Monday, February 29, 2016

ASA model - How organisations become Homogeneous

In 1987, Psychologist Benjamin Schneider in an article titled "The People make the place" lays out a model called ASA.

Attraction - Selection - Attrition.

He writes about how organization cultures are defined by the people that work there and not by people at the top.

He asserts that “the people make the place” and that organizational culture, climate and practices are determined by the people in the organization.

Attraction: People are differentially attracted to careers as a function of their own interests and personality. They have stated that people search environments that fit by their personality and that people would like to obtain their outcomes by selecting a specific organization.

Selection: Organizations select people who they think are compatible for many different kinds of jobs. In that way organizations end up choosing people who share many common personal attributes, although they may not share common competencies.

Attrition: The opposite side of attraction. When people do not fit an environment they tend to leave it. When people leave the environment a more homogenous group stays than those were initially attracted to the organization.

As this plays out over a period of time, an organization becomes increasingly Homogeneous in its culture.

Implications of the model are

1) the difficulty of bringing about change in organizations: Organizations have great difficulty when trying to change, because they not contain people with the appropriate inclinations. When the environment changes an organization will not be aware and probably not be capable of changing.

2) the genesis of organizational climate and culture: climate and culture are not easily defined in an organization, most often they exist when people share a common set of assumptions, values and beliefs.

3) The importance of recruitment: on personnel selection is paid a lot of attention. Surprisingly, on personnel recruitment, in which way do we communicate on vacancies, is not paid much attention.

4) The need for person-based theories of leadership and job attitudes. The research on this area is depressing according to Schneider (1987). We believe that the attitudes of people are created by the conditions of the work place.

Disorder produces Creativity

In this study "Physical Order Produces Healthy Choices,Generosity, and Conventionality, Whereas Disorder Produces Creativity" 3 experiments were conducted
  •  Experiment 1 showed that relative to participants in a disorderly room, participants in an orderly room chose healthier snacks and donated more money.
  • Experiment 2 showed that participants in a disorderly room were more creative than participants in an orderly room
  • Experiment 3 showed a predicted crossover effect: Participants in an orderly room preferred an option labeled as classic, but those in a disorderly room preferred an option labeled as new

Experiment 2

Forty-eight American students participated in a two-condition (orderly vs. disorderly environment) design.

Participants completed tasks in a room arranged to be either orderly or disorderly. Participants imagined that a company wanted to create new uses for the ping-pong balls that it manufactured. They were instructed to list up to 10 new uses for ping-pong balls.

Participants in the disorderly room would generate more creative solutions than would participants in the orderly room.

To read the complete report click here

Was Russia's 2010 grain export ban responsible for the Egypt revolution?

In 2010, a severe drought and a spate of wildfires devastated crops in Russia resulting in an export ban by the Government. Russia is the biggest producer of wheat, barley and rye. Its biggest export markets are Egypt followed by Turkey, Syria, Iran and Libya.

This Reuters article "Global dependence on food imports leaves countries vulnerable" states that the 2010 ban may have been partially responsible for triggering social unrest and revolution in Egypt as more than 500,000 tonnes were not supplied and global prices rose damaging Egypt's state bread subsidy program. 

This article also talks about how rapid urbanisation is resulting in wiping out of farmlands which results in countries being dependent on grain imports.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

HiPPO - Highest Paid Person's Opinion

HiPPO - Highest Paid Person's Opinion is an affliction that affects most organisations. Managers tend to throw the weight of their designations on their juniors by asserting their will even though the subordinates may have a better perspective. This results in a culture where the workforce gets into an execution mode throwing away their thinking hats.

A famous quote from Jim Barksdale, Netscape CEO is “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”

The most famous case is of Ron Johnson who was Sr VP of Retail operations at Apple and was responsible for the success and launch of Apple Stores. 

He was appointed CEO of JC Penney in 2011. Buoyed by his success at Apple, he had complete disdain for the competence of JC Penney staff or their culture. He frequently mocked Senior executives in public, ridiculing them for their decisions. 

He relied on his gut rather than data and bull dozed his way through implementing his mandate. 

By early fall 2011, Mr. Johnson was tackling Penney’s pricing, which he thought used too many discounts. He ignored a study Penney had just completed on customer preferences, and gave merchants a one-sheet grid explaining what prices they could use.

