Saturday, December 5, 2015

"Purposeful Stupidity" -- The CIA's guide to managerial mess-making

It has been truly said that you can't always make a bad situation better, but you can always make it worse. Why would you want to do that in a business environment? Hey, I'm not a psychiatrist! But if you are so inclined, this manual from the Central Intelligence Agency is here to help.
There's some good, solid stuff here. Here's a sample:
>> In making work assignments, always sign out the unimportant jobs first. See that important jobs are assigned to inefficient workers.
>> Insist on perfect work in relatively unimportant products; send back for refinishing those which have the least flaw.
>> To lower morale and productivity, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions.
>> Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.
>> Multiply the procedures and clearances involved in issuing instructions, pay checks, and so on. See that three people have to approve everything where one would do.                                                          
Here's a link to an article about the "Simple Sabotage Field Manual." From there, you can go to a site to download the whole book for free. The "Simple Sabotage Field Manual" dates from 1944, the height of World War Two, but there's no expiration date on corporate mess-making. As the poet wrote, "A thing of beauty is a joy forever."

Friday, November 13, 2015

Here they are! Easy solutions to complex problems

I love simple, easy solutions to complicated, difficult problems. The simpler, the better! For example, would you like to be very wealthy? Do you want to get rich, big time? Many people do, and they waste valuable time and energy worrying about how to solve the problem of obtaining great wealth. That's a shame, because the solution is really very simple. 

In order to get rich, just meet and introduce yourself to two new people every day. Share a bit of information about yourself and what you do, and if it seems appropriate exchange contact information.
But don't force anything. Most of the time there won't be a future with the person you meet -- especially since it doesn't matter who that person is. Don't "cherry pick" your daily two people. Don't limit yourself to people whom you believe can do something for you. It's a numbers game, and tomorrow is another day. 
I could say more about this wealth-building technique, but that would undermine its simplicity, wouldn't it?  So just go out there and get started. 
I'll see you at the bank. 
One of my favorite sources for easy answers to complicated problems is the website of Entrepreneur Magazine -- I heartily recommend that site for practical panaceas for perplexing problems. 
For example, do you want to turn six dollars into a hundred thousand dollars? It's easier than you think.....
Would you like to turn your deepest fears into moneymaking opportunities? Very well then......
Do you want to feel confident in situations where you really have no idea what you're doing? Of course you would.....
It may seem like I'm being somewhat sarcastic here, but I really do love this material. Maybe the idea of easy solutions to complicated problems is a beautiful dream -- or maybe it's more than a dream. As a great poet once wrote, "Do I wake or sleep?"

Friday, November 6, 2015

Gardenburger: A cautionary tale

Last week I did a post about Phil Knight and the immense societal impact wrought by his transformation of the "gym shoe" into the "running shoe." The Gardenburger was the first mass marketed meatless hamburger, and its influence has been almost as profound as Nike's. But the outcome for Gardenburger and its creator, unfortunately, have been less fortunate. 
In the early 1980's a man named Paul Wenner owned a small natural foods restaurant in Oregon. Wenner was a genius of a special kind. He wasn't scientific. He was intuitive. Like Thomas Edison, he followed his instincts and experimented until he got the desired result. 
Wenner wanted to serve a meatless, hamburger-like patty in his restaurant. He put together some ingredients and came up with a burger that had the look and texture of a hamburger, and even a surprisingly similar taste. Equally important, the new product didn't crumble and fall apart like earlier soy burgers or other misguided attempts.
Wenner called his creation the Gardenburger. When the Gardenburger was an immediate hit in his restaurant, he began shopping it around to other places. It took off. It started to become a phenomenon. A major investor got involved, and Gardenburger became a major success story. In just a few years it was a $100 million company. 
Gardenburger was the first so-called natural food product to be featured in major supermarket chains. Just as Steve Jobs made the personal computer a mainstream consumer product, Paul Wenner's Gardenburger moved from  "health food" stores to big time retail outlets. Literally millions of them were sold in supermarkets and restaurants.
The floodgates were opened. More and more shelf space was devoted to natural foods. "Organic" became part of American's everyday language. So did "vegan." A new mainstream category came into being. There would be no Whole Foods were it not for Gardenburger. 
Of course, success brings competition. As Gardenburger grew, major food companies came up with their own meatless burgers -- and their marketing budgets were unlimited. Consumers, it turned out, were not especially interested in buying Gardenburger specifically. They just wanted meatless hamburgers, and if Kellogg was now making one, they were down for that. Why not?
Eventually Kellogg bought Gardenburger, and at a rock bottom price. 
Gardenburger and  its inventor were a classic example of creative inspiration that could not sustain itself in the mundane (and cutthroat) commercial world. It's hard to be both a visionary and a businessman, and even Edison made some huge mistakes. Paul Wenner deserves recognition for lighting a match that turned into a firestorm, even if his invention was consumed by the flames.