The new free trade zone in Shanghai is a fascinating experiment by the Chinese government – among the most radical since it established the special economic zone in Shenzhen in 1980. But what does “free” mean?
As my colleague Simon Rabinovitch writes, there is uncertainty about how much economic liberalisation will be permitted in the zone, although plenty of big ideas have been bandied about: Read more
Ever since the world’s greatest ice hockey player said a tearful good-bye to playing in Canada way back in 1988, his fellow Canadians have been smarting at the rules of big business.
Then, it was Gretzky’s move from snowy and quiet Edmonton to showy and glitzy Los Angeles. Now, 25 years later, the woes of BlackBerry, our one-time technological champion, have led some to wonder if national pride is again at stake. The putative bid by Toronto-based Fairfax Financial to take the company private has only added to the concern, with many analysts and investors unconvinced of the business case. Read more
Ask chief executives to make controversial public statements about their core business and they tend to be shy. I know this because I spent a few years trying to coax them into print as editor of the FT’s comment page. But provide them with an opening to tell the world about their sustainability initiatives and they are often impossible to shut up.
If there is, it will be a slim volume – Paolo Di Canio lost his job as manager of Sunderland on Sunday night after just 13 games and barely a month into the new season. I don’t have much truck with parallels between sports management and business management, but there are four cautionary chapters executives everywhere might want to read. Read more
The news that Stephen Elop is receiving a pay-off of €18.8m to move from Nokia back to Microsoft will be the last nail in the coffin of his reputation in Finland, where many people resent what happened under his leadership of the national champion.
Mr Elop’s decision, on becoming chief executive of Nokia in 2010 to bet the future of its mobile phones on Microsoft Windows software, didn’t work. He rejected the more obvious path of adopting Android for its smartphones. Instead, Nokia has struggled to turn Windows into a rival to the Google platform or Apple’s iOS.
As the Lex column notes, Mr Elop is getting the money despite Nokia’s market capitalisation having fallen from €28bn to €18bn under his leadership. That hardly suggests he deserves a big payout. Read more
The New York minicab service I used to favour communicated in code. When you rang and gave your address, the radio dispatcher would reply “five minutes” and hang up. This meant a cab would arrive at any time from one to 10 minutes later. “Seven minutes” meant 20, and “10 minutes” meant that anything, or nothing, could happen.
Credit to Jamie Dimon for attempting to see the wood for the trees by felling some of the trees. The JPMorgan chief executive’s memo to staff makes clear that “simplifying [its] business” and “refocusing [its] priorities” is, well, a priority.
But what Mr Dimon is attempting is arguably the most complicated task known to managers of large multinationals, whether they sell food or financial services. It is dangerous to imply, as he does, that the goal of simplification can be achieved, once and for all, by “recognising our problems, rolling up our sleeves and fixing them”. Read more
Howard Wilkinson, former manager of Leeds United, knows about pressure: “No offence to captains of industry but even a FTSE 100 chairman can postpone a board meeting. A manager can’t postpone a football match and every match is a shareholder meeting, [sometimes] in front of 88,000 people.”
If ousted Danske Bank chief executive Eivind Kolding’s controversial advertising campaign persuaded any customers to take their accounts elsewhere, that is some achievement. Bank customers are reluctant to change banks regardless of what the advertising says.
I may be an extreme case – I have been with the same bank for 35 years – but international studies suggest I am not unusual. A worldwide survey last year by EY, the professional services firm, found that just a third of customers had ever changed their main bank.
Of course, Mr Kolding’s aim was to persuade customers to put their money in his bank rather than to take it out. The problem was that the Danske Bank ad (“A new normal demands news standards”), which featured, among other things, street rioters, Occupy campaigners and crumbling icebergs, was a category error. Read more
But, never daunted, Ms Brown, a former editor of Tatler, the New Yorker and Vanity Fair magazines, is setting up Tina Brown Live Media. A sort of newfangled conference business it will, according her press release, produce “sponsor-supported summits, salons and flash debates”.
The first question is: what on earth is a “flash debate”? The best explanation so far was provided to Erik Wemple of the Washington Post. A “source close to Brown’s negotiations” told him: “’It’s bringing a group of people together in a quick time period doing topics of the day.’” Read more
British bank customers are hearing a lot about a 19th-century Scottish cleric called Henry Duncan, who opened the world’s first savings bank in 1810, from Lloyds Banking Group and TSB, the latest descendant of the good vicar’s pioneering idea.
But the origins of “new TSB” are less inspiring than those of its ancestor. It is the brand attached to bank branches the European Commission has forced Lloyds to separate out as a condition of the group’s post-crisis government bailout. In due course, Lloyds is expected to float TSB on the stock market. Read more
A recent blog post in the Harvard Business Review raised the one of the most annoying and common problems of modern day office life: the “‘busy’ humble-brag”.
Everyone, just everyone, complains about how busy (or tired) they are at work. No one can even be plain busy – they are “slammed” or “buried”, writes Meredith Fineman, a publicist. Each employee, she says, is locked in a competitive battle of hyperbolic one-upmanship.
Ms Fineman’s favourite humble-brag (a brag because, of course, it also shows your importance) was “that of a potential client who apologized for lack of communication due to a ‘”week-long fire drill’. What does that even mean? Does this mean there were fake fires, but not real ones, all week? Does calling it a ‘drill’ mean that everything is okay? Is your business in flames? Should I call someone?”Read more
The life and career of Ronald Coase, who died last week aged 102, spanned the century in which modern management developed. That is appropriate, because Coase contributed immeasurably to our understanding of the potential and limits of the basic management unit that is the modern company.
So the revelation in FT Weekend’s interview with David Cornwell, better known as John Le Carré, that Mr Murdoch once lunched with the master espionage novelist is a delicious one. Mr Le Carré is no fan of the media mogul, telling one interviewer in 2010 (even before the phone hacking scandal engulfed News Corp) that his empire was guilty of “pretty horrendous manipulation of the media” and “enormous intrusions into our domestic affairs”.
But some years ago, he relates in the FT interview, he met the proprietor of The Times, after taking offence at one of the newspaper’s stories about him. Read more
John Gapper is an associate editor and the chief business commentator of the FT.
He has worked for the FT since 1987, covering labour relations, banking and the media. He is co-author, with Nicholas Denton, of 'All That Glitters', an account of the collapse of Barings in 1995.
Andrew Hill is an associate editor and the management editor of the FT. He is a former City editor, financial editor, comment and analysis editor, New York bureau chief, foreign news editor and correspondent in Brussels and Milan.
Emma Jacobs is a features writer for the FT, with a particular focus on Business Life. She explores workplace trends, business culture and entrepreneurship and is one of the paper's leading interviewers.
Adam Jones is editor of Business Life, home to the FT's coverage of management, entrepreneurship and working life.
Lucy Kellaway is an Associate Editor and management columnist of the FT. For the past 15 years her weekly Monday column has poked fun at management fads and jargon and celebrated the ups and downs of office life.
Ravi Mattu is the deputy editor of the FT Weekend Magazine and a former editor of Business Life. He writes about management, technology, entrepreneurship and innovation.
Michael Skapinker is an assistant editor and editor of the FT’s special reports. A former management editor of the FT, his column on Business and Society appears every Thursday.