“Ron’s response at the time was, just like at Apple, customers don’t always know what they want,”

He was heady with his success at Apple and although encouraged by the company’s retail veterans to do so, Johnson decided not to test any of his changes because Apple  had never tested when growing its store network. 

Mr. Johnson liked to tell employees that there were two kinds of people: believers and skeptics, and at Apple, there were only believers. He wanted the same at Penney

Johnson had to finally be shown the door in 2013 with the company losing close to a Billion Dollars in 17 months and market capitalization fell by nearly 50%.

Src Forbes article What Happens When a 'HiPPO' Runs Your Company?

Src NYT's - Chief’s Silicon Valley Stardom Quickly Clashed at J.C. Penney

Why Work from office is better than work from home - a Google example

In their book "How Google Works" Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg speak about the Google work culture. Google encourages people to stay longer in office and keep them in cramped quarters. In order to do this they have free food, games on campus, bring your family to work and an open cluttered and cramped office where people are in close proximity to each other.

This constant interaction with people in the office brings out new ideas, breaks communication barriers and keeps the flow of information which is difficult in the case of a work from home environment.

A very good example cited in the book is that Google's Adsense product which developed into a multibillion dollar business was invented by a group of engineers from different teams who were playing pool in the office.

Read the book

Increased Yelp penetration decreases footfall in chains

In this research paper by Michael Luca, "Reviews, Reputation and Revenue: The case of" the author has a few interesting findings. 

The notable one being that in markets where Yelp penetration has increased, chain restaurants have declined in market share. This may indicate that with greater visibility of independent restaurant through reviews, customers are more likely to experiment and visit newer places unlike markets where reviews are unavailable. In a market without reviews people probably choose eating places on the basis of popularity or because of the sheer marketing muscle of the chains. 

The few other highlights as quoted by the author are

(1) a one-star increase in Yelp rating leads to a 5% to 9% increase in revenue, 

(2) this effect is driven by independent restaurants; ratings do not affect restaurants with chain affiliation. 

(3) chain restaurants have declined in market share as Yelp penetration has increased. This suggests that online consumer reviews substitute for more traditional forms of reputation. I then test whether consumers use these reviews in a way that is consistent with standard learning models. I present two additional findings:

(4) consumers do not use all available information and are more responsive to quality changes that are more visible and

(5) consumers respond more strongly when a rating contains more information. Consumer response to a restaurant’s average rating is affected by the number of reviews and whether the reviewers are certified as “elite” by Yelp, but is unaffected by the size of the reviewers’ Yelp friends network.

Ideal Team Size - Bezos' 2 pizza rule

Amazon's Jeff Bezos is of the view that too much Communication is really a bad thing. 

This WSJ article quotes an Amazon executive who says that during an offsite when some employees suggested that there should be more communication in the organisation, Bezos declared that "No, Communication is terrible"

Bezos preferred a decentralized company where independent thinking prevails over Grouthink.

In order to achieve this, he implemented a company wide policy, the concept of the "2 Pizza team".

Any team should be small enough that it could be fed with 2 pizzas.

Small teams generally tend to function like families, fighting, bickering but eventually getting the work done. Larger teams tend to be more political.

Source: Birth of a Salesman, WSJ article by Richard L. Brandt

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Impostor Syndrome - Women the major sufferers

The Impostor syndrome (also spelled imposter syndrome, also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as "fraud". Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Some studies suggest that impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women, while others indicate that men and women are equally affected. src Wiki

In this article the author states that World Health Organization chief Dr. Margaret Chan thinks she’s a fraud and so did Sheryl Sandberg

In this blog by Gulnara Mirzakarimova, a Jibe software engineer & Hackbright graduate she writes about how she suffered from the syndrome and overcame it.

Read some example stories on 

Embrace your inner imposter
The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women
Do Women Everywhere Suck at Their Jobs?

Expensive = Good

In his book "Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion", the author Robert Cialdini cites 2 examples where change in pricing/positioning influenced the decision of the buyer.

In the first example a Jewelry shop owner was desperately trying to sell a piece of Turquoise set. It was the peak of the tourist season with the store full of customers but the set just wouldn't move despite the set being of good quality and reasonable price. She tried positioning it in the store and even getting the sales staff to push it but to no effect.

Finally, in desperation when she was leaving for an outstation trip, she left a note to her Sales Head instructing her to price it at 1/2. When she returned she was not surprised when she was told that the pieces were sold off however she was shocked when she learnt that her sales Head misread the 1/2 to 2 and had in fact doubled the price.

