Monday, December 31, 2007

'Payment does not always lead to a better job done'


Discover Your Inner Economist
Tyler Cowen


To too many of us, economics is excruciatingly verbose, unnecessarily obscure and plain unruly on the ears! But we can filter out the good from the bad, using three tests that Tyler Cowen suggests in Discover Your Inner Economist ( http://www.crosswordbookstores.com/).

The first is the postcard test. “It should be possible to take a good economics argument and write it out on the back of a moderate-sized postcard.”

High trust increases the pace or speed of change


Radical Trust
Joe Healey


The most important clincher of success is trust, says Joe Healey in Radical Trust ( http://www.landmarkonthenet.com/). “Managers who are capable of building high trust dramatically increase their ability to lead, to create loyalty, to retain talent, and to foster creativity. Conversely, I have seen extraordinarily talented people greatly reduce their success because they are not good at building trust.”

The economic value resulting from building trust is simple, he says: “Talented people are more productive and tend to stay around longer if they have bosses they can trust.”

Capital budgeting for overseas investment


International Finance
G. Shailaja


An Indian multinational corporation has subsidiaries in Mexico and the UK. These subsidiaries purchase from and sell to each other, in dollars.

“The Mexican subsidiary has to make a payment of $5 million to the British subsidiary on December 1, and is due to receive $3 million from the British subsidiary on December 25. Show how leading and lagging to December 15 can reduce the amount to be hedged.” Thus reads one of the many illustrations in International Finance by G. Shailaja ( http://www.universitiespress.com/ ).

Laws are inextricably associated with our lives


Towards Legal Literacy
Kamala Sankaran and Ujjwal Kumar Singh


Laws are not a set of inscrutable rules distanced from us, requiring mediation by expert practitioners, say Kamala Sankaran and Ujjwal Kumar Singh in Towards Legal Literacy ( http://www.oup.com/ ). “Laws are inextricably associated with our lives,” they state.

The book, designed as an introduction to law in India, capitalises on the ‘growing consciousness about rights and the need… to be aware of its empowering potential’. Law is ‘public’, yet ‘it also constitutes some enduring forms of obscene ordering of regimes of public secret,’ rues Upendra Baxi in his opening essay.

Focus on infrastructure


States of the Indian Economy
Amir Ullah Khan and Harsh Vivek


Inclusive growth is possible only if we focus on infrastructure, write Amir Ullah Khan and Harsh Vivek in States of the Indian Economy (http://www.sagepublications.com/). “Infrastructure forms the backbone of any economy. Roads, railway networks, telecommunication facilities, airports, power supply, drinking water facilities, Internet facilities, banking and financial services, and so on, are all the necessary ingredients that go into the making of any successful growth story,” they explain.

Two techniques to tackle problems


The 15-Second Principle
Al Secunda


Learn how to convert interruptions and detours into mini-breakthroughs, instructs Al Secunda in ‘The 15-Second Principle’ ( http://www.jaicobooks.com/ ). He offers two techniques for the purpose. One, don’t take the problem personally.

“Develop another eye that enables you to detach yourself from the immediacy of the situation. This will enable you to think, act, and feel from a fresher and more objective place.”
Secunda likens the problem to that of an emergency-room doctor trying to save the life a young boy whose parents are weeping and screaming in the reception room.

The risk-management strategies


Commodity Derivatives
Indian Institute of Banking & Finance


There is a stark contrast between capital markets and commodity markets, notes ‘Commodity Derivatives’ from Indian Institute of Banking & Finance ( http://www.macmillanindia.com/ ). “In the commodity market, statutes today keep out a huge section of the financial players, like banks, insurance companies, mutual funds, FIIs, NRIs and pension funds.”

