Shawn’s Graduation Speech for the GSU
Global Partners MBA Class of 2008
The four things I learned from my MBA program.
1. I’ve developed a physical dependency on PowerPoint.
2. I learned a new language.
3. I learned that anything worth learning can be conveyed in a chart
4. I learned to take existing models, charts, concepts and ideas and apply them to new sets of data.
I have elected to not simply tell you about these new competencies, but also to demonstrate them to you during the course of this speech. Item number one, my adeptness at PowerPoint that has been carefully honed over the course of the program, is best illustrated by the creation of this presentation. Number two is that I have learned a new language. To enter the global partners program, it is a prerequisite to know another language besides English. We were told that this was so that we would be able to quickly adapt and understand in the cultures and countries that we visited as part of the program. But we were lied to.
The REAL reason is that our professors wanted to make sure we would be able to learn a brand new language: the language of business. As MBA students, we have learned a brand new language, complete with its own vocabulary. I apologize to those who are in attendance who have not yet learned this language, because I would like to deliver the next segment of my speech in b-school-ese.
“4Q and 1600 ICH ago,
We determined that the FV of our WACC
Could be improved by exchanging CA for FA
and leveraging our IP.
After a SWOT analysis of our OTB,
We chose an MBA with GSU in the program called GP.
In Oct. 07 in CS 600, the Cof’08 began.
We met P-Y and KDL. And also Robin M.
We learned Econ and Pol Strat, Comm Dip and Int Bus,
Bus Law and Bus Mark, and Cost and Info Sys
In our IT class we read how HDVD
Would go DOA thanks to PS3
And in P-Y’s Ops class at IAE
We learned to streamline Mfg using JIT
We saw RDJ and flew to CDG
We changed our USD into RMB
In PRC we toured the BOG,
Then grabbed some US food at MickeyD’s
After all that, we’re back at GSU
Here in ATL with 1 thing to do,
To cross the stage and receive our degrees
And add 3 new letters to our CVs.”
The third thing that I learned was that anything worth learning can, and SHOULD, be communicated quickly and easily with a graph or chart. I would like to demonstrate the truth of that too you with a few examples.
· A Pie Chart About Pie
· A SWOT Analysis of the SWAT
· The f(x) = excitement x effort
· The Brown Cloud and
· The Classic Marketing Matrix
The fourth thing that I learned was how to apply existing models and analysis to new data sets to reveal new patterns and models. I feel that this skill can be accurately demonstration by taking the comedic model of Jeff Foxworthy’s “You Might Be a Redneck” and applying it to our own particular data set.
You might be a GPMBA…
1. If you’ve ever tried to calculate your student loan debt in Euros.
2. If you know the right way to pronounce “Strategy” and “Tactic”
3. If you’ve ever used the word “widget” to describe a theoretical product line.
Or if you’ve ever looked up the translation for “widget” in French or Portuguese.
4. If you’ve ever checked with a fellow student to know not only what class you have tomorrow, but what country it’s in.
5. If you’ve ever sat in a class taught in English and had to think “What language am I hearing?”
6. If you’ve ever lost 150 thousand dollars in a virtual margin call on the virtual stock market.
7. If you’ve ever accidentally started a nuclear war in Brazil or depleted the world’s oceans of their fish population.
8. If you’ve ever spent more than 8 hours in the DC airport. Twice.
9. If you’ve ever begun a question with the phrase “I was reading in the Wall Street Journal…”
10. If you’ve ever bragged that your new suit was made in China
Finally, If you’ve studied 20 subjects across 4 continents and traveled around the entire world in 432 days as part of your international business education…
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
For more on the video, you can read this guy's comment. As many of the nearly 1 million viewers noted, this video is good… a little TOO Good. Many YouTubers were immediately suspicious. Well, I first learned about the ad from Creativity.com, who was praising the work of Droga5, the agency that created it. So, yes, it was created by professional Ad Men. No, it was not shot by a group of GHWT loving kids in Indiana with a lot of free time on their hands, as we were deliberately meant to believe… but is that dishonest?