The author talks about preconceived notions that we have and one of them that we have is that Expensive = Good.

In another example he discusses how Retailers try to order their sale. A customer who wants to buy a Suit and a sweater logically a sales person should show him the cheaper one first which is the sweater and then close the sale for the suit which is more expensive because if he has spent a lot of money buying the suit then he may not buy the sweater. However, what is practiced is the reverse, the sales person will first sell the Suit and then sell the sweater. The thinking is that if he buys a sweater at $100 first and then presented with a $500 bill for a suit, he will balk at the idea. However, once he spends $500 on the suit then anything which is priced lesser is easier to sell and hence it is also easier to sell a lot of accessories once a customer has bought a very high value item

Read the book at

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Winning a competition predicts dishonest behavior

According to a study by Amos Schurr at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Ilana Ritov at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Winning a competition makes people more likely to later behave dishonestly

Winning a competition engenders subsequent unrelated unethical behavior. Five studies reveal that after a competition has taken place winners behave more dishonestly than competition losers.

The following are the key highlights of the study

  • Winning a competition increases the likelihood of winners to steal money from their counterparts in a subsequent unrelated task. 
  •  The effect holds only when winning means performing better than others (i.e., determined in reference to others) but not when success is determined by chance ie. a Lottery or in reference to a personal goal. 
  • A possible mechanism underlying the effect is an enhanced sense of entitlement among competition winners.
The authors also cites the case of the recent Volkswagen scandal

The key highlight of the research is that 

"Although we know much about contestants’ behavior before and during competitions, we know little about contestants’ behavior after the competition has ended. Connecting post competition behaviors with preceding competition experience, we find that after a competition is over winners behave more dishonestly than losers in an unrelated subsequent task. Furthermore, the subsequent unethical behavior effect seems to depend on winning, rather than on mere success. Providing insight into the issue is important in gaining understanding of how unethical behavior may cascade from exposure to competitive settings."

Monday, February 22, 2016

Structured Debates to eliminate Groupthink

In this HBR article , the author talks about using Structured Debates as a technique to eliminate Groupthink.

One strategy that can significantly help teams avoid the dangers of Groupthink and successfully respond to emerging threats and opportunities is to create structured debates. This is done by randomly assigning different team members to argue opposing points of view. Structured debates can provide an opportunity to rigorously discuss and dispute interpretations of current trends, as well as future predictions, in a kind of organizational “safe mode” that enables teams to explore external risks without putting individual members of the team at internal risk.

Randomly assign different team members to argue opposing points of view. Then, at a team meeting , set up a debate with scenarios such as: “Our organization’s mobile app will be obsolete within two years. Here’s what will replace it, and here’s what we need to do now to survive and thrive.” Ask half the team to argue why the current mobile app is sufficient, and the other half to argue how and why the mobile app needs to be changed. Debates like this can help overcome people’s reluctance to ask and answer tough questions about how the world has changed or is changing, and how the organization needs to evolve accordingly. src HBR


Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints, by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences. src Wiki

The term was coined in 1952 by William Whyte, an American business writer who feared that corporate "groupthink" would suppress original thought and entrepreneurialism.

Nietzsche once said that Madness is the exception in individuals but the rule in groups.

In his book "Groupthink: Psychological studies of policy decisions & fiascoes" author Irving Janis cites an example of a disaster that struck a small mining town of Pitcher, Oklahoma in 1950. 

A few days before disaster struck the local mining engineer had warned the inhabitants to leave because the town had been accidentally undermined and might cave in at any moment. At a meeting of leading citizens, the members joked about the warning and laughed when someone arrived wearing a parachute. Within a few days this collective complacency cost some of these men and families their lives. 

This was a classic case of Groupthink where sane voices were drowned by the collective group.

Read the book

Finland marketing itself through Emojis

During Christmas , Dec 2015, Finland came up with a Calendar with their own set of country themed Emojis. The Finland emojis illustrate Finnish emotions and strengths, as well as vices, and are part of the Christmas calendar published by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs on ThisisFINLAND, the country brand website. The complete list of emojis are available here.

Some good ones are 

 THE ORIGINAL SANTA. The feeling of the never-ending wait for Santa Claus.

The real Santa comes from Finland. He has always lived in Korvatunturi, Lapland. Not the North Pole!