Limit your losses or protect your winnings


Understanding Stocks
Michael Sincere


Losing a little money can be educational, says Michael Sincere in ‘Understanding Stocks’ ( http://www.tatamcgrawhill.com/). One, it forces you to analyse what you did wrong. “Determine whether the strategies you and your financial adviser are using are on the right track,” advises Sincere. Two, the loss tests your character, he says. “If you crunch k eyboards or throw things around when you lose money, you had better change investment strategies. Successful investing and trading is not supposed to be exciting – the pros take their gains and losses in stride.”

It’s a useful thing to have a good accountant


The Joy of Money
Michelle Doughty


Triple A or AAA, means ‘abdominal aortic aneurysm’ – seriously bad news, in the medical world, writes Michelle Doughty in the opening entry of ‘The Joy of Money,’ second edition ( http://www.vivagroupindia.com/ ). The same abbreviation, in the financial world, is good news, because “it’s a credit rating that is applied to top-quality bonds issued by governments and companies.”

Ethical initiatives from retailers


How to Succeed at Retail
Keith Lincoln and Lars Thomassen


Ethics are here to stay, say Keith Lincoln and Lars Thomassen in How to Succeed at Retail( http://www.vivagroupindia.com/). “Show you’re actually doing something good for all and try to involve the community in a straightforward way.” Examples of ethical initiatives from retailers, cited in the book, include: sourcing fish from sustainable sources, biodegradable packaging, use of bio-diesel fuel in transport fleet, reduced carbon emissions from sites, cutting carrier bags, regional counters to promote local produce. Forceful exhortation to go green.

The majority of organisations treat loyalty programmes as ‘cost’ programmes


Customer Value Investment
Gautam Mahajan


Business is no longer B2C or business selling to consumer, says Gautam Mahajan in Customer Value Investment ( http://www.sagepublications.com/). Rather it is C2B, or consumers buying from busin esses, he argues. CRM (customer relationship management) programmes often miss this truth and turn process-centric, the author rues.

“Processes are designed from the point of view of the company and purely for the convenience of the company (not the customer) and are not customer-centric (they don’t focus on the C).

Hicky, the first practitioner of copywriting in India


Indian Advertising: 1780 to 1950 AD
Arun Chaudhuri


Advertising is here and now, but there is more beneath the surface, writes Arun Chaudhuri in Indian Advertising: 1780 to 1950 AD ( http://www.tatamcgrawhill.com/). “Styles change – ne eds and aspirations don’t. The most compelling images, which move people in advertisements, are those that capture the unchanging man.”

The first newspaper to be published in India was that of James Augustus Hicky, in January 1780, the author traces. “Weekly newspapers began to appear in those cities that were under the East India Company.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Preserving the earth for future generations


Critical Choices that Change Lives
Daniel R. Castro


A few weeks ago, Omar Bongo Ondimba began his 41st year in power, as the president of Gabon, a small West African country. "He was just 31 and the world's youngest president," Wikipedia informs, about his ascension in 1967. "His rule has been characterised by the co-opting of the opposition - using the country's considerable oil revenues to grease the path to power," writes Mark Doyle in a story dated November 28 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/).

Bongo is reported to have said that he will be running again in the scheduled 2012 presidential election. "An amendment made to the constitution in 2003 allows him to run for the presidency indefinitely," says Jade Heilmann in a Dakar-datelined report on http://www.voanews.com/. However, Bongo gets a lot of praise, in Daniel R. Castro's book Critical Choices that Change Lives (http://www.macmillanindia.com/), for creating more than a dozen national parks, to protect `one of the world's last true jungle paradises (11,000 square miles) from loggers.'

In India cartels have been alleged in various sectors


Competition and Regulation in India 2007
Pradeep S. Mehta


Cartel is a small group of producers of a good or service who agree to regulate supply in an effort to control or manipulate prices, defines www.investopedia.com. "The best known example of a cartel is probably the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)."

Adam Smith wrote in The Wealth of Nations (1776) that when people of the same trade meet, `the conversation ends in conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.'

