Internet Deceit– Online Manipulation, Distortion, Fabrication: The Reality of Digital Deception…

The Online World is a lie: Virtually every aspect of online presence can be manufactured, and people are none the wiser. According to Tommy Walker; online manipulation is virtually untraceable… there is almost no limit to what can be done to– text, images, photos… So what then, do you do about it? A common answer might very well be: ‘Caveat Emptor’– Let the Buyer Beware… That, however, places a lot of responsibility on the irrational side of the consumer’s mind. That’s where knowledge comes in handy; if you can detect deception then you’re more likely to avoid it…

Technology makes it easier than ever to play fast and loose with the truth, but also easier than ever to get caught… Most people lie with astounding regularity… According to survey; people lie, on average, 1.65 times a day… According to Jeff Hancock; one in 10 text messages involves a lie of some kind… In a Consumer Reports survey; one in four people admitted to falsifying information on social media… According to a study of online daters; a full 81% exaggerated their attributes on their dating profiles…

In the article Online Manipulation by Alex Birkett writes: Digital marketing builds on theory that humans are ‘predictably irrational’… It focuses on the dramatic capabilities of digitization of commerce to increase the ability of businesses to influence consumers at a personal level… According to M. Ryan Calo; emerging technologies and techniques increasingly enable companies to exploit consumers’ irrationality or vulnerability… Essentially, the internet makes it much easier to exploit emotions on a personal level and manipulate their actions…

All of this is to say that companies can manipulate consumers in a variety of ways, and these are often referred to as ‘dark patterns’… Dark patterns are carefully prepared presentations that are crafted with a solid understanding of human psychology… and do not have the consumer’s best interests in mind… The holy grail of dark patterns include; bait and switch, disguised Ads, friend spam, hidden costs, misdirection, price comparison prevention, road block, sneak in the basket…

Online liars tended to avoid the topics about which they lie, e,g,; if they lie about weight, they avoided using food-related words. If a photos lies about appearance, they write more about achievements to deflect attention away from the lie they produced about their looks… Liars tended to use few words in general; the less said, the less likely they are to be caught in a lie…

Liars stay away from expressing negative emotions. They want to exude a positive image and that means leaving out anything that could be interpreted as a downer… The online world has plenty of  traps set by people who do not have your best interests at heart… Learn to let your head rule your heart, and your online experiences can be far more fulfilling. These relatively simple steps can help you learn to decipher people’s online persona:

  • Longer is better: An internet profile rich in self-description is likely to be more truthful. Liars may be afraid of getting caught in their own traps. The more detailed a person’s story, the more likely it contains accurate self-depictions…
  • Look for consistency: Don’t just read an online self-description from top to bottom. Go back and double-check within the profile to make sure it all fits together…
  • Watch out for the ‘we’: Avoid being drawn into the liar’s web of deception that puts you and a stranger on a par. An unusually high number of first-person plural pronouns, like ‘we’, may signify a profile that is intended to make you feel emotionally close to the writer but not one that is particularly honest…

In the article Catch a Liar on the Internet by Megan Garber writes: Then there’s the question of the difference between manipulation and marketing: Most viewers should know visual– images, photos– representation can be easily manipulated, but lesser known is most images can be manipulated on a sub-conscious level without customers actually realizing it. Most can be redesigned, altered, manipulated… So beware; all visuals may not be truthful visuals…

These findings, however, come with caveats, e.g.; it can be difficult to quantify ‘lies’ with precision, given the challenge of coaxing people into honesty about their deceptions… And more significant, ‘lies’ are generally not the fibs of ‘flaming-pants’ variety; the daily allotment of dishonesty instead tends to involve lubricating lies (i.e., I’m doing just fine…), or logistical lies (i.e., I’ll be there soon…), or charitable lies (i.e., Of course that doesn’t make you look fat…)…

A study of online daters found that many stretch the truth in small ways slightly exaggerating or minimizing things such as; age, height, weight… According to Dan Ariely; everybody has the capacity to be dishonest and almost everybody cheats, but– ‘just by a little bit’… But here’s good news; research suggests that opportunities that are created by dishonesty are balanced by increased potential for getting caught... A truism attributed to the most famous of truth-tellers– Abraham Lincoln said; no man has good enough memory to be a successful liar.

In the article Future of Truth and Misinformation Online by Janna Anderson, Lee Rainie write: A panel of 50 experts suggested that the breakdown of trusted information sources is the grand challenge for the 21stcentury’… According to Kevin Kelly; the major challenge in the ‘news’ is ‘new shape of truth’. Apparently truth is no longer dictated by legitimate authorities, but by the network of peers: For every fact there is a counter-fact, and all counter-facts and all facts look-alike online…  According to one dictionary; to deceive means– to cause, to accept as true or valid, what is false or invalid… and implies that it causes– ignorance, false expectations…

Avoiding all online manipulation tactics could turn into a full-time job. The number of ways online businesses or people who are trying to trick you into spending money, or time, or worse… are so big and so discreet that it makes avoiding them almost impossible… However when online, the key is to be vigilant and assume that things may not be as they are represented, and that nothing is really free. Mostly be aware of common online manipulations, fabrications… Keep up your guard all the time, and remember; if it seems too good to be true, it probably is…

Business Crime Forensics– Art of Follow the Money: Untangling Mysteries of Financial Shenanigans, Frauds…

