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Two very interesting stories regarding Google’s intentions of world domination (in a nice way) via innovation, product and market development.
Firstly, in an effort to “de-dorkify” the Google-Glass and appeal to a wider audience, Google have struck a deal with Luxottica (the makers of Ray-Bans and Oakley sunglasses) to design the wearable device. The deal looks promising and Luxottica’s share price increased 4% after the deal. At the same time, Google founder Sergey Brin has been denigrating mobile phones saying that they are socially isolating, with “people walking around hunched up, looking down, rubbing a featureless piece of glass”. This is a great example of how Google are trying to push what they hope is their next rising star by challenging accepted norms about how we currently interact.
Secondly, to “connect the two-thirds of the world's population which does not have affordable net connections”, Google has launched Project Loons, which consists of floating balloons laden with 3G equipment into the skies over lesser developed countries. The driving force behind this is of course altruistic, with an ancillary benefit being that billions more people will use Google services. Moved by this act of philanthropy, Facebook intend to do the same, but using solar-powered drones instead!
Perfect stimulus for discussions for Ansoff’s Matrix, Boston Matrix, Innovation, Competition, Overcoming barriers, CSR and Strategic planning.
In 2012 Anthony Jenkins (nicknamed “Saint Anthony”) succeeded Bob Diamond and promised to clean up Barclays and eradicate the worst excesses of the banking industry. Speaking to those who received huge bonuses for unscrupulous behaviour, he said “my message is simple: Barclays is not the place for you. The rules have changed. You won’t feel comfortable at Barclays and, to be frank, we won’t feel comfortable with you as colleagues”.
Despite this, profit dropping 32% to £5.2bn, and making 3,700 jobs cuts last year:
- Jenkin’s himself pocketed just under £5m in shares
- Staff paid over £1m increased from 428 to 481.
- The bonus pool increased 10% to 2.4b
The justification for this? Many senior traders have left, or threatened to do so, and to keep hold of the top earners, he had to offer top pay. Had he not, the investment wing of Barclays would have plunged into a “death spiral”, with staff and high-value customers going elsewhere.
This is part of the bigger issue regarding European Commission’s rule to reduce banking bonuses, how George Osborne is fighting the decision and why, it would seem, he really didn’t need to as bosses of RBS (81% owned by tax payers) and HSBC also side-stepped the rule by giving large “fixed pay allowances” in the form of shares.
This story always provides great impetus for emotive debate on BUSS4 topics such as government intervention, culture, pay and leadership.
Does the inclusion of the image below breach copyright laws? Paramount Studios think so.
A young man (obviously with time on his hands) has had his Twitter account closed for tweeting individual frames of the film Top Gun, along with captions, every 20 minutes.
The BBC article explains that whilst it seems heavy-handed and mean-spirited, in terms of the law, even the frames are classed as the film. However, it does ask how the tweets could affect Paramount financially, and why YouTube accounts don’t face a similar fate.
In a previous blog I listed some other contentious copyright courtroom quarrels, could this be seen as the most absurd, as far from detracting from the studio finances, it potentially advertises and promotes the films further?
The attached PowerPoint (In_the_news_last_week_Gov_Int.ppt) links three current stories from sport, media and education and asks “should governing bodies intervene or should the invisible hand of free markets be left unchecked?”. In each case, students can discuss the merits and shortcomings of regulation in the respective industries, and explore the reasons for intervention in the first place.
The lesson works as a nice starting point and leads naturally to further research on Adam Smith and Milton Friedman.
Hope it helps!
What do Kanye West, a Flappy Bird and American footballers have in common?
I had no idea either, but it was interesting to have a go. I saw these three news stories this week and they seemed to cover the full gamut from money, sport, culture, fashion, business and (most importantly for the students) trainers.read more...»
I'm rather bitter that Eric Cantona one of Manchester United's best former players has been banned by The Advertising Standards Agency today.
Watch the clip and try to work out why this has happened.read more...»
The Year of the Snake proved a challenging one for major bureaucrats in China who had previously enjoyed a lavish lifestyle. However, a new focus on rooting out corruption amongst China's public servants, is catching up with corrupt officials. As senior public servants fall into line with the new, stricter regime, demand for certain luxury products is falling in China! In this video from the FT, Ben Marino examines the changes and the possible implications for businesses that have relied on lavish spending.
A great example of how a change in the political environment can impact directly on business!read more...»
Google’s $3.2 billion purchase of Nest and current shopping spree into all things futuristic has made for an excellent BUSS4 case study. Attached is a 10 slide PowerPoint (Google_mergers_and_acquisitions.pptx) with videos, articles, hyper links and questions that can either be used as a homework task to start students on the road of research, a lesson in which students work independently and focus on the sections they find most interesting, or a catalyst for discussion about the similarities of Google, 1984 and Brave New World.
