Sunday, August 23, 2015

Indian CEOs at the helm of global (tech) companies


Is there a secret to the recent success of Indian CEOs appointed to the helm of some of the leading companies in the world?

Think of Satya Nadella (Microsoft), Sanjay Mehrotra (SanDisk), Rajeev Suri (Nokia), Shantanu Narayen (Adobe), and most recently Sundar Pichai (Google) - what do they have that others don’t have? Is this an accidental clustering in the tech sector or is there a deeper meaning?

We looked at the more than 40 comments to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. Commenters reactions were the following:

  1. Pride! (Indians commenting)
  2. “What’s the fuss?” The Indian population is 1.2 billion, no news that some make it to the top.
  3. “White skin - brown skin phenomenon”: we pay attention if more than 6 leaders appear with brown skin, because we are not used to it in the US or Europe.

We (Susanne, a German-born strategy and communications consultant to CEOs in the US and Europe and Waseem, an international relations cultural expert in Europe, originally from India), asked ourselves the following questions:

  1. Question: Is it significant to us that some Indian people like Pichai or Nadella make it to the top of a handful of tech companies?
    Answer: Definitely. Companies like Google, Tata, Microsoft, Intel and Cisco have huge influence on our work style, privacy, collaboration style and lives because we use their brainware to shape our daily activities.
  2. Question: Is there a reason why those Indian guys make it to the top and others don’t?
    Answer: India’s history and rich culture have fostered a mindset with a strong competitive bend. The idea that there is not a singular god but many deities suggests that there always are competing truths. This makes your mind quite nimble. What’s more, India’s society still is hierarchically organized. Clearly, making it to the top is a motivator.
  3. Question: What do these Indian leaders have in common?
    Answer: Indian leaders seem to be great number crunchers with small egos. Both these traits are supported by the fact that logical thinking and humbleness are among the key values cherished by the society. Moreover the Indian child, teenager and young adult experiences unconditional love from their family. The Indian parent will shower even more love on you when you failed. This seems to make you strong.
  4. Question: Why are Indian CEOs good innovators?
    Answer: Some of the most successful CEOs from India learned for their exams in the light of an oil lamp sitting on the floor. They learned to create solutions with a minimal input of resources but getting maximum output. When they were growing up there were hardly any sophisticated techniques or technologies in the modern sense. They had nothing to imitate and therefore no other choice than to innovate. In the absence of a saturated environment their mind has been trained to envision ideal results and a way to get there.
  5. Question: Why are Indians so competitive when they grew up with unconditional love and understanding?
    Answer: With unconditional love being the main constant in your life you are equipped with a conviction that you will persevere and achieve thanks to emotional security. This contrasts with the idea of the asian Tiger Mom who squeezes you to perform, or the Prussian upbringing by love deprivation.
    Also, the caste system seems to promote competitive behaviour. True, it can be limiting because it suggests that you are entitled to no social status or profession other than what you inherit from your parents. However, caste is equally defined by the individual’s potential to outgrow exactly that.
  6. Question: What can we learn as non-Indian leaders?
    Answer: It seems that the current economic climate seeks CEOs with small egos but strong cooperative leadership styles, who live hierarchy but include their peers into decision making. Two learnings stand out in particular:

    The first learning is to see the actual potential in people. It is not education alone that defines what we are capable of. Many of our talents become apparent only when given an opportunity. Focusing on the full potential, bringing it to light and acting upon it brings success. It lets you deal nimbly with risk, anxiety and insecurity. You leave the path of imitation and become an innovator.

    The second learning is the ability to listen. Indian parents have a habit of listening attentively to what their kids say, and refrain from commenting or evaluating. They also gaze at their children and let them be. Obviously, the Indian child grows up with the experience of feeling appreciated naturally. When you grow up like this, you are more likely to pay attention to others. This points to the probably most neglected skill of old-school Western-style CEOs. Think about Steve Ballmer, Jack Welch or Donald Trump. These guys are famous for shouting, not for listening.

    Bottom line: If you listen more and tackle your hidden fear of innovation, you are probably part of a new breed of leaders, regardless of your cultural origins. Also, number crunching and computing skills don’t hurt. Different times need different leaders.


About the authors
Susanne Mueller Zantop, works with CEOs of international brands in positioning and strategic appearances. Author and moderator. www.ceo-positions.net

Waseem Hussain, Management Trainer and Keynote Speaker, Zurich, Switzerland, www.marwas.ch

Monday, August 3, 2015

Talk about digitization is like sex talk


8/3/2015 (smz) - I hear more and more speakers talk about digitization. It reminds me of people who publicly talk about sex. As the saying goes, "the more they talk about it, the less they have of it." If you want to continue with the sex analogy - it is much nicer doing it than talking about it. 

Digitization includes not just new business models (some call it the Uberization of businesses, using the name of the disruptive cab service Uber that creates headaches for the incumbent taxi services, for public officials and insurance companies).

Digitization bring with it a completely different leadership style - meritocratic, collaborative, bottom up versus top-down. Digitization translates into project based organizations with swarm-like rules instead of old-style processes.

Plus digitization changes communication styles - for example, getting rid of email, using instant messaging or social platforms for two-way stakeholder communication.

A CEO who writes an email to all employees about digitization initiatives is outing herself as a leader with good intentions but very little understanding and experimentation in the matter.