Another example is the band Boyce Avenue. The story is cliché and inspiring-- three brothers in Florida start recording cover songs on YouTube, quickly gather 3 million views and 1 million fans, then start recording their own stuff and now they are releasing multiple platinum-selling albums and going on a national tour. I saw the video. These guys are good… a little TOO Good. You be the judge.
The inventor of Murketing, Rob Walker points out that today’s consumers assert they are not influenced by the messaging of “the Man’s” corporate broadcast media nor the silver-coated brand imaging of Mad. Ave’s Ad Wizards. But all our consumer data reports that we are buying MORE than ever before and our purchasing is (even more) based on Branding and Perceived Value.
So, in conclusion, today’s consumers want to buy, they just don’t want to be sold to.
What this leaves us is companies manufacturing “Homemade” advertising. Professional advertisers and marketers are now turning their talents to making messaging that looks like it came from amateurs. That it was made by your peers. I add my own word to the marketing lexicon-
Promateurs. noun. def. - The ad agency that made Bike Hero, the recording label that created Boyce Avenue, the makers of LonelyGirl15, and others. Antonym – Amfessionals. def. – The makers of the Doritos Super Bowl commercials.
Monday, November 17, 2008
My wife, an official "baby-wearing" mother and Assoc. Editor at Pregnancy & Newborn magazine, saw the ad and laughed. She thought it was not very sensitive and not very well presented, but she could appreciate what they were going for.
J&J is a huge company with decades of experience in marketing. They helped create the system of running campaigns in front of test audiences and focus groups, so what happened this time? As Seth Godin points out, they treated this ad different because it was viral. Companies look at ads differently for the web than they do for broadcast media. And they should, but they don't know why...
Another case-in-point, a company called Celebrity Smile is trying to use viral to attract potential customers to their website. They created a fake blog about a mother who Wants to Whiten her Teeth that is so coated with insincerity that it is an insult to the internet-using populace. Faking a blog to draw "word-of-mouth" traffic to your site is a fast way to destroy any trust that could have been engendered by the idea of a real blog. It's like copying off the dumb kid in class, you're cheating and you're still going to fail.
An example of a really bad answer on a test question. Funny, but wrong.
And, just for laughs, here is the (fictitious) List of Ideas that Motrin Ditched before Going with the Baby-Wearing Ad.
I'm cutting and pasting my favorite...
3. I’ve always been a staunch supporter of abstinence as a birth control method. Then, right after I decided to run for Vice-President, my 16-year old daughter told me she was pregnant. Motrin: We Feel Your Pain.
The trick with viral is you have to be SO in touch with your audience, you have to already have SO much "authenticity," that your customers hear your voice as their own voice. Your audience has to know that you get them, otherwise they will suspect that you are mocking them or worse, condescending and alienating them. A company with strong branding does NOT own its brand, instead it recognizes that its brand is the property of its customers.
Brands that have done this right: Nike Sports, Mac, Converse Shoes, Weezer, Target
Brands that have failed to do this: Hurley, Microsoft, New Coke, Southwest Airlines, and now, Motrin. Feel free to add your own examples...
Thursday, October 30, 2008
For many of us Die-Hard monopoly fans (I use the 1st person plural, here) this is an exciting annual event where a classic American board game involving fake money and dumb luck is paired with the international icon of American sloth and gluttony. And big macs.
The biggest difference in McOpoly this year (that's mine, by the way, I just made it up but I am registering it as soon as I finish typing this) is that you can not only play it with the old-school paper tear-off "game pieces" tabby-things, you can also play online! Well, that and the grand prize is reduced from $5 million to a $1 million annuity paid out over 20 years, which, using the present value of an annuity formula:
We can determine to be, approximately, something much less than $1 million dollars. (Do your own math, I'm busy.)
All that being said, I am on my 24th consecutive day of eating only McDonald's food -but not just any food- you see, they've tied the tear-off paper pieces ONLY to what he wants you to buy, Big Mac, Large Fries, Large Coke, that kind of stuff. "He" being the clown, of course.
At any rate, I did a little searching to see why I haven't won yet, and I learned this bit of interesting knowledge: my odds of winning are actually “approximately 1 in 184,698,474,” To give that any sort of comparison, the oft-quoted odds of getting struck by lightning are 1 in 244,000. So, I am actually 75 and a half times MORE likely to get struck by lightning than to win the million dollar McOpoly® prize.
