And one of them that is more commonly expressed in a more monetary theory-specific context is captured in an empirically validated finding that is commonly referred to as Gresham’s law.

Gresham’s law states that even a potentially strong currency, with a valuation that is based upon a solid established correlation between unit of currency available, and product and service value available in the marketplace, can become diluted and weakened if too much of it is put into circulation. The more units of that currency that are out there in circulation, for every unit of productive and marketable value available in its national economy, the less those units of currency are or can be worth.

Imagine a nation with a strong currency that suddenly as a matter of policy, turns on the printing presses at its Treasury Department and floods the market with more and more of that money – and without any corresponding increase in the actual productive and market-facing value that its economy can maintain and that this money is supposed to represent in trade and transaction. If this approach is carried out too fully and for too long, that currency can plummet in value until it becomes essentially worthless. And that is why Gresham’s law is often summarized as “bad money drives out good,” and “bad money drives good money out of the marketplace.”

The basic principle underlying this is clear. Valuation and realizable value and their stability, depend on reaching and maintaining a critical balance: here between the levels of actual productive value that is created and maintained in an economy and in its markets, and a transactionally equivalent (monetary) value to that, that is supposed to represent it according to a set and agreed to value-for-value exchange rate.

Now let’s consider how this principle has its counterpart in other business processes and in the relationships that hold between other types of numerically scalable metrics. And let’s consider this in marketing outreach terms for purposes of this discussion. Let’s consider how this might apply in a phone center outreach setting and with a strong valuation baseline as a starting point that would be equated here with the once strong valuation of the above cited currency example, from before its printing presses were turned on and simply left on.

There is no such thing as perfect in the real world, but there are actively and carefully thought through examples of good and of intended best. As a baseline positive example that I am familiar with in detail, I turn here to one from my own work experience as a point of comparison here.

One of the industries that I have worked in as a consultant is automotive retail. And my largest scale assignment in that arena involved my taking an interim Chief Information Officer position with a large, roughly $400 million dollar automotive retail group with both new and used car sales outlets, and auto maintenance and repair shops, and direct business-to-business collaborations with for example, a partner financial service for setting up auto loans for their customers. Their goal was to offer a one stop shopping experience for their customers and both for purchasing a new or used car or truck and for maintaining these vehicles. And one of the core objectives that I went into that job with, was to remediate and expand a new but dysfunctionally disconnected call center that had been set up for the business as a whole.

There were a number of phone system and networked computer system hardware problems that I had to help unravel in turning that facility around, as well as significant software disconnects and related problems. Those issues are all worthy of consideration and discussion in a blog of this type, and I have in fact at least briefly touched upon at least a few of them in this blog. But my focus of attention here is different from that and in fact involves a basic functionality that I was trying to both maintain and strengthen while working there: their customer and potential customer calling system per se, that this new call center was supposed to facilitate and streamline.

Let’s consider the types of calls that the phone representatives working there were expected to make:

• They were supposed to call current customers with cars and trucks under warrantee to remind them when their vehicles were coming due for free services that were included in the terms of their purchase agreements. This included checkups and oil changes and a variety of other manufacturer or dealer provided basic maintenance options. And as these services were already covered and paid for as benefits to these customers, these calls were essentially always welcome and appreciated.
• These call center representatives were also supposed to keep for-fee maintenance and repair customers informed on information that they would need for scheduling work done. So for example if a customer needed repair done on their car that called for a replacement part that had to be special ordered, a phone rep would call that customer to tell them when this part had arrived, and certainly if there was going to be a delay in that so they could schedule their repair work. When special order parts where back-ordered and there might be delays in their delivery, this offered real value to the customer and was also generally appreciated.
• But these phone representatives also made sales calls, and to both established customers as their current vehicles began reaching a certain age, and to new and prospective customers as well.
• Let’s focus here on those new and prospective customers who had never purchased anything from any of the storefronts owned and run by this dealership group. Like essentially every other auto dealership, this business purchased lists of potential customers who were supposed to have been carefully selected and prequalified for inclusion on the basis of their meeting specific demographic and other qualifications. They would for example all live in an area that this dealership had found to match that of its current active customer base. Dealerships would specify where their customer catchment areas were when entering into agreements with these list aggregator businesses that they would purchase these potential new customer lists from, so they would only pay for leads from their area.
• And prospective customers included on these lists would have to fit a realistic profile for income and related criteria that would make them financially capable of buying a new or used car. And they would selectively include people with active driver’s licenses.
• And critically importantly, these lists needed to be up to date as the people most sought after were ones who might be interested in buying a car or truck, but who had not already done so somewhere else. Old listings tended to include people who had done that and who were no longer in the market to buy again.
• This is just a partial list of the types of filtering criteria that these leads aggregators use in assembling the lists that they sell to dealerships. To add one more, dealerships of necessity insist on buying exclusivity in their leads contacts lists; they do not want to buy leads that that aggregator is simultaneously selling to other, competing businesses, or that other aggregators are also selling to their business clients.
• So there were a variety of criteria that would go into assembling these lists, to increase the likelihood that anyone called on one of them would both drive, and would be interested in purchasing a good, reliable car or small truck of the type that this dealership group offered, and that they would want to do so in the right area geographically to make that one of their showrooms a good choice for them.
• In practice, one of my work responsibilities while there was to manage these leads list provider contracts. And I worked with one of my best sales managers there in doing so. The basic questions that came up in this due diligence exercise were very simple:
• How many of the prospective customer leads that were provided by each of the aggregators that they were in contract with, actually turned into completed sales? And what did this business actually pay for these leads when the overall cost of the complete lists paid for was amortized across those much fewer successful sales? And how did this cost compare with the potential profit margin that this dealership group could expect from these completing those sales, net of having to purchase these sales leads in the first place?
• It turned out that many of their leads providers were failing them for the low levels of conversions to completed sales achieved from their lists and a couple of them consistently, month after month failed to yield even one completed sale at all. I had to find ways to get this dealership company out from under the contracts that they had signed with a large percentage of the lead providers that they were buying these lists from because quite literally, so few of the entries on them were leading to sales that the dealership group was losing money on them when leads costs were properly taken into account.
• I worked with some very good people there and both for the managers who I worked with and for their hands-on call center and sales personnel, and together we were able to turn that part of this business around. I add that I got to work with a good attorney on this too, as well as with members of their Information Technology staff and a wide range of others. And I hold that up as my positive example where all effort was being made to only call the people who would be receptive to being called and who would see value in doing business with this dealership.
• Even under the best circumstances, only a relatively small percentage of calls of this type, and certainly cold calls to new potential customers actually work out and lead to completed sales. But all effort was made to at the very least make sure that no perspective customers who were called would have reason to hang up feeling irritated. That, among other things meant not taking a high pressure sales approach and always being polite. It meant listening as well as speaking and it meant knowing when to end a call that was not working too, and doing so with a thank you.

There is no such thing as perfect in the real world but there is and can be good and there is and can be polite, and real effort can be made to limit call lists to target audiences that actually make sense to the merchant calling. And that is my positive end of the scale example for this posting and its discussion. And it brings me to robocalls and badly framed ones that would leave anyone receiving them wondering what type of scam was being attempted on them – or convinced that they already knew.

Think of the seemingly endless flood of those calls as a counterpart to turning on those Treasury Department printing presses and leaving them on, and seemingly endlessly. And this vast toxic background and context that any good practices calling and cold calling in particular would be embedded in, renders them valueless too and to all concerned – and certainly to any business attempting to make them.

And to complete this example’s narrative, I cite businesses such as Nomorobo that provide automatic blocking services to prevent scam, spam, phone phishing and other offensive calls from getting through – and for both robocalls and in-person calls as would come from a call center of the type just described.

Robocallers see their costs per call as being so low that they can make money even if only the tiniest percentage of their calls actually get through and succeed for them. They are not looking for repeat business, and certainly for more dubious businesses that pursue business this way, they are only looking for one time scores from anyone they can convince to buy into their pitch. They, in game theory terms, pursue a win-lose strategy with their prospective “customers” and they only need to win occasionally to win big, overall. So the types of Gresham’s law style calculations that I would cite here do not matter to them. Businesses such as the automotive dealership group that I cited above seek to develop and long-term customers and seek to pursue win-win strategies and those calculations can mean the difference between success and failure for them. And the dynamics of this disparity drive the shift in valuation of customer calls, and of cold calls in particular down towards zero – and even into a “loss at best” territory and for all, and certainly for legitimate businesses.

• Bad money drives good money out of the marketplace.
• Bad calling drives good out of the market too, in this case converting it and certainly in its cold call forms into essentially guaranteed money losing propositions.

You can find this and related material at Social Networking and Business 2, and also see that directory’s Page 1. And I also include this as a supplemental posting to Section VI (Some Thoughts Concerning a General Theory of Business) of my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory.

