Communication

Ravi Mattu

My very smart and funny colleague Lucy Kellaway has just released a novel about love in the office, called In Office Hours, published by Penguin. If you like reading Lucy’s columns (on work, on office problems and as ‘Martin Lukes’) – and I haven’t met a single reader who has anything but enthusiastic things to say about her – then you really should buy this book. It’s a roaring read.

It will not be published in the US until next year but you can buy it at Amazon’s UK site.

Ravi Mattu

The Phoenix Suns, the NBA basketball team in the midst of the playoffs, played last night’s game in jerseys that changed their name from The Suns to “Los Suns” in protest against the state of Arizona’s new immigration law.

It’s a pretty radical step for a mom-and-pop brand but it may have worked: they won the game against the San Antonio Spurs (who would have altered their uniforms if they had had enough time to) to take a 2-0 lead in the best of seven series.

Ravi Mattu

Ok, I like lists and Time’s 100 most influential people is a great one. But for all its strengths (Steve Jobs, Dominique Strauss-Kahn) and weaknesses (Glenn Beck as a leader? Simon Cowell as an artist?), I especially found a comment at the bottom of Bob Geldof’s paean to Tidjane Thiam, chief executive of Prudential, revealing about the power of business (and possibly the cynicism with which the west views African politicians):

Tidjane was once a minister in his home nation, Côte d’Ivoire, and he told me that when he was a high-ranking African politician, those with power and influence in the West didn’t want to hear what he had to say — but that once he joined the private sector, his opinion became sought out. Now bigwigs can’t get enough of him, and rightly so.

I wrote about the remarkable rise of Thiam last year.

Ravi Mattu

Earlier this week, a law was passed in Santa Clara, California which forbade the inclusion of toys in any meals that did not meet certain health standards for children.

It’s a pretty extraordinary step in the land of freedom and all that but apparently Silicon Valley has been at the forefront of the US’s healthy eating revolution, having previously forced food chains to display the caloric intake of their meals.

Somehow I imagine McDonald’s won’t be quaking in their boots. Presumably the packaging and advertising can still be emblazoned with Disney characters and getting the attention of a consumer is probably more significant in the long term than the toy that goes along with it.

Ravi Mattu

Alan Yentob, the BBC’s creative director, has today defended his right to fly business class by claiming that he can’t really do his job without it.

According to a report in The Guardian, here’s how he described a recent trip:

“When I went to New York I immediately when I arrived I went to give a talk to an organisation,” he told a Voice of the Listener and Viewer conference in central London today. “I was filming in the afternoon [for his BBC1 arts show Imagine] and I then returned within about 24 hours back to London back to work straight away. Do you think I should have travelled economy? I wouldn’t have been capable of doing the job.

“I try to limit the number of times that I go. I am not capable of doing all those things at once. That’s all I can say.”

Much is written about executive perks and how top management is supposedly shameless when it comes to claiming them. Much of it is quite right – especially in this climate – but I sometimes wonder if the discussion hasn’t gone too far in the opposite extreme.

Ravi Mattu

Interesting essay on why PowerPoint is a poor decision-making tool for the US Armed Forces. Does anyone like PowerPoint out there?

Hat tip: The Browser

Ravi Mattu

Today’s news that Google has released a list of governments that seek to censor its servcies or request personal information on users feels like the latest step in the company’s effort to rebuild a reputation that has had some sticky moments in recent weeks and months.

The company’s corporate motto – “Do no evil” – has been used by some as an ethical stick with which to beat it as it moved into China and agreed to self-censor its searches. And its disastrous launch of Buzz, its social networking service, met with much resistance from its community of users and, more recently, privacy regulators.

It was all a bit surprising. In the past few decades, few companies have demonstrated (shaped?) a better understanding of the changing nature of consumer behaviour than Google. So, what happened?

Ravi Mattu

Tim Armstrong, CEO of Aol, has got himself into a bit of bother with his staff. Last Tuesday, at a breakfast meeting with Wolf Olins, he criticised his company’s efforts covering the SxSW festival in Austin and, in particular, the quality of work of his staff.

Apparently, he quickly backtracked – not by renouncing what he said but by declaring in an open meeting with staff that he should have made the point directly to them instead of to an external company. He stood by his assertion that the company’s work was not up to snuff.

Was this the right move?

Ravi Mattu

Meg Whitman, the former chief executive of eBay who is now running for the Republican nomination for governor of California, is having problems with the press. It still amazes me that senior figures in business and, now politics, can’t figure out how to deal with the media. But then, I suppose I would say that, wouldn’t I.

Ravi Mattu

Celebrity endorsements are a curious thing. I get the idea – a company pays a famous person a lot of money to associate with its brand both to generate some buzz and, presumably, to make your product seem as cool, hip and trendy as the celebrity.

Still, I can’t help but wonder what value Justin Timberlake has added by unveiling the Audi A1, the carmaker’s attempt to take on the Mini, at the Geneva Motor Show. It’s a car. He’s a cool young singer. Does seeing him on stage alongside Audi CEO CEO Rupert Stadler make consumers more likely to buy the car? I’m not sure. Does it make the reporters covering the event more excited about the product being pitched? Absolutely – and maybe that, and some pics in newspapers and on blogs of the celebrity and the car, are all they are after.

As Jeremy Cato, a journalist covering the event, put it: “Many of the middle-aged male journos – especially the ones without daughters – had never heard of Timberlake, but he nicely represents the affluent, 20-something age demographic Audi is targeting with the A1.”



About the authors

Stefan Stern writes a column on Tuesdays on management. He is winner of the 2010 Towers Watson award for excellence in HR journalism, and has previously won awards from the Work Foundation and the Management Consultancies Association.

Ravi Mattu is the editor of Business Life, the FT's management features section, and a former editor of the Mastering Management series. He joined the FT in 2000 from Prospect magazine

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