India recognised cartelising as a crime against the public in 400 BC, says Pradeep S. Mehta, editor of Competition and Regulation in India 2007 (http://www.cuts-international.org/).

The thrillers


The Secret Adversary
Agatha Christie


Tommy looked at a sheet of paper on the table. "The typewritten words danced before his eyes. The description of a green toque, a coat with a handkerchief in the pocket marked P.L.C. He looked an agonised question(?) at Mr Carter. The latter replied to it: `Washed up on the Yorkshire coast - near Ebury. I'm afraid - it looks very much like foul play.'."

A snatch, that is, from The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie. A few pages later, on www.pagebypagebooks.com, you'd find a deserted room, in which Tommy walks across to the writing-table, and opens the middle drawer.

Both public and corporate governance are exercises in continuous learning


Roots of Effective Governance
N. Vittal


Till the collapse of the South-East Asian economies in 1997, corporate governance was not a buzzword, recounts N. Vittal in Roots of Effective Governance (www.icfaipress.org). These economies were booming and some of them were called `tiger', but suddenly there was a meltdown of the currencies - in Thailand, followed by Indonesia, Malaysia, and South Korea - as you may remember. The main cause for the disaster was crony capitalism and lack of corporate governance, observes Vittal.

He identifies two factors that impact corporate governance. One, the attitude and values cherished by the enterprise management, and, two, the external environment in which the business operates. "If the quality of public governance suffers, corporate governance then becomes more difficult," he adds. "If the environment in which it operates is not clean, then corporate governance may not be successful, or even if successful, it will find it very difficult to operate."

Selections from an astounding variety of sources


Bright Thinking
Pioneer Investcorp Ltd


Rebelling against ‘the dull, the usual and the commonplace,’ Pioneer Investcorp Ltd ( http://www.pink.co.in/) has brought out Bright Thinking, with selections from an astounding variety of sources, all well laid out.

Snatches you can’t pass by include ‘commencement speech at Stanford University given by Steve Jobs’ and Life is Beautiful, directed by Roberto Benigni.’ Web sites like truthorfiction.com, windweaver.com, and 4to40.com also find reference.

Stress can cause ‘generalised anxiety disorder'


Emotional Healing
Jan de Vries


Life without stress can be very boring, and a certain amount of positive stress can be beneficial, writes Jan de Vries in Emotional Healing ( http://www.landmarkonthenet.com/ ). He hastens to caution, however, that when the situation becomes so bad that stress affects us in every way possible, we have to address it “by trying to find out what aspect of our life is detrimentally affecting our health.”

Stress-related problems range from the mild to the severe and, in some cases, the fuse can blow and psychosis and neurosis can then become a possibility, the author warns. “For some people, anxiety and stress are persistent and overwhelming, and can interfere with daily life.”

The end game is planned from the outset


The Commercial Manager
Tim Boyce and Cathy Lake


Negotiation is like the end game of chess, say Tim Boyce and Cathy Lake in The Commercial Manager ( http://www.vivagroupindia.com/). “Too frequently, negotiation is seen as the start of a process that will conclude with an agreement. This is quite wrong. Negotiation comes at the end of a series of events. It is the end of a process.”

The authors extend the chess analogy, to explain two variations, thus: “Play can be at the beginners level, in which the two players move their pieces almost at random until by chance an opportunity for checkmate arises and the end-game is only then conceived. In the advanced level, the end game is planned from the outset and each move by the opponent is countered by moves that aim to restore progress towards the end game.”

Personal differences lead to conflict in the family’s business


Family Business on the Couch
Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries and Randel S. Carlock


Public stock markets are strong in the US; yet families there control 60-70 per cent of the country’s commercial organisations, write Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries and Randel S. Carlock in Family Business on the Couch ( http://www.wiley.com/ ).

“Families control 95 per cent of the business in Asia, West Asia, Italy and Spain. In mature industrial economies such as France and Germany, over 80 per cent of the companies are family controlled.”