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 14: considering first steps toward developing a general theory of business 6

Posted in blogs and marketing, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on April 22, 2017

This is my 14th installment to a series on general theories of business, and on what general theory means as a matter of underlying principle and in this specific context (see Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, Section VI for Parts 1-13.)

I began to explicitly discuss business transaction flows and the overall business strategy and planning that informs them, in game theory terms in Part 12 and Part 13, focusing on win-win game strategy approaches in Part 12, and offering an at least initial discussion of a wider range of game strategy options in Part 13.

And as a baseline starting point for that, I focused on win-win game strategy approaches as they would apply to ongoing long-term stable businesses that operate in stable ongoing markets and in stable long-term supply chain or similar business-to-business collaborations, insofar as they enter into them at all. I offered this as a baseline business model approach for addressing a game theory approach to thinking about and understanding business strategy and operations. And with that baseline starting point at least briefly discussed, I began an at least initial consideration of other game and business strategy alternatives that would be arise from this more stable scenario as complicating factors are added in. More specifically, I widened the scope of this discussion to consider win-lose scenarios, noting how that type of approach might circumstantially offer greater perceived value, in games (business transaction flows):

• That would only be expected to continue for a limited duration of play (as for example when developing and capitalizing upon short term and even explicitly time-limited seasonal business opportunities),
• Or that would be carried out under conditions of greater perceived risk and uncertainty as to how value would be exchanged (where that, for example can mean either uncertainty as to payout, or limitations to the overall pool of value that could be paid out that would not necessarily cover all value owed),
• Or for some combination of these two strategy-shaping constraints.

More explicitly considering the first of those bullet points for its relevance to what is to follow in this posting, I explicitly note anticipated end-game strategies as they enter into this discussion here. When a player: a participating business faces an end point in what has at least become a time-limited business opportunity, would be more likely to benefit from pursuing a strategy and a game approach here, that would limit the likelihood and scale of what could become a deficit in the receipt of value obtained, as that business opportunity time limit is approached and reached. This certainly applies when considered at the level of the business as a whole, but it can also apply in functionally separate areas of a business that might individually face explicitly time-limited opportunity and even when the business as a whole is an ongoing long-term-stable enterprise that at a higher overall level pursues more win-win strategies and certainly with its long-term ongoing business-to-business and market-facing contexts.

Strategic decisions and their corresponding underlying game strategies would be selected so as to maximize opportunity and gain, and minimize likely risk and cost, and with that determined at whatever the organizational level was most pressingly in need for such consideration. And large, complex enterprises often pursue several such approaches at once.

Win-win essentially axiomatically assumes that if there is a deficit in the balance of value received on one side at any given time, that imbalance can be and almost always will be addressed and corrected for in later transactions. Win-lose is predicated at least in part in terms of there not always being that next time, value creation and exchange transaction that could accomplish this. This constitutes the basic starting point for understanding where these approaches would respectively apply. But as noted in Part 13, time per se is not always the only, or even necessarily an important determining limiting factor there.

I have been addressing this in relatively abstract terms in Part 13 and again here in the opening of this posting. But at the end of Part 13 I stated that I would address this complex of issues in more concrete terms and by at least briefly and selectively discussing a specific, real world business model example. And the one that I will delve into here does in fact call for what would become an essentially pure win-lose game strategy as participating businesses that pursue it approached the very explicitly time limited end points of their business operations and revenue generating seasons. But in anticipation of discussion to come, even a seemingly win-lose game strategy oriented business can have compelling reasons for selectively pursuing a win-win approach too. That type of strategic and operational distinction is contextually grounded and that fact emerges in the case study that I at least selectively examine here.

The businesses that I refer to are small scale seasonal ventures that seek to generate what amounts to windfall revenue opportunity starting soon after Thanksgiving in the United States and lasting up to the day before Christmas. These are ventures that are set up and run by small operation farmers and other small business owners who either grow appropriate species and varieties of pine trees on otherwise unusable land that they own, or they buy trees grown by others in this manner at local rural wholesale cost. And they then bring these product offerings to densely populated urban settings, and certainly to cities in the Northeast of the United States such as New York City. And they set up short-term retail sales outlets to offer and sell those trees at a significant markup, net of all costs incurred from doing this.

This is a short-lived business opportunity that is driven by a need to minimize waste and loss, and to create value and profit generating opportunity at all possible points. So these entrepreneurs also take the salvageable loose branches that they would have to trim off of the bases of the trees that they would sell, and other waste trimmings – waste from the perspective of selling intact tress, and shape Christmas wreaths and other marketable items out of them. And for value added opportunity they often sell inexpensive bases that a newly purchased Christmas tree could be set up in, in a buyer’s home.

Value added, supplemental sales opportunities do not end there for many of these small time-limited businesses. Maple syrup is in fact harvested in the Spring in places like Upstate New York, Connecticut and Vermont, when the sap in those trees starts flowing back up from the roots again to revive them for the warmer months ahead. But a number of these Christmas tree entrepreneurs save bottles and jugs of their earlier harvested and processed maple syrup – or obtain it at lower wholesale cost from local producers, and offer this and similar add-on items too. Maple syrup may be produced in the Spring, but it is consumed more in the Autumn and Winter, and is popular during the Winter holidays.

The entire season for this type of business venture is very brief, and the end point of Christmas day is completely inflexible and unforgiving as far as any tree or wreath or similar left-over inventory is concerned. If an item is not sold by the day before Christmas, it becomes a complete loss and with all expenses and amortized shares of costs covered by it uncovered by any possible recouping sale and even at a discounted price, and with an additional added cost of it having to be hauled away for disposal too.

How does this play out in a win-win and win-lose game and business strategy defining context? As outlined, this sounds at least at first glance like a business situation that would follow an essentially pure win-lose gaming strategy approach. But let me begin with what longer-term, can even become a legitimate win-win source of opportunity for these businesses, and for partner businesses that they enter into transactional agreements with. And in this, I simply assume that while a given seasonal sales opportunity might begin and end at very set and immutable points on the calendar for any given year, an entrepreneur who succeeds in this type of venture one time might want to come back to it recurringly and even on an ongoing yearly basis.

Even if they grow and harvest their own trees from land parcels that are best suited for that purpose and not for farming, they still might want to supplement the selection of trees that they provide from their own effort with additional trees, that have grown out to the right size and that would be particularly popular by type to the end consumer market. If they do sell add-ons such as that maple syrup too, cultivating mutually agreeable business-to-business relationships with local sources of those items might make sense to, and particularly where they have to maintain wider-ranging relationships with the local-to-them providers that they obtain these offerings from.

Plastic tree bases, to cite a different category of add-on product offering, would not in any way be locally produced or wholesale sold. So these entrepreneurs would in most cases obtain them at lowest possible per item cost and through online outlets where transactions tend to be more one-off. Different sources might very well offer the tree bases required at best per unit costs, from year to year and even within a single year if it was necessary to restock during a sales season for them.

And to add one more consideration here that is very relevant to these businesses, consider where they would set up and conduct this business, and the need for their entering into agreements with property owners where they would sell. A smart entrepreneur would seek out a more mutually beneficial agreement there, so as to secure the same location again the next year and at reasonable cost if they chose to enter into this type of business venture again. And they would make the effort to make sure that everything they did in the course of their business there was done in as clean and uncluttered, and as non-disruptive a manner as possible for the owners of that property, and I add to avoid possible complaints that might lead to fines from the city. The difference between success and failure in this type of venture is as much a matter of location as it is of anything, and of being a good neighbor and presenting a good image to prospective customers. So pursuing a more win-win game strategy there can be vital to success for all of these considerations – and even in such a tightly time-limited business venture.

Now let’s consider the more win-lose side to this. All sales are final and while everyone would be polite and friendly, all transactions would be carried off as if entirely one-off and not as a means for developing long-term repeat business opportunity with any given customer. Business-to-business relationships that were entered into that did not explicitly center around building for a next year opportunity or for explicitly protecting that year’s effort would be carried out using a win-lose approach with a focus on revenue and profits received and not on mutual exchange of value in anticipation of ultimate return of value from that. And as the season progresses and the pressures mount to sell off as much as possible of that remaining inventory, this more win-lose approach becomes paramount, to prevent loss of what profitability might have been achieved up to then.

The roughly one month nature of this business opportunity with eleven months intervening helps to drive this too, and even for entrepreneurs who return to the same locations every year to restart their Christmas sales ventures. This scenario is very different from what you would expect or find with a more standard, non-seasonal retail venture such as a bricks and mortar retail store that is built for its strength and profitability around long-term stable supply chain systems, and stable repeat business customer bases.