Catch Me if You Can! Exposing business financial crime thru forensics: Business forensics is general term used to describe any kind of business fraud, financial or criminal non-violent offense, e.g.; embezzlement, tax evasion, , money laundering, fraud, cyber intrusion. Business forensics, typically; gather documents, review financial information, interview people… and then draw conclusions… While this approach will detect the simplest of frauds, it won’t detect the complex financial frauds that are increasingly making headline news… In most cases it’s not what you see on the page or document that matters; it’s what is not on the page or document that really matters…  

Business forensics stems from need to mitigate, manage… the rising numbers of business financial crimes… More than ever, companies are operating in a complex global business environment… They are drowning in a sea of digital financial data, adapting to perils of doing business in new markets, struggling to comply with more regulation, trying to avoid costly enforcement actions, litigation… According to amymatt; ‘cooking the books’ is an accounting phrase to describe a rewriting of financial information to justify fraudulent transactions or use of funds. The acts of ‘cooking’ are a disease which ultimately leads to the company’s demise…

In the article Business Forensics by Tom Lutzenberger writes: The processes of business forensics frequently follows the principles of financial auditing to uncover evidence, and it often uses the tried-and-true principle of; follow the money… Auditing traces back the paper trail of transactions to the original starting point to– verify funds, amounts, movement, purpose… However, unlike auditing, business forensics involves much more intensive review, e.g.; business forensic teams examines all documents available rather than just using spot samples on large amounts of data…

Business forensics teams are often an assemblage of financial business experts, including; auditors, accountants, computer experts… and even lawyers… These teams engage in cases ranging from pursuing financing of terrorism, money laundering… and as mundane as; tax evasion, charity scams… All of these fraudulent activities generally have the same type of business crime occurring, e.g., misrepresenting, or misappropriating funds… including; their sources, amounts, locations…

In the article How does Business Forensics Work? by Terry Robinson writes: Financial forensics combines criminal investigation skills with financial auditing skills to identify financial criminal activity coming from within or outside of an organization. It may be used in prevention, detection and recovery activities to investigate terrorism and other criminal activity, provide oversight to private-sector and government organizations, and assess organizations’ vulnerability to fraudulent activities… Business forensics is like forensic accounting, which utilizes accounting, auditing and investigative skills to analyze a company’s financial statements for possible fraud in conjunction with anticipated or ongoing legal action…

Business forensic accountants may also work with government agencies, including; tax authorities, to recover illegally obtained funds or help prosecute money laundering… These accountants can also help companies design financial and auditing systems to manage and reduce risk… Business forensic accountants, also known as forensic auditors or investigative auditors, often have to give expert evidence at an eventual trial… In increasingly complex business landscape where complicated questions always arise; finding the truth quickly is an imperative– gathering business forensic evidence that withstands scrutiny is essential…

In the article How to Protect Your Business Against Fraud by Elizabeth Wasserman writes: Corporate financial scandals have given rise to outcries for improved transparency, accountability, honesty… and a need for better financial reporting, and an untangling of complicated financial maneuvers that obfuscate ‘transparent’ financial reporting. According to Tom Kopchak; business forensics is tedious, detail-work, requiring sifting through huge amounts of data and looking for obscure details… However, ultimately the survival of a business depends on management and employees being honest…

Managing risk of financial fraud and misconduct has never been more challenging… The effects of fraudulent activities through financial manipulations can seriously impact the financial welfare of the business, as well as; investors, employees, suppliers, partners… Companies must make integrity a core imperative, and not only need to adopt risk controls and standards of ethical conduct, but also work at creating a culture of integrity… There must be a mutual trust among employees and management to raise issues and to do the right thing in the right way…

According to Richard H. Girgenti; when there is pressure to perform and weak controls, there is almost always someone who will commit fraud or engage in other misconduct… An organization’s first line of defense is its employees… It’s imperative that employees understand that their affirmative obligation to report wrong doing and believe that management will respond appropriately and protect whistle-blowers from retaliation. The result is a more sustainable organizational culture where doing the right thing is top of mind

Create Rhythm in Your Business, Add a Cadence, Tempo to the Workplace: Bridge the Gap Between Strategy and Execution…

Creating a rhythm in business is fundamental for sustainability, it’s an imperative for business success, it’s the glue that holds the organization together… and every organization must have a kind of harmony, tempo that governs every action… The rhythm of an organization bridges the gap between strategy and execution… According to Lisa Quest; the rhythm of a business determines the effectiveness of governance, and a predictable cadence or tempo is necessary for superior performance…  This methodology need not be complex, in fact, simpler the better– the goal is to ensure everyone on the team knows what to expect and when, and to ensure that each individual is focused on most important activity, and at appropriate times… Rhythm is required to create best possible working coordination and desired outcome…

The Oxford Dictionary definition of rhythm is– a strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound… If you apply this to the business world you come-up with the following; the execution and coordination of important activities across, and within, all functions in an organization, producing an effective harmony and predictable tempo of movement and highest level of productivity… According to Angus Patterson; a rhythm occurs not only across an organization but within each individual role– each role and responsibility has its own rhythm. A rhythm is about ensuring that all vital activities are performed in a consistent manner and to a high degree of excellence… The key aim is to drive efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity…

In the article The Right Rhythm in Business by Ron Ashkenas writes: Business is based on natural, recurring rhythms; days, months, years and predictable cycles that allow management to navigate through time… The financial activities differ from sales activities, marketing events around seasons, management focuses resources according to the stage of competitiveness… Without these cadences business would be chaotic… It’s management’s responsibility to provide– tempo, or cadence, or rhythm… such that organization performs with purpose and consistency…