Indian advertising was a sellers’ market


Advertising & Marketing in Rural India
Tej K. Bhatia


Rural India is not just any emerging market, but it is approximately 2.5 times the US population, writes Tej K. Bhatia in the second edition of Advertising & Marketing in Rural India ( ww w.macmillanindia.com). “Prior to economic liberalisation, there was little incentive to advertise. Even if a business did so, advertising was so mind-numbing and lacklustre that villagers remained unmoved. This period of Indian advertising is affectionately called ‘waiting-list era’. It was a sellers’ market.”

Technique to study competition


Market Opportunity Analysis: Text and Cases
Robert E. Stevens et al


Competitive market-mix audit is one of the best ways to evaluate the marketing performance of a company and its competitors, write Robert E. Stevens et al in Market Opportunity Analysis: Text and Cases ( http://www.jaicobooks.com/). The audit should be comprehensive, independent, and periodic, the authors advise. “The results of the audit should be a clear comparison of the company and its competitors, which shows relative strengths and weaknesses as well as opportunities and threats. Other possible outcomes include the detection of inappropriate objectives, obsolete strategy, ill-advised use of resources, and other needs for revising the direction of the company relative to competition.”

There is a close relationship between celebrities and the consumption of commodities


Stardom and Celebrity: A Reader
Sean Redmond and Su Holmes


Who is a celebrity? “A person whose name has attention-getting, interest-riveting, and profit-generating value.” With this definition of Rein et al begins a chapter titled ‘The Economy of Celebrity’ in Stardom and Celebrity: A Reader edited by Sean Redmond and Su Holmes ( http://www.sagepublications.com/).

“Celebrities are developed to make money,” opens Graeme Turner, the chapter’s author, in a matter-of-fact manner. “Their names and images are used to market films, CDs, magazines, newspapers, television programmes – even the evening news.”

Monday, December 17, 2007

Medieval lifestyle


Spiritual Masters of Ancient & Medieval India
Subhra Mazumdar


The questioning minds of every century have given rise to great philosophies and powerful movements. All along, “the struggle to discover and to emphasise the need for tolerance, and love of fellowmen is the original blueprint of human existence,” writes Subhra Mazumdar in Spiritual Masters of Ancient & Medieval India ( http://www.magnamags.com/ ).

“The rich tapestry of Indian society has always been able to absorb new inhabitants, new rulers, new religions and thus even new thoughts and ideas,” notes the intro. The book devotes chapters to a range of masters, from Krishna to Kabir, from Mahavira to Mirabai.

A survival strategy


Coping with Toxic Managers, Subordinates… and Other Difficult People
Roy H. Lubit


Do you have to deal with ‘narcissistic, unethical, aggressive, rigid, depressed, or anxious individuals’ at work? If yes, be armed with Roy H. Lubit’s guide, Coping with Toxic Managers, Subordinates… and Other Difficult People ( http://www.pearsoned.co.in/).

Toxic managers are present in most organisations, converting workplaces into war zones, the author cautions. “These managers can complicate your work, drain your energy and destroy your career.”

Four specific initiatives


The New Business Road Test
John W. Mullins


Nokia’s innovation needs no introduction. You see it all around you. Do you know how the company has stayed innovative?

“Processes are its key,” says John W. Mullins in The New Business Road Test, second edition ( http://www.crosswordbookstores.com/).

“Some of Nokia’s key processes are those in the Nokia Ventures Organisation (NVO), the company’s formal approach to fostering, encouraging and nourishing innovation.”

Venture capitalism - nothing less than a late-twentieth century incarnation of strategic tolerance


Day of Empire
Amy Chua


While it is well known that the US won the A-bomb race owing to the contributions of Albert Einstein and other refugee physicists, “less well known is the similar role that immigrant scientists played in America’s stunning triumph in the information technology race,” writes Amy Chua in Day of Empire ( http://www.landmarkonthenet.com/).