 HEADBANGER. The feeling of banging your head.

In Finland, heavy metal is mainstream. There are more heavy metal bands in Finland per capita than anywhere else.


Finns respect the privacy and personal space of others, and expect the same in return. We tend not to sit down next to anyone if another seat is available. When talking to a Finn, don’t stand too close – unless you want to see a Finn slowly edging backwards.

 The ‘sauna’ feeling.

Sauna is a holy place for Finns. This is a country with 3,2 million saunas and 5,4 million people. Finns go to the sauna naked – and often together with family. Every Finn has her/his own way of going to the sauna but one’s mind and body will always be cleaned. It’s a sauna state of mind.

 KAAMOS The feeling of sunless days.

Finnish winters are long and dark. In Lapland, the sun doesn’t rise at all between December and January. In Finnish, this sunless period is called ‘kaamos’.

 PEACEMAKER. The ‘peacemaker’ feeling.

Martti Ahtisaari, the former President of Finland, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to resolve international conflicts on several continents and over more than three decades.

 UNBREAKABLE. The ‘unbreakable’ feeling. 

Finns are tough, almost unbreakable. Finland has produced quite a bunch of unbreakable and long-lasting items such as the old Nokia 3310 phone which is famous for being, well, unbreakable.

STUCK. The feeling when you realize winter is here. 

Even a Finnish child knows you shouldn’t lick anything made out of metal when it’s freezing outside. But you do it anyway. And then you’re stuck*!
*Ask a Finn how to get your tongue unstuck. Beware. It can get nasty.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

People prefer curved objects over sharp cornered ones

In Multiple research it has been found that people prefer curvy objects over sharp corners. The rationale is that objects with sharper corners may convey a sense of threat at non conscious level. 

In this research  people were exposed to 140 pairs of similar objects and the major difference between them was curvature of their contour. 

The participants liked the curved objects more than the sharply cornered ones.

Also research on car interior designs suggests that curved designs are preferred to straight designs

How short a line is more important than how fast a line is moving

Psychologists have found that we are more concerned with how long a queue is than how fast a line is moving. Given a choice, we would opt for a shorter line than a faster moving line even if the wait times are identical. 

That is why Disney hides the length of its lines by wrapping them around buildings and using long winding queues.

Eliminating baggage waiting time complaints at the airport by delaying arrival at the Baggage counter

Some time ago, Houston airport executives received a lot of complaints about long waiting time at baggage claims. They reacted by increasing the number of handlers which reduced the time but still the complaints persisted.

When they analysed it further they realized that it took 1 minute for passengers to travel from the plane to Baggage claim and 7 minutes to get their bags.

So the airport smartly reversed this by moving the arrival gates away from the baggage claim counter. This resulted in passengers walking for 7 minutes to the Baggage claim and 1 min to collect their bags. 

This resulted in almost zero complaints

src Nytimes story

Eliminating Elevator waiting time complaints with Mirrors

At a large Multistoreyed office building, people complained about long waiting times for the Elevator during peak hours. Increasing the number of elevators was not feasible so an alternative solution was needed. The management called a meeting of the staff to brainstorm. A young employee who was a graduate in psychology observed that people complained about waiting only a few minutes for the elevator. The main issue was boredom rather than elevator performance. 

He suggested installing Mirrors in the elevator boarding areas so that people could be busy looking at themselves or looking at others. This was promptly done at a very low cost.

The complaints stopped immediately.

Related reading

Defining the problem of Elevator wait times

Great HR policy - Netflix

Netflix's HR practice is so revolutionary that Sheryl Sandberg called it one of the most important documents ever to come out of Silicon Valley.

The company is treated like a Pro Sports team which means Stars are hired in every position

Key Highlights of the policy are

Face to Face 360 degree feedback.

People who are not good enough are given a very generous severance package

Attendance is not measured. No 9am to 5pm policy

No Clothing policy 

The company's Expense policy is 5 words - "Act in Netflix's best interest" 
eg:Travel as you would as if it were your own money. Employees booked their trips online on their own.

Vacation Policy - No policy, take a vacation whenever you wish to. If you worked in accounting or finance, you shouldn’t plan to be out during the beginning or the end of a quarter, because those were busy times. If you wanted 30 days off in a row, you needed to meet with HR. Senior leaders were urged to take vacations and to let people know about them.