In the article Rhythm for Business Sustainability by Avijit Saha writes: Rhythm in business is an imperative for sustainability, e.g.; ‘rhythm of change’ and ‘rhythm of adaptability’… these and other factors are prevention strategies that are necessary to overcome the destructive influences in a highly competitive world… Every business must have effective rhythms to ensure sustainability, and they might include:

  • Rhythm of operation– perform daily operations efficiently and effectively to be more competitive and improve productivity…
  • Rhythm of survival– perform periodic stress tests… assess the strength and weaknesses of the organization and its potential threats and opportunities…
  • Rhythm of expansion– provide the incentives for innovation throughout the organization… innovation is the engine that drives growth and expansion…
  • Rhythm of change– change is inevitable but change must be managed with a profound appreciation of stability…
  • Rhythm of adaptation– agility and residency are the tools for adapting to change, but change without an effective rhythm will fail…

In the article Does Your Organization Have Rhythm? by Treb Gatte writes: Rhythm in business implies that there is a sense of timing (when something is supposed to happen) and frequency (and how often it supposed to happen ). Rhythm is very important to the effectiveness of an organization, it defines how people interact within the organization, and how people view the organization from the outside… An organization runs on a rough calendar with defined cycles of specific events, activities, responsibilities… Some pundits calls these cyclic events ‘forcing functions’ as they force an organization– to behave, to converge, to check, to update… so as to achieve specific goal and outcomes…

These positive cycles are designed to establish a rhythm that can sustain an organization without continual management oversight. The ‘rhythm of the business’ is the harmony that synchronizes the organization to perform with a predictable cadence, and ensures a compatibility throughout the organization… According to Anthony Iannarino; understanding the rhythm of an organization and working to ensure that there is an effective cadence is critical for the growth and sustainability of the organization… This means that– each day, each week, each month, each year… the team huddles and evaluates the rhythm and adjusts the tempo to better engage their– challenges, opportunities, threats…

Rhythm in business is not a separate process or method: It’s a state that an organization must achieve to ensure– smooth, seamless operational execution… Gone are the days when a company has one operating team– today each team has an individual business process, and each team is treated like it runs its own business, and is measured by the value it contributes to the business as a whole… Creating a unique rhythm that optimizes an organization’s effectiveness, product/process compliance, efficiency of operations… is the critical foundation of any business… Business rhythm amidst other management methods and initiatives is a major requirement for business sustainability regardless of the nature or size of the organization…

Maneuvering Pitfalls of Multi-sided Markets, Yin-Yang of Business Models: Competitive Framework of Tomorrow…

Multi-sided markets (markets that link two or more distinct but inter-dependent groups of customers) have been around for decades, but they’re proliferating rapidly today as modern technology creates more opportunities for organizing complex markets… For example; Google is a multi-sided market, in that it serves information seekers (on one side) and advertisers (on the other.).. Another is eBay; eBay provides space where people who want to sell something and people who want to buy something can interact (through an auction)… Other examples including; Facebook, Match.com, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Airbnb…

Although ‘platforms’ that businesses create to serve multi-sided markets differ widely in technology and organization, most  share a few basic features, e.g.; each platform will serve two or more distinct groups of customers… value of the platform to each group of customers increases along with number of customers in the other inter-dependent groups… platform must provide a superior way for the customer groups to interact…

The distinguishing characteristic of a multi-sided market is that the price structure is not neutral… the structure of pricing will affect the extent of participation and usage in the market… According to Ruhai Wu; these platforms gain success because of a unique feature– positive cross-side network effect; more buyers on a platform attract sellers, and more sellers consequently attract more buyers…

In the article Strategies for Multi-Sided Markets by Thomas Eisenman, Geoffrey Parker, Marshall W. Van Alstyne write: Multi-side market businesses are the holy grail of online business models… According to Philip Brown; in a multi-sided market, buyers and sellers conduct transactions through a centralized platform. Both sides of the market are self organized and so, platform owner is able to take a transaction  fee…

 These types of businesses are extremely defensible because of the ‘network effects’ of markets and high switching costs of moving to another market– for each new buyer or seller that enters a market, a market as a whole becomes stronger. However, multi-sided markets are incredibly difficult to pull off due to ‘chicken or egg dilemma’, i.e.; without buyers, you won’t attract sellers, and without sellers you won’t attract buyers…

Their failures are rooted in a common mistake: In creating strategies for multi-sided networks, managers typically rely on assumptions and paradigms that apply to products without considering ‘network effects’… As a result, they make decisions that are inappropriate for the economics of a specific market… The key decision here is pricing; providers of platforms for these networks are able to draw revenue from both sides. In most cases, though, it makes sense to subsidize certain users. The crucial strategy question is; Which side should you subsidize, and for how long?

 Probably the most important overall strategy for building a multi-sided market is to start with a market niche. If you try to target a market opportunity that is too big, or take on a competitor head-on that may be a recipe for failure. If you try to appeal to everyone, you will end-up with no one… According to Geoffrey Moore; ultimate goals of creating a multi-sided marketplace is that it’s a business model that scales indefinitely. The real beauty of these markets is the power of the ‘network’ and how each side self organizes around the platform…  Multi-sided market businesses are very attractive because they are defensible and able to scale with a clear repeatable business model…

Although pricing is important, it’s only one element in the design and implementation of this strategy… Experimenting on a small-scale and then expanding can help avoid catastrophic losses… Markets hardly ever cooperate by following simple rules derived from economic theory. In traditional markets, however, economic truisms can at least serve as a benchmark and point to more nuanced analysis… But by contrast, multi-sided platforms especially those in new markets too often require clean-sheet planning from strategists. With multiple inter-dependent customer groups to serve, companies find that direct costs provide little guidance for pricing strategies… Consider also that customer group inter-dependence makes it difficult to anticipate the impact of changes in business environment…