Whilst it focuses on acquisitions, by the end of the lesson all students were able to analyse Google in relation to the following BUSS4 topics:
- Mission statements, corporate aims and strategy
- Government intervention (or Google’s intervention with the government)
- Managing change
Most amusing is the Daily Mash's vision of a world run by Google... as if we have a choice!
"I know what you're thinking. "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself..,you've got to ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya, punk?"
A well known exchange from Dirty Harry led me to twist the title.
However, this presents an extreme by UK standards, example of niche marketing, from India, The Nirbheek revolver.read more...»
There’s just been a terrific book review in The Economist picking up on a great topic: corporate culture. The term is on everybody’s lips at the moment, helped by the current Leonardo DiCaprio movie ‘Wolves of Wall Street’, which is said to present a damning picture of the behaviour of some US banks.read more...»
How does a young man buying a drink in England help a young man in Uganda achieve his dream?
Innocent Smoothies' new advertising campaign explains the connection, and in doing so, it helped my class to understand how to fully develop a point, this led to deafening applause from the whole class and a subsequent call of "Oh Captain! My Captain" whilst most students climbed onto their desks! An ancillary benefit was that they could justify which was better, Innocent's Corporate Social Responsibility or Innocent's Marketing Campaign.
The global pharmaceutical industry is under threat, like never before, for the way that it markets its products.read more...»
Did Robin Thicke rip off Marvin Gaye? Should Nestle be allowed to use the colour purple? Is there anything wrong with calling your business Obama Fried Chicken? Is Wozniak's idea of cross-licencing a good one?
This a fun, differentiated and ready made lesson in which students become IP lawyers and examine the evidence for 7 different intellectual property courtroom spats.read more...»
The recent trouble at the Co-Op Bank Group highlight numerous weaknesses amongst the management which have damaged its ethical reputation and USP. “Friendly” banks – that is, a wide variety of types owned by members and customers rather than shareholders – are hugely popular around the world, with an estimated 20 per cent of the market for deposits and loans in Europe alone.read more...»
Last week The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited One Angel Square in Manchester to open the world's "greenest" office, the new £100 m 14-storey headquarters of The Co-Operative Group. Yet within 72 hours, celebrations turned to dismay when The Mail on Sunday printed a story linking The Reverend Paul Flowers, a former Co-Op Bank Chairman with illicit drug use.read more...»
The Chinese word "guangxi" means connections. But, as Linda Yeuh explains in this BBC news video, guangxi has come to symbolise large scale corruption when doing business in modern-day China.
A crackdown on corruption in China has even extended to the giving of mooncakes - a traditional symbol of friendship!read more...»
The risks for businesses from outside of China from operating in China have been well-illustrated by the problems now faced by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline plc ("GSK”).
GSK is facing claims that it made corrupt payments of around £323m to Chinese doctors in order to win market share. GSK is cooperating with the Chinese government in an investigation which might result in a substantial fine or other punishments for the company.read more...»
This 5 minute video from the excellent Andrew Hill of the FT should be required viewing for every advanced business student.
With an increasing number of companies refocusing their priorities beyond profit and towards the welfare of their suppliers, employees and the planet, Andrew Hill, management editor of the FT, asks what the repercussions are for business. Superb.read more...»
Sophi Tranchell MBE was our guest for the afternoon session at the Business Teacher National Conference 2013 and she gave a simply inspirational talk on the story of Divine Chocolate!
Sophi has very kindly agreed to her presentation being shared with tutor2u teaching colleagues and students. Highly recommended - a wonderful case study in social enterprise; packed full with other business studies gold too!read more...»
This simply couldn't be worse news for two multinational giants in the global chocolate product market. Authorities in Canada have charged the food giants Nestle and Mars, together with a network of independent wholesale distributors, in an alleged conspiracy to fix prices of chocolates. Hershey is also involved - but they appear to have confessed to the illegal price-fixing activities and will be hoping for relatively lenient treatment in return for cooperating with the Canadian authorities.
Price-fixing is illegal - plain and simple. But it's also unethical. To be caught out price-fixing is to be caught acting against the interests of consumers. Not a good place to be if you are a global brand that values its reputation.
Nestle and Mars have both denied the alleged behaviour and have vowed to fight the legal action:
Nestlé said in a statement:
“Nestlé Canada will vigorously defend these charges. At Nestlé Canada, we pride ourselves on operating with the highest ethical business standards.”