She argues that the boom enjoyed by the US during the 1980s and 1990s was directly fuelled by two revolutionary developments, one technological and the other, financial: “the discovery of the microchip and the creation of venture capitalism. The former gave birth to the computer age, and the latter to Silicon Valley.”

Discuss your expectations and aspirations with the person you work for


Managing Your Career
Dublon


The foremost quality you need for career advancement is to be demanding, says Dina Dublon. She serves on the boards of companies such as Microsoft, Accenture and PepsiCo.

“Dublon, born in Brazil, holds a Bachelors degree in economics and mathematics from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a Masters degree from the Business School at Carnegie Mellon University,” informs a page in http://www.microsoft.com/, about the former Chief Financial Officer, JPMorgan Chase.

What does it mean to be demanding? “Be demanding of yourself, of your boss, and of the company you work for,” instructs Dublon in an essay titled ‘Three essential attributes for career advancement,’ included in Managing Your Career ( http://www.tatamcgrawhill.com/).

'Peace starts within each one of us'


Precious Gems of Wisdom: Dalai Lama
Karishma Bajaj


In the present circumstances, no one can afford to assume that someone else will solve their problems, advises one of the nuggets included in ‘Precious Gems of Wisdom: Dalai Lama’ by Karishma Bajaj ( http://www.magnamags.com/). “Every individual has a responsibility to help guide our global family in the right direction. Good wishes are not sufficient; we must become actively engaged.”

Responsibility does not only lie with the leaders of our countries or with those who have been appointed or elected, he said, during the course of the Nobel Prize post-acceptance speech, on December 11, 1989.

Companies need to have robust systems in place to manage reputation risks


Business Ethics
Chris Moon and Clive Bonny


Just one legal transgression can cost a company millions of dollars, write Chris Moon and Clive Bonny in ‘Business Ethics’ ( http://www.vivagroupindia.com/ ). “Firms that do not have ethics programmes run the risk of more stringent penalties than those that do. Furthermore, bad publicity can have a profound impact on brand value.”

Companies that apply ethical auditing and measure their triple bottom line – economic, environmental, and social sustainability – outperform the market index, the authors note. “Not only does an ethical approach increase shareholder value but other stakeholder gains too.”

Strategy for smaller states and those facing special constraints


Inclusive Growth in Globalised India
P. Jegadish Gandhi


In a market-led growth process and competitive environment, what can be apt as strategy for smaller states and those facing special constraints (such as the hill states)? Should they adopt a growth path relying on their competitive advantage, or ‘replicate a highly diversified product structure as in larger and better endowed states’? What is the relationship between economic indicators and the human development ones?

These are some of the questions dealt with an essay included in ‘Inclusive Growth in Globalised India’, edited by P. Jegadish Gandhi ( http://www.ddpbooks.com/ ). Among the 25-plus essays included in the book are a few on the topic of financial inclusion, a pet theme of banks these days.

Reduce the effects of corporate money on politics


Book Value
Supercapitalism
Robert B. Reich
(http://www.landmarkonthenet.com/)

Should companies be socially responsible?

The last several decades have involved a shift of power, writes Robert B. Reich in ‘Supercapitalism’ ( http://www.landmarkonthenet.com/). The shift is from being citizens to being consumers and investors, with democracy turning weaker in comparison to capitalism, he observes. “Capitalism’s role is to enlarge the economic pie. How the slices are divided and whether they are applied to private goods like personal computers or public goods like clean air is up to society to decide. This is the role we assign to democracy.”

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Friday, December 14, 2007

'Don’t despair when you feel stuck'


The Key
Joe Vitale


Joe Vitale, who heads Hypnotic Marketing, an Internet marketing consulting firm, writes about “the missing secret for attracting anything you want,” in The Key ( http://www.landmarkonthenet.com/).