• Note that as briefly outlined above, even a short term business of the type considered here would use both win-lose and win-win game strategy approaches – at least selectively and even if end-game time constraints would push them to a more win-lose approach and certainly as their season is about to end.
• More stable bricks and mortar retails of the type just noted might primarily employ a more win-win gaming approach. But even they would at least occasionally find more value in pursuing a win-lose approach too. And to highlight that, I note the second bullet point form the top of this posting where I cited reasons for taking a win-lose approach in the first place: uncertainty and risk – and particularly for circumstances such as working with new suppliers and for item types that the business might or might not want to carry for any extended length of time.

In this type of business, and for this type of stable, long-term retail store, it might begin working with a new supplier and might begin test offering a new type of product line that it offers on a more test case and ad hoc basis – and then intentionally and strategically switch to taking a more collaborative, win-win approach with them if their product offerings prove themselves, making a more stable and long-term business-to-business collaboration more feasible and for both parties.

I began this discussion with an expressed focus on win-lose game scenarios but of necessity discussed mixed strategies as well, as real businesses almost always deploy both win-win and win-lose. The defining difference here is in where and how differing businesses would select and follow which of this set of game strategy alternatives, and what proportion of their overall business strategy and underlying business model would best be predicated on which of them. The Christmas sales business is on the whole more win-lose and certainly for large areas of its business operations, while the stable bricks and mortar retail store would be much more win-win oriented. But they would both strategically follow both of those game theory approaches at least where that would make the most sense for them contextually.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will focus on how that balance is arrived at and how it changes with time. So far I have addressed business theory at the complete-business level and at least briefly at the defined functional area/decision making level within single business organizations too. I will continue addressing general theory of business considerations at those organizational levels in my next installment too. But looking further ahead, I am also going to step back from that higher organizational level of consideration and discuss all of this from the individual employee and manager levels, and the business owner level too. And I will do so both from the perspectives of their own work and career planning and from that of how members of these groups each variously work in and support the businesses that they participate in, as they help to meet overall strategic and operational business needs. I will consider a range of possible stakeholders there. And moving outward from the single business organizational level in this narrative – which I would consider here a baseline level of consideration for purposes of this series, and this more individual participant level of involvement in these systems, I will explicitly discuss the issues raised here from a supply chain and related value chain systems perspective, and at that higher organizational level too. I will explicitly discuss business theory at a business and marketplace ecosystem level. This flow of discussion is going to call for a progression of upcoming series installments, and I offer this anticipatory note here to indicate at least in broad brush stroke terms, the basic direction that this series is headed, and certainly as of now in it. I expect to add in more elements to this narrative progression as I proceed, but this is the basic outline that I will add them into.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material about what I am attempting to do here at About this Blog and at Blogs and Marketing. And I include this series in my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, as topics section VI there, where I offer related material regarding theory-based systems.

Reexamining business school fundamentals (reconsidered) 16: what goes around, comes around – in variations

Posted in reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on April 2, 2017

This is my 16th and concluding installment to a series of brief, single issue sketches in which I reconsider each of a set of core issues that I first addressed in this format in a 2010 series. See Section II of my directory: Reexamining the Fundamentals for that earlier related series. I have been successively addressing essentially the same set of underlying topics and issues in this series as I touched upon in that earlier one, with each of these new 2017 installments lining up with a same order-listed counterpart one from my 2010 writing.

I add this posting in here as a note of overall conclusion to what I have been doing in all of this, here seventh year effort – at least for where matters now stand at this point in time. But perhaps more significantly I write this series installment to this effort as a more proactively forward-facing thought piece than I have offered in its earlier topic-by-topic installments leading up to it. And I finding myself writing this, thinking of the months and years to come until I begin adding in a third series iteration to this now progression of connected series – and I am planning on doing that too.

I would begin this posting itself by explicitly noting the tritely obvious: I do not have a working crystal ball and I am not clairvoyant. So I am limited in what I can predict, by the completeness and accuracy of the data and processed knowledge and evidence, suggestive included, that I can gather and by the limits of my analytical capability, and by the timeliness of the evidence that I do gather in, and by the impediments of having to identify false leads, factual error, unidentified bias and all of the other sources of friction that would have impact on any understandings reached. In short, my crystal ball simulation attempt, such as it is, comes with a warning that its surface can get a bit smudged and cloudy. It suffers from at least occasional astigmatism; it can be a bit out of focus. I write this concluding note with the prospect of evolutionary change in mind, that can in fact be predictable and sometimes even quite so, and certainly for overall pattern and direction and even when projecting and planning long-term. I also, and perhaps more tellingly write this with the prospect of the emergence of the disruptively new and novel: the unpredictable in detail or form as it unexpectedly arises.

• The election of Donald Trump as the 45th United States president in 2016 comes to mind as a currently very topical, quintessential example of the novel, disruptive and unexpected in that.
• And the fact that the seeds of change were already in place and sprouting in 2010, that have brought us from an assumption of a general global opening up and flattening of 2010 to our current 2017-era push-back against that, shows that evolutionary change can and does happen too – and even when we are not effectively able to perceive such change until a more dramatic turning point is reached in it – such as the emergence of widespread resistance to and even assault upon international trade deals and free trade zone agreements, and yes the election of a Donald Trump.

Both of these basic forms of change: evolutionary and revolutionary, and all of the potential forms of confounding in understanding as to which is which in them that can arise, have taken place between the then of 2010 and the now of 2017. And both of these two basic forms have their elements of unpredictability and particularly when in the case of evolutionary change, it takes place in manners that we do not actively address or even fully recognize, in the underlying assumptions that we ultimately base all of our analyses and planning upon.

I am writing here of the past seven years; I am perhaps even more explicitly writing here of the years to come and of change, evolutionary and more revolutionary to come too. And what basic underlying principle could I cite here, that might offer at least a vague and general direction for understanding this ongoing flow? I would take my basic answer to that from Newton and his laws of physics:

• Every action engenders an opposite and equal reaction.

The seeds of push-back against global opening up, driven by the anger and anguish of those who felt themselves left out of the benefits of it and as losing from it, were there when the drive towards and the expectation of a true global oneness and connectedness were peaking. And that perception of a possible and even inevitable globalism as an emerging reality peaked, at least in part because of this opposite and equal reaction and its dynamics, as it began to grow in reach and influence.

The seeds of push-back against that next step response that we see now, are already palpably visible and growing too, and perhaps particularly because of the election of a Donald Trump in the United States and the growing emergence of his counterparts in positions of power and authority in the European Union and elsewhere. Those faces and voices might represent an alt-right vision of an apotheosis of conservative values as they see them – but it is at least as likely that the election of Donald Trump will be viewed as an unstable and fundamentally unsustainable high water mark for a tide that his election would turn, for the wave of resistance and pushback that it would empower.

• Every action – and certainly every impactful one tends to develop an equal and opposite reaction, and that is the one predictable truth that we can essentially always expect in the types of systems that I write of here.
• And while disruptively novel change might not be predictable in its detail or in its exact location or timing of emergence, it can be predicted to recurringly arrive and reliably so.
• And these more disruptive change events, by their very nature tend to be among the most impactful that we face, as it is their impact level that brings them to our attention in the first place as they rise up out of the more random background static of in-detail unpredictable smaller and less consequential change that is always happening anyway.

I just made note of the seeds of yesterday and of our current alt-right pulling away from openness and connectedness. And I just made note of the emerging equal and opposite push back against that closing off, and against the widely recognized xenophobic and bigoted forces that so vocally contribute to this pulling away. That side of this 2010 to 2017 reaction, which has effectively captured much of its movement as representing its defining face, will compel a reaction back away from its extremes. And our ubiquitous everywhere-to-everywhere and at any time connectedness, and the ubiquity of social media in all of this, makes any such shifts and reactive push-backs all the faster, stronger and more readily sustainable as they take hold. The cycles of change that I write of here can only be expected to come faster and more forcefully as they do. The shift from 2017 to what comes next will arrive faster and harder than the one leading to our current 2017 did.

• Change begets change, and both linear and trending change and cyclical change,
• And both evolutionary and at least in principle predictable change, and unpredictably new and disruptive change and with that pulling everything off of any readily anticipatable track.
• And the faster they arrive, the harder they all become to tell apart.

So I find myself writing here in this blog of 2010 and its then apparent seemingly stable realities, and 2017 and its for-now seemingly set and stable realities, and …. What’s next? I am going to return to that and to the issues raised in this series and my earlier parallel one as a meaningful answer to that begins to take shape and coalesce. And I conclude this posting, and this for-now completion of this step in what I anticipate to be a still longer term endeavor, with one final organizing thought: by raising a point of distinction between two competing views as to what the longer-term shifts that I write of here, actually represent. And I begin addressing that by positing two very different understandings of reality that enter into and shape the world views that in turn drive all of the change I have been discussing.

• The dynamics of the equal and opposite reactions and the forces of change that I have been wring of here, lead to shifts away from and back to what can often and even usually be considered recurring equilibrium points – conditions and patterns of at least tacitly accepted expectations that offer stable positive value and that can and do reach recurring acceptance.
• Or equal and opposite reactions and the forces of change lead to shifts, but to new homeostatic balance points. According to this, the “what comes around goes around” of the title of this posting, is always going to mean returning what at closest might only be a similar approximation point to an older expected “normal”, and with new balance points always reached when a more stable point of balance is sought out.