Mars issued a similar promise to fight the allegations.
Time will tell whether price fixing has actually taken place.
But what is price-fixing?read more...»
The Co-Op has keen to highlight their ethical credentials as a key part of its marketing and positioning strategies. Supporters claimed that its mutuality was a more desirable form of ownership than PLCs.
The Banking Division has run into difficulties, and there have been significant changes in personnel within the last few weeks, in part as a response to major financial problems. On Friday there were reports that it had stopped offering loans to new business customers, and today The Independent on Sunday reported that The Co-Op Group's Finance Director Steve Humes had resigned. This followed the recent resignation of Brian Tootell after Moody's downgraded the Bank's bonds.
Mr Humes The Group Finance Director for the last two years, had been involved in managing the Co-Ops food operations, and may have had insufficient experience of its banking operations. Euan Sutherland the Co-Op's new CEO who was appointed in May, could be about to make significant changes in other key management positions.
The decision to stop lending to new business customer may imply that the there may be insufficient capital to support current obligations let alone new loans. The ethical bank may be about to meet its most serious crisis.
One of the strengths and a key component in the Co-Op Bank's USP after recent banking problems - sub-prime lending, collapse of Northern Rock and LIBOR rate fixing, was its emphasis of ethical banking.
Students attending our BUSS4 exam coaching workshops on Organisational Culture will be familiar with Jeff Skilling - the former CEO of Enron which collapsed so spectacularly over a decade ago.
The Enron collapse was closely linked to a strong, through ultimately toxic organisational culture that developed at Enron, which was an online energy trading business that rose quickly to become the 7th most valuable firm in the US.
The culture at Enron, described so powerfully in the film The Smartest Guys in the Room (and Broadway play of the same name) was a tough culture - a VERY tough culture. Students may recall the infamous policy of "rank and yank" in which 15% of Enron staff were dismissed each year as a result of Jeff Skilling's PRC (Performance Review Committee).
Skilling rose to the position of CEO in 2001 only to abruptly resign six months later. Soon after that, Enron collapsed in one of the most notorious corporate scandals of all time.
Jeff Skilling was sentenced to 24 years imprisonment back in May 2006 after he was found guilty on 19 counts of securities fraud, conspiracy, insider trading and lying to auditors.
However, it now looks likely that Skilling will end up serving only 10-11 years of his sentence. The news clip below explains why in more detail as does this news article from the BBC.read more...»
The horrific Bangladesh factory disaster has highlighted a number of business issues and proved a stark reminder of the global effects our purchasing decisions may or may not have on people halfway around the world. Tom White has already put up a blog with some initial thoughts; I thought I’d pose some further questions and examine some of the issues raised in that post.
A great starting point would be to listen to the ever-reliable Business Daily, from the BBC World Service. Their programme In the Balance invites guests to debate a topical business issue, and this week, the Rana Plaza disaster was under discussion.
One of the first questions to ask is to examine the extent to which firms which are supplied by such factories are responsible. There were more immediate causes, of course, such as the owner’s actions and the culpability of local regulation and enforcement (or lack of). But this is not the first time there have been such disasters, nor are the poor conditions in such factories surprising. So is it right that chains such as Primark continue to use such suppliers? Isn’t it their fault, with their demands for low prices and increased flexibility to meet the needs of the fast fashion market? Do they have a responsibility to ensure fair and safe working practices in factories they don’t own and which they are merely customers of? A lot of people would argue that yes, they do. But isn’t that the same as arguing we as consumers should audit the supply chains of the shops which we buy from? Primark is as much a customer as we are.
This is a really useful two-minute video snippet of a conference presentation by Procter & Gamble's CEO Bob McDonald.
He explains that the aim of Procter & Gamble is to move to a zero waste production environment. He makes a clear link between sustainability and productivity. If P&G's factories can operate more efficiently with substantially reduced waste, then it ought to be a win-win arrangement for both shareholders and society stakeholders.
P&G is a multinational manufacturer of a diverse portfolio of product ranges including personal care, household cleaning, laundry detergents, prescription drugs and disposable nappies.read more...»
You may not want to dwell on this topic, which is so terrible that I am sure your first reaction to what has happened will have been highly emotionally charged. The scale of the tragedy only seems to grow, with the situation perhaps made worse by the realisation that these events are very typical of working conditions in many countries.
I've been putting together some links to encourage a bit of reflection on what, if anything, we can learn.read more...»
Lots of great information from Schultz here and insights into his business strategy. Many insights too into Schultz's personal background and his views on what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.
Put simply, this interview has everything! Organisational culture; entrepreneurship; CSR; emerging markets; retrenchment; ethics.read more...»