Stressing the sex analogy once more: experimentation is the way forward, it can hurt but it can also bring unexpected pleasures.

 Of course, business is less about pleasures than profits.

It seems that we lost all the pleasure in everything 'cloud'. Cloud, once the promised land of new pockets of profits for providers and consumers of cloud services, has been recognized as what it is: an elephant who feels different each time you touch a part of it. Cloud services became terribly complex in a very short time. Issues like hybrid clouds, synchronization or security have not been fully mastered, to say the least.

Cloud inertia? Let's talk about something even bigger, even less tangible. 

Digitization comes in handy. Between us, digitization has been around. It is hardly new. Digitization started in the 1950ties. Sex, too, has been around before the sexual revolution in the 1968ties. But like the sexual revolution, there is a revolution embedded in all the digitization talk. For the first time the disruptive power of the digital becomes a tangible experience. People are using the Uber service and get a first-hand experience of it.

The brainteaser is the following. Imagine, you are a taxi company in 2010. You think of possible disruptors for your business. What comes to mind? Electrical cars, apps, mobile payments. That is all good thinking. But: the one thing that doesn't come to mind easily in these scenarios is the inflection point where Uber actually attacked: Uber has been setting up thousands of non-licensed drivers against you. This is the real power of digital disruption: it changes the playground and the rules, not just the tools. This is the actual revolution.

And here I agree: talking about it is helpful because it changes perspectives and fosters experimentation.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ice Bucket Style Guide for business people: ruin an expensive suit and seven other tips

 
Taking the Ice Bucket Challenge in front of a video camera and posting the clip on Youtube, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook has quickly grown into a favorite summer sport among influential people. Most wait until they are challenged, others take it on by themselves.

The distributed multimedia happening would not have been possible without Online Video and Social Media. The friendly pyramid scheme promotes and raises funds for the rare desease ALS in a very successful way.

The story has peaked - so be aware that the hype is fading.

Tips and tricks for your video and social media appearance based on previous business peoples' feedback for taking the Ice Bucket Challenge:

1.) Before you start, watch examples from Bill Gates (Gates Foundation), Richard Handler (Jefferies) and Kirsty Bertarelli.

2.) Post a filmed reply within 26 hours or drop out, if possible. Find someone with video skills to film you. No selfie!

3.) Be creative and come up with a personal way to take the challenge, but don't forget that it is a fundraiser for a desease. So please mention the good cause and don't forget to donate some money.

4.) Do it in style. Ruin an expensive suit or dress. As a banker, wearing cheap T-Shirts and flip-flops is cheesy. The message is that you give something away, so don't save on clothes.

5.) Keep in mind that your pictures might be used by the media out of context. It would be illustrative to see you completely wet in an article about your quarterly results. So SMILE all through the clip! That makes the footage less useful out of context.

6.) Check out the environment. Make sure that has style, too. German politician Cem Özdemir filmed himself on his stingy roof-top garden and journalists discovered a plant left to him - Cannabis.

7.) Challenge three other people and make sure those are people on your level of popularity. Don't lower the standards.

8.) Don't talk much but mention ALS.

Some good presentations with facts, statistics and a social graph of people having taken the challenge plus also criticism on Facebook. Enjoy!





Sunday, August 24, 2014

We stopped working on Fridays: (Financial) results from a one-year experiment

Badi Zollikon at Lake Zurich/Switzerland. Friday morning, August 15, 2014

Ilka was the project manager in our 8 people company who was never behind schedule with her projects and always well organized. She did not work on Fridays Every Thursday afternoon I received an 18-hour-in-advance calendar warning from my Outlook, saying: "Ilka Day Off."

I realized that we were all tired on Fridays, looking forward to finish what needed to be done and leave for the weekend. For me as the company owner, part of my weekend consisted of writing columns and this blog. I had done that for seven years. Ilka had a much better life than me.

On August 1, 2013 I decided we all would take Fridays off for four weeks. I wanted to know about the effects, - financial, personal, for all of us.

August 1 is a national holiday in Switzerland and in 2013 it was a Thursday, so my decision resulted in four days off for all. It scared me so much. We had project milestones and a very urgent project needed to be finalized.

I forced myself to go to the local public swimming bath at Lake Zurich near my home. A beautiful tiny spot with green grass, large trees and a mini restaurant. The weather was wonderful. The place was not crowded, but to my surprise people of all ages and occupations spent their Friday mornings bathing and sunbathing. They enjoyed life. Lying down under a tree, I tried hard to keep quiet, look at the leafs, let time go by and not think of my duties. My heart bumped. I almost did not dare to go swimming because I would not hear my mobile phone. Then a business partner called and we had a long conversation about a film project we were doing. It was urgent. I hoped he did not realize where I was, feeling almost guilty and very strange.

We did not stop the experiment because it was so successful, financially and personally. I got used to relax on Friday morning, often taking a very long Yoga class or travel. I worked on my writing or even on projects - but from home and that, too, made a big difference. It looks as if we are more healthy and have less tensions at work after one year.

My collegages are satisfied with working 80% and we managed to adjust the work contracts accordingly. Our customers are hopefully not even aware of the fact, since we deliver in time and in budget. We even regained a customer which we had lost 2 years before. Occasional phone calls are picked up on Monday morning, I check my emails 2 or 3 times on Fridays, but only answer the ones which need an immediate answer (you would be surprised how little is going on on Fridays in other companies). Hiring people on an 80% basis has not been a problem to date but may become one in the future (we cannot pay for 5 days and let people work for 4. Some high achievers will not find our model attractive).