Think of the former of these as representing the conservative world view, and one that is so pervasive there, that it can become as invisible to those living in it as the water that fish live in can be to them. To cite a simple example of that, that has not itself explicitly raised its head in the current political debate in the United States, but that nevertheless informs it, consider the issue of original intent and original interpretation, as presumably held by the founding fathers of the country as they drafted the US constitution. That piece of set equilibrium point thinking underlies virtually all understanding of constitutional law in the United States, and not just for those who would identify themselves as conservatives. Words like “liberal” and “progressive” as more commonly used, do not in fact offer especially valid alternatives to “conservative”, as I am more traditionally using that term here (as opposed to its more alt-right reactionary use of today.) But to stretch one of our current labels, and perhaps unfairly, I would argue that the second of those world views comes closer to fitting a more progressive vision of change – where new balance points and understandings are both possible and even fundamentally necessary.

As a final point of observation for this posting and for this 2017 series as a whole, the conflicts that we are now entering into in 2017 and the ones that led us to where we are now, from our once more-2010 world vision, are ones of fundamentally conflicting world views – that just happen to be playing out now in the arenas of closed and restricted or free trade, and xenophobic walling off or openness to travel and commerce and even immigration between nations, among other specific-case issues. Those are the details here; the devil as they say is in the details and that is where all of this carries impact so they are vitally important here, but they are the more surface details, nevertheless. But there are deeper factors underlying what we see in the news and underlying the detail and process dynamics that shape that. In order for a narrative of the type that I attempt here in this now two series progression to offer value, it has to at least acknowledge that, and hopefully shed at least some light on it. And that has been the higher level overall goal of this 2017 series in particular of that effort, going beyond the specifics of its individual posting installments. An iteration three of this, as announced as being planned for above, will follow.

As a side note, and as a pointer in the direction of the seeds of 2010, I am not the only one to have noted their possibilities earlier on. To indicate something of my then concern for what was becoming possible in that, I offer a link here to a posting that I added to this blog on February 3, 2010: Online Social Networking and its Impact on Social Discourse and Democratic Processes. I wrote my first installment to the 2010 series that I have been developing this one from, to go live on the blog on July 22 of that year, a number of months later. I am sure that more mainstream news and analysis pieces will be readily available when I start working on iteration three of this progression of series, from today’s news and commentary and from many sources that in retrospect will have outlined and identified the new, next step seeds of change that are just sprouting now in 2017 and that will shape the context I will find myself writing about next.

You can find this and other related postings and series at Reexamining the Fundamentals, with this series offered as a new Section VII in that directory.

Reexamining business school fundamentals (reconsidered) 15: emerging 21st century realities

Posted in reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on March 29, 2017

This is my 15th installment to a series of brief, single issue sketches in which I reconsider each of a set of core issues that I first addressed in this format in a 2010 series. See Section II of my directory: Reexamining the Fundamentals for that earlier related series, and in particular see my earlier same-name counterpart posting to this one as included there: Reexamining Business School Fundamentals and Emerging 21st Century Realities.

I initially offered that 2010 posting as a brief statement of conclusion for its series as a whole, focusing in it on change per se as a more general condition, and as just addressed. And I noted in its context, both the at-least intended overall scope of what I had just been writing about there, and the intended underlying connectedness of all of the basic elements that I had just written about in it. And I add here that I also explicitly made note of the selective limitations of the specific set of issues that I had just successively addressed in all of that, and how my selection there was at least somewhat arbitrary, even as it was considered and thought through for its scope and content.

I identified my choice of organizing topics in that series, as collectively representing a single more overarching perspective as I saw matters, on the then current business and economic conditions that we all faced in 2010. And I offered that series as a benchmark starting point for later reference for when further assessing where change was bringing business and economic, and I add larger sociopolitical systems. I have to add here, that I explicitly planned out and wrote that earlier series with this next step series in mind, even if I did not have anything like a firm or fixed idea as to when I would come back to it with this next iteration.

I write this 2017 series installment as one of my two last concluding contributions to it, and find myself looking back at both this series and its 2010 predecessor in essentially exactly those same terms. I have, in that, successively returned to each of the basic topics that I first addressed in 2010 and in the same basic order and with the only real change in overall series structure here, coming from a 2017 inclusion of added-in supplemental framing and orienting postings at the beginning and end. I chose to include these posting elements now in this series iteration to help connect the two series offered so far in this together, and to put them more clearly into a single larger perspective. I have written this series largely as a posting-by-posting update on a same progression of issues and perspectives as before, and intentionally so. And with that stated, I note that if anything the issues of change that I began addressing in 2010 have become both more pressingly important and impactful, and more complex.

I began this installment with all of its attention focused on change, and that has in fact been a driving point of discussion throughout this series. That might even be considered the driving, conceptually organizing point here and for all of this larger effort. But I step back from that point of focus here to more explicitly consider constancy too, and to note how a great deal remains the same even in the midst of the most profound change. To offer a physical reality analogy here, invention of aircraft might make it possible for us to move ourselves and our goods through the air, but that does not and cannot repeal or even fundamentally change the nature or existence of gravity. Basic underlying principles and the empirical realities and their dynamics that shape them do not necessary change – only the circumstances and the conditions in which we experience them, as we seek to shape our own existence within their defining frameworks and within our now-current here and now. We might be facing different and even seemingly profoundly different immediate contexts now in our businesses and economies than we did in 2010. But the underlying realities underlying both timeframe perspectives as might be organized into a more comprehensive descriptive and predictive theory of business, that shape the one, shape the other too. They remain basically the same and will continue to do so.

One of the points that I have made in this series that bears repeating in that context is that the seeds of our 2017 reality that we now face were in fact already present in 2010 when we were facing an overtly very different day-to-day world with its then tacit day-to-day expectations. And it is just as certain that the seeds of a next iteration change are already forming and beginning to grow now too, that will in turn shape the perhaps very different day-to-day realities that I will hopefully be addressing a next time that I return to this complex of issues. My goal in that larger intended endeavor is to write succeeding series as short timeframe points of observation and perspective that could be strung together with these first two, along an at least somewhat longer explicit timeframe than any one such point in time series could offer, and with the wider overall perspective that that would support and even compel.

Change is important in all of this, and so is consistency. And one of the great challenges in all of this endeavor is in more fully perceiving and discussing which is which, and certainly when we actually live in and have to function in our immediate here and now, and in terms of strategic and operational planning that is of necessity grounded in it. This challenge, I have to add defines one of the principle compass-point guides that enters into and informs in my thinking as I incrementally develop and offer this blog as a whole too, and as I address both change in its cyclical and disruptively novel forms, and the underlying frameworks of consistency that that change takes shape in.

I began at least intimating change to come and the prospect of it in this posting. I am going to conclude this 2017 series installment in a next installment, where I will at least briefly offer a starter discussion of what these forward facing possibilities and perspectives might mean. And I note that as of now, I have not set a firm schedule in any way as to precisely when I will write my series three iteration on this complex of issues, but I will write my 16th and last posting to this second iteration with that likelihood in mind too. I conclude this iteration, or at least rapidly approach doing so, with firm expectations of coming back to all of this yet again in a few more years for a take three iteration, as the current-news specifics of this take two as offered here become as perhaps-quaint as those of 2010 take one probably seem now.

Meanwhile, you can find this and other related postings and series at Reexamining the Fundamentals, with this series offered as a new Section VII in that directory.

Reexamining business school fundamentals (reconsidered) 14: change management in a rapidly changing context

Posted in reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on March 25, 2017

This is my 14th installment to a series of brief, single issue sketches in which I reconsider each of a set of core issues that I first addressed in this format in a 2010 series. See Section II of my directory: Reexamining the Fundamentals for that earlier related series, and in particular see my earlier same-name counterpart posting to this one as included there: Reexamining Business School Fundamentals – change management in a rapidly changing context.

I began that earlier posting with a brief orienting comment, that has if anything become more valid and more pressingly important today as write this:

• “In a fundamental sense, the entire series I have been assembling here on reexamining the fundamentals has been about change, and a complex of changes that are already beginning to make themselves felt, and for employees and those in job search and for businesses, for suppliers and customers and for those who focus on legal systems and for all frameworks that businesses operate in and across entire marketplaces. But this posting is going to focus on a very specific type of change – change mandated not by choice or according to pre-planned and more convenient schedules but change that is thrust upon a business.”

This vintage-2017 series is all about change too, and it is about the emergence of new sources of friction and the emergence of new sources of barriers and resistance that we all face and in our work lives and careers and in our businesses, and in our societies as a whole.