You see, the little paper bits are rigged. There's nothing random about it. They're all distributed "randomly" except for 1 piece of each set, the most famous being Boardwalk, of which there are 3. In the world. And don't fool yourself by thinking, Well, I can still win the online prize. That's rigged, too!
The same properties you can't win in "Real Life," namely the last property in each set listed alphabetically and Boardwalk, you can't win online. The code you put in on each paper bit to roll the virtual dice determines where you can land. The Clown has successfully taken all of the fun out of the fake money and dumb luck game that so many Americans have cherished.
In summary, with the 2008 McOpoly® Game, the only Real Winners are the people that did not realize the Game was happening, Collected no game pieces, did not pass Go, and did not endure the ultimate price of contest entry- 1 month of eating reheated burgers and greasy fries.
Oh, and the attribution for the awesome McSticker above is that superhero of the blogosphere, Steve Sneeds. The equally awesome McJoker image is from a post on HALOLZ.com.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
"Who is saying that the painter is just a rehash of season 1? This entire show is just a rehash of season 1. Someone time travels, sees a bleak future, and comes back to stop it and a painter makes absolute visions of the future that take all the suspense out of things. It's this show's MO."
Heroes Super-Power Repeats:
And Now Let's Just be REALLY Honest...
Re-hashed Repeats of Already-Used Superhero Powers:
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Everybody's getting in on it! Bernanke has a plan. Paulson has a plan. McCain has a plan. Obama is working on a plan. Bush... well, I just hope Bush is working on anything. Ryan Peeler has a brilliant plan that will both inject the economy with cash and determine the next president.
Even those Libertarian Madison Avenue-types are getting onboard the Bail-Out planning bus, albeit for different reasons:
But don't worry, even ACTUAL recession won't reduce the Ad Industry's precious consumer spending, let alone RUMORS of recession.
Remember that spike 9 days ago when your mutual fund bounced back and things didn't look so bad? What the NYTimes reported as "the stock market soar[ing] last week on rumors that there would be a bailout." RUMORS, people. Stay with me, here.
So JEC Chairman Chuck Schumer (Sen. D-NY) says "Americans are furious" about the price tag on the current plan for bail-out. The people are getting angry--furious--but absolutely nothing has been done, yet. So far it's just talk. Just RUMORS that things are going bad, RUMORS that things are going to get worse.
So, if the largest obstacle to approving the bail-out is the price tag and the strongest force on the US economy today is the rumor mill, I propose a 100% Free Plan to bolster the economy, save the struggling markets and stimulate America's move back to a happy, ignorant, credit-based, stable financial economy.
We need to start the rumor that everything is going great. I recommend it start with a speech from the White House-- George Bush puts one arm around McCain and another around Obama and he tells the cameras that "They'd miscalculated. Bernanke did his math wrong. Everything's good. Going great."
Then we shoot this via satellites and internet, and of course, YouTube, over to Europe and Asia and they hear that the US economy is fine, that the "crisis" was just a "bank error," and it renews the confidence of global financial markets who are quick to swoop up the deals of the weakened dollar, buying more Converse shoes and Michelin tires.
Finally, I suggest we get some people on megaphones to stand around on Wall Street and read government reports on how much more ethanol fuel we produced, how many more pairs of boots, and how much higher our standard of living is compared to years past. We could put a few Squeelers right on the steps of the Capitol building. Just to remind everybody that times are good and that you're not really in as much debt as you think you are.
Either that, or admit that the threat of recession and the entire subprime mortgage crisis was a trick to get Sen. McCain out of Friday night's debate with Sen. Obama.
But more importantly: The Browns are gonna go with Anderson again this week. Anderson! Let's just say we're a country that loves a losing streak.
If your day was going at all bad, this will cheer you up.
No esperes nada de mí
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
We have no way of checking that the translation she has provided so far is correct or of verifying that it has taken her as long as she claims. Essentially, our options are:
1) to allow her as much time as she estimates and pay her as much as she requests,
2) to bargain and negotiate based solely on my experience that the Spanish took 1/5 the time she is estimating (and still no guarantee that she is providing usable translation),
3) to find another source that is somehow verifiable and perhaps works faster/cheaper.