Here are the financial results of the experiment:
  • EBIT increased by 4.18 percent
  • Revenues grew by 12.4 percent
  • Overall salaries decreased by 2% of revenues 
Of course, it is a weak correlation between these results and our decision for a four-day work week. Maybe our results would have grown even more when working 100%. On the other hand I had expected flat growth at best when reducing the project hours by 20%.

Let me know what you think. It looks as if we would not return to the old model. I spent last Friday at the lake and was completely relaxed (however, reading in a Sharepoint 2013 handbook!). I still have that Outlook entry coming up "Ilka Day Off." Me, too. I love it.











Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Why CEOs need fans



Growing a company from 5 million in sales to 1 bn. USD took Mark Sebba 11 years. As CEO of fashion website net-a-porter.com he retired this August. A very special welcome was created for him on one of his last days in the office. It was filmed and quickly gathered traction on YouTube. The video clip demonstrates: Sebba has fans.

Which leads to the question:
Do CEOs need fans?

Every top-class performer in sports, politics and arts tries to increase her fan base. Why do we see very few CEOs thinking about their stakeholders as fan base which should be nurtured and grown?

I see 3 interesting PROs and 2 big CONs.

Lets start with the CONs.
  1. Fans don't live behind closed doors. Either live or televised, fans are part of the live performance. As Kaan Turnali from SAP says, the fan experience is 'opening our nerve endings'. Very few company stakeholders are part of a nerve-wracking negotiation and can watch the CEO fighting.
  2. Fans are not fans of the football club management (players and trainers have fans, but they are not primarily responsible for the club's financial results).

Here come the PROs.
  1. Fans are in it for the long run. They made a decision for you and stick with you. They are always present. Fans are at your side in times of victory and celebration. They are at your side in times of injury and transformation.
  2. Fans support you in hard times, they suffer for you. Fans believe in you regardless of your actual performance and therefore provide an emotional cushion which helps you to recover faster.
  3. Fans are to celebrate, they make every victory sweeter and bigger. Fans know the hard work behind every victory and cherish your path towards success.

Having fans doesn't come for free.

Fans are demanding. Fans need proximity (or the illusion of proximity). Fans need to see you fight and improve.

Bottom line:

Ask yourself if your employees would welcome you in the office like Mark Sebba - now or in the future.

Monday, July 21, 2014

What do you learn of the world cup?



Blog entry by: Dr. Ekkehard Kuppel from SUM PEOPLE 

You might find that this was just a football tournament; however, I believe there were a lot of learnings about life, about leadership and high-performance. So, I would like to share some.

It is about the team, the We-dimension
After watching the final together an Italian colleague told me: “the Germans played well, but I don’t remember a single name of the team”. He might not have been the most passionate football fan, and yet, his comment resonated with me. It is a team that won the world cup. Other teams had great hopes attached to their super stars; and of course it is a pleasure watching Neymar, Messi o Cristiano Ronaldo play. While it is true that these players can make a difference, at the same time the dependence on such super stars makes you vulnerable, both in football and in business.
In a great team the players change their roles and positions, they are on the move to take advantage of an opportunity or to take care of a serious attack. They keep each other’s back, and there must always be one player available to receive the ball.

When you think of your teams: how do you make sure that somebody is always available to receive your passes? Are your teammates showing for the ball, playing high, dropping deep and stretching the game? Many of the teams also showed that they enjoyed playing together; how much fun do you have with your team?

It is about performing humans, the I-dimension 

Did you notice the athletic bodies of the players? Those six-pack abs flaunted under the trendy slim-fit t-shirts were the envy of any man. I was also utterly impressed by the high-speed football demonstrated in many matches with players reaching whopping speeds of 40km! Hence, your physical shape matters, not only in sports but also in any performance setting.
The Brazilian players were particularly powered up with emotions. If you have a solid performance platform such emotions can give you the additional kick. If that is not the case, the emotional hype turns into pressure and expectation you cannot live-up to and leaves you with a devastating result. Mental serenity is vital when tackling challenging scenarios.
Life is paradox. The collective spirit of a team is powered and inspired by players with individual sets of skills, strengths and weaknesses. Even though ‘the whole is more than the sum of its parts’ we cannot remain oblivious to the fact that there are individual capacities that need to be leveraged and fostered. Messi’s ability of jinking its way out of a multi-defender situation is breathtaking and leaves you thinking that anything is possible. Some voices say, though, that he sacrificed himself for the team playing in areas of the pitch where he usually doesn’t play and others comment that his skills were not well leveraged by the coach’s strategy.
High-performers should strive to be ambitious and yet humble; staying focused on their purpose and relentless about their aspiration; fully aware of their talents and how they can be of service to the team.
Reflecting on your own life, are you taking care of your physical body? What do you do to keep an balanced state of mind in the face of adverse circumstances? Is your business strategy leveraging the individual talents within your team or are team members fighting against their own nature?

