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G100 Network Notebook | April 2014

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Palmisano Post IBM

Former IBM CEO Sam Palmisano tells companies to shift toward an integrated business model: one global supply chain for products, services, talent, capital, and ideas. Palmisano believes the days of managing region by region are fading. This is what he calls “the globally integrated enterprise,” which he described in a recent speech:

The cities and companies that succeed will have clarity on the kind of economic and societal innovation they do uniquely well. They will understand the qualities of their culture, their expertise, their skills base, their business environment and their infrastructure that make them stand out in a globally competitive market for talent and investment. And they will make choices, strategically targeting investments, incentives and research at those differentiators.

eBay, Growth, and the Future of Mobile

CEO John Donahoe talks about the ways an innovative company can re-energize itself. This glowing profile of eBay serves as a good primer, noting that a focus on “the next big thing” – mobile technology – ushered in the company’s turnaround. “The lesson we learned is that when a revolutionary technology comes along that will drastically change consumer experiences and expectations, innovate fiercely,” said eBay SVP Steve Yankovich.

At the same meeting, Hertz CEO Mark Frissora and Dan Schulman, President of Enterprise Growth at Amex, will lead a discussion on how mobile technology can drive growth. This novel idea from Stewart Wolpin suggests the true potential of mobile rests in wireless platforms, not the latest devices.

Should CEOs Fear Activist Investors?

The recent bid for Allergan by Valeant Pharmaceuticals and Pershing Square has set off a new round of commentary on what activist investor strategy means for public companies. The New York Times‘ Dealbook applauds the move as a new model, “Activist hedge funds are a ready arsenal of capital that can be used to aid hostile takeovers by corporations. … Their expertise will be invaluable to companies on the hunt for takeovers, perhaps supplanting the investment banks that advise on such situations.”

But the Financial Times‘ John Gapper unleashes an attack on the deal, arguing that a focus on profits and share price will be destructive to the needs of society: “If the entire pharma industry adopted [the Valeant] approach, drug discovery would grind to a halt.” Meanwhile, some new research finds the likelihood of director turnover nearly doubles after shareholder activist campaigns, regardless of proxy battles.

Why Most Big Data Projects Fail

Low-level tasks distract data scientists from spending valuable time deriving insights, argues Trifacta CTO Sean Kandel, who reveals a less glamorous side to the “sexiest job of the 21st Century,” cleansing and preparing data for use. This, he says, can account for 50-80% of a data projects’ time and cost.

If we can ever hope to take full advantage of big data, data preparation is going to need to be elevated out of the manual, cumbersome tasks that currently make up the process. Data scientists must be enabled to transform data with greater agility, not just manually prepare data for analysis.

Small data problems are the hallmark for many overhyped projects, author Tim Hartford says in this refreshing piece that downplays the promise of big data.

How Do You Get the Most Out of Your Workforce?

This Quartz report usefully frames Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ annual shareholder letter to emphasize how businesses can get the most out of their workers. Most thought-provoking is the annual “Pay to Quit” initiative that offers every associate a bonus of up to $5,000 to leave. “The goal is to encourage folks to take a moment and think about what they really want. In the long-run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company,” Bezos says.

Healthcare Reform and Transparency

Price transparency should be a top priority for employers implementing healthcare reform. This echoes a recent report by The Healthcare Financial Management Association. “Employers currently lack the information they need to identify higher-value providers and adopt benefit plans that will encourage their employees to use these providers,” says the report that offers recommendations on providing improved price transparency for health plans.

Capitalism and Income Inequality

French economist Thomas Piketty’s new book, Capital in the 21st Century, has garnered much press for recommending redistributive policies, such as a global tax on wealth, to offset what Piketty views as the inevitable increase of wealth concentration under capitalism. A thoroughly balanced critique by economist Tyler Cowen, who was with us at G100 last year, reveals flaws in Piketty’s analysis and proposes better ways to reduce inequality.

Historically, such taxes have been implemented slowly, with a high level of political opposition, and with only modestly successful results in terms of generating revenue. … And when governments have imposed significant wealth taxes quickly — as opposed to, say, the slow evolution of local, consent-based property taxes — those policies have been accompanied by crumbling economies and political instability. … The most fundamental problem with Piketty’s policy proposals: the best parts of his book argue that, left unchecked, capital and capitalists inevitably accrue too much power — and yet Piketty seems to believe that governments and politicians are somehow exempt from the same dynamic..

Why Corporate Social Responsibility Fails

A former BP employee charged with leading CSR efforts prior to the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf summarizes why so it is hard for companies to make these initiatives succeed. The author lists six compelling reasons, including the fact that employees rarely know what CSR is:

Right now we’re in a free-for-all in which “CSR” means whatever a company wants it to mean: From sending employees out in matching t-shirts to paint a wall for five hours a year, to recycling, to improving supply-chain conditions, to diversity and inclusion. This makes it difficult to have a proper conversation about what corporate responsibilities are and should be.


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