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Posts Tagged “Corporate Rain”

Quartz, the cutting-edge NY digital news outlet, caught my eye last week (March 21, 2017) with this headline: “IBM, Remote Work Pioneer, Is Calling Thousands of Employees back to the office.”

This is a big change in direction for Big Blue. As recently as 2009, IBM had 40% of its hirelings working from home.

In fact, a number of companies have quietly begun shifting their home-based associates back to their corporate offices. This trend began to emerge publicly with Marissa Mayer’s startling decision to end Yahoo’s remote work policy back in 2013. Facebook now offers a $10,000 bonus to employees who live close to their office, and many other companies, like Best Buy and Reddit, no longer allow work from home. By September of this year IBM’s over 5,500 marketing people will have to work from physical offices in one of seven central locations: San Francisco, New York, Austin, Armonk, Boston, Atlanta, or Raleigh. Remote work will no longer be an option. (IBM already applies this policy to departments like security, procurement, most of IT, Watson, Watson Health, cloud development, and artificial intelligence.) Companies increasingly feel collaboration, creativity, and community are better fostered in a central office.

As an early successful adopter of the virtual office model with my first entrepreneurial firm, Corporate Rain, in the 1990s, I have always thought “What’s not to like?” After all, you save on office rent, office expenses, and commuting. And research indicates that remote workers are more productive and put in more hours than their office-based kindred. Also, for many people, it has been a partial solution to the work-life balance problem. According to the Gallop Poll, 25% of all American workers are presently laboring remotely.

That said, however, I am increasingly coming to a sense that for many companies, particularly large ones but also some of the small ones, there is a compelling rationale to centrally co-locate their office communities again.

For example, Best Buy reported that productivity had an average increase of 35% in departments that shifted to employees working whenever and wherever they wanted. However, there is a different set of benefits that ensue from central offices–and most of these benefits center around creativity and innovation.

Note John Sullivan, professor of management at San Francisco State University, a specialist in HR strategy–again quoting from Quartz. Sullivan says, “It turns out the value of innovation is so strong it trumps any productivity gain….[Remote work] was a great strategy for the 90s but not for 2015.”

Certainly established companies are searching for how to solve the conundrum of creativity and how to come up with the next transformational eureka out of their behemothic institutions.

They long to infuse entrepreneurial passion and disruptive imagination into their titanic old-line firms. Their hidebound strategies aren’t working, therefore renewed office centralization is increasingly favored as a tool to help create a more generative, communal, cohesive business ambience–hopefully one more like the entrepreneurial laboratory.

Jeff Smith, IBM’s CIO, advocates agile management based around “squads”. He says “…leaders have to be with the squads and the squads have to be in a location.”

There increasingly is a valuation of what many call “the watercooler effect.” (Steve Jobs certainly appreciated the value of how chance meetings and accidental conversations can lead to disruptive ideas.) Note a recent study by Kevin Rickman of George Mason University and Michael Pratt of Boston College, who found that increased offsite work can have very negative effects on the office environment. Mason and Pratt state: “If the office is going to become a collection of employees not working together, it essentially becomes no different than a coffee shop (though perhaps with better internet and worse coffee.).” That may be a bit overstated, but perhaps reflective of the most au courant new HR thinking.

When asked what percentage of Google’s workers telecommute, Patric Pichette, then CFO said, “Our answer is: As few as possible.”

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cmsimg_1357331247Have you been watching the US college basketball playoff tournament? I have. And I’ve noticed in almost every game I’ve watched this week there will come a moment when a player will make incidental contact with a defender who will promptly fall backward as though hit by the force of a nuclear bomb. As Jay Bilas, an ESPN analyst, puts it, “I’ve had countless games this year where you say, ‘That’s a flop.’ There’s no way that amount of force caused that amount of physical reaction from the defender. You’d have to be shot in the chest with a bazooka to fall like that.” (WSJ, March 17, 2015)

So, flopping can be defined as an intentional fall by a player after little or no contact by an opposing player in order to draw a personal foul from an official against an opponent.

I first became aware of this phenomenon watching the World Cup last summer. I don’t know much about international soccer, but I noticed flopping was being prominently covered in the sports press. One of the favored teams last year was Brazil. Apparently the Brazilians have raised flopping to an art form. A June 15, 2014 article in the NY Times by Sam Borden, titled “Where Dishonesty Is Best Policy, US Soccer Falls Short,” caught my eye. Apparently the US team is simply too honest. Borden states, “For better or worse, gamesmanship and embellishment–or, depending on your sensibilities, cheating–are part of high-level soccer. Players exaggerate contact. They amplify the mundane. They turn niggling knocks into something closer to grim death.”

Jay_Bilas_(cropped)Assistant US coach Tab Ramos says American players tend to be culturally very straight, forthright people. That is not the way the international soccer world generally thinks. Ramos says, “I don’t know if you call it a problem or a weakness, but it’s clear that the American nature is to try and make everything fair to the game. That’s just how Americans are.”

