Economic anecdotes from SF restaurants

The current economic uncertainties have changed the high-end restaurant industry, but not in the ways you might think. On Friday evening I had drinks with owners of two well-known restaurants in San Francisco. Total diners is up, staff is more committed, and menus have expanded. Web businesses can learn from these service industry adjustments.

Facebook v. Power Ventures

Facebook filed eight legal complaints in United States federal court against Power Ventures, operators of social aggregator Facebook claims Power collected Facebook usernames and passwords, stored Facebook data on their servers, used the Facebook trademark without license, sent e-mails posing as Facebook, and knowingly circumvented Facebook’s attempts to block access.

Data Portability, Authentication, and Authorization

In this post I will take a deeper look at the current best practices of the social Web from the point of view of its major data hubs. We will take a detailed look at the right and wrong ways to request user data from social hubs large and small, and outline some action items for developers and business people interested in data portability and interoperability done right.

Economics paper on big company inertia

Wharton professors Sarah Kaplan and Rebecca Henderson recently published a paper in Organizational Science about big company inertia when dealing with new industries and changing times. If you are a managerial econ geek you’ll enjoy the full PDF of the paper, or you can check out the summary in Knowledge@Wharton. One example of the inability to change was Kodak’s entry into the digital photography business. Chemical processing was a lucrative business and making the company a lot of money. The company staffed its new digital imaging division with employees more familiar with this world of chemical processing than image sensors…

Eric Schmidt’s rules of management

Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Berkeley professor Hal Varian wrote an article in the latest issue of Newsweek about Google’s approach to managing the knowledge worker. Google’s extensive perks program is their way of removing things that may get in the way of their employees. Schmidt admits Google’s problems of “techno-arrogance” and “the not invented here syndrome.” The company also needs to adjust to a workforce of varying ages and motivations as it looks towards long-term growth. One of our not-so-secret weapons is our ideas mailing list: a companywide suggestion box where people can post ideas ranging from parking procedures…

Tis the season for recruiting

The holidays are upon us. Around the United States this week millions of employees will return home to their families and relatives and be greeted with typical questions about life and the pursuit of happiness. The conversation inevitably turns to work, and causes a self-examination fueled by the best wishes of friends and relatives. Are you happy? How’s your job working out? Are they treating you well? Do you think you will get a raise, bonus, or promotion this year? Have you heard about how John is doing at his job? The questions raised during the holiday season cause employees…

Time wasting at work

According to a new survey of 10,000 workers by America Online and the average worker in the Software and Internet sectors admits to wasting 2.2 hours per work day. Human resource managers admitted to an assumed loss of 0.94 hours per work day and a suspected loss of 1.6 hours per workday. The top reasons employees provided were not having enough work to do (33.2%), feeling they were underpaid for the amount of work they perform (23.4%), distractions from co-workers (14.7%), and not enough personal time after-work (12%). I think the top two cited work hinderances are actually related:…

Paul Graham on blogging and open source

I just finished reading Paul Graham’s latest essay he prepared for OSCON: What Business Can Learn from Open Source. Paul is an excellent writer and hit on a few key points I want to emphasize here. I think the most important of the new principles business has to learn is that people work a lot harder on stuff they like. Well, that’s news to no one. So how can I claim business has to learn it? When I say business doesn’t know this, I mean the structure of business doesn’t reflect it. Business still reflects an older model, exemplified by…

Building long-term corporate goals

The current issue of The McKinsey Quarterly has a good article on building long-term corporate goals. Most companies focus on short-term results such as quarterly earnings at the expense of long-term corporate health but I was really surprised to hear the results of a recent study of 401 financial executives and their planning goals. A majority of the managers polled said that they would forgo an investment offering a decent return on capital if it meant missing their quarterly earnings expectations. Indeed, more than 80 percent of the executives responding said they would cut expenditures on R&D and marketing to…

Incentives and small, fast moving companies

Lately I have been giving a lot of thought to how theories of incentives apply to small groups and teams in startup companies. The employee base is relatively small (less than 50), the team size is less than 5, and the level of stress is mind-blowingly high. Our economy has experienced large gains from the always-on interconnected lifestyle of the last ten years, but employees are also increasingly mobile and volatile. I have yet to see good research studies covering this new work environment so I will offer some quick observations. It’s mostly a brain dump because I am exhausted….