I wrote my 2010 counterpart to this posting, in terms of business competitiveness in an increasingly interconnected world where participation in supply chain and other business-to-business collaborations can create new forms of competitive capability and strength. And I wrote of how businesses that seek to go it alone can become competitively disadvantaged from that, and particularly where this would mean their drawing essential resources and real opportunity for flexibility and growth, out of their core areas as are most explicitly required for their business model and its effective execution.

I also freely admit, looking back at that earlier posting, that I cited Apple, Inc. in 2010 as an example of how a business can lose opportunity from taking too much of an in-house only approach, from a loss of focus on what should be its core essentials. My discussion there centered entirely on their business and its business model from before they made their interactive online and social media marketing shift, with their coming to focus on ubiquitously online-connectible hand-held devices such as tablets and smart phones, and now smart watches and more. I readily acknowledge that Apple has in fact come to thrive from pursuing what is still largely a more monolithic model. And I add in this context that I have delved into that story and on their change in fortune and how that happened – and into both Apple’s first attempt at this basic business model in an early desktop computer world and its newer success with it in: Rethinking Vertical Integration for the 21st Century Context (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, posts 577 and loosely following for that series.) I recommend you’re at least briefly reviewing that because the underlying reason for their change in fortune, in a very fundamental sense depended on precisely the type of globally reaching opening up and flattening that I focused on in 2010 and that is now under direct challenge. Apple succeeded the second time because they opened themselves up to a larger and even global community of potential buyers, through an interactive online and social media context that this global flattening enabled, and with all of the power of gorilla marketing and viral marketing that this made possible.

Will an increase in the severity and prevalence of the barriers that I have been discussing throughout this 2017 series, stop Apple and its success or even of necessity slow them down? No – Apple has developed a level and type of momentum in name recognition and cachet and enough of a reach in both, so it will not be able to blame outside forces of the types that I address here if they begin losing market share and their competitive edge. But Apple, Inc. did benefit and significantly from that opening up in making its current success possible.

• In a real sense I am not writing here about Apple, Inc. as a single business success story. I am writing about a change in the overall business and marketplace climate, and in our ability to connect and communicate globally – and in ways that could help create a next Apple success story.
• And I am writing about the possibility of greater resistance and challenge for a next potential Apple, as it faces greater resistance and friction in building that globally reaching level and type of brand recognition and loyalty that made Apple itself into its current success story. And in this, any lost opportunities and unrealized dreams will remain unknown because of their never having effectively launched out on that same type of success trajectory.
• And open and freely connected and communicating global community, to cite one element in support of that concern, can more readily turn what would more locally be just a niche market opportunity and even a small one into a much larger source of more geographically distributed opportunity
• And into a better, stronger foundation point for growing a business from.

And this brings me to the change management of this posting’s title:

• If effective change management means developing and implementing new and even disruptively new approaches and ways to break out of a rut, and to return a business to greater levels of overall business strength and competitiveness,
• And one if the biggest challenges that a would-be globally online connected business faces in its striving for success, can now be found in the increased friction and resistance to open connectedness of the type under discussion in this series,
• Then one of the core targets of action that change management should focus on, and for many businesses that find themselves in need of it, has to be in finding ways to create more effective and more wide ranging connectivity for their marketing and sales again, and across the now-dividing communities that we see around us – and in spite of the emergence of those new barriers,
• And if possible, by tapping into the forces that hold the most potential for creating those barriers, to create new disruptively innovative opportunity from them. (That is going to sound like a real reach for most readers but that is why this would call for disruptive innovation. And the first step in achieving anything like that, is in acknowledging that it might be possible and in going from there to map out its where and how.)

I am going to turn in my next series installment to address the set of issues that I looked into in 2010, in its posting: Reexamining Business School Fundamentals and Emerging 21st Century Realities. I initially offered that as a concluding installment but will add one more, 16th installment to this series to fully conclude this second look into this progression of issues and topics. Meanwhile, you can find this and other related postings and series at Reexamining the Fundamentals, with this series offered as a new Section VII in that directory.

Reexamining business school fundamentals (reconsidered) 13: negotiations across cultures

Posted in reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on March 21, 2017

This is my 13th installment to a series of brief, single issue sketches in which I reconsider each of a set of core issues that I first addressed in this format in a 2010 series. See Section II of my directory: Reexamining the Fundamentals for that earlier related series, and in particular see my earlier same-name counterpart posting to this one as included there: Reexamining Business School Fundamentals – negotiations across cultures.

I said at the end of my 2010 counterpart to this posting that the need for effective negotiations and negotiating skills run through that entire series, and even when that topic remains unstated as being fundamental to addressing specific issues raised. This observation is at least as true here and now, and it is perhaps even more so as I write this 2017 series and for its progression of more single topic discussions. The emerging wrinkles and barriers to openness and connectivity and of all types: business and trade included, that I write of in this series, have tremendously increased the range of opportunity for all of us to fall into miscommunications traps and negotiations challenges. They increase both the risk and likelihood of us falling into what should be avoidable conflicts and confusions when seeking to negotiate mutually beneficial, and mutually agreed to positions for moving forward.

I wrote my 2010 posting with a specific real world example in mind that involved differences in how senior managers and executives can and often do, view their world and behave in corporate Japan and in corporate America. More specifically, I focused there on how business leaders from these two countries communicate with potential new executive hires – who might come to them from outside of their more usual recruiting circles, and certainly as more and more businesses seek out a more global reach and they find need to bring wider ranging cultural background and perspective into their overall decision making processes.

I add here that I did have a very specific executive candidate search effort in mind that did involve those two countries and those two cities in them when I wrote that earlier posting, but I was addressing much wider principles and issues as I did so. First and obviously, I selected this dually facing scenario as a relatively simple-to-outline working example of how cultural differences can impact upon communications and negotiations. The issues that I raised in it apply much more widely across business negotiating contexts than to just that one communications and negotiations scenario. But more importantly and certainly in the emerging context that I write this 2017 posting in, the communications and negotiating challenges that I addressed there in a more strictly international context, can become even more challenging within-country and across its sociopolitical divisions – and if for no other reason because we can still approach them as if more of a blind spot in our thinking. That holds to be particularly true as steepening barriers to our connecting and working with each other, have come to include disconnects in our basic understandings, and even in our mutually agreeing to the basic facts and details of empirical, real-world reality that we mutually face. I write in this regard of the increasing pervasiveness and at least seeming impermeability of the epistemic bubbles that so many of us seem to be living in and certainly as they separate us across the political divides. For references to this, as offered in this blog starting from the Republican Party nominations process leading up to the 2016 United States presidential election, see Thinking Through the Words We Use in Our Political Monologs and its follow-up postings. And also see earlier postings to this series where I have repeatedly made note of this challenge to mutual understanding.

I wrote there in a political and a national-political context but the same basic principles and the same basic issues arise in business contexts too, and certainly as they are shaped by political and legal forces (e.g. regulatory law for the later, where that is shaped and interpreted, enforced or challenged politically.)

I wrote at the end of my 2010 posting on negotiations across cultures, about how I viewed that as one of the core topics addressed in its posting series. I in fact see it as even more centrally important, and even pivotally so now as I revisit the progression of topics and issues that I raised there. And it is one that has come to hold particular meaning in an even wider range of contexts now too, in our currently so divided and divisive climate.

This, up to here, just addresses the basic underlying problem faced. What tools do we have for at least attempting to limit its impact and still be able to communicate and negotiate to mutually sustainable, agreed to conclusions?

There is no simple, magic bullet answer to that question that would cut through all of this new and increasing confusion and resistance, but I would offer a basic approach that I have found to be of help in addressing what can easily become a more resistant negotiating context. And I would summarize it with three terms: “openness to listen”, “resilience” and “persistence.”

• You cannot successfully negotiate with people for long-term solutions or resolutions if you do not understand them and what they assume. Really listen and seek to understand their underlying assumptions – where that has to include their underlying understanding of the factual reality that they and you both start from too.
• Yes, seek to convey your views and understandings too, so the people who you seek to work with in this understand you too, and in the same way. But be proactive there and take the initiative of more actively seeking to understand the people who you would negotiate with, so that among other things you can present your side of matters in terms that they would more readily understand and be able to find common ground with. Be prepared to explain your positions and your needs in their terms. The wider the range of possible misunderstandings or miscommunications, the more important this becomes. And we are currently going through a period in time when potential for this type of challenge is at a seeming high point.
• And to stress the basic and most fundamental here, strive for alignment and build from any and all points of at least tacit agreement that you might be able to discern. Effective negotiations here, have to be built from that as a starting point and with an active search for new possible sources of agreement and alignment as you proceed from there. And with that I add “patience” to my above-offered terms list.

I finish this brief note on that point and will to turn in my next series installment to address the set of issues that I looked into in 2010, in its posting: Reexamining Business School Fundamentals – change management in a rapidly changing context . Meanwhile, you can find this and other related postings and series at Reexamining the Fundamentals, with this series offered as a new Section VII in that directory.