All this gets me to thinking about my American self and “winning” at small business. Karmically speaking, I believe that being straight is the selfish way to be. It seems to work for me, though admittedly, my business life is as much incentivized by making my personal life whole as by making money. My motto continues to be “Good Is Greed.” I have always tried to follow the admonition of Peter Drucker to “make your life your [business] endgame.” Am I a foolish naif like some say the US soccer team is?

Well, perhaps. I am certainly expected to be a salesman, a prime job for every business owner. Salesmen are often portrayed as liars, thieves, scoundrels, scofflaws. I don’t think lying to people works, but it does seem to work as a base assumption of sports “floppers.” So must I become at least a partial flopper to win? Coach Red Sanders of UCLA famously said, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”

And what exactly is business flopping (lying, exaggeration)? Look at Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle. He was notorious for informing investors and clients that a new product was soon to be available even though it was barely a gleam in the eye of one of his engineers, if that. Or how ’bout ur-entrepreneur Steve Jobs who was mesmerizing as he wove his hypothetical dreams and visions into his listeners as a compelling reality? Admittedly, both these men made good on their existential exaggerations. So were they liars or visionaries? Most of us would surely say the latter. And yet….

I suppose you come down to an “ends justifying the means” conundrum. If we are fiercely committed entrepreneurs, does that mean kicking, biting, lying, and cheating our way to success, even if we have a great product or service? And if we opt for this, is it OK if “everyone is doing it?”

All of us lie fairly harmlessly in our everyday lives. We do it so as not to hurt people’s feelings, to be polite, to smooth our quotidian life process. As a salesman and chief voice of my own firm Corporate Rain, it is my job to present the most glowing, piquant image possible for customers. But am I flopping to Gomorrah when I create an eloquent, perhaps exaggerated metaphor for my company’s work? Am I ultimately sacrificing my entrepreneurial soul to what William James calls “the bitch goddess of success?” Is a right livelihood only made possible by leaping into the rancid fog of a moral and mental abyss?

Cousins-angry-Cp3-flop-As an act of faith and formal strategy, I choose (try?) to walk a fulgently moral path. My faith is that I will win that way. Good Is Greed. Yet, as in this column, my questions about myself and everybody else never cease. Or am I simply asking a revised version of the ridiculous medieval question, “How many angels can flop on the head of pin?”

Well, I shall leave off this excessive moral navel-gazing and go back to enjoying my March Madness. Perhaps we are all floppers to one extent or another–excessive emoters, serial exaggerators, closet conmen. Christians call it sin.

I like what Aldous Huxley said: “The end cannot justify the means, for the simple and obvious reason that the means employed determine the nature of the ends produced.” Thank you, Aldous.

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When I started my company Corporate Rain in 1996, I still typed out my bills on a typewriter.  Yup. The following video is a very short reminder of how it used to be for those entrepreneurs who are over 40.  Like me. (It’s quite short, so don’t blink.)

LOL.

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Cristiano-Ronaldo-Newcastle-United-Manchester_1954179Been watching the World Cup?  I haven’t.  (I find soccer a crashing bore.)  But I do watch highlights and sports commentary.  And the phenomenon of “flopping” or “diving” fascinates and, I must admit, unsettles me a bit.

Flopping is an intentional fall by a player after little or no contact by an opposing player in order to draw a personal foul from an official against the opponent.  I first started noticing this phenomenon in the NBA Finals last month, when the Miami Heat seemed to be frequently over-emoting on fouls, to vociferous complaints from San Antonio, a more stoic team.  But flopping seems to be a major tactical ploy at the World Cup, where it is prominently covered in the sports press.

A favored team for the World Cup is Brazil.  Brazilians are champion floppers to go with their other skills.  A June 15, 2014 article in the NY Times by Sam Borden, titled “Where Dishonesty Is Best Policy, US Soccer Falls Short,” caught my eye.  Apparently the US team is simply too honest.  Borden states, “For better or worse, gamesmanship and embellishment—or, depending on your sensibilities, cheating—are part of high-level soccer.  Players exaggerate contact.  They amplify the mundane.  They turn niggling knocks into something closer to grim death.”

Assistant US coach Tab Ramos says American players tend to be culturally very straight, forthright people.  That is not the way the international soccer world generally thinks.  Ramos says, “I don’t know if you call it a problem or a weakness, but it’s clear that the American nature is to try and make everything fair to the game.  That”s just how Americans are.”

pic 11 (2)All this gets me to thinking about myself and “winning” at small business.  Karmically speaking, I believe that being straight is the selfish way to be.  It seems to work for me, though admittedly, my business life is as much incentivized by making my personal life whole as by making money.  My motto continues to be “Good Is Greed.”  I have always tried to follow the admonition of Peter Drucker to “make your life your [business] endgame.”  Am I a foolish naif, as some are saying the US soccer team is?