The essence, the why question
What makes the World Cup such a unique experience is not the winning. I believe it is the connection and the sense of community that it creates. Before, during, and for some time after the world cup complete strangers engage in a dialogue around football. Whether cab drivers, businessmen, women or youngsters, they all engage in heated conversations about the teams, the performances and it is a beautiful opportunity to exchange ideas and emotions. We get confronted with countries and cultures that we are not familiar with and we learn to appreciate the way they celebrate. And while we listen and learn we connect as humans. We allow ourselves to be emotional and passionate, we experience ecstatic moments of joy, as well as blue moments of sorrow that remind us that we are alive and connecting. People take their heart to the game; when we play together, when we laugh and cry, when we share our passion, the world becomes a more human place. Healthy rivalry can spice up a relationship but we need to watch for the fine line when the identification with a team and nation turns into negative judgment or insults towards the opponent team. This leads to disconnection and toxicity (as experienced between the neighboring archrivals Argentina and Brazil towards the end of the world cup) and moreover, it can ruin the whole experience.

Why is the world cup such a great life experience? It is about the beauty of the game, it is about performance, achieving your full potential, about passion and about human interaction and connection. And in that sense all the teams and all the spectators were winners, even though there was only one official champion. In the Neue Zürcher Zeitung a journalist made a complex analysis of increased consumption, missed out consumption, overall investment, and came to the conclusion that for Brazil the World Cup was a ‘zero sum game’. This appeared to me as a very limited material view of the event. The Brazilians being wonderful hosts, the visitors feeling welcomed, the passion we all experienced, and the multiple connections at public viewings, with co-workers, friends, family and cab drivers… all this is priceless. And as John Kay, brilliant economist of the FT commented after the London Olympics: when you invite friends to a party you don’t make an analysis on the return of investment.

How playful is your work? Are you in good shape? Are you leveraging your talents and nature? Do you take your heart to work? Do you enjoy the beauty of the game?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Our top 3 online channels

Which channel is the most appropriate for getting your message through?

We are always testing and experimenting with our original content.

Please feel free to visit, follow and comment on our following top-three online chanels.

1- Linkedin - this is quite embarrassing. We followed mainstream advice and titled the post "5 reasons why baby boomer CEOs should ..." - and it WORKED. Look at the number of readers compared to our other posts. 20 times more clicks.

2- Huffingtonpost column - here you have to be provocative - but not too provocative. Saying something negative about FIFA and Sepp Blatter was a bit tricky and the Huffington Post editorial staff hesitated at first to publish it. See the readers' scores (sorry, in German).

3- Welt column - a bit deserted at the moment. You see how difficult it is to revitalize an online presence. It urgently needs updates (which are in the works).

Enjoy the reading and have a great week!


PS: Did the title work in your case?!!!???

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Business Case for The Social CEO

Swiss Watchmaker IWC sells expensive watches to the global elite, picture IWC website



As you may have seen, my opinion about the “Social CEO” changes almost every day. One day, I am full of enthusiasm and believe in the next generation of CEOs to be social. The next day I am completely frustrated because I meet some young hardliners from Silicon Valley who think their CEO job description is anti-social by definition. Then again I am angry because I meet CEOs who loudly praise Social Media and when I ask about their personal social habits they look at me as if I was crazy and tell me they have no time for this kind of b*s.
Here is my pessimist opinion of the day: The crisis of the Social CEO is probably a crisis of the consultants. If the growth rate of CEOs who go social is 2% versus 6% average for the population, it’s not a lack of understanding on the side of the CEO, it’s a lack of understanding on the side of the consultants. CEOs are smart.

Yes, people want CEOs to be social: we want to know what is on their minds, we want them to take responsibility for crisis and mismanagement, we want transparency, we want to sneak into their lives and we want to gain their attention.

But let’s look at this from the CEO’s side: social media usage translates into a high-risk, time-consuming activity with an unspecified ROI.

Look at Georges Kern, the CEO of watch maker IWC. His social media activity is such that he takes pictures of himself with models during advertising photo shoots for his brands and shares them with a closed Facebook group of around 150 friends.

Look at John Chambers, the CEO of Cisco. To measure his performance at important presentations he watches the Twitter stream backstage to see if his speech has sparked interest and criticism. The number of tweets matters to him.

Is this what we would define as business cases for Social CEOs? One of them said that he normally looks at initiatives worth around 300 million USD. How does this justify the time spent on Social Media?

Can we suggest their company sells more watches and routers when the CEOs reach out to the masses? Can we promise they will have a more effective response in a crisis? Didn't they handle so many crises well without Social Media?

Please tell me if you have examples of Social CEOs with a business case. Also: do you have a definition of what a Social CEO is? Please let me know. We are grouping these CEOs into 4-5 archetypes to come to a better understanding of the phenomenon.


Monday, June 30, 2014

" The power I exert on the court depends on the power of my arguments..."


Blog entry by Elena Ortiz: 
I remember my first "women" group that one of my nearest friends and me started at the age of 16 to study and understand the 5 different master suppression techniques developed by the norwegian Prof. Berit Ås in 1976. The experience of running my own business together with 3 men was also a very enlightening journey to make...just to mention some of the corner stones that led to my knowledge about female leadership.
The question is then how do you become a successful leader?
After analyzing my own experiences and doing some research I find the following
3 advises from different women leaders, particularly inspiring.