Reexamining business school fundamentals (reconsidered) 12: business law in a rapidly changing collaborative and competitive context

Posted in reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on March 17, 2017

This is my 12th installment to a series of brief, single issue sketches in which I reconsider each of a set of core issues that I first addressed in this format in a 2010 series. See Section II of my directory: Reexamining the Fundamentals for that earlier related series, and in particular see my earlier same-name counterpart posting to this one as included there: Reexamining Business School Fundamentals – business law in a rapidly changing collaborative and competitive context.

One of the core elements of that posting and its line of discussion can be effectively summarized in a conceptual approach that I identified there as Platt’s Innovation Driver Conjecture (as I take both credit and blame for it):

• In a closed innovation society where businesses in effect exist as islands of expertise and performance in the market spaces they carve out to compete in, proprietary protection of intellectual property equates directly with strength in securing and maintaining market position. This becomes essential for offering a unique value proposition needed for long term success.
• In an open innovation society where businesses are surrounded by valid and important sources of business intelligence and other information of monetizable value, and where organizations need to connect strongly into supply chains and larger value chains to succeed and thrive, free exchange of business intelligence and particularly of enabling information becomes crucial to success.

I initially offered this in the context of how business intelligence, and both as carefully gathered raw data, and as organized and processed knowledge would be benchmarked for value, and monetized as a source of business assets. This here-conjecture and the issues that it raises become even more important when barriers and limitations to the proprietary holding of information, or to its strategically planned sharing are imposed from the outside. I write this series and this posting in it at a time when governmental political forces and sociopolitical forces that both drive them and are shaped by them have come to create such barriers and limitations and both within nations and their economies and between them.

As I have been discussing in earlier installments to this series, we have entered a period of profound uncertainty and increased risk – and with the two closely connected. One consequence of this that we have to consider at the very least as being more likely now, is increased pressure for businesses to in effect pull in more, towards taking a more closed innovation approach. This does not necessarily mean ending or even slowing down on the development and elaboration of supply chain systems, or of larger value chain systems though that might happen; it does mean increased pressures to manage these collaborative networks more conservatively, and with both the possibilities of reduced here-and-now value and increased risk potential in mind, and with greater awareness of potential longer-term complications – and particularly as they might be imposed from the outside by new legal restrictions or in the case of a Donald Trump US presidency, by sudden and unexpected executive order. And in that and in the current climate in the United States as I write this, “longer-term” there does not necessarily mean all that far away.

I made note of law of contracts and agreements, and intellectual property law in my same-topic area 2010 posting as cited above. And I continue this posting from this point on in it by considering a third area of law that I had not delved into in any detail when I initially wrote my August 1, 2010 posting, but that I have written about in a progression of postings and series since then: regulatory law. See for example: Considering a Cost-Benefits Analysis of Economic Regulatory Rules (as can be found at Outsourcing and Globalization as its postings 23-37), and Making Regulation Work (as can be found at Macroeconomics and Business, postings 118-130.)

And I address this complex of issues here from the perspective of how the societal conversation and our capacity to communicate meaningfully across political divides has been all but shattered in the United States in our current political climate, with alt-right and related, and liberal and progressive for all intent and purpose living as if on different planets now. As a critical reference for my approach to understanding that and as necessary background for putting this posting into perspective, I cite a recent entry to this blog that I offered leading up to the still-recent 2016 presidential elections in the United States: Thinking Through the Words We Use in Our Political Monologs. Our political and I add our economic thought and understanding have become splintered off into separate and disconnected epistemic bubbles, to cite the term I use there, and by what I can only refer to as the cognitive dissonance and blindness of what have now come to be called “alternative facts.”

What does “regulatory law” even mean now? That depends on who you ask. Ever since the pre-Trump, George W Bush era US Congress, and for many on the “ultra-right” from before that, this term has meant legal barriers and restrictions only – and particularly where they are deemed as not being justified or even justifiable in a “business value creating sense.” So what do we see from a legal and a business-facing law perspective as I write this posting and series? An emerging climate in which wrinkles and barriers to open collaboration between businesses and economies and across socio-economic systems are proliferating, and a climate in which borders are becoming more and more restrictive as far as international travel is concerned, and with that based on national origin, religion and other factors that in a more open societal context would be considered overtly discriminatory.

As a matter of sharing my own partisan perspective on what regulatory law, or at least good regulatory law is, I would argue that it offers rules of the road for limiting high risk behavior on the part of businesses that in the long term at the very least limit and challenge both individual businesses – those risk-taking businesses included, and even entire economies. Yes, good regulatory law limits and restricts but very selectively. It primarily serves to reinforce and encourage good business practices that are longer-term more sustainable and that are longer-term more value creating – and for individual businesses, and for supply chain and other collaborations, and for entire industries and across entire economies as a whole.

Donald Trump and his election in the United States, and the pressures that led the United Kingdom to vote to brexit the European Union, the rise of Marie Le Pen and the far right that she leads as it rises in prominence in France in its current as of this writing political climate there, and more simply reflect a trend that was already developing, reaching a tipping point – and a tippling point over what might be agued to represent something of a cliff edge. And we can expect direct challenges to both good regulatory law and against any who would support it, to increase, and certainly through any immediate and short-term future – and with the increased pressures towards the rise of barriers and friction in our globally interconnected economy that this creates.

I end this posting by citing two recent in the news references, as benchmarks for understanding precisely where this posting is being assembled from in this March, 2017 as a matter of perspective. The first is an op-ed piece by Paul Krugman that appeared in the February 6, 2017 issue of the New York Times, discussing how president Trump has asked the Labor Department to review (and delay and repeal) its new fiduciary rule, according to which financial advisors are required by law to act in the interest of their clients – and not just of themselves and their commissions. And the second is a relevant news and analysis piece on this still breaking story. As a matter of note, the fiduciary rule in question as currently drafted and enacted is set to go into effect on April 10, 2017 but a review of the type requested by the Trump administration would most likely push that date back by at least 180 days, leaving time and room to launch a successful repeal of it.

Springtime for Scammers and
Trump Orders DOL To Review The Fiduciary Rule: The Official Memo (a February 3, 2017 Forbes article)

The full text of this memorandum as coming out of the White House as dated February 3, 2017 can be found at:

Presidential Memorandum on Fiduciary Duty Rule as officially posted online through the whitehouse.gov website.

And a second set of issues that I also make note of here moves the Trump deregulatory agenda out of the realm of simply affecting individual investors and their life savings, to consider the business world and economy as a whole, and certainly as they are to be found in the United States, with attempts to gut and repeal the whole of the Dodd-Frank financial reform: the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act as enacted in 2008 in direct response to the financial collapse leading up to and causing the Great Recession:

Trump Begins Attack on Financial Regulations with Signing of Two Executive Orders (an American Bar Association Journal piece) and
Trump Begins Assault on Dodd-Frank Financial Regulations (an MSN piece.)

The full texts of the two memorandums under discussion here as dated January 24 and February 2, 2017 respectively can be found at:

Memorandum: Implementation of Regulatory Freeze and
Memorandum: Interim Guidance Implementing Section 2 of the Executive Order of January 30, 2017, Titled “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs”.

And with this, I return to the 2010 posting that I am building this update from and the issue of the law being reactive. When change that the law has to allow for and adjudicate is positive, and when it has positive potential that can be thwarted and turned if not effectively addressed, reasonable people can find at least a measure to question and challenge it for its inertia. But when change amounts to chaos – disruption without any possible, realistic positive side to it, the law can become a bulwark against risk creation and its full realization. Right now, and certainly in the United States, law’s reactionism and inertia are likely to become among our strongest safeguards – and certainly as we weather this period in time – and not just for the United States.

And one of the key areas where we now need to be able to hold the law as a check on reckless, risk and challenge-only change, is in enforcing good regulatory law, and whether that means addressing the challenges to the fiduciary rule and overall regulatory reform as noted above, or protection of net neutrality, or of environmental protection – or in any other arena of law where good is under direct and immediate challenge. See:

Trump’s F.C.C. Pick Quickly Targets Net Neutrality Rules

as a recent in the news piece on how a Trump administration is actively seeking to repeal net neutrality as a Federal Communications Commission policy and practice, as a case in point of the wider breadth of this move towards across the board deregulation and regardless of how or why particular regulatory laws and mechanisms were first created or how they have performed since then.

I am going to turn in my next series installment here, to reconsider the basic issues raised in my 2010 posting: Reexamining Business School Fundamentals –negotiations across cultures. Meanwhile, you can find this and other related postings and series at Reexamining the Fundamentals, with this series offered as a new Section VII in that directory. (As a timing benchmark, I completed this posting for upload to the blog server on February 9, 2017. I note this detail here because chaos can move quickly and I fully expect that new events will arise between now and the March 17 date that this posting is scheduled to go live on, that will at the very least highlight the importance of the issues and concerns that I raise here.)