She has us at her mercy. Basically, we are going to take whatever she gives us, and we are going to pay her whatever she asks. It's Doc Terminus' Magic Dragon Elixir. The only way to test it is to try it. And if we get back pages full of German words, we have to go ahead and pay her. If only we had someone that knew our industry and was fluent in German?
In October we are going to begin sales into France. We don't speak that language either...
Friday, July 25, 2008
First, don’t get discouraged. People have been finding employment for 6,000 years. The key is to keep believing in yourself so that other people will feel that they have a reason to believe in you; other people like: your family, your friends, and your network of potential referrals, in addition to your future company. Also, remember that sometimes, the option is not to find another “job,” but to find a new source of generating income.
40% of positions are created. Decision makers meet you and want your skills because they are convinced that hiring you will help them make money.
90% of management positions come through networking. How do you create a network? Use the tools that are available. It is embarrassing, but let people around you know that you are looking for a new job. Use friends, family, church, and social connections, and also the internet.
Everybody uses this word and we keep saying that you should build one. What nobody tells you is that you should TARGET your networks. Making good friends with just ANYBODY has a much lower chance of revealing a quality connection. Instead, create a network that focuses on your industry or on the specific companies you want to work for: talk to people that know those companies or join groups specific to your industry.
All of that requires answering some fundamental questions that will focus your search:
-Are you employed? If not, what have you liked most about your past positions? If you are employed, why are you seeking a new position?
-What type and level of position are you seeking, and with what compensation?
-How are you valuable to a company that is trying to fill that position? And How can you make yourself more valuable in that position?
-What people do you know that could teach you more or help you get to this position?
-What are you willing to do to make this happen?
How Long Will it Take? The answer is "NOT FOREVER." I mean, nobody has ever searched for a job for forever. It really depends on how hard you work and how much time you are investing. Job seeking firms recommend 20 to 40 minutes a day. I would double that and then qualify it: You should spend 20 to 40 minutes two times a day, once in the early morning when you’re clearest and then again at lunch hour or at business close. So, 80 minutes spread across the day of focused time should be dedicated to your job search. But here is the qualifier:
Monday, July 21, 2008
When you are job searching, it's easy to get caught up in the process and overlook the big picture. So, let’s look at the way YOU will look to your future empoyer by examining the old adage
YOU CAN'T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER.
The 5th “P” of marketing is “Packaging.” How’s your Appearance? In our society where book covers are the #1 indicator of book sales, you cannot overlook the importance of your own packaging. A career change is the perfect reason to go out and spend some money on a nice haircut and updated professional clothes. Get a good night’s sleep. Use your free time to exercise and eat well. Just because you're Job Searching is no reason to LOOK unemployed! If you feel good about your appearance, then others will see that you have poise, confidence, and value.
“Book publishers spend more than $50 billion on product packaging design. $50 billion, not for the products or even for the wrappers, but $50 billion just for the design of the wrapper.”
What is your wrapper? Or what is the first thing that an employer will see about you that will formulate his decision to Buy or Keep Browsing. A key part of your wrapper is your Resume. Update it with all new things. Don’t just add your most recent position; update your skills, recognitions, awards and accomplishments. Add any new groups you’ve joined. No new groups to add? Quick, go out and join a group. I mean, you’ve got some free time right now, huh? Then, add it to your resume. Also, breeze back over the years of experience you’ve had and do some re-write to touch up those tired histories through the lens of your greater life experience. Add or update your value statement and 2 key accomplishments right up at the top under your name and contact info, like the headline of a newspaper:
With your packaging covered, it’s time to get started. Create your list of contacts and your list of companies you’re interested in. These are organic lists, which means they WILL keep changing! Each contact has a network that they can lead you to, the goal is to get the names of decision makers, their titles and their business addresses. Then you’re going to write them a letter. Not an email. Write them a letter.
The letter should say:
I’m this guy, I know this person that you also know. I am interested in your company because … (“It is the top performer in the industry”, “It fits my values and interests,” stuff like that. Just communicate that you know the company.) You’d be interested to know that in my past, I have done these things and would like to help your company do these things. Please feel free to reach me by phone or email at your convenience. Or, I will call your office on this day.
