On Tax Issues, Pfizer Plays Michigan Like a Violin

On August 18, 2009

On Tax Issues, Pfizer Plays Michigan Like a Violin

Pfizer is asking Kalamazoo, Mich., for breaks worth $367,000 on a building it has already built and fully staffed. That doesn't sound like much, until you put it alongside all the other tax breaks that Pfizer has gotten Michigan officials to offer it.
On August 18, 2009

Maker or Manager: Do You Hate Meetings?

Focus: in personal productivity, focus is power. Or maybe I should call it concentration. Have you ever bore down on a task, locked out all distractions, and gotten more done in an hour or two than you thought you could get done in a day? I have the feeling I used to do that a [...]
On August 18, 2009

Demoralised CEOs Need Stiff Upper Lip

Apparently the CEOs of S&P 500 companies are demoralised because they have lost  half, or $53 billion, of their personal wealth. Eventually, I managed to wipe the tears from my eyes after laughing so much. The poor dears. Perhaps we should organise a charity drive for them: anyone got a spare jersey to send to them? Why does this make no sense? Let's take it in stages. Most of us would be delighted to have lost $53 billion of personal wealth, but still have another $53 billion to play with. The CEOs are demoralised because they say the loss was nothing to do with them: it was all down to the stock market which has wiped out their juicy stock option plans....
On August 18, 2009

Simplify Repetitive Tasks Using Gestures with LiveEdge

When I realize that the worst drudgery I will be able to tell my kids about is the fact that the browser's Back button was hard to reach, I hang my head in shame. Even so, it's handy to find ways to simplify common tasks in Windows. LiveEdge lets you assign keyboard shortcuts to eight positions around the edge of the screen. That means, for example, that you can go "back" in your Web browser simply by moving the mouse to the upper left corner of the screen. Or, since you can assign a keyboard shortcut to any program in Windows 7, you can launch Word by moving the mouse to the lower right corner. The problem with any gesture...
On August 18, 2009

Why Managers Don’t See Problems Until It’s Too Late

Could that seemingly isolated customer service complaint be indicative of a bigger problem? Is a quality control issue in a single manufacturing plant a harbinger of headaches to come? According to Know What You Don't Know:How Great Leaders Prevent Problems Before They Happen author Michael Roberto, the answer is quite possibly yes. A professor of management at Bryant University and former faculty member at Harvard Business School, Roberto advises managers on how to spot small problems in their organization that could potentially lead to disaster down the road. He told me more about this when I had the chance to speak with him recently: "The idea in the book is that often when you see a large scale failure, it's really...

On August 18, 2009

Cash For Clunkers: What Else Can It Be Used For?

Just about everyone seems to like Cash for Clunkers, the United States government's offer to buy inefficient old cars if they're replaced with better models. Despite criticisms that the program doesn't achieve a huge environmental benefit and ultimately pays at least $237 per ton of carbon dioxide it saves us from emitting, it has provided a chance for success for the car industry in a bad economy and also given one of the largest single-month bumps to average vehicle efficiency that the US has seen. The program also seems to have gotten people thinking about other ways that government incentives can be used, especially to reduce energy usage. Here are a few: Permanent fuel efficiency rebates -- Blogger Robert Rapier...

On August 18, 2009

The Ultimate Prospect Qualification Tool

Congratulations! Your lead generation process has worked!  You've got a live prospect on the line. You must now discover if that prospect is a REAL opportunity or just a waste of your time.  And you need to quickly gather the information you'll need to plan your sales campaign. Here's an easy tool that walks you through the right questions to ask. CLICK HERE TO QUALIFY A PROSPECT BTW: This tool works well as a follow-up to The Ultimate Cold Calling Tool STAGE 1: Confirm the need ASK: Are you experiencing the problem (or missing the opportunity) that our offering addresses? The prospect answers: Yes." Click HERE. The prospect answers: "No." Click HERE. The prospect answers: "Not sure." Click HERE. Note:...

On August 18, 2009

Moore’s Law and the Environment: An Opportunity

Everything's getting faster these days—you've heard it before. Two mega-trends in particular are merging: rapidly accelerating technological change and rapidly evolving environmental issues and pressures. Lucky for us, the first change is going to save our butts from the second. Fast-evolving, smart IT will play a critical role in helping us navigate and profit from environmental challenges. The two trends together are combining to make for enduring change in how business is done, a movement to a permanently higher plane of green and tech-driven activity.

A recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, "Ten-Year Century," makes the well-known case that the pace of transformation in society is accelerating. More has changed, the authors say, in this decade than in the previous century. To be specific,

Changes that used to take generations—economic cycles, cultural shifts, mass migrations, changes in the structures of families and institutions—now unfurl in a span of years... Game-changing consumer products and services (iPod, smart phones, YouTube, Twitter, blogs) that historically might have appeared once every five or more years roll out within months.

The "Laws" of Technology that the authors highlight—Moore's and Metcalfe's—perfectly describe how quickly both computational power and networking capacity are growing (double the computing power on every chip every 18 months, for example). It's a "law" in the world of technology that things are steadily getting faster.

But this op-ed and other "tech is changing the world so fast" stories—and I'm a sucker for them—miss the another big shift that's moving just as fast: the degradation of the natural world and the resulting pressure to green society and business.

The forces driving the greening of business—from natural world pressures to business customers asking tough questions about your environmental impacts—are evolving incredibly quickly. First, we're witnessing changes in the physical world that scientists and geologists normally expect to take decades, if not millennia.

Scientists are very surprised by the increasing pace of change in environmental deterioration, particularly in our climate. As science writer Sharon Begley points out in Newsweek, statements from experts such as, "that really shocked us," "we had no idea how bad it was," and "reality is well ahead of the climate models" keep coming up repeatedly. The scientific consensus on environmental issues has also moved quickly, from careful support for the thesis of human-induced climate change to vast, overwhelming, somewhat nervous agreement in less than 10 years. How sure will our scientific leaders be in 10 more?

Second—and this is the good news—the business world too is changing its ways at a remarkable pace, especially when you consider the size of the companies in motion. Leaders are drastically reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, innovating even in seemingly static parts of the business like fleet and distribution. We hear every day how much Wal-Mart is changing itself (taking an already lean company and improving fleet efficiency by 30% in three years) and forcing change on others (making somewhat-radical new demands on suppliers that will change how they do business).

We can be forgiven for finding the technological, environmental, and business changes awe-inspiring, daunting, and "deer-in-headlights"-freeze-inducing. During a time of fast change, it's also tempting to go into ostrich mode, just chalk it all up to a temporary frenzy, and hope that if you shut your eyes tight it will all go away. But is today's pressure on business and society to go green a "bubble," just another rise in environmental interest like the ones we saw come and go in the early 90s and early 70s? You can guess where I come down on this.

Part of my reasoning is that the business opportunities in solving environmental challenges are so large, why would interest wane? We can already see that the technological changes of today will serve us well in the search for solutions to our biggest environmental challenges today and tomorrow. Imagine the scale of industry transformation and the profit-potential in just three areas:

  • New energy-efficiency and generation technologies to save money and to power our lives
  • Satellite imaging, "remote sensing," nanotechnologies, and data collection methods to track environmental impacts from forests to factories
  • Business analytics tools and software to identify risks and opportunities up and down the value chain.

And so, as with the certainty of the "Ten-Year Century" futurists about the increasing pace of technological change, I believe that the acceleration of the greening of business is real and its impact will be permanent, not transitory. The growing revolution in how business is done will likely dwarf the original industrial revolution in its impact on how we live. We're moving quickly to a new way of designing, making, shipping, selling, using, and disposing of all goods and services. And given the pace of change, it's a spectacularly bad idea to wait out the recession to take action (a case I make in my new book, Green Recovery).

Given the power of high-tech fixes to deal with the somewhat terrifying pace of environmental change, I say let's not just cope with technological change or even embrace it, but let's do everything we can to accelerate it. It may be our only hope.

On August 18, 2009

Share Large Files with Memeo Send

If you need to get a file to a co-worker, partner, or client, you've got a million options that range from e-mail to USB key to an online share like Skydrive or Box.net. But if you need to share really big files - too big for normal channels - then there's Memeo Send, a sort of FedEx for digital files. Memeo Send has self-consciously modeled itself after an overnight shipping service, from the UI to the delivery confirmation. You can drag any quantity of files into Memeo's packing slip interface, address it (the program taps into your PC's address book), and send. The recipient can retrieve the files via a Web browser or, if installed, the client software. And here's...