Does Anybody Hate You?

Some years ago, I was with the CEO of a major multinational telecom company and his top team. The firm had over the past decade spent hundreds of millions on advertising. Yet, to the dismay of the CEO, while brand awareness was very high among the consumers; these same consumers were unable to spontaneously recall…

Can Conflict Ever be Productive?

My early academic research focused on power, trust, and conflict in organizations. Last week’s blog was inspired by the research on power, and this week, the focus in on conflict in organizations. Conflict emerges when one party perceives its goals, values or opinions are being thwarted by an interdependent (team member or colleague in organizations,…

Prisoners & Free Agents

The events of the last few weeks reminded me about a concept that I used repeatedly in my teaching. It distinguishes between employees who are “free agents” versus “prisoners”. The concept flows from my research in the early 90s on dependence which was inspired by Emerson’s famous 1962 paper in the American Sociological Review. Dependence…

Just Fired, and Moving On

An old school friend advised me that in the Indian context, it is better not to mention I have been fired to anyone as it would have a deleterious impact on my reputation and job prospects. Better, he said, say “resigned”. As all of you now know from last week’s blog “I just got fired”,…

I Just Got Fired!

“Calling all the people here to see the show Calling for my demons now to let me go I need something, give me something wonderful” As someone who almost opted to become a professional DJ, it’s fortunate that my favourite song of this year is Love and Hate by Michael Kiwanuka, with the lyrics above….

Why People Evade Taxes

Gary Becker, the Nobel Laureate in economics, developed an elegant model of tax evasion based on economic factors. He contended that tax evasion was determined by the tradeoff between tax rates and the cost of punishment for noncompliance. Higher tax rates increase the incentive to cheat as one saves more money from evasion, while the…

Should the Conglomerate Discount Persist? When Business Groups Add Value

Conglomerates were in fashion until the 1970s, when Michael Jensen, finance professor and Nobel Prize winner, observed that they suffer from “billions in unproductive capital expenditures and organizational inefficiencies.” This led to the belief that companies or groups with unrelated multi-business portfolios do a lot of things badly rather than a few things well. As…

Let People Cheat on Goals in Order to Succeed

Some of you may have read the recent study that tracked people in Pittsburgh on a weight-loss program. In this widely reported study, half the participants were randomly given a fitness tracker, while the other half were asked to record their habits on a website every night. The surprising result was that over a period…

Sleepless in C-Suite

It is always interesting to hear people at work boasting about how little sleep they got the night before. At times, I too must confess to being guilty on this count. It appears almost to be a badge of honour among top executives to say, “I slept only four hours last night and, look at…

The Tyranny of Choice

Twenty years ago, when teaching at the IMD business school in Switzerland, one of my popular assertions was: “Instead of seeking the customer in each individual, we should seek the individual in each customer.” Today, with technologies such as the internet of things and 3D printing, and with consumers taking to social media, companies have…

Brand Creep: The Challenge of Multi-Brand Portfolios

Many companies have multiple brands within the same category. For example, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide has W, St Regis, Sheraton and Westin. For a multi-brand portfolio to be successful, each brand must be targeted to a specific segment and must embody a unique selling proposition (USP). Consider Procter & Gamble’s laundry detergent portfolio in…

Why Demographic Segmentation Rarely Works?

Marketing as a corporate function originated out of sales more than a hundred years ago. Rather than simply trying to sell what the company manufactures (the sales concept), the marketing idea was that it made more sense to start by first examining customer needs and then producing what consumers actually need. As Peter Drucker argued:…