Monthly Archives: September 2013

Andrew Hill

 

It’s time to scotch the idea that because Twitter is a new medium, it requires companies to adopt entirely novel rules of behaviour for employees. The departure of Business Insider chief technology officer Pax Dickinson and the embarrassment of Ian Katz, BBC Newsnight editor, both as a result of inappropriate tweets, illustrate the point.

These men may have been using new-fangled tools, but they made old-fashioned errors of taste, judgment and behaviour, to which old-fashioned corporate codes of conduct should apply. Read more

Andrew Hill

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

Emma Jacobs

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

Emma Jacobs

The revelation that candidates for a job at Currys, the UK electronics retailer, were asked to dance as part of the interview process, recalls David Brent’s worst excesses. But at least the mythical manager in The Office chose to humiliate himself.

As 21-year-old graduate Alan Bacon told the BBC: Read more

Many years back, an American friend who was visiting London from New York remarked on the odd way in which people were walking around with blocks of plastic held to their ears. “Why don’t they just use normal phones?” she asked.

Andrew Hill

Google's Android KitKat sculpture – hard to stomach?

Something has gone slightly mad with brand management if we barely shrug at the news that Google’s next release of its Android mobile operating system will be named after a chocolate bar.

Android Key Lime Pie was the original name – continuing a trend of labelling Android versions after sweet treats. The Android KitKat idea was kept under wraps until this week, but it is now out there, complete with an Android KitKat sculpture at Google HQ in California. Read more

Lucy Kellaway

First came Ben & Jerry’s. Now we have a new brand: Steve & Stephen. It sounds like a men’s hairdressing salon, but turns out to be the sign-off used by Steve Ballmer and Stephen Elop in their open letter telling the world that Steve at Microsoft has bought Stephen’s Nokia handsets.

The effect leaves me feeling slightly queasy. The ampersand usually belongs to more formal pairings – Johnson & Johnson or Dun & Bradstreet – and to see it joining two first names like that gives the new “brand” a cheeky, snappy feel. Read more

Andrew Hill

What is the Finnish for “I told you so”? That is how plenty of Finns – including a large number of ex-Nokians, swept out in successive restructurings since Stephen Elop took charge of Nokia in 2010 – will greet news that Microsoft is to buy the mobile company’s handset and services business.

It won’t make any difference to them that Nokia has an increasingly important telecoms equipment business, NSN, which guarantees a future to the rump of the company. Since the radical strategy shift of the mid-1990s, when the timber-to-tyres conglomerate refocused on its fledgling telecoms operation, Nokia has been identified with home-grown phones. But a second coming under Finnish ownership for the country’s best-known consumer brand turned out to be impossible: its future will now be dictated from Redmond not Espoo.

This outcome, or a version of it, was already in the air in early 2011 when I visited Nokia’s headquarters to look at the challenges facing Mr Elop. His decision to leap from a “burning platform”, as he called it, into the arms of Microsoft as software partner for its smartphones certainly ruled out other options, such as using Google’s Android or a home-grown operating system. But a full takeover of the phones business by the US company was not inevitable.

Four elements have conspired to make it happen. Read more

Andrew Hill

 

Ivan Seidenberg struck Verizon Wireless deal…

…with Vodafone CEO Christopher Gent in 1999

Verizon Wireless is one of those awkward corporate offshoots plenty of experts think are lucky to survive, let alone flourish into their teenage years. As I’ve written, the rough rule of thumb is that between half and two-thirds of business alliances and joint ventures fail. Yet while the 55-45 Verizon-Vodafone ownership of the US wireless group created plenty of headaches for both parents as it grew, from a management point of view it always looked pretty mature. Read more

John Gapper

The corruption probe in China into high officials linked to the “petroleum faction” – a group linked to the New York-listed PetroChina group – seems like an ideal opportunity for the US authorities to get involved. Then again, maybe not. Read more