Lessons From The Week

Graduation was last Saturday, and it is always sad to see students go. Next year things will be very different. This is not bad or good, it just is. So is the circle of life. Often my students will come back to say hi, and I am on Facebook with many of my previous students, so it is not like I never hear from them again. It just is.

My first year as department chair is over. The positives outweigh the negatives. I have had an opportunity to work with the department to create long needed changes to the Business program at WPC. I know we are doing the right thing, but we’ll see if we get an influx of new students. I have also observed how our faculty (both traditional and adjunct) teach their classes. It has been fun to see the different styles and processes each use to educate their students.

The not so good stuff involves the inability of some people to change. I have sat down with many faculty members over this year and discussed their styles and in some cases the need to change. Some have responded well to the critique, while others gave excuses and words that demonstrate to me they do not understand the severity of their issues. It is sad really, that these individuals are so blind to their deficiency that they are unwilling to change.

Several of us have read a book and have now begun our discussion around the topic of “The New Capitalism.” The book was written by Richard Sennett and discusses how our society and companies are losing trust, loyalty, and the accumulation of knowledge because of the temporariness of work. No longer do employees work for a company for many years and have benefits. They now work for temporary agencies and are treated more like a commodity. Our first meeting was Thursday, and we did have a good discussion, but we’ll see what the next one is like.

Now for the lessons from the world! Business ethics are still important. This is a lesson GM is finding out. Yes, a $35 million fine is only a day’s income, but the fact they hid recall failures will hurt them in the long run. Toyota learned that difficult lesson too. Transparent and honest business will always win.

Extreme poverty has been reduced throughout the world by 50%. This note worthy accomplishment was reported by the United Nations last year as a part of their Millennial Goals. Their goal was to accomplish this by 2015, but actually hit the goal in 2010. The number was reached due to economic development in India and China. Both countries have a growing middle class. However, in the case of India, which has been led by the same political party for 67 years, there have been some growth issues. The people of India have overwhelmingly elected a pro-business leader by the name of Narendra Modi to be their next Prime Minister. The people of India believe “Modi will change the country 100%, he will bring rapid development, he will bring foreign companies to India, everyone will have jobs.” As the WSJ reported today, “The vote amounted to a surprisingly broad repudiation of Congress’s welfare approach to policy-making and an endorsement of Mr. Modi’s call for more effective governance and business friendly measures to create jobs and drive growth.”

The last lesson of the week involves the interpretation of data. Robert Reich has been talking about income inequality for months now. President Obama has made this the battle cry of his administration, but others look at the same information and draw a different conclusion. Neil Gilbert, after looking at the same data that Reich looked at, concluded that members of the middle class are better off than 30 years ago. He reported this morning that the Congressional Budget Office’s 2011 report on income inequality offers better detail than market reports that exclude “taxes, government transfers, and adjustments for household size.”

The CBO report adjusts market income by subtracting taxes and adding the cash value of social benefits.” Gilbert then divided into five equal income groups and found that disposable income has increased by 40%. Gilbert also compared us to other countries, and reported that across all income levels our people are better off than other countries. Hmm, amazing how much one’s perspective and perceptual filters impact conclusions.

These are just a few of the things I learned this week. There is no such thing as just a business decision. All decisions are personal. Good business means good relationships. I hope my graduating students have learned that lesson. I know GM has learned it. I do think that India has, and I hope that we as a country recognize this importance. Yes, me may be better off, but there are the others that aren’t. May we never forget that.

And that is the thought for the day!

 

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