Pay Top of market. At Netflix Market Compensation applies whether it is during Hiring or during Increments. Every year, each employee gets benchmarked to the top of the market.
  • Some people's salary move up very quickly because their value in the marketplace is moving up.
  • Some people's salary will stay flat because the nature of their work and the value growth in the market is flat. However they will always be at the top of market for that position.
  • This is very similar to sports teams. Whether the team is doing well or not, the team will still pay players the market rate 
Expect people to manage their own career growth 

Also read Patty McCord's piece in HBR. Patty McCord created Netflix's HR policy

Complete presentation

Friday, February 19, 2016

Radical Candor - Being a Good Boss

Kim Scott, ex Googler and now a coach speaks about Guidance and in her view it is the single most important part of managing people. "Apart from giving Guidance it's also important to receive it. Guidance which is basically Praise and Criticism is feedback.

She speaks about a tool called Radical Candor.

To explain Radical Candor she speaks about an incident in her career. During her early days at Google, she had to make a presentation to the founders and the CEO. The presentation went off very well and Eric Schmidt was ecstatic. After the meeting was over, her boss Sheryl Sandberg walked her back to her office. She spoke about 4 or 5 points about the presentation that she liked and while she was speaking Kim felt that there was something amiss and a criticism was around the corner.

Finally Sandberg said "But, you said 'Um' a lot during your presentation". Kim was relieved and said "Ah! No big deal, I know I do that".

Sandberg: "Was it because you were nervous"
Kim : "No, not at all"
Sandberg: "Would it help if Google hired a speaking coach for you so you can learn not to do this"
Kim : "I am really busy and this doesn't seem like the most important thing in the world"
Sandberg: "When you do that thing with your hand I know that I am not really getting through to you. I am gonna have to be more clear here. When you say 'UM' every third word, it makes you sound STUPID"

That got Kim's attention.

The good thing about the communication was that she didn't say She was Stupid but said she Sounded Stupid.

She created a simple graph to explain Radical candor

She has created an acronym for people to remember
HHIPP - Helpful, Humble, Immediate, In Person -In Private criticism, In Public Praise- dont personalise

Watch the video here

Design Thinking - Designing with the Disabled in mind

In this article from Fastcompany which talks about Microsoft's Radical type of design thinking where the core of the Designing philosophy was to think from a Disabled person's perspective.

It talks about how many great inventions happened thinking of the disabled in mind. Pellegrino Turri built the first typewriter, so that his blind lover, could write letters more legibly. Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone to support his work helping the deaf. Vint Cerf programmed the first email protocols for the nascent Internet. Electronic messaging was the only seamless way to communicate with his wife, who was deaf, while he was at work.

Designing so that the disabled can have universal access—we can create products better for everyone else. 

One excellent example is that if you want to create a phone or an app that's easier to interact while driving. You could study people driving with their phones or you could study how Blind people interact with their phones. How do they know when their phones are paired or what audio feedback they get from apps. These features could then be built into an app for Driving.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Priming - Beginning meetings with Positives rather than Negatives

In most meetings and discussions people expend all their energies focusing on Negatives rather than the positives which may be a minor problem in the overall context of things.

In this McKinsey article, the author talks about an example used by a manager where 95% of the project is going well with problems in 3% of the areas. She would insist all meetings start off by talking of all the positives of the project which would be result in relaxing and calming everyone before starting off on the 3%. This helped people think more clearly and calmly on the problems resulting in improved productivity.

This technique is also called Priming which is an implicit memory effect in which exposure to one stimulus influences the response to another stimulus.

 src Wiki.

Leadership by Extreme Listening

Often when employees have issues related to work, Leaders offer advice and suggestions. Employees get intimidated by the suggestion and often tend to go by the boss' recommendations. The pitfall of this is that it results in a culture where employees shy away from taking decisions and keep escalating it to their bosses.

In this McKinsey article, the author cites an example of a Leader who uses the principle of "Extreme Listening"  which results in creating a space for people to do their own best quality thinking. 

The Leader used this technique with an employee who came to her with a problem. She kept asking "what else?" and kept nudging him for a solution. Within 5 minutes he solved the problem himself. 

Very often Leaders try to prove their own competency in the eyes of their subordinate and feel that it is their duty to put in their 2 bits. But this may end up intimidating people instead of bringing out the best out of them.