Reexamining business school fundamentals (reconsidered) 11: human resources and managing personnel in an interconnected business context

Posted in reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on March 13, 2017

This is my eleventh installment to a series of brief, single issue sketches in which I reconsider each of a set of core issues that I first addressed in this format in a 2010 series. See Section II of my directory: Reexamining the Fundamentals for that earlier related series, and in particular see my earlier same-name counterpart posting to this one as included there: Reexamining Business School Fundamentals – human resources and managing personnel in an interconnected business context.

As just stated, I am writing this posting (as number 2245 to this blog) in direct response to and continuation of an earlier Human Resources and Personnel-related posting. I start this in-effect second installment to that by noting the numbers, because my earlier posting as referred to there, was one of my very first offered in this general area of topical consideration; my 2010 posting identifies itself as just the 22nd of what has become a more extensive HR-oriented narrative. This posting is in fact my 307th in that progression, counting the posting I am building from here that is not listed in my then still beginning and actively growing HR and Personnel first directory page.

I begin this continuation posting with that point of detail for a very simple reason. I wrote and offered my earlier related posting essentially completely absent any pre-established organizing framework as to how Human Resources and Personnel would be set up and run or why, and absent much of anything in terms of specific best practices process or methodology discussion or recommendation in that arena. I offer this posting after much more extensively discussing and analyzing what HR and Personnel employees, managers and service or department leaders do, and how and why. And I offer this after much more fully explaining how and why the leadership of this functional area needs to be involved in the overall strategic planning and organizing of the business organization as a whole, for how personnel and staffing issues and their strengths and weaknesses, enable or stymie any other overall business initiatives if not considered and accounted for in them.

So I write this posting with my full set of first HR and Personnel directory page postings, and its Page 2 continuation postings firmly in mind as sources of relevant background material that can be selectively mined from as background references for this posting too. One possible such reference resource that I would specifically cite here from that is my series: When and If It Might Make Sense to Outsource Human Resources (which I also include in my Outsourcing and Globalization directory as its postings 52-60.) I cite this here because both this posting and my earlier related 2010 piece are globalization oriented. And a decision to outsource at least part of a business’ HR and Personnel operations increasingly means shifting those operations to service providing partner businesses located in other countries – or to in-house but foreign based operational business centers or to their manufacturing, sales or distribution facilities or some combination thereof. And in both cases that would mean moving these operations and services to places that exist and function within the legal and cultural frameworks of those host-site nations, and with personnel who are for the most part going to take their native, home country cultures and their own deeply engrained and by-default automatically assumed social behavioral and belief system norms for granted.

And this brings me to the meat of this posting’s discussion (or its vegetarian counterpart for readers from countries that for cultural and predominant religious values-based reasons, disavow meat eating.) I make that perhaps inexcusably weak attempt at humor here for a reason. I turn here to consider the issues and challenges faced by Human Resources and Personnel, and for both carrying out their basic service or department functions, and for more effectively aligning them with the business as a whole, in an increasingly polarized and polarizing global context where more wrinkles and barriers seem to be going up than flattening to correct for them.

My point of focus here is on essentially the same drivers that have come to challenge global opening up and flattening since 2010 that I have been addressing from Part 1 of this new series. But to keep this installment in scale for a single posting, I will focus in on one aspect of that: political pressures, as both driven by and as a driver of public opinion, as politicians and government leaders – and even in more authoritarian countries have to listen to their publics, their citizens and as their bully pulpit voices can and do reach out to influence and even significantly help shape that public opinion.

When then United States president Teddy Roosevelt coined that term: bully pulpit, he both acknowledged and highlighted an already very significant sociopolitical force that radiates out of official seats of power such as that of the US presidency. And this is a source of influence and power that has become increasingly magnified in strength and reach (two sides of the same coin) since then – and particularly as we have all become more ubiquitously connected and even real-time through telecommunications advances and from the internet, and exponentially so with the advent of the interactive internet and social media. There is a reason why a US President Trump has come to be called the Twitter President, and as one of his perhaps most administration defining names, and certainly where that means his reaching out to both reassure and maintain his political power base – and continue to shape its beliefs and message. And all of that has been directed towards increasing and proliferating wrinkles, walls, barriers and divisiveness, and both internationally and within his own country: the United States.

• Human Resources and Personnel have to respond to this and they have to develop and maintain the resources and flexibility and resiliency to do so, in a deeply uncertain and divisively mutable context.

That, ultimately, is a lesson that every functional area in any business or organization of any significant scale and reach has to learn and quickly. But I would argue that at least now and at this point and time in history, that burden rests particularly strongly on a department or service such as HR and Personnel, as this complex of issues and challenges directly plays out at and impacts at an interpersonal level – even as the collective impact here across all of these personnel and related relationships, just as significantly has overall operational and strategic impact too. It is vitally important to keep both sides of that dual perspective in mind: the employee and personnel level and the overall strategic and planning level, and to plan and act accordingly.

• Seeking to address this at a big picture-only level and from just that perspective will fail and certainly long-term, for lack of consideration of how any decisions made and followed might impact upon and influence the people who actually work there, and also the business’ clients and customer base too, to expand out this point here.
• And only looking at this from the lower level, employee and Personnel level perspective will fail too for the overall strategic drift this would lead to. Here, this means disconnecting the two levels of organizational focus and attention from each other in overall business planning and its execution.

I am going to turn in my next series installment here, to reconsider the issues that I first touched upon in this context in my 2010 posting: Reexamining Business School Fundamentals – business law in a rapidly changing collaborative and competitive context. Meanwhile, you can find this and other related postings and series at Reexamining the Fundamentals, with this series offered as a new Section VII in that directory.

Reexamining business school fundamentals (reconsidered) 10: macroeconomics, microeconomics and the gap between

Posted in reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on March 9, 2017

This is my tenth installment to a series of brief, single issue sketches in which I reconsider each of a set of core issues that I first addressed in this format in a 2010 series. See Section II of my directory: Reexamining the Fundamentals for that earlier related series, and in particular see my earlier same-name counterpart posting to this one as included there: Reexamining Business School Fundamentals – macroeconomics, microeconomics and the gap between.

I have been developing this series as a single, relatively tightly knit narrative, and in a manner that is different from what I pursued when offering my Section II series. My goal there was to offer a succession of quick snapshot perspectives on a set of crucially important general issues, and with a goal of their fitting together to at least in broad brushstroke present a single wider image. My goal here is to widen and generalize my more loosely organized discussion as offered there, by adding in the issues and complications of change, and to offer an overall composite snapshot image of that change itself, as a window into our now-current 2017 context. And beyond simply addressing the issues of businesses and economies as they exist and function in our as of this writing, current state of flux and uncertainty, my goal here is to add a level of depth into my discussion of the issues under consideration here, per se, and how they adapt and change in the face of change, and whether cyclical or disruptively pattern-altering in nature.

I have been successively building out this series’ larger composite image here, since its Part 1 installment, but explicitly note one other earlier installment to this series here as particularly foundational to all that would follow from it: Part 7: supply chains and value chains as drivers of sustaining value . That is where I first began to systematically address collaborative globally reaching business-to-business interconnections and interconnectedness, that would of necessity cross and collide with the now, as of 2017 wrinkles and barriers to global flattening and openness that I have been addressing here. So I start this Part 10 installment by noting that I frame its line of discussion in terms of that specific posting, as well as the immediate in-sequence predecessor to this one: Part 9. And with that orienting and organizing note in place, I turn here to explicitly present my Part 10 segment of this overarching here-and-now 2017 narrative.

I begin setting up this posting’s narrative by repeating a question that I raised and began addressing in Part 7:

• Can smaller nations make free trade or in the case of OPEC, otherwise managed trade zones or similar international agreements work, without full and wholehearted buy-in from larger developed nation partners?

I briefly alluded to a starting-point direction that might be pursued in organizing a valid affirmative answer to that question, in Part 7. And I rephrase that answer-oriented note, for purposes of this posting as:

• I would argue that the answer to that question is yes, and certainly if the signatory members of these agreements can effectively work with their developed nation trade and agreement partners on specific issues when they cannot do so through open-ended trade agreements per se. And I would argue that the answer to that question is yes, if those cooperating nations can learn their necessary lessons from the problems and challenges that other, earlier free trade and trade regulating international agreements have faced and particularly when they have been organized and driven by smaller and less powerful nations and their needs and initiatives.

I am going to at least begin to flesh out a more detailed answer to that question, by stepping back from the more specific details of this bullet point, to set a stage for more fully understanding it. And I do so by addressing what some might see as a conflation of the disparately separate and distinct in how I have set up this discussion in the first place. I began with international free trade agreements and free trade zones, and then essentially immediately turned to consider an example like OPEC, where a group of in this case major petroleum producers organized together to collectively negotiate the prices that importing nations would pay for access to their natural resources. Have I simply mixed apples and oranges here, to cite an old proverb about conflating the dissimilar and then acting as if they were not? I would argue that that is not the case here, and my reasoning behind that assertion – and my reason for citing OPEC is crucially important here, in better and more fully understanding global flattening and its enacting mechanisms per se.