Terrific insights here from Andy Street, the CEO of John Lewis Partnership, about how the concept of trust is so important in business success. Some short, sharp points here which help identify elements of the organisational culture at John Lewis Partnership and perhaps point to some of the reasons why JLP has been so successful in recent years despite the economic downturn. Essentially Andy Street sees trust as a source of competitive advantage. But it is hard won, and easily lost! Businesses - take note!read more...»
An interesting, though obviously positive perspective here on Starbucks' approach to corporate social responsibility in urban America. CEO Howard Schultz also features - as you might expect.read more...»
Teachers who remember CSR as the research theme for Section A will remember Unilever's Project Shakhti as one of the key examples for that research. At the current round of tutor2u BUSS4 Revision Workshops, one suggestion for Section B is that students might research Unilever again to get some WOW examples for essays about CSR.
Students may not be familiar with the Unilever name at first, but will soon find that they are very familiar with many of the vast range of brands in the Unilever portfolio. They will also find that a Sustainable Living Plan is a core part of the Unilever culture, and applies to every stage of their supply chain; I know from one of my former students who is currently on an industrial placement with Unilever during his Business degree, that this starts at the heart of the business by establishing processes and habits in their offices and factories which reduce environmental impact, getting all staff to focus on reducing waste and recycling as much as possible.
Students of corporate social responsibility will come across the concept of philanthropy as a powerful example of businesses and entrepreneurs "doing good" for society.
Perhaps the most significant recent example of philanthropy is the Giving Pledge, which was an initiative launched by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda.
The Giving Pledge is a commitment by the world's wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. Contributors already include Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Larry Ellison (Oracle), Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway)
And now Sir Richard Branson has joined the club, stating his intention to donate half of his fortune to environmental causes based around the social enterprise model.read more...»
I am regular listener to Cambridgeshire’s Star FM Business Hub, which covers some amazing topics for small businesses and is a regular feature of my BTEC lessons. This week's episode however contained a large segment on the importance of culture in a business' success, which is particularly pertinent for BUSS4.
The interview with William Rogers, CEO of UKRD group (owner of Star Radio), gives a fantastic insight into how leaders can create the right culture for a business to succeed. It can be found here and starts 27 minutes in.read more...»
Barclays new CEO Antony Jenkins has announced details of his strategic review in the wake of Libor-rigging, the bank's role in PPI mis-selling and other scandals.
Jenkins has pledged to rebuild the bank's reputation by fundamentally changing the culture under which its traders operate, including changes to payment protection insurance selling and staff bonuses.read more...»
The discovery of horse meat - disguised as beef - in burgers and lasagnes has kicked off a crisis which illustrates lot of key business studies concepts.
At the heart of the issue is trust. Can consumers trust what retailers sell to them?
From the consumer perspective, if a product is labelled "Beef Lasagne", is it too much to ask that the ingredients for the lasagne include beef rather than horse or donkey?
From the retailers perspective, can they trust that the products they source from their supply chains are as described? What checks and controls do they need to have in place to ensure that suppliers deliver what they promise?
Lots of other concepts are relevant to the developing story. For example, what contingency planning is in place to deal with the media storm and consumer reaction to further revelations.
In this video, the FT's Hannah Kuchler reports on how food companies now have to rebuild trust, without pushing prices too high.
The FT today publishes a great report on the culture at Amazon's Rugeley distribution centre. An interesting insight into the culture of a cost focussed and highly effiecient business that is described by founder Jeff Bezos as: "Our culture is friendly and intense but if push comes to shove, we'll settle for intense."read more...»
The banking sector has come under intense scrutiny in recent years as a result of a series of scandals which have lifted the lid on excessive risk-taking, illegal and unethical behaviour. Corporate culture has been blamed for many of the issues that have come to light.
In this article in the Guardian, five "experts" are asked for their views on how banks can change their culture.read more...»
Some great business studies in this short video about the emerging horse meat scandal.
Channel4 New Science reporter Asha Tanna takes a look at the process that delivers food to our tables, and examines what it is we're really eating.
The lid is being lifted off many aspects of the food production industry and as this video suggests, consumers may be about to discover more than they bargained for!read more...»
If you had lasagne last night you might be wondering if it was the last remains of the non-running hurdler "100% Pure Beef". Findus have a major problem to resolve after tests showed that their lasagne had been made from horsemeat.
The Royal Bank of Scotland has fined been fined £390m for attempting to rig Libor, the inter bank lending rate. The Financial Services Authority says wrongdoing was taking place two years after it was bailed out by the tax payer.
