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Leadership Lessons from the Chilean Mine Accident

November 5th, 2010 Comments off

This is as “real world” as it gets being from the headlines just a few weeks ago. I tip my hat to Bob Collins who posted about this radio interview on Twitter and dug up a link for me when I asked for it. You can follow him on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/#!/newscut.

The interview is about 6 minutes long and is a lesson in what to do in times of crisis.  The man being interviewed is Robert Sutton, professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University and the author of Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to be the Best and Learn from the Worst.

He focuses on Luiz Urzua, the shift supervisor among the trapped miners, and what he did to help everyone survive what could have been a far worse tragedy.  From turning on truck lights for 12 hours a day to simulate daylight to rationing food (two spoons full of tuna fish and a glass of milk every 48 hours for each trapped miner) he did what was necessary to keep morale/hope alive and well in otherwise dire conditions. 

But the other thing, as you can see what this notion you mention of like in the beginning they turned the truck lights on for 12 hours to simulate daylight and then turned them off. And the other part from the reports, when they were done to, as you say a spoonful of tuna fish every 48 hours, it was predictable and he let people know what was coming. So in addition to sort of displaying confidence and competence, one of the most important things that you can do with any group in crisis or in fact any group that’s under stress at all, is to give people as much predictability over even little elements of their life in a very difficult situation. Psychologists sometimes call this “small wins.” Little sort of steps that they can take. And very often leadership is sort of described in this big, broad, brush sort of notion, but what great bosses do is they provide the little steps so that we can sort of move along and clearly he’s been doing that, and his team has been doing that, every day in sort of every way

While most of us won’t be trapped in a mine or elsehwere for any length of time, knowing how to stay calm and lead in a time of crisis is an important skill in business and life.  Nearly anyone can effectively lead when times are good…it is how someone leads when the cards are against them that is the true measure of leadership, in my opinion.

More at this link: http://www.theworld.org/2010/10/13/leadership-in-the-mine/

Why is Google buying wind energy?

July 22nd, 2010 Comments off

Here is a short piece I heard this morning on MPR that talks about environmental initiatives at Google which include buying wind energy.  Listen to the audio at the link below for more detail and for a discussion as to why Google would do this.  Mainly it boils down to making business sense in that some customers will use Google primarily because they are doing things like this…or at least that is the opinion of the person from CNET that is being interviewed.

Interesting to see companies enter “non-traditional” areas like this I think.

Most news from Google involves stuff like search ads, web services, mobile computing. The occasional Buzz or Wave, perhaps, that is a little confusing. But at the very least, no matter what Google does, it always involves a computer in some way. Well, not any more. Google has begun investing in wind power. This week, Google agreed to buy 114 megawatts of electricity from an Iowa wind farm.

via Why is Google buying wind energy? | Episodes | Future Tense with John Moe | American Public Media.

Some colleges charge higher tuition for online classes

March 6th, 2010 Comments off

I mentioned in class a story I had heard on MPR about the pricing of online courses. I found it interesting that the main issue with the pricing of online courses higher their traditional counterparts seemed to be that nobody could adequately justify the pricing. The author of this pieces is looking through a cost-centric prism that misses a big factor in pricing.

Some colleges charge higher tuition for online classes | Minnesota Public Radio NewsQ.

Because they aren’t tracked, it’s hard to say how much the increased tuition is directly tied to higher expenses.

That bothers Travis Johnson, the vice president of the Minnesota State College Students Association. Johnson also takes classes online from Lake Superior Community College in Duluth.

“While the online piece creates more flexibility, the increased cost is an offsetting barrier. That’s just really a concerning to us,” Johnson said. “There’s campuses that don’t even charge a difference, and then there’s some that charge a lot more.”

How about supply & demand as an argument? Obviously people are willing pay more for an online course than they are for a classroom format. If this weren’t the case, the online courses wouldn’t have people enrolled in them. As long as the demand dictates it (the online section of Acct 320 is nearly always the first to fill) why shouldn’t colleges charge more?

Jan Doebbert, vice president of academic and student affairs at Alexandria Tech, has heard from students who’ve noticed the difference. But he said they’re getting more value — specifically extra technical support.

Mr. Doebbert accurately makes the case that students get more value. I find it debateable to think that the extra technical support creates the most value, though. I would guess that most online students choose that format for the flexibility it offers. They can work from home in their pajamas or from across the country on a business trip. If the roads are bad because of a blizzard they don’t need to risk their life to get to class. If they work inconsistent hours or have childcare concerns, the online format allows them to more easily take classes. Those should be the arguments to charging more for online courses.

As discussed in class, it doesn’t matter what the cost of something is to the company when it comes to setting the price. Cost is just one of many factors that enter into the pricing equation. If every company could just add up their costs and add 10% to top as a profit margin we would all be paying much more for goods/services than we do now.

Minneapolis Superfund site gets more cleanup money

April 15th, 2009 Comments off

A local environmental issue receiving Superfund money is the topic of several news articles today.  You can choose from a few different links to get a few different angles on this story:

An arsenic-tainted neighborhood in south Minneapolis will get an injection of as much as $25 million in federal stimulus money to continue cleaning up the site.

http://www.startribune.com/local/43041332.html
http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2009/04/15/hazardous_stimulus/
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/04/15/politics/100days/domesticissues/main4946809.shtml
http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/S/STIMULUS_HAZARDOUS