• Global flattening and opening up in trade and economic terms and in socioeconomic and cultural terms as well, only makes sense and holds meaning when smaller nations that are more vulnerable to outside control and exploitation have a say in their trade and their destiny, just as their more powerful neighbors have in their own.
• When wrinkles and barriers to this are set up to in effect reassert the option to dominate by larger and more powerful nations, this challenges both the very idea of global openness, and of the concept of free world nations per se:
• In effect recreating the exploitative international relationships and agreements of what should by now just be a colonial past – and an historical warning note for what not to allow happen again.
• Ultimately, the truest measure of openness here is in the level of self-determination that smaller, and even the smallest and weakest nations among us can have in managing and owning their own natural resources that might be offered as commodities, and the product of their own manufacturing.
• This can mean open and egalitarian free trade agreements where wide-ranging trade and economic systems can be arrived at. And this can also mean smaller nations organizing together to present a common organized front, in arriving at terms of sale and commerce with larger nations, that would bring more value back to them, than they could achieve if facing larger and more developed nations on their own and separately.
• Think of free trade agreements such as NAFTA and the TPP, or the European Union with their inclusion of stronger and weaker nations and economies, as representing more openly agreed to examples of how global flattening can play out.
• And think of organizations such as OPEC as examples of how individually weaker nations can work together to achieve a more equal voice in a global context, and even in the face of resistance to that from larger nations – at least where a group of smaller nations can collectively organize around the management of widely needed resources and where they collectively comprise a significant essential source of them.
• Think of these two approaches as representing cooperative global flattening and confrontational global flattening respectively. And both types of effort in that direction face potential challenge and disruption, as well as potential sources of organizing strength and stability. In a real sense, you can view my earlier 2010 series, that I write this one in follow-up to, as representing a period when those sources of strength and stability appeared to be more on the rise. And you can view this 2017 series as coming out and going live on this blog at a time when forces of challenge and disruption appear to be more on the rise. But the seeds of change leading to today’s context in this were already present in 2010, and the seeds of a reasserted global flattening and the development of a more robust cooperative global framework are present now, even as an already unpopular new US President Trump, proclaims “America First” in his inaugural address when being sworn into office, and when he sees to break the TPP once and for all, and to pull the United States out of other trade agreements as well – and at the explicit expense of any and all weaker, smaller nation state members of them.

I wrote my namesake counterpart posting to this one in my 2010 series, with the issues of arriving at a single overarching economic theory and system of processes, that would apply to and include all organizational levels, from the most small-business microeconomic through to the most globally inclusive macroeconomic, and that would apply everywhere. I wrote of a need for this type of conceptually and operationally applicable system, and certainly as it would be called for in an increasingly globally open and interconnected context. And I wrote my microeconomic-oriented posting to this series with today’s, as of this writing, friction and resistance to that opening up in mind, and with the wrinkles that are currently arising in response to that push back in mind.

When we face a strident call for the closing off of global opening and connectedness, as we do now in 2017, we are all but certainly viewing the voices of the losing side of history as they confront and challenge an overall long-term trend towards globalization that will come to prevail. But this current phase of that longer-term process does highlight that the meaningful gaps we face are not just between microeconomic and macroeconomic theory. They arise more pressingly and importantly between demographics and socioeconomically distinct groups of haves and have-nots, and includeds and left-outs – as those groups extend across national boundaries and have a more global reach than can be contained within or explained by simple have and have not, or strong and weak nation, international distinctions.

Resolving our current turn away from global flattening and openness, and understanding the seeds for change that led to this, and those that will lead away from it again, mean seeing and understanding and addressing those gaps – and in ways that hold meaning and relevance to those who see themselves as being caught up in them and on the losing side as well as the winning side.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will return to the issues of my 2010 series installment: Reexamining Business School Fundamentals – human resources and managing personnel in an interconnected business context. Meanwhile, you can find this and other related postings and series at Reexamining the Fundamentals, with this series offered as a new Section VII in that directory.

As an addendum note, I completed and uploaded this posting the day before now-president Donald Trump signed an executive order, officially withdrawing the United States from the TPP. I have stated in this blog, as for example in China and Its Transition Imperatives 41: rethinking China’s emerging trends and challenges in the emerging era of a United States Trump presidency 3, that Trump is more likely to actively confront China and on a systematic ongoing basis, than he is likely to follow through on most anything else from among his campaign tweets and challenges. But when he can at least make a show of following through on one of his campaign promises by signing an executive order – and without having to gain support from Congress or anyone else in doing so, that lowers the bar sufficiently, as to increase the range of disruption that he will in fact follow through on. And as a prediction going forward, I now expect him to at least pro forma sign executive orders on matters that actually obligatorily require Congressional approval, if not in fact the drafting and passage of new law. He will do that anyway, as a way to retain support from his base, where he only actually seeks to be president for them. This becomes important here, as the president of the United States, as of this writing, seeks to govern according to “alternative facts” and magical thinking – and on economic issues as much as on anything else – and with all of the friction and factionalization that this engenders. (This addendum, written and uploaded on January 24, 2017, just as I hear word of Trump having just signed an executive order green lighting both the Keystone Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline, and in spite of massive ongoing objection to that and from across the political spectrum.)

Reexamining business school fundamentals (reconsidered) 9: reading between the microeconomics lines

Posted in reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on March 5, 2017

This is my ninth installment to a series of brief, single issue sketches in which I reconsider each of a set of core issues that I first addressed in this format in a 2010 series. See Section II of my directory: Reexamining the Fundamentals for that earlier related series, and in particular see my earlier same-name counterpart posting to this one as included there: Reexamining Business School Fundamentals – reading between the microeconomics lines.

I wrote that 2010 counterpart to this note, in terms of what types of data are collected, how it is organized and processed into functionally informative and useful knowledge, and how it is developed into organized reports. And I focused in that, on how businesses and organizations in different countries, operating under their own locally established national generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), can and do differ in detail, and even in ways that would be codified as required in their national legal systems.

This becomes important for any organization that operates trans-nationally, and with operations that are located in multiple countries, each with their own separately and individually drafted law regulating how businesses organize and report their financials and to whom. And it becomes equally important for businesses that are based entirely within single nations, when they enter into supply chain agreements with partner businesses that are located in other countries with differing laws regarding this, and whenever their involvement with them calls for accurate and consistent reporting of financial and accounting data, and its organized presentation as that might be used by more than just single enterprises in these systems – and where consistency in what is reported and how, would be required.

As I have noted repeatedly in my earlier postings in this 2017 series, I offer it at a time of greatly increased challenge to global opening up and connectedness, and to global flattening, where that was an actively advancing and largely unopposed trend in 2010. And I return to this basic, fundamental set of issues here, with that sociopolitical and socioeconomic shift in mind.

We are currently going through a period of pull-back and retrenchment, and a period of uncertainty as that concomitantly arises from this. And I would argue that that raises the level of importance in arriving at single essentially universally accepted and agreed to GAAP standards and processes and certainly where accounting practices need to be reconciled across international boundaries and between enterprises that locally, within their own areas of legal jurisprudence, would be required to follow differing GAAP processes. This, I add, is a type of perhaps technically dry detail that might not catch the raptly attentive interest of a general public, but it is one that at least should be deemed centrally important in actually drafting the operational and strategic infrastructure of any well-drafted free trade or similar agreement – that participating nation-based businesses can all in effect speak the same language here.

But I re-approach this topic here in this reconsiderations series, from a slightly different direction, and with the issues of confidence and trust in mind. Right now certainly, it is vitally important that people who need to communicate and work across our dividing boundaries, have a common accounting and microeconomic language and a commonly held framework for understanding basic microeconomic data and findings, so they can work and communicate together without differences there, adding to challenges faced.

A smooth, predictable, and essentially consistently accepted path forward in doing business, and in carrying out other socioeconomically connecting activities, engenders an increased level of basic trust. And that trust facilitates a mutually agreed-to resolution of differences and disagreements and uncertainties. When the marketplace, and for goods and services, and for ideas and understanding are clouded by doubt and suspicion, that flexibility is the first thing to go.

I am going to continue this series and its ongoing installment-by-installment narrative in a next posting to it in a few days, where I will reconsider the issues of macroeconomics, microeconomics and the gap between. And in that, I will build my next step of discussion here, at least in part from my 2010 counterpart to that posting to come: Reexamining Business School Fundamentals – macroeconomics, microeconomics and the gap between.

Meanwhile, you can find this and other related postings and series at Reexamining the Fundamentals, with this series offered as a new Section VII in that directory.

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