  • Be permanently, ruthlessly curious, is the advice from Megan Quinn, partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
  • Carolyn Everson, VP of global marketing solutions at Facebook says that surrounding yourself with the right people is the key to succes.
  • "Dont be afraid to be you and own it" Danae Ringelmann, CEO and co-founder of Indiegogo. 
For me advice Nr.1 is what gets you to the "top". Never ending curiosity is the key to always developing yourself at different stages and in different areas. As a CEO it is important not only to gain new knowledge in your field of expertise but also to continuously ask yourself how do I communicate? Is my message getting through? Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman ever been appointed to the United States Supreme Court once said, "The power I exert on the court depends on the power of my arguments, not on my gender".




Monday, June 23, 2014

Publications that build your reputation


Most established leaders still think it is good to appear in the Wall Street Journal, Switzerland’s Neue Zürcher Zeitung, the U.K.’s Guardian, Germany’s FAZ or Canada’s Globe and Mail.

But the number of readers is shrinking continuously, as is the amount of business reporting.
Where should you appear? Here are some ideas:

Quartz is a tablet-centric business publication for elite audiences. It’s layout is excellent, the advertising sections do not hurt and it has highly qualified staff writers. It’s a pleasure to read and to be featured in.

Business Insider is a mix of attention-grabbing light reporting with business, political and technology content. BI has found a way to attract very many readers to business content which is a rare ability.

The Verge is relatively technology-oriented but has a business section. The look and feel of reporting is modern and extremely colorful. Not for everyone.

Medium is another new version of online magazine, open for writers of non-fiction on a variety of topics. Content has to work it’s way up, i.e. get clicks to be featured prominently. The style of writing is more personal. Traditional writers may need time to get used to.

TED is a video site, linked to the iconic conference. Giving a TED talk distributes the resulting video clips to millions world-wide. The play-back rates are amazing. A speaking opportunity at TED is highly-sought after, but hard to get (testing, no buy-in through sponsoring).

Surprisingly to some, the professional social network LinkedIn is gowing more and more into a content resource. Thought-leader section is especially interesting, LinkedIn offers some extra perks for VIPs.

Last but not least: Huffington Post. With 16 million monthly unique visitors, the site is one of the biggest online media outlets worldwide, with local-language subsidiaries on the rise. The ‘business-light’ approach and open commentary makes it attratcive. At the same time, top-rated CEOs post comments.

These are newer, but established sites with business reporting and good quality plus a high number of readers, so getting into these pages is highly desirable, either with citations or as author or on video.

I also recommend:
Forbes has a ‘tech’ section called ‘real-time’ with a high number of articles about technology and business. To piblish op-eds some CEOs hire a ghostwriter who is experienced with the Forbes style.

TheGuardian evolves more and more into a leading global newspaper with a reputation for courage and reporting. It also has a wonderful iPad version which is a pleasure to read.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Welcome in A Quantitative World

How many times have you been searched for in Google? How are your statistics developing? Perhaps the most irritating principle of today’s social pool of online information is the fact that it is defined by quantity.



  • Nelson Mandela - Politician, search peak around his death early December 2013
  • Paul Walker - Actor, died in car crash December 2013, sudden spark of interest
  • Malala Yousafzai - tipped for Nobel Prize Peace in October 2013
  • James Gandolfini - Actor (Sopranos mafia boss), died of heart attack with 51, May
  • Miley Cyrus - Artist, introduces ‘twerking’ on stage at MTV Awards in August 2013
  • Oscar Pistorius - Athlete, shoots his girlfriend on Valentine’s day 2013
  • Jennifer Lawrence - Actress, best-actress Academy Award, February 2013
  • Aaron Hernandez - Athlete, charged with first-degree murder, June 2013
  • Charlie Hunnan - Actor, cast for lead role in 50 Shades of Grey filming, July 2013
  • Adrian Peterson - Athlete, Minnesota Viking star’s son dies age 2, October 2013

Bottom line: People made the list if they already had a public presence as actor, athlete or politician and something very unusual happened like a death (6), an award or a performance (4). And: sex sells (2).
Even in these top ten sought-after names are huge differences. The yellow line is Miley Cyrus, red for Nelson Mandela and blue for Adrian Peterson.

No acting politician, central banker, business leader - not even the pope - made the Google Top 10 list, although they have so much influence on our lives.

Compared to Miley Cyrus (yellow line), Pope Francis (blue) and Barack Obama (red) are of minor interest. Angela Merkel could not be included in the chart because she had not been searched for often enough. Merkel was 'only' elected the number one most powerful woman globally by Forbes in 2013.




The Google Zeitgeist app for 2013 allows you to see all search terms for a region and a day in 2013.


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Should You Monitor Your Employees' Social Media?

Available for purchase: 221 instances of information that states and companies know about you and me (scroll down for the list of items).

I am on the last pages of Glenn Greenwald's highly recommended "No Place to Hide", a comprehensive insight into the surveillance operations of states and the Snowden case. In chapter four Greenwald explains the historical results of spying and observing people. Germany has quite a history here ... so I am asking myself:

Are you aware of your employees' Social Media activity? Do you know what they are posting online and if there are potential threats in their content or relationships to your business? Do you have communicated a Social Media policy?

Given the fact that Twitter, Facebook and Co. have been around since 2006, suprisingly little has happened and very few major incidents have become known about employees abusing their Social Voice to hurt their employers (if at all, then it happens mostly on YouTube). Even if we assume that there is a number of unreported cases, it's interesting to see that billions of employees worldwide instinctively do the right things.