 Many of the great business empires of modern era have prospered precisely because they have excelled at making these platforms work to their advantage… According to Boris Wertz; building out both sides of a market simultaneously can be exponentially harder than a one-sided transaction model. But once you reach scale, things truly start clicking and an established market is hard to unseat due to the strong ‘network effects’ at play… But the key is to give the business a long enough runway to build out both sides…

According to Alex Tabarrok; a difficulty in multi-sided markets is the price charged to one-side of a market influences the demand on the other side, e.g.; the price that a newspaper charges to readers influences number of readers but that in turn influences the price that advertisers, on the other side of the market, are willing to pay to advertise… It often happens that one side of the market is harder to ‘get’ than the other, and so the profit-maximizing prices on the two sides of the market are very different, and one side of the market may even be ‘subsidized’…

The theory is not especially complex, e.g.; the basic idea is there is a platform that can serve two or more groups of customers, and when demand grows from one group it exerts a disproportionate effect on demand from the other, and in the most interesting cases, a virtuous circle of demand forms on both sides… And the key is to incentivize the group that benefits least from the relationship… According to David S. Evans; multi-sided business models require a very different way of thinking and they have very different economics, but apparently they are a quick way to build  billion dollar businesses…

Overcoming Obstacles that Kill Businesses: Embrace and Engage the Challenges But Know When to Let Go…

If you could eliminate one big obstacle in your business: What would it be? But first before you answer; do you truly understand the nature of an obstacle; is it real, or imaginary… or are you the obstacle? Once you clearly identified its true nature than you can begin the process of address the problem and working through the steps to remove it.  Business obstacles are insidious, they may be related to– the market, or lack of capital, or the competition, or management and leadership, or colleagues, or customers… or your own thoughts and actions may be the biggest obstacle of all…

The thing that sets businesses apart, however, is how they deal with obstacles. Some allow obstacles to derail them, others have learned to confront and deal with them… Ironically, majority of obstacles are avoidable. Many are result of unmanaged emotions, ingrained habits and mistakes that people make. These obstacles, if unattended, become emotional thieves that can kill a business; they steal focus, sap mental energy, derail important initiatives…

In the article Obstacles That Kill Businesses by ASG Strategies writes: Every business runs into obstacles, and the list can be endless. The key is not that they will occur, but how management deals with them and the actions they take to overcome them… A few strategies that may help to overcome them successfully:

  • People: Having the wrong people in key position is probably the greatest obstacle in many business… The wrong people drain time and resources, as well as being divisive to the team… Don’t let this be an obstacle to business success… The adage– ‘slow to hire but quick to fire’… can serve the business well…
  • Frugality: Uncontrolled costs and excessive spending robs the business of liquidity… The thrill of the win often replaces common sense… A mentality of frugality and prudent investment can serve a business well…
  • Let it go: Stretching too far, too fast, beyond boundaries that can be managed is failure of many business, learn– when to let it go! Sometimes management develops blinders that prevent them from making prudent decisions. Management must have courage to know when to walk away, and that can serve a business well…
  • Change: Management often cling to models and strategies that are obsolete and, as result, they themselves become an obstacle. Management must know when to throw out the old and bring in the new… they must embrace prudent change, which can serve a business well…

In the article Obstacles and Challenges in Business by edensunshine  writes: Obstacles are an imperative for a successful business. When business is growing, improving, building, changing… making progress towards a goal, or vision, or desired action… and when a business is committed to something– unique, special, different… that is when they encounter– obstacles, challenges, resistance… When business is static, typically, they don’t have much resistance or encounter obstacles, because no one really cares if they live or die…

The more obstacles, the more resistance, the more challenge a business experience..  the more it suggests they are on track to achieve great things… However, what it really comes down to is whether or not management has the guts, determination, and will power to persevere through tough times. When things are tough that’s a good sign– it means you are in right place, doing the right things… A clique to live by– When going gets tough, the tough get going…

In the article Overcoming Obstacles by Karyn Hall Ph.D. writes: Whatever the goal, there will always be obstacles in the way. But the key is; how you react… Some people see obstacles as a puzzle to solve, others see them as an opportunity to grow, still others see them as threats, and still others see them as a sign that they cannot succeed… However, if you see obstacles as– the world being against you, then you are likely to be overwhelmed with painful thoughts and difficult emotions that can block achievements…

Perhaps you have thoughts of– fear or shame when faced with an obstacle. Fear may be telling you to escape the situation because you are in danger… And shame may be urging you to hide… However, when the situation isn’t one in which you need to be afraid or ashamed, these same emotions may still get in the way of achievement… The reality for achieving most goals means overcoming obstacles; it’s a normal part of the process… According to Frank Clark; if you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere…

Sometimes obstacles can be overcome and sometimes they cannot. Sometimes you have to work around them or find alternatives. The key is to not give up. If an obstacle cannot be overcome, or you cannot find an alternative, then your only reward is knowing that you did your very best… An interesting question; Why do obstacles make some people stronger and others weaker? How is it that some people come back from devastating defeats, while others simply give-up?