Really, write that stuff? Yes. Employers get upwards of 125 emails a day. They read about 20%. They also return about 20% of phone calls. The question you are answering for them is this:
“Hi, I’m this guy. I sent you a letter regarding my interest in coming to work for your company. I think you would be excited to hear how I could help (company’s name).”
If you get the gatekeeper, you can simply say: “I’m calling for whoever.” And when they ask what it is regarding, you can say: “I am following up on a correspondence he and I had last week.” Or even, on a good day, “He’s expecting my call.” Sales people use this technique all the time. Warning: don’t make the Gatekeeper think you’re a salesperson!
So When Do I Use Email?
Emailing your resume is your closing tool. It is your leave behind. You did not include it in your first letter, therefore, it is important that after you have talked on the phone to the person and they have requested your resume, that you get their email address. Ask them if they would like you to include references, and then tell them that you will email it to them. And then of course, you follow through with that . --Shawn Butler
Friday, July 11, 2008
But what is a “Markup?” and "What does this mean to us?" Markup, or Margin, is a marketing term for the price that a business puts on a product above what it costs to produce and deliver the good, usually determined as a percentage. In other words: the part that is straight profit.
Certainly there are more expensive items than coffee, cotton candy and popcorn --like porsches, condominiums and golf resorts-- so what makes these items special? What kind of a markup would cause such a big deal?
How about this: No matter what a company sells, their price is a combination of two numbers: the cost of making and transporting the good they are selling (COGS) and the margin of profit (Markup).
COGS + Markup = Price
COGS is a set cost determined by the various expenses, fixed—such as overhead and insurance, and variable—such as raw materials and employee wages, that go into producing the product. Companies can do very little to affect this aspect of price, or at least that’s how I see it from the marketing side of the fence. The second part of price, however, the markup, can be shifted easily—this has no basis other than the price your customer is willing to bear.
For most consumer products, the average markup ("Retail") is about 30%. For commodities --sugar, soap, pillowcases-- markup is closer to 10%. But for "Premium" products --retail items aimed at the very rich, or the very demading (this is where we talked about Porsches, but also includes watches, Italian shoes, and vodka)-- markups often approach 200% of Cost. And then "Ultra Premium" --products called by names like Mikimoto, Piaget, and Alfa Romeo-- enjoy 400 and 500% markups. People gladly paying $750,000 for a car that costs around $20,000 to produce. For more on this, here is a great link.
But these don't touch the 99.9% profit margins of the products mentioned above-- the less than 1/50 of a cent that it costs to produce the .5 grams of a latex balloon that is filled with a burst of helium valued at 1/80 of a penny and sold for $3.00 at fairs and circuses across the US. This equates to a 1000% markup above COGS. Similar equations can be run for cotton candy, snow cones, your super-value bucket at the movie theater and your double iced caramel machiatto.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Friday, May 16, 2008
Now, the Top 10 Cities in China are Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Guanzhou, Tianjin, Nanjing, Dalian, Hangzhou, Shenyang and Harbin. If you were to do the same mental map-pointing with this country, you’d find your finger never strayed from the east coast. In fact, you’d find that most of these cities, 8 out of 10, cluster like shotgun fire to within 2 hours of each other.
China is a huge country, roughly the same area as the United States, but with more than four times the population. Across such a broad expanse of people and geography, one expects the country to have developed several distinct and unique cities and cultures. In the US, for example, we have Northerners and Southerners, we have City People and Country People, but we also have Suburbanites, Rednecks, New Englanders, Westerners, Mid-Westerners, Snow Birds, Beach Bums, Grunge Rockers, Cowboys, and Californians. There are lots of different lifestyles with different cultures and values, but these groups are dispersed across the length and breadth of the country. From what I can tell, China does not work this way.
In China, the businesses, industries, infrastructure, government, and foreign political influence—not to mention the wealth and leading founts of culture—are all located on a stretch of the country’s east coast spanning from Beijing down to Shanghai, the rough equivalent of the state of California. Meanwhile, the western portion of the country, perhaps 90% of the land area, is occupied by about 60% of the population and responsible for less than 25% of the GDP.