When I read Greenwald's book, I understood that all my employees' communication (and my own) are already monitored. There is plenty of Powerpoint charts explaining what is stored and how the monitoring works. Very depressing!

Greenwald cites historical examples that "people radically change their behavior when they know they are being watched. ... The range of choices people consider when they believe that others are watching is therefore far more limited than what they might do when acting in a private realm."

Consider the fact that enterprises are dependent on innovation and creative thinking, Social Media Monitoring of employees is riskier than dealing with some cases of misconduct.

A list of available data about us:

Identifying Data• Name
• Previously Used Names
• Address
• Address History
• Longitude and Latitude
• Phone Numbers
• Email Address
+

Sensitive Identifying Data• Social Security Number
• Driver’s License Number
• Birth Date
• Birth Dates of Each Child in Household
• Birth Date of Family Members in Household
+
Demographic Data• Age
• Height
• Weight
• Gender
• Race & Ethnicity
• Country of Origin
• Religion (by Surname at the Household Level)
• Language
• Marital Status
• Presence of Elderly Parent
• Presence of Children in Household
• Education Level
• Occupation
• Family Ties
• Demographic Characteristics of Family Members in Household
• Number of Surnames in Household
• Veteran in Household
• Grandparent in House
• Spanish Speaker
• Foreign Language Household (e.g., Russian, Hindi, Tagalog, Cantonese)
• Households with a Householder who is Hispanic Origin or Latino
• Employed – White Collar Occupation
• Employed – Blue Collar Occupation
• Work at Home Flag
• Length of Residence
• Household Size
• Congressional District
• Single Parent with Children
• Ethnic and Religious Affiliations
+

Court and Public Record Data• Bankruptcies
• Criminal Offenses and Convictions
• Judgments
• Liens
• Marriage Licenses
• State Licenses and Registrations (e.g.,Hunting, Fishing, Professional)
• Voting Registration and Party Identification
+

Social Media and Technology Data• Electronics Purchases
• Friend Connections
• Internet Connection Type
• Internet Provider
• Level of Usage
• Heavy Facebook User
• Heavy Twitter User
• Twitter User with 250+ Friends
• Is a Member of over 5 Social Networks
• Online Influence
• Operating System
• Software Purchases
• Type of Media Posted
• Uploaded Pictures
• Use of Long Distance Calling Services
• Presence of Computer Owner
• Use of Mobile Devices
• Social Media and Internet Accounts including: Digg, Facebook, Flickr, Flixster, Friendster, hi5, Hotmail, LinkedIn, Live Journal, MySpace, Twitter, Amazon, Bebo, CafeMom, DailyMotion, Match, myYearbook, NBA.com, Pandora, Photobucket, WordPress, and Yahoo
+

Home and Neighborhood Data• Census Tract Data
• Address Coded as Public/Government Housing
• Dwelling Type
• Heating and Cooling
• Home Equity
• Home Loan Amount and Interest Rate
• Home Size
• Lender Type
• Length of Residence
• Listing Price
• Market Value
• Move Date
• Neighborhood Criminal, Demographic, and Business Data
• Number of Baths
• Number of Rooms
• Number of Units
• Presence of Fireplace
• Presence of Garage
• Presence of Home Pool
• Rent Price
• Type of Owner
• Type of Roof
• Year Built
+

General Interest Data• Apparel Preferences
• Attendance at Sporting Events
• Charitable Giving
• Gambling – Casinos
• Gambling – State Lotteries
• Thrifty Elders
• Life Events (e.g., Retirement, Newlywed,Expectant Parent)
• Magazine and Catalog Subscriptions
• Media Channels Used
• Participation in Outdoor Activities (e.g., Golf, Motorcycling, Skiing, Camping)
• Participation in Sweepstakes or Contests
• Pets
• Dog Owner
• Political Leanings
• Assimilation Code
• Preferred Celebrities
• Preferred Movie Genres
• Preferred Music Genres
• Reading and Listening Preferences
• Donor (e.g., Religious, Political, Health Causes)
• Financial Newsletter Subscriber
• Upscale Retail Card Holder
• Affluent Baby Boomer
• Working-Class Moms
• Working Woman
• African-American Professional
• Membership Clubs – Self-Help
• Membership Clubs – Wines
• Exercise – Sporty Living
• Winter Activity Enthusiast
• Participant – Motorcycling
• Outdoor/Hunting & Shooting
• Biker/Hell’s Angels
• Santa Fe/Native American Lifestyle
• New Age/Organic Lifestyle
• Is a Member of over 5 Shopping Sites
• Media Channel Usage – Daytime TV
• Bible Lifestyle
• Leans Left
• Political Conservative
• Political Liberal
• Activism & Social Issues
+

Financial Data• Ability to Afford Products
• Credit Card User
• Presence of Gold or Platinum Card
• Credit Worthiness
• Recent Mortgage Borrower
• Pennywise Mortgagee
• Financially Challenged
• Owns Stocks or Bonds
• Investment Interests
• Discretionary Income Level
• Credit Active
• Credit Relationship with Financial or Loan Company
• Credit Relationship with Low-End Standalone Department Store
• Number of Investment Properties Owned
• Estimated Income
• Life Insurance
• Loans
• Net Worth Indicator
• Underbanked Indicator
• Tax Return Transcripts
• Type of Credit Cards
+

