Archive for April, 2004

Outsourcing and Chinese trade infancy

Wednesday, April 28th, 2004

It turns out outsourcing doesn’t always work the way they thought it would. Even Indian executives running companies (mainly technology/software) in the U.S. are finding that many core functions are still better performed by U.S. workers. Eduardo Porter writes in the NY Times today that one company tells it like this: cost savings for programming that’s done in India are 3 times less ($3500 versus $10,000 per month) but productivity ratios are double that–in the opposite direction. If you met your productivity goals six times more often with U.S. workers than with foreign workers, would it be worth it to pay more? Apparently even multiple attempts using various types of operations in India did not yield the kind of long-term results that make the desired difference in the bottom line.

The dividing line seems to be creativity in solving issues. Tasks that adhere strictly to a set of rules can get done efficiently at the cheaper rates. Those that require more imagination tend to be performed much better by U.S. workers. Love to see Eduardo do another article on what factors go into causing this difference…

Another article in the same publication talks about the China trade situation–starting off with the fact that China has decided to postpone its plan to set up–beginning June 1–an entirely different type of wireless protocol than that currently in use by pretty much the rest of the world. Meaning that your wireless laptop wouldn’t work in China. What do you suppose that plan was meant to accomplish?

Well, we certainly can’t say that motivations for business decisions in anybody’s country are unmixed. Walking the ethical line while pursuing the profit motive has always been and will always be a challenge. And remember, China is practically still a newborn in the business of understanding how to relate to the rest of the world.

In any case, between outsourcing and China’s see-sawing position as a threat and as a huge consumer of American goods and services (as we are of theirs), we have a lot of integrating to do: our U.S. visions and dreams and goals can never again be based solely on the idea of an economy isolated from the rest of the world. Any that do are sure to crumble.

Blog for library business

Tuesday, April 27th, 2004

Maybe your image of a library is a staid brick-n-mortar edifice populated with millions of dusty tomes and lots of bespectacled bookworms called librarians. At least that’s the way cartoons always portray them…

I was honored recently to be asked to facilitate for an enthusiastic group of library professionals my workshop called “Blogging for Professionals.” Terry Pasadyn, the director of the Continuing Education department of the Cleveland Area Metropolitan Libraries reuqested the program after she saw my class on blogging listed in the Cleveland State University catalog.

We had a lively and highly interactive session discussing things such as what’s a good topic for a library blog. Interestingly, one participant had already instituted her own blog, called nexgenlibrarian.net, where blogger Christine Borne listed some of the subjects participants decided would yield good material.

And this in from another participant…Dave Dial says check out this site good for novice bloggers. And congratulations, Dave! Your new blog created from the novice RSS site is pretty cool.

Libraries are coming of electronic age. Have you been to yours lately to see what’s up?

Dream and do

Monday, April 26th, 2004

Three different amazing new telephones are profiled in the Continental magazine this month. One has a foldout keyboard you can type email on and all the functions of a PDA. Another lets you record and capture video, forgodssakes. Remember–Q, was it?–the guy who gave James Bond all the incredible gadgets? Used to be that if you lived long enough, you’d get to see the science fiction stuff eventually come to reality.

Nowadays, you don’t have to live very long at all for the same thing to happen. What’s dreamed of in a movie one year can be in production and available at your local Sharper Image a year later. And a year after that, your teenage kid can afford to buy one for himself and one for his girlfriend at the local WalMart. Pretty amazing to see the living embodiment of the old guru’s saying: whatever you can dream, you can do.

That’s encouraging news for today’s bumper crop of entrepreneurs. As the sea changes continue to wash over our economy–the very way we do business is being transformed–more and more people of all ages are being challenged to find their own ways to earn a living in this world. It’s scary. It’s exciting. It promises increasing diversity of ownership for successful ventures of all kinds.

And honestly, I don’t know what part blogs might play in all this, but it’s a sure bet they’ll be in the toolbox of some of our incipient business gurus.

Wi-fi winding up to bat…Cleveland pitches…and Yahoo! gets a hit!

Saturday, April 24th, 2004

The Northeast Ohio area has a high-profile champion for the idea of its becoming a model city for connected communication. Lev Gonick, a Case Western Reserve University tech maven, has masterminded bringing to life a huge network of underground fiber optic cable and is helping push the wi-fi agenda. His OneCleveland project website lists links to hotspots around Cleveland and to other sites that list them for other places around the world.

Several up-and-comers are championing this connected stuff as well. Steve Goldberg, co-founder of NEOBio (an affiliation for those interested or involved in the bio-science industry) was one of the first to list wi-fi hotspots in the area on his personal blog. And now local networking whirlwind George Nemeth points out that Yahoo Maps has installed an option that lets you click to redraw the map showing public hotspots!

For sure this means wi-fi is becoming mainstream. Meanwhile, Connection Series leader Ed Monroe writes from his new digs in Tremont (the very cool Chicago-like section of Cleveland that has its own citizen committee promoting free wi-fi) that a friend emails him he’s surfing the web from everywhere in his house without a cord–because his neighbor has a router.

Will the earth soon be covered with free wireless? Well, we’ve already got scenarios where 17 people can talk on their wireless phones in the same room to 17 different people and not get in each other’s airwaves. I have no idea how they do that, but it impresses the hell out of me. I can’t see how this will be any different. You’ve heard, haven’t you, about the technology that’s going to let advertisers broadcast sound bytes to you as you walk by a display of their goods? Talk about potential noise pollution….

With every advance in communication, the power of the personal touch grows stronger. This is just the beginning for wireless–and for the rise of blogs.