Improving productivity by taking frequent breaks

In this McKinsey article the author tries to dispel the myth of Multitasking. She talks about how the brain is really not capable of doing multiple tasks but keeps switching between tasks. Too much of switching between email to reading to speaking on the phone results in stress and mistakes.

In an example, a founder of a company implemented the concept of taking frequent breaks. Some of the techniques that he implemented were

  • Schedule breaks between meetings
  • The CEO would take 25-45 minutes break to go offline which would include being switched off from mail, messages, etc
  • Go off for a walk
  • cheering people who would leave office to go for a run.

Innovation - $500 dialysis machine

When 17 year old Anya Pogharian saw a $30,000 price tag for a conventional dialysis machine she was so shocked that she decided to make her own dialysis machine which she did at a cost of $500.

She volunteered in the dialysis unit at Montreal General Hospital. The time spent in that unit inspired her with the idea of trying to devise a dialysis machine affordable to patients in developing countries. She built a prototype which her school selected for entry into the Montreal Regional Expo-Science fair. This lead to Provincial science fair and finally the Canada Wide Science Fair where she was awarded bronze. 

Read more on her site Dialysave

Read her interview with Fortune here

Brands that centered their businesses on the ideal of improving people’s lives outperformed competitors

In his book "Grow", former P&G executive Jim Stengel talks about what differentiates a top performer from the rest of the pack. 

He researched more than 50,000 brands and concluded that brands that centered their businesses on the ideal of improving people’s lives resonate more with consumers—and outperform their category competitors.Top performing brands are built on ideals, higher-order purposes that transcend products and services.  Stengel concludes that the best-performing businesses are driven by brand ideals; that touch on five human values - “eliciting joy, enabling connection, inspiring exploration, evoking pride or impacting society” 

In the book he cites an example of how Pampers lost market share by focusing too narrowly on nappies’ dryness, before he redefined its brand ideal as “helping mothers care for their babies’ and toddlers’ healthy, happy development”.

He came up with the Stengel 50 and compared the growth with other brands.

He created a model called Brand Ideals path model

Read the book at

Cultural Branding - Jack Daniels 1950s

This HBR article, cites Jack Daniels' marketing example. It says that most Iconic brands are cultural innovators. They leapfrog the conventions of their categories to champion new ideologies that are meaningful to customers.

Whiskies compete to be perceived as upscale and masculine. In the 1950s the major brands aligned themselves with the image of the sophisticated modern corporate executive. Jack Daniels was a small Whiskey producer and was being trounced by the National players. Jack Daniels was running ads showing corporate executives drinking their whiskey, however nothing worked.

The firm then pursued a cultural branding approach. The assumption was that because masculine ideals are shaped by society, they change over time. During the cold war, the corporate executive seemed too sedentary. The public was then drawn to the Old Wild West and the popularity of Wild west films also indicated towards this shift. Jack Daniels distillery was in rural Tennessee which in the American imagination was the last authentic pockets of the frontier. The company's print ad campaign then reflected stories romanticizing the distillery run by frontiersmen. The campaign resulted in changing the fortunes of Jack Daniels

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

When your employee asks for a raise

In this HBR article "How to respond when your employee asks for a raise" the author offers a few do's and don'ts on how to handle the situation.

First and foremost when the employee asks for a raise, don't react right away. The writer quotes from a book "How to be good at Performance Appraisals" by Grote.

He suggests a simple 3 word sentence "Tell me more" and take notes while the person tells you why she deserves the pay increase. This conveys that you are not dismissing the request and your act of taking note indicates your seriousness.

The article also has 2 case studies at the end.

Buy the book

How Employers use Big Data to predict Employee Health issues and pregnancies

This Fortune article talks about how many Employers are using third party firms to analyse Medical reimbursements, pharmacy claims and Search queries to predict whether an employee is trying to get pregnant, is pregnant or about to undergo any major surgery.

Castlight Health is an Enterprise Healthcare management platform that lets companies provide employees with personalized tools for healthcare benefits. According to the Fortune article, Castlight has the ability to gather employees' medical information and then predict who's at risk for being diagnosed with diabetes, who's considering pregnancy and who may need a back surgery.