The key is resilience: Resilience is an individual’s ability to properly adapt to adversity and obstacles… According to Mareo Mc Cracken; an obstacle is something that blocks one’s way, or prevents, or hinders progress… anything that makes it difficult for business to achieve a goal, or desired result… it’s obstruction that must be– removed, surmounted, or circumvented… Businesses that are resilient overcome obstacles and achieve success… According to George Weinberg; the cure for most obstacles is; Be decisive…

Halloween is Season for Pop-Ups: It’s $10 billion Industry and Pop-Up Stores are Seemingly Sprouting Everywhere…

Halloween is a couple of days away, and the shops that are peddling costumes, makeup, fake tombstones and all manner of cobwebs, skulls and life-size plastic ghouls are doing a brisk business… It’s a $10 billion industry without counting the booze, food, parties… It’s scary, the amount of money people spend on Halloween… According to Lydia Dishman; Pop-Up stores are sprouting overnight in temporary locations like empty mall stores, and then slam shut like a coffin right after the holiday… According to Alison Paul; in comparison to what it costs to establish a new store, putting in a Pop-Up is a much smaller investment for a retailer…

A Pop-Up is defined as a temporary lease or rental of a store ranging in duration from one-day to one-year… These seasonal stores serve as staging for potentially permanent tenants interested in the space. In recent years, Pop-Ups have started to add ‘experiential’ displays and decor, making it into an entertaining destination for the whole family… However, due to the temporary nature of pop-ups, consumers are more prone to scams and rip-offs. These stores often don’t allow consumers to return unused merchandise for credit or a refund…

Halloween Industry Stats & Trends! 2017: With more than 179 million people in the U.S. planning to partake in Halloween festivities, up from 171 million last year, spending is slated to reach a record high in survey history. According to The National Retail Federation; total spending is expected to grow to record $9.1 billion in 2017. That figure is up 8.3% from the $8.4 billion spent in 2016… And it doesn’t include all the alcohol consumed at those crazy costume parties… According to Scott Krugman; Halloween is moving away from one night event into a full season, which is increasing sales opportunities for retailers…

In a National Retail Federation (NRF) survey; nearly 60% of the 8,877 people surveyed plan to celebrate Halloween in some way, including; dressing up, going to a party, handing out candy, carving pumpkins, trick-or-treating, decorating… While percentage of those decorating for this day remains the same, the average amount spent per person climbed 14%, to $26.59, over last year. Estimated price tag for all these decorations is $1.4 billion. In terms of decoration purchases, the Halloween season is now second only to Christmas…  When it comes to partying, this day draws the third-highest crowds, behind New Year’s Eve and Super Bowl Sunday…

In the article Surprising Success of Halloween Pop-Up Stores by Ernie Smith writes: The Halloween Pop-Up store phenomenon is a very important retail outlet for specialty events. such as; holidays, sports events, religious occasions… and the trend is not fading anytime soon… So; Why does a seasonal Pop-Up store work so well? Here are a few reasons:

  • Buildings are empty: The Pop-up business take advantage of weaknesses in local real estate markets by maintaining strong relationships with commercial real estate owners, who would much rather accept temporary lease or rental rather than stay empty…
  • Pop-Up stores are shape shifters: These specialty stores can make spaces as large as 50,000 square feet and as small as 3,000 square feet work for its needs. The real determinate for success is location, location, location…
  • Inventory can be reused: Unlike technology or fashion, most the items sold in these venues don’t go out of style very quickly, and that means much of the merchandise can be reused repeatedly year-after-year, which keeps production costs low…
  • Pop-Ups allows for planning time: Since there is long lead time between specialty events, Pop-Up businesses are able to spend much of the year plotting for the year’s next big trends. But often there are unexpected windfall, e.g.; hit movies, great characters that become the basis for a new Pop-Up store…
  • Another big seasonal holiday immediately after: Two months after Halloween is Christmas, which works well in a Pop-Up retail context… These Pop-Ups then convert their Halloween locations and jump onto the Christmas trend…

In the article The Halloween Pop-Ups by Haniya Rae writes: They emerge out of nowhere; just a few weeks before Halloween these relatively small and colorful displays are visible on the streets of many U.S. cities– these Pop-Ups just seem to appearance without warning… It’s probably a company you’ve never heard of taking over a vacant space in a long-forgotten strip mall, or in abandon store front… where rents are dirt cheap…Then after holiday is over; these ghosts, goblins… leave just as quickly as they came…

The size of the Halloween market has become an important business opportunity– it’s a true retail bonanza… The Halloween market is growing in two ways that make it very attractive for businesses: First, Halloween has become a universal– world-wide celebration… Second, individual consumers are spending increasing amounts of money for all sorts of stuff in their celebration…

Children’s trick or treating is still a Halloween mainstay, but it’s adults who are spending the money on celebrating, embracing Halloween as a chance to let their inner child get out and party. Large parties with participants wearing elaborate costumes are becoming increasingly popular, which is great news for business opportunities… Halloween is not just a time to buy candy or a chance to party– it’s become much more… which means great business opportunities for savvy business…

Power of Litigation as a Strategic Weapon in Business: The Law is Used (Abused) for Competitive Gain…

Litigation in business is growing in frequency and complexity… it’s only a matter of time before most organizations will be involved in some type of legal dispute; whether– contract, unpaid bill, lawsuit by competitor…  And all too often legal action is used as part of business strategy to gain competitive advantage… Litigation is process that is exhausting and exhilarating requiring skill and determination, plus imagination and flexibility… It’s the closest thing to battle in warfare but engaged in business, and like a battle, it can be uplifting or destructive…

In a classic legal battle between two technology companies, litigation was being used as a competitive strategy without concern about the real ‘merit’ of the legal issue. This actual case was adjudicated by U.S. District Judge Robert Scola who said; both parties have no interest in efficiently and expeditiously resolving the dispute; they instead are using litigation as a ‘business strategy’ to gain competitive edge… According to Judge Scola; this is not a proper use of the courts…