So, why does this strong disparity between East and West exist in China? Similar to that of the industrial North and agrarian South in the antebellum US, the cause is the drastically different cost of doing business in the regions. “The government is doing things to move China west,” said Randy Creel, a logistics expert at a major MNC in China. “The hesitation is the lack of infrastructure and its effect on logistics costs.” Effects on logistics costs that work out to about 200% more investment per mile for companies to run their businesses in Western China. China is on a self-perpetuating cycle of eastern growth and western lag that will require more than government incentives to Western businesses and FDI spenders. It may require an all-out reallocation of infrastructure build-up that the country has never before undertaken. At least not until the 2008 Beijing Olympics. --Shawn Butler
The calisthenics are but a small, visible piece of the unique corporate culture of Alibaba Group, an English language web-based business-to-business eCommerce and eAuction service specializing in connecting international buyers and small- to medium-sized Chinese sellers. Our guide quickly made us aware that the company knew it was unique. “For most companies,” he said, “employee culture is like a cliché or a joke.” Well, it is not that way for the employees here. “Everybody is happy,” he continued. “It is our environment.”
We were then given a rough translation of a company joke that concerned a stubborn donkey in a mill that refused to work for his master. The master enticed the donkey to do his work at the mill by threatening to send him to work for Alibaba.com. “Here we all work like donkeys!” he announced as the punch line. Indeed, the word “work” actually appears in 2 of the 6 points of their printed company motto. So, are hard work and teamwork the strong points that make Alibaba such a successful company? Or is there more to this unique start-up’s corporate culture?
The lobby of HQ is decorated in orange scarves and bright orange hanging plastic fruit. And one other ubiquitous decoration—photos of company founder, Jack Ma. Ma is the poster-child of the New Chinese, the modern entrepreneurial self-made success story that this newly-capitalistic nation adores. And he is on posters. Giant reprints of the man’s photo adorn 2 out of every 4 walls in the building and line the staircase up to the top floor. In ’88, Ma was an English teacher fresh out of college. 11 years later, after a visit to Seattle and a crash course in computers, Ma was founding his own eBay-esque business. Then, 8 years later, he took his company public on the HKSE to raise $3 billion USD and become the IPO with the greatest increment in stock price at first trading in 2007.
Jack Ma’s influence is everywhere and his success is a model to the employees of his company. “He has us call him Kwai Chang, from the TV series Kung Fu,” our guide told us. During our tour, every action and idle quip of the 43-year-old founder was revered as holy writ, and even offered as justification for the “spirit” that prevailed there at the company. When asked what he thought Alibaba would do to maintain its growth and close the gap on rival companies Google and Baidu, our guide’s response, stars nearly visible in his eyes: “I can’t answer that. I’m not Jack Ma.” --Shawn Butler
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Well, it is a beautiful morning here in Shanghai and crowds of nearly-identical brown-haired and beige-skinned people pass below my second-story window of the Charms Hotel in cars, bikes and mopeds. Just as our professor told us, there is English—-or attempts at English-—written all over the place, but there are still plenty of unintelligible signs that feature characters made up of dashes, lines and boxes with no translation at all. This is definitely the most "foreign" of any country I have visited.
There are twenty-two of us including my program director and international business professor. We travel on a chartered bus and remain fairly sheltered from the realities of this, the most populated city in the most over-populated country in the world. We arrived after an 11 hour flight from Paris, on Sunday morning and cleared customs around noon. The time change was six hours from France, but a more convenient 12 hours from EST. Monday morning, at our first company visit with US Commercial Services of our own Nat'l State Dept., our guest speaker told us that Shanghai's population of 20 million people was like fitting the population of Texas into the state of Delaware. He said that this is a problem that many non-Chinese companies have when they come here, that all they see is a bubble of untapped population or an open market of 1.3 billion potential consumers. They don't see the reality that over 3/4s of this giant population is living on around $1 a day. The savage need for survival overshadows the wants for the people of most of this subcontinent.
On that note, we enjoyed a quick lunch at McDonald's; Big Mac, fries, and Sprite for under $2.00, thanks to the PRC's valuation control of the RMB, keeping the Chinese currency's exchange rate artificially low. And MickeyD's proves its core-competency of reproducing consistent "quality" in every venue worldwide. I can attest that the sandwiches served up in cardboard boxes are just as bad in China as they are anywhere in the States.