“Everything in your life is there because you attracted it. This includes the bad stuff. You simply attracted it on an unconscious level,” he begins. “When you become aware of the mental programming that is operating behind your experiences, you can then change it and begin to attract what you prefer.”

'Listen, instead of talking'


God is a Salesman
Mark Stevens


Mark Stevens, CEO of marketing firm MSCO, whose clients include GE and Guardian Life, turns to god for lessons on selling.

The Master, according to him, is “an influencer, an educator, and a force that enables us to bridge the gap between what we see and what may well be the greater truth.”

Life throws curve balls at you, and you can’t stop them from coming nor can you just duck, writes Stevens in God is a Salesman ( http://www.centerstreet.com/). “You have to deal with them and how well you do is the acid test of a life just lived or a life lived with faith. The difference is monumental.”

Monday, December 10, 2007

Investigation on Shakespeare's work

Say Cheek
Shakespeare
Bill Bryson
(www.harpercollins.co.uk)

Shakespeare, ‘literary equivalent of an electron’

The Bard left nearly a million words of text, but we have just 14 words in his own hand, says Bill Bryson in Shakespeare ( www.harpercollins.co.uk). His name signed six times and the words ‘by me’ on his will make the tally of 14. “Not a single note or letter or page of manuscript survives.”

We have no written description of him penned in his own lifetime, informs Bryson. “The first textual portrait – ‘he was a handsome, well-shap’t man: very good company, and of a very readie and pleasant smooth witt’ – was written 64 years after his death by John Aubrey, who was born 10 years after that death.”



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'The most important factor at work is to interact with people you like or admire'


Warren Buffett Speaks
Janet Lowe


What is success? “Having people love you that you want to have love you,” says the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett. Love is not something you can buy with money, he cautions. “Money, to some extent, sometimes lets you be in more interesting environments. But it can’t change how many people love you or how healthy you are.”

These are some of the quotes in the ‘completely revised and updated’ anthology of ‘wit and wisdom from the world’s greatest investor’ by Janet Lowe: ‘Warren Buffett Speaks’ ( http://www.wiley.com/). The book classifies the sayings of ‘the Forrest Gump of finance’ into chapters on life, friends, investing and so on.

'Truth is achieved when your voices — both private and public — are aligned'


The Power of Story
Jim Loehr


Purpose, truth and action are the three rules of storytelling, says Jim Loehr in The Power of Story ( http://www.landmarkonthenet.com/).

“Purpose is the sail on the boat, the yeast in the bread,” he explains, in analogies. “Once you know your purpose — that is, what matters — then everything else can fall into place. Getting your purpose clear is your defining truth.”

Purpose, according to Loehr, is the thing in your life you will fight for. “It is the ground you will defend at any cost. Purpose is not the same as ‘incentive,’ he clarifies. Rather, it’s the motor behind it, ‘the end that drives why you have energy for some things and not for others.’

A guide to creativity!


The Smart Crow Never Goes Thirsty
Moid Siddiqui


Creativity is the input, and innovation, the output, says Moid Siddiqui in The Smart Crow Never Goes Thirsty ( http://www.wisdomtreeindia.com/). “Creativity is non-linear, numberless, and follows no set pattern,” he describes.

It is a tragedy, says the author, that we don’t provide our people with the ‘creativity toolkit’ even as we expect them to be creative. He faults the education system that emphasises the so-called scientific approach.

“More damage is caused, and disservice to creativity is done, by urging students and managers ‘not to be vague’. What they don’t understand is that ‘reality’ is always ‘vague’ at its ends. We encourage our people to be precisely wrong than vaguely correct.”

'The ‘juice’ is changing — from the traditional oil to alternative ways'


Zoom: The global race to fuel the car of the future
Iain Carson and Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran


At the Playboy Mansion, what kept Scott Painter and Elon Musk busy one midnight was a discussion on how to save the planet by overthrowing Detroit.