Also read "Behavior targeting - How Target knew about customer's pregnancy before her own Father knew about it"

Priming - Changing Behavior

Priming is an implicit memory effect in which exposure to one stimulus influences the response to another stimulus. src Wiki. If a person reads a list of words including the word table, and is later asked to complete a word starting with tab, the probability that he or she will answer table is greater than if they are not primed.

women who are sometimes less confident in leadership roles can be primed to feel empowered and more confident when delivering a speech in public if they can see a photograph of a powerful political female figure like Angela Merkel or Hillary Clinton src Marketing Society

Female and male students were asked to give a public speech in a room with a poster of Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel, Bill Clinton, or no picture. Researchers recorded the length of the speech as an objective measure of empowered behavior in a stressful leadership task.

The gender leadership gap disappeared when women were exposed to a female role model: Female speakers who spoke in front of an image of Hillary Clinton increased their speech times by 24%, and those who spoke in front of an image of Angela Merkel increase their speech times by 49%, compared to the average of the control conditions.

When women spoke in front of female role models, their speeches were rated higher in quality, increasing from 2.6 to 3.0 on a 5-point scale, and they more positively perceived their own performance. src Harvard Kennedy school . For the full paper on Research Gate

Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.

Cuddy and colleagues tested the effect of the power pose on candidates attending a job interview. Some posed beforehand (in private for a couple of minutes) in a high power pose and others in a low power pose. The result? The interviewers wanted to hire all the people who had been in the high power pose because they were considered to have more presence and confidence and appeared more authentic than the others.

Amy Cuddy's TeD Talk

What about exposure to Brands?

In this research participants primed with Apple logos behave more creatively than IBM primed and controls; Disney-primed participants behave more honestly than E! primed participants and controls.

What about Odor?
In this research mere exposure to the scent of all-purpose cleaner caused participants to keep their direct environment more clean during an eating task. Awareness checks showed that participants were unaware of this influence. The present studies reveal the nonconscious influence that olfactory cues can have on thinking and doing.

Monday, February 15, 2016

When the Leader follows - Lessons from Sailboat racing

Winning the battle for market leadership is at the heart of competitive strategy. Overtaking the market leader has often been termed “dethronement” in prior literature and is considered a key managerial objective (Ferrier, Smith, & Grimm, 1999; Smith, Ferrier, & Grimm, 2001a). 

Management scholars across different fields have shown that imitating leaders can be an effective way for followers to catch up with and surpass the leader (Posen, Lee, & Yi, 2013). However, less attention has been given to the possibility of leaders imitating competitor moves and to the performance consequences of such a strategy.

This is surprising, since leading firms do leverage imitation strategies in attempts to defend their leadership. For example, Apple, the market leader in smartphones for a number of years, imitated the moves made by Samsung in offering larger screens for iPhones two years after Apple’s chief executive officer (CEO) publicly stated that phones with larger screens would not sell 

Apple, by contrast, decided to launch very similar products to those of its competitors. In other words, while Samsung initiated new actions to catch up with the market leader, Apple followed Samsung’s decision in order to neutralize that move.

In terms of managerial implications for market leaders, the results suggest that imitating follower moves can be an effective way of preventing followers from catching up, especially in uncertain environments and with the leader having a strong head start over competitors. However, if followers possess (or build) superior capabilities and can benefit from information spillovers, the strategy to imitate the follower can backfire. Hence imitating follower actions has its benefits and costs: It helps to defend against dethronement, but risks lower absolute performance

In Sailboat racing, the speed of the boat is dependent on the wind and how well you harness the wind to gain over others. The number 2 boat can overtake the leader only through smart maneuvers and if the leader imitates every move of the number 2 boat then it becomes virtually impossible for the second boat to overtake the first.

A follower that undertakes new actions in an uncertain environment creates upside opportunities that increase its chances of catching up with the leader. Competitive actions in uncertain environments can be used to neutralize the upside opportunities of the follower. In particular, in order to maintain competitive parity in uncertain environments, a leader may decide to follow a strategy that includes holding shared growth options, which provide the same upside opportunities to competitors based on future industry conditions 

In an uncertain environment, a leader who decides not to imitate the follower’s actions increases the risk of being overtaken

Highlights from a research by Jan Michael Ross and Dmitry Sharapov in Academy of Management journal. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Comparing Brand building with Abe Lincoln's words on character and reputation

In her article "5 reasons to bring Brand into the boardroom", Deloitte's principal Jennifer Baron quotes Abraham Lincoln's words: "Character is like a tree, reputation is like its shadow". She states that Brand building is not about manipulating the shadow but it is about nurturing the health of the tree.