Vehicle Data• Brand Preferences
• Insurance Renewal
• Make & Model
• Vehicles Owned
• Vehicle Identification Numbers
• Vehicle Value Index
• Propensity to Purchase a New or Used Vehicle
• Propensity to Purchase a Particular Vehicle Type (e.g., SUV, Coupe, Sedan)
• Motor Cycle Owner (e.g., Harley, Off-Road Trail Bike)
• Motor Cycle Purchased 0-6 Months Ago
• Boat Owner
• Purchase Date
• Purchase Information
• Intend to Purchase – Vehicle
+

Travel Data• Read Books or Magazines About Travel
• Travel Purchase – Highest Price Paid
• Date of Last Travel Purchase
• Air Services – Frequent Flyer
• Vacation Property
• Vacation Type (e.g., Casino, Time Share, Cruises, RV)
• Cruises Booked
• Preferred Vacation Destination
• Preferred Airline
+

Purchase Behavior Data• Amount Spent on Goods
• Buying Activity
• Method of Payment
• Number of Orders
• Buying Channel Preference (e.g., Internet, Mail, Phone)
• Types of Purchases
• Military Memorabilia/Weaponry
• Shooting Games
• Guns and Ammunition
• Christian Religious Products
• Jewish Holidays/Judaica Gifts
• Kwanzaa/African-Americana Gifts
• Type of Entertainment Purchased
• Type of Food Purchased
• Average Days Between Orders
• Last Online Order Date
• Last Offline Order Date
• Online Orders $500-$999.99 Range
• Offline Orders $1000+ Range
• Number of Orders – Low-Scale Catalogs
• Number of Orders – High-Scale Catalogs
• Retail Purchases – Most Frequent Category
• Mail Order Responder – Insurance
• Mailability Score
• Dollars – Apparel – Women’s Plus Sizes
• Dollars – Apparel – Men’s Big & Tall
• Books – Mind & Body/Self-Help
• Internet Shopper
• Novelty Elvis
+

Health Data• Ailment and Prescription Online Search Propensity
• Propensity to Order Prescriptions by Mail
• Smoker in Household
• Tobacco Usage
• Over the Counter Drug Purchases
• Geriatric Supplies
• Use of Corrective Lenses or Contacts
• Allergy Sufferer
• Have Individual Health Insurance Plan
• Buy Disability Insurance
• Buy Supplemental to Medicare/Medicaid
Individual Insurance
• Brand Name Medicine Preference
• Magazines – Health
• Weight Loss & Supplements
• Purchase History or Reported Interest in Health Topics including: Allergies, Arthritis, Medicine Preferences, Cholesterol, Diabetes,
Dieting, Body Shaping, Alternative Medicine, Beauty/Physical Enhancement, Disabilities, Homeopathic Remedies, Organic Focus, Orthopedics, and Senior Needs
Source: Quartz)

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Aiding tax evasion versus curing cancer - positioning in action



  American Citizen
54 years old
8/5 years as CEO
Works in Switzerland
Company revenues 25bn./58bn.
Rank 204/162 Fortune Global 500
Closely watched by the media
Aiding tax evasion versus curing cancer - this is positioning in action
Where would you put your money?



          





Sunday, May 25, 2014

Could your next board member be a piece of software?

Roboy, ETH Zurich                        
A computer algorithm named VITAL has been appointed full board member at Hong Kong based KVC, a biotech venture capital firm. The new board member has a voice in investment decisions like any other board member.

Many more management decisions can be implemented as algorithms - Artificial Intelligence researchers had this dream in the early 80ties. Now we have social software and much more can be done.

Difficult management decisions which could be delegated to a piece of code: decision to enter or leave a country, the hiring of people, investment decisions, product development pipelines in medicine, etc.

We are all competing against algorithms - many of what I do each day could be done by a machine. All this shuffling around of information, maybe there are rules behind what I am doing. Scary! Exciting!

Please reread (posted here in the summer of 2012): What if your CEO was a piece of software?
For german-speaking readers: "Mein Chef ist ein Computer" by Thomas Kuhn, stv. Ressortleiter Wissen&technik der Wirtschaftswoche

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Beer, drones and the right to be forgotten



Imagine you are hiking in the Swiss alps, long for a beer, call a drone and - voila - within 10 minutes, the beer arrives. A startup at Lausanne's famous university EPFL plans to develop a drone delivery service for hikers and skiers.

Switzerland has some relatively pragmatic rules for drones and allows for drones carrying everything below 30 kg to be operated by individuals without much registration. The operator must be able to see the drone without any video goggles or other help.

Drones are cool business and will likely spread much faster than anticipated. A couple thousand drones have been sold since the start of the year in Switzerland alone. The devices are allowed to take pictures or film, except over military installations.

What is the business case?

In many instances, drones are replacing helicopters. Think of aerial images which will cost a fraction of what we are used to. Think of difficult to reach alpine cabins and their huge delivery issues (fuel and maintenance cost for helicopters). Think of altitudes where helicopters have difficulties flying to (like transporting oxygen bottles for Everest climbers). Think of rescue efforts where drones can deliver blankets, food, medication and water.

Why should CEOs think about drones? It's a perfect example of a potentially disruptive technology which will redefine certain value chains. Technology is more and more a CEO responsibility. Business Transformation does not only happen in the Swiss alps.

PS: We are glad that the EU ruling regarding the 'right to be forgotten' is most likely valid in Switzerland, too. It's impossible to discuss drones without discussing privacy concerns.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Should analog leaders define our digital future?



