Technology

Ravi Mattu

Have you heard the story about the voiceover actor for Geico, the insurance company, who left a dodgy voicemail on the machine of a Tea Party group and then got fired when the voicemail was released on the internet?

Well, in the latest chapter of the PR battle, the voiceover actor Lance Baxter, aka D.C. Douglas, released this video compilation of the messages from angry Tea Party activists left on his answering machine, which his dulcet tones introducing the package.

It’s all rather curious and funny but, more important, it points to two interesting trends.

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

Last week, Jason Hirschhorn and Mike Jones, the new co-chief executives of MySpace, gave their first interview since taking over from Owen Van Natta. They are the second duo to gain some prominence in recent weeks. Last month, SAP, the technology company, announced its own double-headed form by appointing co-chief executives to replace a single one.

Schumpeter, the management columnist at The Economist, made the point that last week that such a model works much better in technology companies where there is a definable split between the innovation and technology functions and the sales and marketing role.

Today’s Judgment Call, the SAP heads, an academic and a PR guru all weigh in on how it can be made to work – and how it can easily go awry.

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

An interesting set of videos over on trendwatching.com, a pretty interesting Amsterdam-based company that does what their name suggests.

The video below, “The next big thing” is particularly interesting in revealing just how quickly technology has changed the way we think, communicate and, ultimately, do business. Just over half a minute in, check out the responses to the question: “How often do you Twitter?”

Some interesting insights on branding too. Maybe it’s not as powerful as we think it is?

Ravi Mattu

The downturn has meant business is front and centre on pretty much any news programme you can think of so it is not surprising that many banks now have live television news reports being transmitted from their offices.

For those of you who work in one of these offices, however, beware of where the camera is. One banker at Macquarie obviously didn’t realise he was on camera – only to discover that his perusing of a near naked model at the office was captured live on TV.

Fortunately for the banker, after an “internal review”, the broker will keep his job.

Luke Johnson

I became a partner in an early-stage technology business run by an ex-soldier this year. Watching him in action has demonstrated to me how many of the qualities cultivated in the armed forces are also valuable in an entrepreneur: discipline, leadership, teamwork, decisiveness, industry – and the art of getting the job done.

This observation is confirmed in a new book called Start-up Nation, by Dan Senor and Saul Singer. It describes how Israel has become a world leader in technology enterprises, thanks in part to the Israel Defense Forces. Military service is compulsory there, and it breeds technologists and successful innovators. Venture capital investment per capita is six times that in Britain, and spending on research and development as a percentage of gross domestic product four times as high. But that money is only productive because there are ideas and individuals to support.

The book’s authors believe the intensive training Israel’s army receives is a vital reason that Intel, Ebay and Microsoft, among others, see it as the most inventive place in the world, next to Silicon Valley.

The remainder of the article can be read here. Please post comments below.

Lucy Kellaway

Traditional management is over. The internet has killed command and control. Now that everyone can analyse and ridicule their chief executive’s every move almost before they’ve made it, it has become impossible to order people about.

This view is put forward by Carol Bartz, the new head of Yahoo, in The Economist’s “The World in 2010”. It sounds pacey and plausible and for a second I was lulled into thinking that perhaps the “Niagara of information” really has changed management for ever. But then I looked around me. I saw lots of people at desks calmly doing what they were paid to do: working.

Command and control is not over and won’t ever be. Bosses are still bosses. If mine tells me to do something, I’m inclined to get up off my bottom and do it. If Bartz’s employees don’t get off their bottoms when she tells them to, there is a problem – and it has nothing to do with the internet.

The remainder of this article can be read here. Please post comments below.

Ravi Mattu

Every organisation needs to think about how it manages its communication and engages with new media. The Catholic church is apparently no different.

“Benedict XVI has chosen to dedicate World Communications Day 2010 to the theme “The priest and pastoral ministry in a digital world: new media at the service of the Word.”

The announcement continues:

The Holy Father urges priests to “consider the new media as a powerful resource for their ministry in the service of the Word and wishes to express a word of encouragement in order to address the challenges stemming from the new digital culture,” the communiqué explained. “If the new media is adequately known and appreciated, it can offer priests and all pastoral agents a wealth of data and content that previously was difficult to access, and it facilitates ways of collaboration and growth of communion that were unthinkable in the past.”

Hat tip: Sameer Padania

Ravi Mattu

A few weeks ago, the most popular story on FT.com was on Dyson’s new bladeless fan. I have to admit, I couldn’t quite figure out why so many readers were looking at it, but who am I to go against the grain?

I did wonder if it had anything to do with the following Dyson has among consumers and this video suggests I may have been on to something. Emma and Molly are two fans of the fan and have created a video showing just how this impressive device works. I especially like the Brazilian music overlaying the clip. What was that I said in a previous post about the changing nature of consumer engagement?

Of course, this could be nothing more than a clever marketing ploy and for all I know these could be Dyson employees or the wife and child of the guy who designed it. Whatever the case, I wonder if it will generate as much attention as our original story.



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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Elsewhere on FT.com: Lucy Kellaway

Lucy Kellaway writes a column on Mondays on work , poking fun at management fads and jargon and celebrating the ups and downs of office life. She is also the FT's Agony Aunt.

Elsewhere on FT.com: Luke Johnson

Luke Johnson writes an FT column on Wednesdays on entrepreneurship. He runs Risk Capital Partners, a private equity firm, and is chairman of the Royal Society of Arts.

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Lucy Kellaway, FT columnist and associate editor, offers her solution to your workplace problems in a column in the Financial Times. In the online edition of her Dear Lucy 'agony aunt' column, readers are invited to have a say too.

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