In her report she highlights how Brand is the most important intangible asset of a company and it is estimated at approximately 15% of the market cap of top tier organisations. Apple is at 26% and McDonalds' is 42%.

Read the report here 

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Saturday, February 13, 2016

How P&G saved a product by understanding consumer habits and changed the communication

In the late 90s P&G created an odorless air freshener spray. They launched a campaign showing a woman complaining about bad odor and remarking to her friend that using Febreze will eliminate odor. The marketers anticipated great sales but the product didn't take off at all.

Old Febreze ad

To understand why it didn't sell, they conducted in depth consumer surveys to figure out what went wrong. However, they could not find an answer until they visited the house of one of the respondents. The woman was a cleanliness freak with 9 cats. However, when the P&G team walked into the house they were overpowered by the strong odor of the cats. When the owner was asked what she thought about the cat smell, she replied saying "Isn't it wonderful, they hardly smell at all!". 

The reason why Febreze wasnt selling was because people don't detect bad smells because they get used to it. 

P&G then employed a Harvard Business School professor to analyze what went wrong. He watched hours of footage of people cleaning rooms looking for clues but it didn't reveal anything. 

They finally visited a consumer who actually used Febreze and tried to understand why she did it. She had a clean house with no odor and despite that she loved Febreze and she wasn't trying to get rid of any smells. The researchers followed her through the cleaning process and observed that after each cleaning task she would spray Febreze. It felt like a mini celebration after each task. 

P&G then realized that they were trying to create a new habit, instead of doing that they needed to piggy back on an existing Habit. They needed to position Febreze as something that came at the end of the cleaning ritual rather than as a whole new cleaning routine. 

More perfume was then added to the forumla and P&G filmed new ads showing women spraying Febreze at the end of the cleaning routine. Print ads showed open windows and a gust of fresh air. Within a few months sales doubled and there's been no looking back for Febreze.

Read more
NYT's article - How companies learn your secrets

Behavior targeting - How Target knew about customer's pregnancy before her own Father knew about it

Behavioral analysis is becoming a new tool in the hands of marketers. According to this NYT story, Target's statistician received a brief from the marketing department “If we wanted to figure out if a customer is pregnant, even if she didn’t want us to know, can you do that? ”. 

After analyzing the voluminous data that Target collects, the trends that he observed were that Pregnant ladies tended to

  • Buy large quantities of unscented lotions
  • In the first 20 weeks, pregnant ladies loaded up on supplements like Calcium, Magnesium and Zinc
  • Buy Hand sanitizers
  • Buy Extra bags of cotton balls

 He came up with a "Pregnancy Prediction score" which would analyze shopping data and predict when the shopper is due.  Target would then use this data to send out promotional material to the shoppers.

One day a man walked into Target and yelled angrily at the Manager. He was furious that Target was sending coupons of cribs, maternity clothing and baby clothes to his High school daughter. The manager apologized and agreed to look into the matter. When he called back after a few days to apologize again the father sheepishly acknowledged that his daughter is indeed pregnant.

How removing food vendors eliminated riots

In his book "The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do, and How to change", the author Charles Duhigg cites a peculiar case of an army major posted in Iraq who eliminated riots by implementing a small policy change.

He analyzed video tapes of recent riots and identified a pattern. Violence was usually preceded by a crowd of Iraqis gathering in a plaza and growing in size over the course of several hours. Food vendors and spectators would show up. Then someone would throw a bottle and all hell would break loose.

The major met the mayor and requested him to keep the food vendors out of the plaza which he agreed to.

A few weeks later, a small crowd gathered near a Mosque, it grew in size through the afternoon. Some people started chanting slogans and by dusk people started getting restless and hungry. People looked for the kebab sellers normally filling the plaza but there were none to be found. The spectators left, the chanters became dispirited and everyone was gone by 8pm.

Buy the book

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Marketing Service - How this small restaurant delivered food in trains

Hotel Guptaji, a small restaurant in Palanpur India situated near a railway station started a food ordering service for trains passing by. Passengers traveling on this route would call the Hotel in advance to order lunch on dinner packets which would be promptly delivered to the passenger when the train stops at the station.The delivery boys keep the change ready and the entire transaction is completed within 30 seconds.  

The Hotel has even received a mention in Philip Kotler's Marketing Management , A South Asian Perspective ver 14e.

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