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As 2014 drew to a close, I became one of the last baby boomers to turn 50. Or possibly, I became one of the first Generation Xers to reach that milestone. Depending where you draw the line, either I am about to enjoy the fruits of half a century of increasing affluence and entitlement, having climbed to the top of the hierarchy I help sustain; or I am entering a period of resentment about my smug elders’ lockhold on the best jobs and homes and the damage they have inflicted on the environment and humankind
A job vacancy has caught Sir Alcon Copisarow’s eye. The Institute of Directors has been advertising for a new chair, who “commands respect and inspires confidence”, can “articulate the case for British business” and is “comfortable operating and influencing at the highest levels of government and the business community”.
Hello, my name is Andrew. I’m the customer service associate dealing with your inquiry today. I’m sorry to hear about the problem with the online order that your true love sent to you.
I suppose if you are the pontiff, you don’t have to leaven your Christmas greeting with false bonhomie, but the Pope has not pulled his punches by inviting his Vatican team to reflect on a catalogue of 15 ills or diseases he has diagnosed. They all seem to be highly relevant to executives. Here’s the full list of 15 and my brief gloss for CEOs*: Read more
This has been the year of Uber. “Everyone is starting to worry about being Ubered,” Maurice Lévy, chief executive of advertising group Publicis, told the Financial Times this week. The sharing economy in which online platforms co-ordinate hundreds of thousands of freelancers to drive cabs, rent rooms (Airbnb), clean laundry (Washio) and perform other services has arrived.
Being seated inside the hallowed court room of the Bank of England was the last place 14-year-old school pupil Rachel Natoajeva thought she would end up when she signed up for an event to meet “inspirational women”.
“You can’t see someone from Lewisham coming here,” she explains, as oil paintings of be-wigged former governors stare down upon us from the walls. One of 120 school girls from London state schools aged between 13 and 17 selected to attend a “speed networking” event at the Bank with City career women, surprisingly few said they wanted to be bankers or work in finance. They came here, one girl explains, to meet “women who are successful”. Read more
In proposing the creation of nine new regional “super forces”, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, head of the Metropolitan Police, is addressing two of the knottiest issues in modern organisational management: how to reconcile central control with local accountability, and whether to get there through structural changes or to rely instead on collaboration. Read more
“Trying to forecast oil demand, supply and price in today’s market is like trying to paint the wings of an aeroplane in flight. Even if one succeeds in covering the subject, it’s unlikely to be a tidy job.
Any good consultant can produce a report giving the answer the client prefers, and Kevin Mandia, the man hired by Sony’s film studio to investigate its embarrassing hacking attack, did so this week. Michael Lynton, Sony Pictures’ chief executive, emailed his staff Mr Mandia’s assessment that it was “an unparalleled and well-planned crime” involving “undetectable” malware.
Surprisingly, Cho Hyun-ah has a few supporters, if comments on a Financial Times story about her resignation are anything to go by. The daughter of the Korean Air chairman quit as vice-president of the national carrier on Tuesday after insisting her flight should return to the terminal to remove the chief flight attendant – following a breach of nut-service etiquette. Read more
If I have ever written “C-suite” unironically, let me apologise. The more I come across it, the more I dislike it.
The idea of a “suite” is disturbing enough. Reeking of bathrooms and bad hotels, it appears to have nothing to do with the typical open-plan workplace. It is the C-part that really worries me, however, not because it may give occupants of the suite delusions of seniority, but because it may give them delusions of control.
Ana Botín has wasted little time since becoming chairman of Banco Santander in September, last week appointing a new chief executive. Like Abigail Johnson, installed as chief executive of Fidelity in October, she worked hard for her job, but it is inescapable that both are members of founding families. For women lacking a birthright, the route to the top in financial services is tough.
Even by the exotic standards of train delay excuses, the reason for my commuter service’s late arrival one day last week was unusual: “Swan on the line.” But it got me thinking, Nassim Nicholas Taleb-style, about the hidden business risks posed by the humble commute to work.
Harriet Green, ex-chief executive of Thomas Cook, certainly broke through the glass ceiling on her way up to the top of corporate Britain. But was her abrupt departure from the travel group this week further evidence of the existence of a “glass cliff”, off which female CEOs are often said to plummet? Read more
The price of oil keeps on falling; the shale gas boom has reduced the price of natural gas in the US to a third of that in France; Germany has appealed to Sweden for its support in expanding two coal mines; and the EU’s effort to switch to clean energy is troubled. For companies wondering where to locate, the world has turned upside down.
Watson, the IBM supercomputer named after the company’s visionary founder, is probably best known for pummelling formidable human contestants on the US quiz show Jeopardy! Watson’s spectacular performance showed off its ability to master natural language, one of the thorniest challenges in computing.
But that was nearly four years ago and IBM’s showcase cognitive computing system is no longer playing games. The supercomputer, now sleeker and faster, is being put to myriad clever uses, from treating cancer to providing sophisticated advisory services for banks.
One obvious question that arises from this is, will systems like Watson put a lot of people out of work?
On Monday, Anthony Noto, the CFO of Twitter got into a shocking muddle and sent what was meant to be a direct message as a tweet to all his followers.
It said “I think we should buy them. He is on your schedule for Dec 15 or 16 — we will need to sell him. i have a plan.” Chaos ensued. The tweet was swiftly removed – but not before everyone got terrifically excited about it. Lots of people are now trying to work out which company it is that Twitter is so keen to buy. Other pieces are saying that the balls-up by the CFO is proof that Twitter’s technology is too clunky, and that explains why it isn’t growing as fast as it might.
Maybe; what interests me about the blunder is something else. Something far more cheering. Read more
If you have ever attended an innovation conference, you will be familiar with consultants’ graphs that show how, say, the second half of the 21st century will belong to African millennials relentlessly networking via wearable mobile devices. But what has struck me recently is not so much the extraordinary potential of the future, but the extent to which innovators draw on ingredients from the present and the past.
Some years ago, I was feeling anxious and went to talk to a psychiatrist. After I had explained my worries and how I felt like responding, he paused for thought and asked: “Have you considered doing nothing?