With this setting opens a chapter titled ‘the juice and the jalopy,’ in Zoom: The global race to fuel the car of the future by Iain Carson and Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran ( http://www.landmarkonthenet.com/). “The same anarchic, amazing forces that brought us the Internet and telecom revolutions are now racing to develop the clean fuels and smart cars of tomorrow,” the authors announce.

With freedom of choice comes individuality


Microtrends: The small forces behind today’s big changes
Mark J. Penn


The most powerful forces in our society are the emerging, counterintuitive trends that are shaping tomorrow right before us, says Mark J. Penn in Microtrends: The small forces behind today’s big changes ( http://www.penguin.com/). “There are no longer a couple of megaforces sweeping us all along,” he declares. Instead, we are all being pulled apart by “an intricate maze of choices, accumulating in R 16;microtrends’ — small, under-the-radar forces that can involve as little as 1 per cent of the population, but which are powerfully shaping our society.”

'Take rich people’s money and lend it to suitable people'


Making Money
Terry Pratchett


“I don’t really understand how banks work,” says Moist, a character in ‘Making Money’ by Terry Pratchett ( http://www.crosswordbookstores.com/). That sets off a brief education, as follows: ‘You’ve never put money in a bank?’ ‘Not in, no.’ ‘How do you think they work?’ ‘Well, you take rich people’s money and lend it to suitable people at interest, and give as little as possible of the interest back.’ ‘Yes, and what is a suitable person?’ ‘Someone who can prove they don’t need the money?’ ‘Oh, you cynic. But you have got the general idea.’

The hours of quality time


My Honeymoon with a Pinch of Salt
Virender Kapoor


What does 5,69,400 mean to you? Clueless? Or, 6,57,000? Price tag of ‘two different models of the same mid segment car,’ wonders Santanam, in ‘My Honeymoon with a Pinch of Salt’ by Virender Kapoor ( http://www.ubspd.com/ ).

“The problem today is that each one of us looks at every figure as representing money,” interrupts an old man, in the story. He goes on to inform Santanam that the numbers represent the hours in the life of one who lives up to 65 and 75 years of age, respectively.

'Wall Street’s no place for kids'


The Wolf of Wall Street
Jordan Belfort


Rewind to mid-1987. “Wall Street was in the midst of a raging bull market, and freshly minted millionaires were being spit out a dime a dozen,” narrates Jordan Belfort in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ ( http://www.landmarkonthenet.com/ ).

“Money was cheap, and a guy named Michael Milken had invented something called ‘junk bonds,’ which had changed the way corporate America went about its business. It was a time of unbridled greed, a time of wanton excess. It was the era of the yuppie.”

'Economic activity should be left to the markets'


Unwarranted Intrusions
Martin Fridson


There is something more corrupt than handing out cash at the polls, says Martin Fridson: the insidious practice of rewarding the backers by making the playing field less level, at the taxpayers’ expense.

“The shrewdest benefit seekers work both sides of the street. That way, they ensure that they will get to feed at the trough no matter which party triumphs.” Powerful businesspeople lobby for their own subsidies, pleading their case in the name of objectives more politically correct than profit maximisation, rues Fridson, in ‘Unwarranted Intrusions’ ( http://www.wiley.com/ ).

“What you don’t know can hurt you.”


Blind Spots
Madeleine L. Van Hecke


When one thing happens, and then another thing happens, the first one caused the second one.” This primitive line of reasoning, driven by our urge to connect cause and effect, has flaws, says Madeleine L. Van Hecke in Blind Spots ( http://www.prometheusbooks.com/). Such a simplistic approach believes that a single, apparent, and immediate cause can account for what occurs, and thus loses sight of the idea of ‘multiple causation’, she explains.

Programmed to find patterns, we are perhaps always in a hurry to explain the unusual. “We search for causes using the simple method of asking what happened earlier. If we wake up with an upset stomach, we wonder about the curry that we tried for the first time the night before.”