In the article Litigation and Business Strategy by Gallion & Spielgel  write: Virtually every business views litigation in the same way as an– unnecessary, unwelcome, costly disruptionBecause when forced to defend against a lawsuit, precious corporate resources are diverted from productive, profit-making activities… However, business leaders should not be closed-minded about potential benefits of legal action to protect their interests and to advance their business strategy…

Companies all too often encounter business practices that can only be addressed by litigation, e.g.; copyright/trademark infringement, unauthorized use of trade secrets or proprietary business data or processes, violations of non-compete clauses in contracts, violations of antitrust statutes– it’s a long list… However in contrast, there are companies that initiate legal action (many without merit) as a weapon to damage their competitor in order to gain market advantage…

In  the article To Sue or Not to Sue by Jonathan Wallace writes: The constants in litigation are; time-consuming and expensive, and the outcome is uncertain… A law suit can easily take years and go thru various lengthy stages. There are initial court papers, answers from the defendant, investigation of each party’s evidence (discovery), pre-trial testimony (depositions), special pre-trial requests to the court to make decisions about the case (motions), numerous appearances/conferences and finally the trial…

Hence prior to any litigation, it’s important to know what you are trying to accomplish and does it makes business sense… Business litigation is a tactic (sometimes even a strategy) used by organizations to either; remedy a wrong or achieve a competitive goal… However, if your reason for litigation is ‘due to angry’ or ‘to teach the other party a lesson’… you should think twice before going ahead…

In the article Litigation: What to Expect, Avoid by Stimmel, Stimmel & Smith writes: The first lesson in litigation is to understand that one suddenly has power and rights to force another business (or person) to answer questions and open records. The power is remarkable;  and as one pundit put it; an organization or person using courts has enormous power, even more than average police officer who is limited by the Constitution as to what they can search!

The only problem is that the other side of the litigation has the same power. In any litigation there a few rules to remember, e.g.: litigation is both defense and offense; preparation wins cases; adjust to events and evidence; it will take longer and cost more than expected; do cost-benefits analysis and ask– is it worth it; know the adversary; stay involved; tell the truth, don’t violate code of ethics, don’t treat litigation as a game…

In the article Litigation for Competitive Gain by Wharton writes: As a main character in Mario Puzo’s novel ‘The Godfather’ once put it; lawyer can steal more money than a hundred criminals with guns... Perhaps it explains why many business schools require business students to study legal and political strategy, as well as; marketing and finance. According to G. Richard Shell; about 10% of issues that relate to the law and politics makes up about 90% of all the influences that affect business decision-makers… Too often it’s all about using a ‘competitive legal strategy’, i.e.; the use of contracts, courts, regulation, lobbying… to secure competitive advantage in business…

Litigation against competitors can be some of the most emotional, protracted activities that a business will ever face… The litigant is faced with many dilemma,e.g.; is there a desire to win, or an absolute need to win… other factors that make legal action against a competitor even trickier, includes; confidentiality concerns, even lurking antitrust dangers in resolving a matter. According to Quentin R. Wittrock; the  key is to understand litigation in business is to know which causes– do or do not– apply to the competitive well-being of the organization…

Some pundits call it a ‘competitive legal strategy’, i.e.; use of– contracts, courts, regulation, lobbying… to gain competitive advantage. But, what ever it’s called; the law is perhaps the most hidden of all competitive strategic tools. Many in business leadership fear getting tangled-up with lawyers, lobbyists, bureaucrats… so they keep a distance from legal matters. But it’s this aversion that makes legal knowledge such a rich source of competitive advantage for those who take time to know and understand how litigation works– for and against business…

Challenge– ‘Hedging’ Risk in Business: Hedge or No Hedge: Finding Best Way to Mitigate Financial Risk in an Organization…

Most people know the phrase ‘hedging your bets’… But do you know what it actually means? Technically, ‘hedging’ is managing risk, e.g.; when you carry an umbrella against possible bad weather, you’ve adopted a hedge position. Chances are you have also taken out a hedge in the form of health or life insurance. You pay the premiums to cover yourself if something bad happens– it’s a hedge on your health. Business does the same thing: They take steps to offset the possible losses that may be incurred by investing in new products, new markets, new partnerships… Hedging is a technique that helps to reduce or mitigate the effects of measurable risk from future changes…

It’s an insurance that does not eliminate risk completely, but mitigate its effect… Shifts in supply-and-demand dynamics and global transactions have created unprecedented volatility in markets… Many companies have stepped up the use of hedging in attempt to manage volatility, and in some instances, to avoid situations that could put a company’s survival in jeopardy… Hedging can include many areas of business, e.g.; corporations may choose to build factories in other countries in order to hedge against import tariffs or excessive taxes… Although  hedging has both potential risks and benefits, they are controllable with properly set hedgers used at appropriate times… 

In the article Right Way to Hedge by Bryan Fisher and Ankush Kumar write: Companies should use a hedging mechanism only when a situation poses a material risk to their financial health or threaten strategic outcomes. Yet too often companies or individual business units adopt hedging programs that create little or no value… The primary objective of hedging, as a risk management tool, is to reduce risk not to save cost or earn profits…

Many companies use hedges to reduce their risk levels.. and they can payoff when changing market conditions have the potential to hurt the company’s financial performance.. But hedging also has a cost and here are a few guidelines:

  • What Risks Should be Hedged: Company must define the specific risk that they wish to offset– hedgers are not all the same, e.g.; concerns about– interest rate, or commodity price, or fuel costs… generally require different risk offset mechanisms, and each will require separate hedging strategies…
  • How to Measure Risk: Establish an in-depth knowledge of the market behavior that you wish to hedge against (often called ‘visibility’). Research the drivers of market pricing, and develop a structure to incorporate findings into a workable model to track and measure the results of the hedge activities…
  • Appropriate Hedge Strategy: Choose the hedge strategy based on an understanding of the risks that you wish to mitigate and the best options available for offset. There are many ways to hedge risk…

In the article Business of Hedging by Catherine Snowdon writes: Hedging is an important part of doing business, and used to mitigate risks of fluctuations in many financial prices, e.g.; foreign exchange rates, interest rates, commodity prices (oil, farm corps…), equity prices… For example; if a company makes sweet treats, the price of sugar is going to be watched closely, or if a business relies on a fleet of trucks to move goods then the price of gas is key…

The challenge for the company’s is to find the best way to protect the company from risk… However, the main risk is getting the hedge wrong. Companies need to be in tune with their wider supply chain so as not to hedge at the wrong time or for too long… Hedging is critically important for remaining competitive– take the aviation industry where airlines all hedge fuel costs, e.g.;imagine one airline fixes a price for 12 months and another for only three months. If fuel costs fall, company with a longer fix is locked in paying more. Meanwhile, the other company would be able to lower ticket prices with the saving from lower fuel…

In the article Advantages and Disadvantages of Hedging by Michael Wolfe writes:  Hedges are particularly popular with companies that have exposure to certain markets, such as; commodities, interest rates… But hedging doesn’t always go right, e.g.; when energy prices fell sharply in 2014/2015, airlines that had hedged against future fuel costs didn’t benefit as much as those that were not hedged… Essentially, the hedge position worked as a ‘contrary bet’ that didn’t pan out, and so hedge-related losses offset at least some of the decline in operating expenses that resulted from cheaper fuel…

Moreover, some hedges are costly even if markets remain neutral… Like any insurance product, prices of hedges usually carry an upfront cost, and the hedging party typically has to count that cost against any profits from the position or add it to any losses… Hedging is a tool companies can use to set their risk level. It can turn-out well or poorly for a company, but it serves as a useful tool regardless of how things work out in the end…

Hedging is about decreasing or transferring risk; it’s a valid strategy that can help protect business from uncertainty… And as with any risk/reward trade-off, hedging results in lower returns than if you ‘bet the farm’, but it also lowers the risk of losing your shirt… The strategies used to recognize and mitigate risk can often determine the success or failure of business… Hedging is complicated and they are not only the province of large companies… According to Ron Box; consider hedging as a form of insurance against certain financial risk…

The most powerful argument against hedging is that historically, large amounts of value of a business have been destroyed by poor hedging programs. Many companies have gotten it wrong and consequently it’s viewed with much suspicion: If it cannot be done well then it shouldn’t be done at all. According to Karlien Porré; companies hedge for variety of reasons but it all come down the same thing; they mitigate risk and protect financial assets…

Most Damaging Words in Business: Toxic Words & Phrases That Can Cripple Organization’s Image…

Words, especially damaging words, can have a profound impact on business, on people who run business, on customers who buy from business, on stakeholders who support business; words exercise power in business… It’s the awareness of the power that lies within words that makes them vital… To be sure some words are more powerful than others and on their own they don’t really do much, but it’s how they are arranged and used that creates the impact… The power of words defines an organization and people associated with it…

There are many ways you could describe what an organization does, and why customers should choose them… they define the purpose and character of the business... However, often organizations use words that damage its reputation, usually it’s not the words themselves; it’s how they are used… These are words of indecision, words of ‘talkers and not ‘doers’… So, don’t just ‘try’ do it; don’t ‘doubt’ believe it; don’t ‘wonder’ act on it…

In the article Confusing and Damaging Words in Business by Dan Erwin writes: It’s amazing how a single, ‘coordinating conjunction’ can impact human behavior and thinking… To a surprising degree, the majority of people don’t realize the power of this single word, i.e.; ‘but’. For example; finish each sentence after the conjunction, ‘but’ with your experience or idea, such as; You did a good job, ‘but’ or, I’d like to go out with you, ‘but’… or, It’s a great strategy, ‘but’… The use of ‘but’ can be frustrating because it catches you off guard, confusing because you must handle multiple ideas simultaneously, dangerous because it’s a persuasive strategy designed to lead you astray…

Another confusing and potentially damaging word is ‘try’. According to Brad Hoover; the word ‘try’ simply shows a lack of– belief, passion, commitment, confidence– all qualities needed to succeed in a highly competitive market… Organizations are looking for strong problem solving skills and unwavering dedication, so when you  hear; ‘I’ll give it a try’... suggests lack of confidence. Whereas phase– ‘I can do it’… suggests confidence…

In the article Dangerous Words In Business by Victor Lima  writes: These nine words– This is the way we’ve always done it here… are common in many organizations and do great disservice to achieve success… Management at all levels must keep an antennae out for these words, and those in the organization who would speak them:

  • They discourage innovation: Nothing stops a good new idea in its tracks so completely as a person in power pouring cold water on creativity with these 9 words… They leave employees no place to go, except over well-worn paths…
  • They damage employee morale: These words are telling employees that organization doesn’t value creative thinking, i.e.; new ways of sorting the data, new ways of approaching old problems…
  • They diminish competitiveness: They reduce disruptive innovation, and being first to market, finding better ways to serve customers.  They suggest that a slow pace is fast enough…
  • They dampen spirit of change: They protect status-quo that’s likely focused largely on preserving, perpetuating itself. They prevent an organization from gaining reputation that will attract talent…

