Sending a Strong Message: Protecting Your Employees

In 1985, a film company facing financial pressure hired a new president. In an effort to cut costs, the president asked the two leaders of a division, Ed and Alvy, to conduct layoffs. Ed and Alvy resisted—eliminating employees would dilute the company’s value. The president issued an ultimatum: a list of names was due to him at nine o’clock the next morning.

When the president received … [ Read more ]

The Beauty of Many Quick Pricing Experiments

When Gary Loveman joined Harrah’s Entertainment (now Caesars Entertainment) in 1998, the casino company priced its slot machines like everyone else in the gaming industry. Management presumed that decreasing payouts—essentially raising the price—would drive some customers to other casinos. A sensible assumption, perhaps, but Loveman—a quantitative type who left a professorship at Harvard Business School to join the company—wasn’t one to assume. He commissioned a … [ Read more ]

What Should Be True

Some organizations and initiatives are so successful that a sort of folklore arises around them. John F. Kennedy is said to have asked a janitor scrubbing a floor at Cape Canaveral what he was doing and received the reply, “I’m working to put a man on the moon.” The story is probably apocryphal, as it’s also been attributed to architect Christopher Wren at St. Paul’s … [ Read more ]

Would You Invest in Your Own Company?

The CEO of one company was determined that his employees understand the issues surrounding the company’s recent poor results and become fully engaged to help turn the company around. Here’s how he accomplished this.

The company held four brown bag lunch meetings over four weeks where employees could attend for free for one hour and hear from an outside professional about how to invest in the … [ Read more ]

The Importance of Self-Discipline

During the 1960s, psychologist Walter Mischel conducted “the marshmallow test” with four-year-olds in the preschool at Stanford University, to assess each preschooler’s ability to delay gratification. Each four-year-old was given one marshmallow. They were told that they could eat it immediately or, if they waited until the researcher returned in 20 minutes, they could have two marshmallows.

Some kids in the group just couldn’t wait. They … [ Read more ]

Win-Win Negotiation Agreements

Take the classic fable of the two sisters, quarrelling over a single orange. The sisters, who focus too much on cooperating with one another, cooperatively agree to cut the orange in half – a compromise agreement. One sister uses the juice and throws the rind away; the other sister uses the rind and throws the juice away, and then they realize – too late – … [ Read more ]

Staying on Top

A turkey was chatting with a bull. “I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree,” sighed the turkey, “but I haven’t got the energy.”

“Well, why don’t you nibble on some of my droppings?” replied the bull. “They’re packed with nutrients.”

The turkey pecked at a lump of dung, found it actually gave him enough strength to reach the lowest branch … [ Read more ]

Hey, You Got the Elephant

Recognition can be given in traditional ways—a complimentary e-mail, or a pat on the back for a job well done. But you can also get creative with it. One of my favorite examples is the one business consultant Alexander Kjerulf cites about a Danish car company that instituted “The Order of the Elephant.” The elephant is a two-foot-tall stuffed animal that any employee can give … [ Read more ]