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Cultivate 'narrative intelligence’


The Secret Language of Leadership
Stephen Denning


Transformational leaders, in whatever sphere they are in, “change the world by generating enduring enthusiasm for a common cause,” writes Stephen Denning in The Secret Language of Leadership ( http://www.josseybass.com/). Such leaders “present innovative solutions to solve significant problems. They catalyse shifts in people’s values and ideologies.”

But how do they do all this? “Successful leaders communicate very differently from the traditional, abstract approach to communication,” finds Denning. “In all kinds of settings, they communicate by following a hidden pattern: first, they get attention. Then they stimulate desire, and only then do they reinforce with reasons.” Implementing thus, they co-create the future along with their followers, by continuing the conversation…

Addiction to technology


Turning Back the Clock
Umberto Eco


“People today not only expect but demand everything from technology and make no distinction between destructive and productive technology,” writes Umberto Eco in an essay titled ‘science, technology, and magic’, included in Turning Back the Clock ( http://www.landmarkonthenet.com/).

“The youngster who plays ‘Star Wars’ games on the computer, uses a cell-phone as if it were a natural extension of the eustachian tub, and chats on the Internet, lives in technology and cannot conceive of the existence of a different world, one without computers or telephones.”

Load forecasting


Modeling and Forecasting Electricity Loads and Prices: A Statistical Approach
Rafal Weron


It should be electrifying for lay people to know that artificial intelligence (AI) can be used in making ‘power’ predictions.

“With the advent of computer power in the early 1990s, they have become a widely studied and applied electric load-forecasting technique,” writes Rafal Weron in Modeling and Forecasting Electricity Loads and Prices: A Statist ical Approach ( http://www.wiley.com/).

AI-based methods tend to flexible and can handle complexity and non-linearity, he explains. In

contrast, statistical methods — which forecast the current load value by using a mathematical combination of the previous loads, and values of exogenous factors such as weather and social variables — are ‘often criticised for their limited ability to model the (usually) non-linear behaviour of load and related fundamental variables.’

'Keep emotion in check'


Wealth of Experience
Andrew S. Clarke


Whatever the details of their strategies, successful investors have a few principles in common, says Andrew S. Clarke in ‘Wealth of Experience’ ( http://www.wiley.com/ ).

He lists these principles as ‘eight simple commandments’, beginning with ‘save’. Saving, the bedrock of a successful investment programme, is natural to some, but many have to work at it, explains Clarke. “Once the habit is ingrained in your budget (and mind), however, saving can be relatively painless.”
The second diktat is to plan. This can be stated in plain terms at the start and then refined, with time and experience. “Make a plan, and you’ll approach the task of investing with a sense of purpose and greater confidence,” the author coaxes.

An ethical business strategy


The Blue Way
Daniel de Faro Adamson and Joe Andrew


You can profit by investing and at the same time the world can be a better place, say Daniel de Faro Adamson and Joe Andrew in ‘The Blue Way’ ( http://www.landmarkonthenet.com/). The book is about ‘an ethical business strategy’ that conscientious, value-based leaders adopt to achieve ‘a cleaner environment and more equal opportunity’ and also ‘greater innovation, prosperity, and success.’

Set in the context of the Republican-Democrat divide of the US, the authors’ appeal is for the use of ethical management principles and socially responsible investment to deliver shareholder value.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Basic principles of economics are simple and commonsensical


The Economic Naturalist
Robert H. Frank


Have you wondered why female models earn so much more than male models? Or, why do stock analysts seldom recommend selling a company’s stock? Why do 24-hour shops have locks on their doors? Why do humanities professors often write so unclearly? To these and more questions, Robert H. Frank has clear answers in The Economic Naturalist ( http://www.landmarkonthenet.com/).

Less-is-more is a good approach to learning, be it language or economics, he says right at the start. Start slowly and see each idea in multiple contexts, the author guides. And allow the ‘naturalist’ in you to observe and ask questions.