Yesterday afternoon's schedule took us to a field trip of Shanghai Krupp Stainless Steel, a Joint-Venure of ThyssenKrupp and the Chinese government that manufactures flat-rolled stainless steel for all sorts of stuff, knives, pots, car exhaust systems... Their British GM gave us an overview of how the German company was sorting out issues with Chinese government regulations and the oddly over-priced yet inexpensive Chinese labor. They are some of the lowest paid nationals in the developed world, but they work a full week and require 3 times pay for overtime and holidays. It's definitely an interesting system.
It was during our tour of the pounding and thrumming steel presses on the factory floor at about 3:30pm local time that the earthquake hit. And being less than 100 miles away from the epicenter of a 7.8-measured earthquake, it is lame to report that we didn't feel a thing. The news told us that "Skyscrapers swayed in Shanghai," and there are skyscrapers a-plenty in this city, but we were not in one at the time of the quake. So, sorry, not much to report there. The tour did get exciting when they used an overhead crane to haul a two ton roll of steel past us to load it on the press. I thought, "Hmmm, Jeff might have really enjoyed this little tour." My friend in the program, Jaime LaTorre, a GT engineering grad., said he thought it was a great factory tour. I admit I was rather bored.
Last night, we went to dinner at another Chinese food place that served us stir-fried vegetables, pork and rice that tasted like anything I could have ordered up from any mall-chinese restaurant in the US, but I did drink a delicious lemon-watermelon juice with it. So how's that for exotic Far Eastern cuisine? I’ll have to push my little horizons a bit further for meals tomorrow. --Shawn Butler
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
I’ll pause here to acknowledge that I, too, am a strong proponent of globalization. I have seen first-hand the dissolution of geographic and political barriers to trade and the ensuing benefits to the local economy. I find no fault in Friedman’s historical observations, including his 3 eras of globalization, his 10 flatteners, and even his recommendations for new hybrid fields of study he calls “Mash-Ups.” These ideas are spot-on in our global economy of increasing convergence.
But why all the doom and gloom, Mr. Friedman? Instead of telling your readers how the new “flattened” world will make lives better—spurring the economy of our New America into a greater leadership role as the birthplace of ideas and a nation of entrepreneurs—he focuses on the bad. Friedman follows the M.O. of Lou Dobbs, crying wolf over foreign theft of US jobs and a general disappearance of the American middle-class. Rather than pointing to the strengths of our human capital as inventors, creators, and brand builders, he tells readers that the American sky is falling in competition with Indian and Chinese ITs and engineers.
Friedman leans toward the dramatic, but what do you expect from an Opinion Columnist? He opens with this quote from an Indian software CEO: “The global playing field is being leveled… and the US is not ready.” This is followed by other sensational statements of hyperbole. “Today, people in China and India are starving… for your job!” he warns his children. But then, you are given to flights of the inflammatory if you are to make your living as an op-ed writer. The Title The World is Friendlier to International Business because of Improvements in Technology and Transportation doesn’t sell books.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
“Chinese dream of buying a car, a house, a first-class education for their children, and a range of consumer goods conferring status and convenience, just as they do to middle-class families in Europe and America. As disposable incomes rise, people are eating more protein and using more electricity to run their computers, televisions, and household appliances,” writes James Kynge in his book China Shakes the World (Houghton Mifflin, 2006). We are seeing China undergo in a very short period of time the changes that the U.S. and other developed countries underwent over the course of three centuries. China is being forced through this period of turbulence at an incredible pace because of the social, economic, and political pressures within and surrounding the country. The velocity of the change, rather than the change itself, is the root of the many ills currently plaguing the budding progress of China.
The rate of change in China has not allowed the nation to develop a mature social conscience and moral law. Chinese history is steeped in great thinkers, wise men and profound philosophical insight. This makes it all the more appalling that they have degenerated into a nation without a moral compass. The 1960’s rise of communism imposed atheism that undermined the current generation’s ethical foundation. Kynge states that “[t]he ideological vacuum that replaced communism undermines [trust]. The daily diet of propaganda disorients it. The venality of officials devalues it. The ascendance of a value system dominated by money hollows it out. What is left is a society in which describing someone as honest can just as easily be a gentle criticism as a compliment.”