Well, perhaps.  I am certainly expected to be a salesman, a prime job for every business owner.  Salesmen are often portrayed as liars, thieves, scoundrels, scofflaws,  I don’t think lying to people works, but it does seem to work as a base assumption of sports “floppers.”  So must I become at least a partial flopper to win?  Coach Red Sanders of UCLA famously said, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”

And what exactly is business flopping (lying, exaggeration)?  Look at Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle.  He was notorious for informing investors and clients that a new product was soon to be available even though it was barely a gleam in the eye of one of his engineers, if that.  Or how ’bout ur-entrepreneur Steve Jobs who was mesmerizing as he wove his hypothetical dreams and visions into his listeners as a compelling reality?  Admittedly both these men made good on their existential exaggerations.  So were they liars or visionaries?  Most of us would surely say the latter.  And yet…

I suppose you come down to an “ends justifying the means” conundrum.  If we are fiercely committed entrepreneurs, does that mean kicking, biting, lying, and cheating our way to success, even if we have a great product or service? And if we opt for this, is it OK “if everyone is doing it”?

All of us lie fairly harmlessly in our everyday lives.  We do it so as not to hurt people’s feelings, to be polite, to smooth our quotidian life process.  As a salesman and chief voice of my own firm, Corporate Rain, it is my job to present the most glowing, piquant image possible for customers.  But am I flopping to Gomorrah when I create an eloquent, perhaps exaggerated metaphor for my company’s work?

huxleyAs an act of faith and formal strategy, I choose (try?) to walk a fulgently moral path.  My faith is that I will win that way.  Good Is Greed. Yet, as in this post, my questions about myself and everybody else never cease.  Or am I a simply asking a revised version of the ridiculous medieval question, “How many angels can flop on the head of a pin?”

Well, I shall leave off this excessive moral navel-gazing for today.  Perhaps we are all floppers to one extent or another.

I like what Aldous Huxley said:  “The end cannot justify the means, for the simple and obvious reason that the means employed determine the nature of the ends produced.”  Thank you, Aldous.

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President Calvin Coolidge is famous for saying, “The chief b29_Calvin_Coolidge_3x4usiness of the American people is business.”  Could Coolidge still say that?  Or would he now say, “The chief business of the American people is government.”

I’ve been to a couple of entrepreneurial thought leadership conventions this year and am attending Inc.’s GrowCo next week in Nashville.  And I find disturbing the number of new companies I see that are staking their viability on selling into the government or getting around the problems created by government.

I can tell you anecdotally my executive sales outsourcing company, Corporate Rain, is increasingly being asked to serve companies selling into the corporations who offer technology, consulting, and products to ameliorate and take advantage of government dicta having little relation to needs created by the real world marketplace, but rather serving a skewing  and distorting agora of faux incentivization created by bureaucrats.

Don’t get me wrong.  These services and products are needed by corporations large and small.  Yet they increasingly, if necessarily, address a wasteful and growing set of conundrums created by government hegemony itself, rather than offering solutions for real people living real lives.  The new incentives of solving the problems of over-regulation are only penultimately about solving real world problems.  They are fundamentally, first and foremost, about feeding the maw of innately inefficient and smothering government.

unnamedObamacare is just the most prominent of these governmental morasses.  I am coming to suspect there’s a creeping conquest of traditional capitalist process that may eventually obviate the salubrious and cleansing efficiency of our natural business process of creative destruction.  I ask myself the question:  Is the entrepreneurial process itself being subtly and gradually being corrupted into being a richly rewarded enabler of inefficient oligarchy?  As Willie Sutton famously put it when asked why he robbed banks, “That’s where the money is.”

There are some alarming portents out there.  For example, back in 2012 Michael Porter and Jan Rivkin did an article for Harvard Business Review titled “Can America Compete” which discussed a poll that revealed graduates of Harvard Business School overwhelmingly favor foreign over US locations for new investment and growth.  Only 16% preferred the US.  (HBR, Sept.-Oct. 2012)  Or take the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report where the US doesn’t even make the top 20 on almost all measures of government and institutional quality.

Niall Ferguson has commented on the growing economic counter-productivity of American governing institutions in his book The Great Degeneration:  How Institutions Decay and Economies Die.  

 “Many development economists argue that poor countries can get richer if they improve their institutions, particularly the rule of law. The converse also applies: Rich countries can get poorer if their institutions deteriorate, particularly the rule of law. [For example] today only lawyers think the United States has the world’s best legal system. Everyone else knows it has become a nightmare of impossibly complicated statutes (example: Dodd-Frank), open-ended liability (tort costs are the highest in the industrialized world relative to GDP), and eye-watering billable hours….The political debate in America today is all about symptoms, from slow growth to large deficits, when it should be about the underlying malaise.”

Thomas_Jefferson_by_Rembrandt_Peale_1805_croppedAs Ron Paul puts it, less elegantly, “When one gets in bed with the government, one must expect the diseases it spreads.”

“Government entreprepreneur” seems like something of an oxymoron to me.  There is something corrupting and unsavory about magnificent entrepreneurial companies being incentivized to serve a governmental Gargantua, like lamprey eels feasting on a great blue whale.

President Thomas Jefferson said, “I predict future happiness for Americans, if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of caring for them.” Thanks, Thomas.

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