Fake truth

Wednesday, April 21st, 2004

So our political leaders actually pay to have fake “news” films created to make it sound like they’ve done something praiseworthy… So says Gary Hill in a recent commentary found in the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists. First, I was surprised to find our president was doing this in relation to a recent change in Medicare. Gary says pharmaceutical companies, auto companies and oil companies do it all the time. City, county, state and federal agencies do these “video news releases”–even using actors to impersonate reporters.

But here’s the kicker: television news producers often find these things too convenient to pass up. They have a spot that needs filling (always the #1 issue for TV programmers–fill the time up) and they just plug the thing in as if were truly a new story. And this is not the same thing as an advertorial–I write those for Toyota for Time Magazine and they’re not the least bit fictional or fishy–which must be labeled as advertising (albeit no requirement is made as to the size of the disclaimer–like that fine print in radio ads that’s read at an inhumanly fast pace).

Gary writes to warn editors and journalists about the travesty of surrendering their editorial control. But I write to warn you. Please don’t use this technique in your marketing-especially your blog–and beware yourself when you’re watching the news or making buying decisions.

Reflections on business blogs

Tuesday, April 20th, 2004

Business as usual: Phone calls to customers in the airport. Reports and feedback delivered and received while walking on the street or riding in a cab or driving to a meeting. Email arriving on handhelds. On the home front, soccer moms setting appointments and arranging repairs while carting kids everywhere. People talking to friends on the bus and in grocery stores, for heaven’s sake.

In our mobile society with technology improvements arriving at a breakneck pace, we are constantly being asked to adapt and change. In a sense we’re like kids getting new toys all the time. Stimulates the brain and keeps life interesting, but it can also overwhelm and throw our priorities out of whack. Blogs are places where we can stop and reflect. Filter out. Slow down. See a different side of an issue. Get the benefit of someone else’s thinking, but in a personal way, not just as another place we have to absorb more information.

It’s certainly not a new idea that reading enriches our lives. But blogs are a way we can incorporate reading without having to change what we’re doing (sitting at the computer) and still enjoy some of the pleasure of conversation (most blogs allow comments if you have the time and the urge). And it’s that personal touch that makes blogs different from all the other data we must take in.

Chicago and blogs

Sunday, April 18th, 2004

Why is Chicago like the blogosphere?

Lots of people to hear your message. The infrastructure to support your efforts and to clearly broadcast your individual voice.

In Chicago seems like there’s a bar or shop on every corner–and on many streets, eight or nine other little shops in between. Little Jake’s Tavern on this corner attracts the folks who like to play pinball and shoot pool. The dog-friendly Pete’s Inn 2 streets away attracts the young and old who like to have a few beers and don’t like to leave their dogs out of the fun all the time. But the point is, there are more than enough of each type of customer within walking distance to support both businesses–because there are so many people! This creates neighborhoods, each with a character of its own.

On the Internet, the world is your oyster. You can find almost anything anywhere. But as the giant search engines are finding out–which is why they’re introducing local search (you put in a zip code to sort your search results by), people really like to look for services in their own areas. A lot of people like to have a chance to meet the people they’ll do business with.

A business blog, done well, can make people feel like you’re in their neighborhood. It can give that personal touch we all crave. Someone asked, during the class on blogging I recently facilitated for library professionals on behalf of Cleveland State University, how much more electronic stuff can people handle? Aren’t we all on overload already? I said yes, we are indeed. And that is precisely why professionals who blog will find a following–in the ever-louder-and-more-overwhelming-mayhem of too-much-information, people still need the information. But as human beings, we’ll gravitate toward those who deliver it in a personal way.

Try it.

Barbara Payne authors business book with Brian Tracy

Thursday, April 15th, 2004

Okay, I can’t resist. I’m excited that the book I’ve co-authored with Brian Tracy and Mark Victor Hansen, among others, is about to be published. It’s titled: “Create the Business Breaththrough You’ve Always Wanted: Secrets and Tips from the World’s Greatest Business Mentors.”

Business gurus like Stephen Covey, Harvey McKay and Ken Blanchard have endorsed the book as a truly valuabe contribution to the literature on how to succeed in business. I am honored to have been invited to contribute. I’ll let you know when copies are available.

Can't resist…

Tuesday, April 13th, 2004

The Pew Internet folks are finally giving us a statistic to hang onto the wireless connectivity phenomenon.

They say their survey indicates 17% of Internet users have logged on using a wireless device (their first reading on this item). Gen Y (did you know we had one of those? what’s going to happen after we get to Z?), generally ages 18-27, are the biggest users – 28% have wi-fied.

So here’s my thought. If you meet someone who’s in Gen we-didn’t-label-ourselves-back-then who’s using wireless, pay attention. This person is very likely to have all the savvy of youth and all the wisdom of age. Wow. What a combination for helping your business…

And if they blog, too, hire them immediately.

Common knowledge

Monday, April 12th, 2004

I started this entry early this morning–and then got sidetracked by a hundred little urgent tasks and several deadlines. Wanted to remark on the fact that several major higher ed institutions (Case Western Reserve University, Rochester Institute of Technology, etc.) have partnered with each other to facilitate the sharing of knowlege across the cosmic soup (via fiber optics, Internet and whatever other genius-inspired means will soon be developed for helping us communicate instantly across unlimited distances).

I tell you this. As our ability to access more and more data improves, our need to find help to filter it increases. And as we are bombarded with millions of pieces of information from hundreds of different sources, the human desire to meet another human in conversation–to touch each other as real people, even if only virtually–grows stronger.

Thus, ironically, as the confusion grows, the strength and power of the individual voice grow ever greater–and the human touch becomes an ever-more-luminescent attractant. People complained a hundred years ago about the speed of change–but they had no idea of what we all deal with every day. Trust me: blogging is one of the tools the universe is providing for us to keep our sanity in this age of overload.