Without a strong national moral compass, the country is rampant with instances of fraud, deceit and counterfeit. In many instances, these are only for the gain of wealth, but often the cost of the deception is human lives. We read from Kynge that “every time a Hollywood blockbuster was cut, it would appear on DVD in China before it had been released in the same format in America… A sixth volume in the series of Harry Potter novels appeared in China months before J.K. Rowling had written it… Kettles blow up, electrical transformers short-circuit, medicines have no effect, brake pads fail, alcoholic beverages poison those who drink them, and the use of inferior milk powder has caused several babies to starve to death.”
From our Western-centric point of view, it is simple to feel aloof from the morally remiss situations we read about in the East. However, we need to recognize that Americans are one of the leading forces causing the rapid changes to the Chinese nation. Kynge reports that “it is the advertising, marketing, and sales executives in Europe and the United States, as well as the shareholders of the brand-owning company, that take the lion’s share of the value from the product that the migrant workers create.” When we comment that the changes in China are happening too fast for the country to reasonably adapt, we cannot ignore the powerful influence that the demands and the unintentional export of the US culture have had on their current situation.
So it should be no surprise that the ambitions and appetites of its people are also following suit. China is adopting the same American dream of self-improvement, comfort and wealth that has been the calling card of immigrants to our country for so long. However, “in spite of the resemblance China bears to America in an earlier stage of its development, the chances that the Chinese will one day be able to consume at the same rate as Americans do today are close to zero. It is not that they will choose to be more frugal. It is simply that the world does not have the resources to cater to 1.3 billion Chinese behaving like Americans.” It should be added that the world in its current environmental situation does not have the resources for the 300 million Americans to continue behaving like Americans either. --Shawn Butler
Monday, February 4, 2008
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Sunday, January 20, 2008
The people of Rio de Janeiro have a custom which perfectly illustrates this distinction. Each evening, be it a work day or weekend, thousands gather on the beach and the small stone hill in Parque Garota de Ipanema and stand in silence to watch the sunset. At the completion of this event, the audience erupts in applause. It is a sign of appreciation, like the close of an opera or the finale of a symphony performance, where the people express gratitude for the talents of great artists through collective applause. Standing together in their timeless and clockless ritual, the people collectively take in the splendor of nature’s artistry and together celebrate the end of another day.
Hearing of this quaint and poetic ritual, we made our way down the beach as the sun fell into the ocean. We climbed to a nice point on the short hill to watch the setting sun. There was a considerable mass of people already gathered, so I assumed that the moment of “spontaneous” applause at nature’s wonder was near at hand, but as any of you who have taken the time to watch a sunset already know, a sunset will be held to no one’s schedule. We shifted restlessly on the hillside, moving locations three different times to get a better view. I didn’t like the man in the meditative stance, his feet interlaced lotus-style, ahead of me blocking my view of the horizon. I didn’t like being so close to the straight-haired girl and bandana-ed boy playing a recorder and dancing. After a few minutes, maybe twenty in all, I was pretty bored with the sun and the big rock. I admitted to myself that the clouds and the colors were nice. The whole scene was admittedly nice. I looked around at my business school friends and said, “Alright, let’s go. We’d better leave now so we can beat the crowds.” I lead us back down the hill, cutting across the entranced gazes of the rapt nature-viewers and onto the road up towards the hotel. Behind us I heard a bunch of people clapping. One of the students walking behind me commented, “That was nice, somebody ought to video tape that. Then we could watch it all in fast forward.” --Shawn Butler
Sunday, January 13, 2008
The five room suite I’m in at the Ipanema Tower in Rio has not even one clock anywhere in it. Correction, there is apparently a clock on the microwave, but it is flashing 12:00 and I can only see it if I am directly in front of the cupboards against the kitchen wall. Neither is there a clock in the gym, the lobby, or the dining area. There are actually three (3) clocks at the reception desk; however, being that they give the hour in Rio de Janeiro, New York, and Rome, I have determined they are more for decoration than actual time-telling.