business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email regarding yesterday’s column by Michael Sansolo:

Thought your short essay, titled "Summer of Opportunity", was a great read and had major application to me and my line of work.

While I understand the point of the article might have been competition among industry leaders might require cooperation among those same folks to move forward, technologically speaking at least, I found the article enlightening even in a Corporate Culture sense. I've worked for only a few companies, but one theme remains constant, competition among different internal units. Sometimes, I feel that corporate progress declines, as internal competitive measures increase. While one unit might feel like a 'winner' in a certain scenario, it's often both units, that don't win. It's because they didn't come together and cooperate for whatever political or territorial reasons. Though I might not know the answer yet, as to how to solve these types of ongoing problems, I think you're article helps guide me in the right direction.

Btw- I live in Sydney now, after living most of my life in the Philadelphia pop came over recently and we did the bridge climb. Though a bit expensive (when making aussie dollars!), it was definitely one of the coolest tourist experiences, that both of us have ever had. The analogy about team work was spot on. The climb leaders do a great job of ensuring that occurs, though the incredible height and potentially ensuing fall that you stand above, might also have a bit to do people staying on the same page!

Another MNB user chimes in:

Michael Sansolo wrote, "The world they enter as college freshmen or high school graduates is the only world they know.”

As a marketing professor at a small college located in the Upper Midwest, I am stunned by students' lack of history. If you took a circle of students who do not know history in context (e.g., discuss causes and consequences of the US Civil War) and another circle of students who do not know history in fact (e.g., the US Civil War started in 1861 and ended in 1865) to create a Venn diagram, then you would have one circle laying almost on top of the other circle.

When Meghan McCain, daughter of US Senator John McCain, flippantly told Paul Begala that she did not know about a specific period of time because she was not born then, Begala retorted that he was not born during the French Revolution but he had read about it.

I mention it as a faculty member because I see parallels of history between today's America and the America that existed in the 1870s. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln authorized the construction of the Transcontinental railroad. In the midst of a war that some were not sure if the Union would prevail as well as soaring inflation in an attempt to pay for the war, the President under took one of the largest engineering feats in the history of this country. Compare Lincoln's decision to build this vital railroad to Obama's push for near universal health care. How can we afford to pay for such a program in the midst of an economic downturn and two wars that some are not sure if we will prevail?

The construction of the Transcontinental railroad ushered in a boom of rail projects around the country. In turn, prices dropped as merchants faced competition from far away places like Chicago and New York that were now accessible thanks to railroad. Retailers like Montgomery Ward's and Sears Roebuck, two of the earliest catalog merchants, got their start thanks to the railroad. Compare that competitive market to
today's retailers who face competition that exist because of (1) large container ships that bring goods from far away places like China and Brazil, (2) internet merchants that have replaced catalog merchants, and (3) drop shipping service.

All these lessons and their attending opportunities and solutions are lost when they only world you know is the world you live.

MNB reported yesterday that the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology sent a report to the White House in which a “plausible scenario” was painted in which between 20 and 40 percent of the US population – or as many as 120 million Americans – could contract the h1n1 swine flu virus this fall and winter. As many as 30,000 to 90,000 people – mostly children and young adults - could die from the flu, the report postulates, emphasizing that this was not a prediction but rather just a worst-case scenario necessary for the government to properly plan.

It is also possible that half the US population could catch this flu, though the vast majority would not show symptoms nor become seriously ill.

My comment: This could have enormous impact on the food business, in terms of how it affects employees as well as shopping patterns. It could make it hard for a lot of people to come to work, and it could give the advantage to retailers that offer online ordering and delivery options to shoppers.

Interesting range of responses to this piece…

One MNB user wrote:

Just a passing question. Given the dire scenario that could be created by Swine Flu, coupled with your observation of what it could do to an employee’s ability to show up for work. Do you think our culture would accept the use of gloves by employees especially for those cashiers handling money/credit cards all day?

I have no idea. But it is an interesting point.

Another MNB user wrote:

A friend of mine from Portland OR attended a conference in northern CA a few weeks ago. 24 people got ill, about 10% of the attendees, and she passed on…from swine flu. I am still in shock.

Frankly, I hadn’t paid much attention to it prior to this, I am not in favor of vaccines, I never understood how putting contaminated cells into a healthy body was helpful. I am not in favor of “government forced vaccinations” either, and this has been discussed.

Nobody is going to have to force me to get a vaccination. I’ll be on line the first day.

But another MNB user wrote:

And the sky falling could seriously impact the remaining few of us. Seriously Kevin, how could you put this in your blog???

Forgive me. I thought – and continue to believe – that this is important.
KC's View: