Inside Britain's 'everything store'. Photo: Bloomberg
A no-frills retailer offering a keenly priced range from AA batteries to Z-frame suitcases launches its own tablet device and prepares to expand its same-day click-and-collect service. Amazon? No, Argos, which was Britain’s “everything store” before Jeff Bezos reached high school.
It is always irritating to be stereotyped, but it must be particularly galling for cash-strapped, educated members of “Generation Y” to be told by demographers, marketers and futurologists that they have to get out and shake up management and the world of work.
The unfolding Co-op bank fiasco is a brutal reminder that choosing a particular business form – co-operative, mutual, limited partnership, listed company – is no proof against management or governance disaster. But more businesses should look at the variety of business forms available – and consider switching if their purpose changes.
No one will ever find themselves in precisely the position Jeff Bezos found himself in when he launched Amazon.com in 1994, with the ambition to create an online “everything store”. Instead, most competitors will – at least for now – have to learn from Bezos’s success.
On Monday, The Everything Store, which traces Amazon’s rise, was named FT/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year for 2013, partly, in the words of one judge, because of its management lessons.
I talked to Brad Stone, the book’s author, about what those lessons might be, and he outlined four.
Not much unites Franz-Joseph I of Austria-Hungary and a flock of starlings. But when Don Tapscott, the business thinker, used film of murmurations of flocking starlings to conclude a presentation about managing complexity in Vienna last week, the mesmerising images unfolded alongside the forbidding presence of the old emperor, staring down from a gilt-framed portrait.
A video about how IBM’s supercomputer Watson took on human contestants in the Jeopardy game show was playing in the lobby of the company HQ when I visited in September.
Remember the scene in Pretty Woman when snooty assistants in a designer clothes shop refuse to serve Julia Roberts because of her – ahem – unorthodox attire, thereby depriving themselves of an enormous commission, funded by Richard Gere’s credit card? New academic research suggests that the luxury goods industry has learnt its lesson.
Who knew management gurus could be so noisy – or so emotional? Gather business academics together in one place and they are more likely to exchange views on core competences or quietly debate the legacy of Peter Drucker. Put them in a banqueting hall and offer them the chance to win an award, though, and they go as mad as a group of middle managers at the Regional Salesperson of the Year gala luncheon.
If a destination’s desirability is measured by the number of maps that claim to lead you to it, innovation is the corporate world’s Taj Mahal. Among the manuals on sale is an Innovator’s Guide, a Cookbook, a Toolkit, a Path, a Way, a Handbook and a Manifesto.