It makes me angry to read in the Wall Street Journal that Jean-Claude Juncker promises to turn Europe into a digital Wunderland when he wins the election for the next president of the European Commission.

I find it depressing that at the same time Juncker makes a confession-style announcement that he reads Rilke's poems on paper and writes letters with a fountain pen. He seems to believe that these pleasures are outdated and will vanish in a digital society. Why?

Will it be forbidden to read Rilke on paper in Juncker's Digital Europe?

These confesssions demonstrate that he did not fully understand the digital society he is willing to build - and regulate.

I meet more and more leaders who embrace the digital future - but not for themselves. They promote job creation through programming courses - without taking any kind of course themselves. They envision and build a digital future based on hearsay instead of personal experience. They extrapolate simple trends and seem to believe that everything will be digital soon. How naive.

It makes me angry that we let political and business leaders get away with avoidance. I am tired to listen to CEOs who predict that they will transform their businesses into digital businesses. When I ask for their Twitter handle I am told that they have no time for this.

I think age and status is no excuse to avoid digital literacy. I think we have the right to be lead by digital natives - and I can assure you that we have digital natives who are beyond 50 if you want older leaders. The computer industry took of in the 60ties. Where are the luminaries, the visionaries, the experienced veterans of the Digital Age?

Who should decide over our future? Do you want Internet to be a regulated place where you have to register before you build a new Website? Do you have to hand in your fountain pen and give up handwriting?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Quirky Easter Eggs - Food for Thought

Quirky things I found over the Easter Holidays to think about, for example ...
  • ... you have to tweet 14 times per day, facebook 2 times per day and post on LinkedIn once per day, if you want to get significant attention online, recommends a marketing firm. Let's put aside the quality of the posts. If companies follow this advice (and many do) the trend reinforces itself and you have to tweet 14+x times a day to keep the level of attention - a zero-sum game.
  • ... trading activity on Wall Street almost came to a halt because everybody was watching the extremely entertaining showdown on CNBC between Michael Lewis ("Flash Boys"), the hero of his book Brad Katsuyama and competitor William O'Brien, founder of the BATS Exchange. The CNBC Power Lunch Show about High-Frequency Trading was the most watched show in the history of CNBC. 23 minutes of aggressive humor plus insights into a most important debate.
  • ... how an exchange closes down after losing half a billion USD worth of client money and it's 28-year old manager spends time in meetings to select coffee vendors for his planned café. Look at the recent history of Bitcoin Exchange Mt.Gox. Still, more than 300 dollars' worth of Bitcoins are missing after they filed for bankruptcy in Japan. The guy spent the last days closed in his office and held staff meetings about the Bitcoin Café he was planning to open. The selection of coffee vendors was worth negotiating. Apparently he was overwhelmed and unable to face the facts. Looking at the current preference for young founders of startups, they present quite a risk in the case of a company crisis.
  • ... the email and communication style of Alexander Dibelius, as brought to light by state prosecutors in Germany, as they research the bankruptcy history of department store Karstadt. Dibelius, head of Goldman Sachs in Germany, decided against backing Karstadt financially but was part of finding a bank who helped out which later went down because of their engagement. Dibelius' style in these email conversations seems crisp and short, surprisingly simple and to the point, but not terse. I almost began to like Dibelius.
  • ... the admirable move of Klaus-Thomas Neumann, CEO of Opel, to exit China, although (or because) he has excellent knowledge of the Chinese market from his previous position as head of Volkswagen in China. The temptation to try and win in China must have been huge - but he decided to rather fix Opel's European business. And Neumann is right: Chinese new car sales are going down, Opel's turnaround is ahead of schedule.
  • ... how authorities are often helpless in pursuing cycber criminals. A lack of skills is more than evident, it makes me shiver that the skills gap is so big. It looks like an open invitation to criminal hackers because the risk of getting caught seems so low. One story: a virus was sent to a police department in the US. The hackers threatened to destroy files unless police pay a ransom in Bitcoins, but the police did not know what Bitcoins were.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Customers as activists

Do customers have a say, when it comes to appointing people to management positions in companies? What happened last week in two Internet companies could become common practice. Appointments to the board of directors or to CEO might no longer be the responsibility of the Nomination Committee, but public voting good. 

What happened? 
A manager was appointed CEO, but resigned from this post within few days - due to large user protests (see below). In another company a member of the supervisory board was announced with pride but immediately criticized and asked to resign (see below).  

Case 1: Brendan Eich was promoted from Chief Technology Officer to CEO of the browser company Mozilla Firefox. Eich had invented JavaScript and was highly respected. But immediately after his nomination to CEO users called publicly to boycott the Firefox browser. The reason: in 2008 Eich had issued a cheque over 1'000 dollars to a political association which wanted to prevent same-sex marriages. Even Donald Trump protested the resignation, but Eich's departure is confirmed. 



Case 2: Condolezza Rice, former Secretary of State under President Bush, was appointed to the Supervisory Board of the company Dropbox, and immediately provoked a storm of indignation online. Overnight, the protest site 'Drop Dropbox' was created, on Twitter the number comments multiplied. The accusation: Rice was significantly involved in the decision for spying programmes for the Government, how could she possibly represent a company for secure data storage. 








What is the message?
Customer activists have stronger resources to fight back than ever before.