Stephen Hester, chief executive at RBS, said after the settlement: "Libor manipulation is an extreme example of a selfish and self-serving culture that took hold in parts of the banking industry during the financial boom."
The corporate culture inside RBS during the financial boom has certainly been laid bare by the Libor rate-fixing scandal.read more...»
What a powerful but also distressing story this is. The loss of so many lives because of a failed organisational culture at the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust.
The news has been packed with reactions to the findings of a public inquiry into the failings of Stafford Hospital. The Francis Report has called for sweeping changes (290 recommendations in total) to the culture and regulation of the NHS in England.
The Mid-Staff scandal illustrates so explicitly the link between organisational culture and leadership - they are two sides of the same coin.
Below are some resources which help students understand the background to the Francis Report and also gather evidence on the reasons for, and effects of the inadequate organisational culture at Mid-Staffs.read more...»
Selecting a memorable brand name for a product is fraught with linguistic and cultural difficulties. A week ago, Pret A Manger had launched a spicy tomato flavoured crisp " Virgin Mary", based on the non-alcoholic version of a Bloody Mary cocktail.
After complaints from members of Protect The Pope, a Roman Catholic presure group; Pret A Manger’s CEO Clive Schlee removed the product from sale and apologised to The Church, he announced that the unsold packets of crisps will be offered to the homeless. Although no laws were broken, and no politician had expressed concern, it highlights difficulties associated with a firm's ethical behaviour - whose ethics, whose values drive what is acceptable to society.
The new product drew attention to the brand, but it
illustrates the importance of PEST analysis and Delphi techniques before a
product is launched, it also indicates the influence of new media and blogs used by pressure groups to influence opinion and commercial decisions.
Is it possible for a new CEO to achieve significant change in the culture of an organisation? Managers and employees at Barclays are about to find out!read more...»
Global multinationals like Starbucks, Amazon and Google have faced intensive pressure in recent months for their perceived tax avoidance activities. Why has this become such a big issue? What are the implications for those businesses and what should government do?
This boardroom discussion from Reuters is well worth watching to enable students to update their understanding of the commercial, legal and ethical issues raised by corporate tax avoidance.read more...»
A directive from The US Federal Aviation Administration has stopped flights of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, until the plane maker has satisfied the regulator that it has resolved problems with the aircraft’s battery systems. Boeing’s shares had dropped by 2% $72.80 (£45.50) after the announcement. The share price of GS Yuasa the Japanese battery maker had fallen 11% since 7 January when an electrical fire broke out on a JAL 787 at Logan International Airport in Boston.
You may have read about the company Teapigs, which presents itself as a quirky small upstart company, when it began its life under the close support of a much bigger business. Here’s another example: Harris and Hoole - a coffee shop that presents itself as an independent chain but is in fact 49% owned by…read more...»
As reported in Private Eye, when is a small business not a small business? At first glance, Teapigs looks like a small company on a mission to introduce quirky, premium teas to the mid-market segment. The company’s website tells a reassuring story of Nick and Louise who “met while working for a really big tea company”. What you won’t find out by reading the website is that the really big company is in fact…read more...»
Markets for ethical goods and services have remained resilient throughout the economic downturn as a progressive core of retailers and producers continue to factor sustainability such as Fairtrade ingredients into their products and services.
That is the conclusion of The Co-operative’s annual Ethical Consumer Markets Report (pdf) which shows that since the onset of the recession five years ago the total value of ethical markets has gone from £35.5bn to £47.2bn.
Acting as a barometer of green markets since 1999 when annual ethical sales were just £13.5bn, the report analyses sales data for various sectors including food, household goods, eco-travel and ethical finance.
Amongst the biggest growing categories during the recession are sustainable fish up 323 per cent from £69m to £292m, Fairtrade which has increased 176 per cent from £458m to £1,262m and free range eggs sales up 78 per cent from £444m to £792m.
However, sales of organic produce, although now stabilised at £1.5bn, have declined from a high of £1.9bn in 2008.
In 2011, ethical food and drink markets increased 7.8 per cent per cent to reach £6.9bn. Markets for green home products were up 10.6 per cent to £8.4bn and ethical personal products were up 4.3 per cent to £1.8bn
Compare and contrast should be the mantra for A2 business students looking for real-life business examples to deepen their understanding. Here are two news stories which related to the broad topic of CSR which provide quite a vivid contrast.read more...»
Twenty years ago the Co-op had a share of the grocery market similar to Tesco’s. Then Tesco took off and left it behind. This isn’t so much a blog on the rise of Tesco, but picks up on a few ideas about where the Co-op may have gone wrong, and some indications that the co-operative ‘movement’ is fighting back.read more...»