In the article Power of Words by Larry Kim writes: A simple choice of word can make difference between someone accepting or denying your message… You can have a very important thing to say but when you say it with the wrong words, it becomes meaningless. Words are power. Words influence how others perceive you. They build or destroy organizations…

In age of social media networks, do you give words enough thought? According to Nathaniel Hawthorne; so innocent, powerless as words are, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them…

In the article Words That Are Unintentionally Damaging by Lisa Evans writes: Words like ‘maybe’ and ‘just’ may seem harmless, but using certain types of words can change the way you and an organization are perceived. According to Deborah Tannen; paying attention to the words used when speaking in business can boost credibility for both you and the organization. Here are few words & phases that can destroy credibility:

  • Hedge words: Hedging words and phrases, such as; sort ofmaybe, kind of… are often used when you are trying not to say something outright. People often use hedge words because they don’t want to come across as being too direct but these words can damage credibility… making you seem unsure about what you’re saying, like you’re plagued by self-doubt…
  • Words that downgrade meaning: Throwing words such as; just’ in a sentence, e.g.; I just want to say… downgrades the importance of what you’re about to say, and minimizes you saying it…
  • Filler words: Unless you’re a professional speaker, it’s likely that you commonly fill sentences with filler words, such as; um, er We all have an impulse to fill in gaps when we’re speaking, but using too many of these ums and ers’ can give the impression that you lack confidence in what you’re saying. Simply pausing to gather your thoughts will make you sound more in control than a string of filler words…
  • Apologetic words: You must stop apologizing before making a point, e.g.; I’m sorry, but you’re late for the meeting again… An apology hurts credibility and gives listener a reason to disregard what you’re saying. Plus, it puts the audience in position of power, tipping the authoritative scales in its favor…

Never, ever underestimate the power words… According to Jeff Goins; words are powerful, painful, awful, amazing tools… They can hurt, help, hinder, heal… but, they are not cheap…

Words have a price tag, they cost– time, money, emotion, make or break reputation…  Words can change the world– words matter, so when you speak say something worth hearing… According to Emily Dickinson; there is nothing in the world that has as much power as a ‘word’… When you use words of power and deliver on promises… you are shaping an image, bolstering potential, giving an organization a shine. So; don’t ‘try’, do it...

Challenge of Business Automation– Where it Works, Where it Doesn’t: Create Value Rather Than Cut Costs…

Business automation is an organizational transformation that aims to drive efficiency, transparency, compliance for repeatable processes… Organizations use automation in many forms– from simple employee on-boarding, to complex accounting processes, to workflow analyses… However, it’s not just about replacing a manual process– business automation should be to create more value, cost efficiency, greater transparent. Automation in business is most often focused on ‘run the business’, which means automating tasks that deals with– event-driven, mission-critical, core processes…

According to Thomas H. Davenport and Julia Kirby; unless we find as many tasks to give humans as we find to take away from them, all the social and psychological ills of joblessness will grow, from economic recession to youth unemployment to individual crises of identity. That’s especially true now that automation is coming to knowledge work, in form of artificial intelligence… What if we reframed the situation? Instead of seeing work as zero-sum game with automation taking an ever greater share, we should reframe automation as augmentation for workers i.e.; automation as an assistant to workers to improve overall business productivity…

In the article Business Automation by Mary Shacklett writes: Before making the case for business automation, know which workflows and tasks are best suited for being automated… Technology is the enabler of business automation and it can automate workflows to the point where human intervention is unnecessary. Automation can pride more value, save time and money, and delight customers who no longer have to wait in line for person to assist them with a transaction.  But not every business process is a good fit for automation, so it’s incumbent upon management to determine which processes are best suited to automation and which are best handled by humans…

In a highly price-competitive environment, management are under great pressure to economize operations to improve profit margins… Consequently, companies look to automate business processes that are time- and resource-intensive operationally, that are subject to human inefficiency, and can be accelerated with automation to improvements for overall performance outcomes… One cardinal rule is to think very carefully when introducing automation to customer-facing human  interaction for it may not always be suited for automation…

In the article Start Thinking About Automation in Business by Nick Ismail writes: Growing role of automation in business is generating much mainstream debate… Whether you’re talking about software or more physical automation, many of the underlying principles of success are the same… Especially regarding how best to start thinking about automation in ways that contribute positively towards a successful outcome. A few general principles for consideration:

  • Focus on business outcomes: Automation is most effective when you think about the outcome that you are trying to achieve or business problem you are trying to solve. All too often strategy can get bogged down in discussions about what approach is best. This is the wrong approach: Automation is just a tool and when you are pitching an automation project– the ‘why’ is far more important than the ‘how’…
  • Create value rather than cut costs: Automation is most effective when it increases the freedom and time people have to focus on more valued activities. As the saying goes; You can’t cut your way to the top… And reducing overhead is hardly a creative vision that energizes and unites the team. Instead, think of automation as a resource that enables you to hire more people and significantly improves productivity without greater expense…
  • Think of velocity as a business value multiplier: Automation is a tool that ultimately helps you execute– more efficiently, faster… And velocity is key concept that enables the process, i.e.; How quickly can you turn an idea into a functioning product or service and get it to market generating income… Agility, speed, relevance, value… are multipliers that make a difference between business success or failure…
  • Does it measurably improve user experience? Automation must show a measurable improvement in the value experience, i.e.; for customers, employees… Whether it’s removing some of the daily drudgery or repetitive tasks that employees deal with, or helping customers get their questions answered more quickly…

In the article Dark Side of Business Automation by Mary Shacklett writes: There are enormous benefits to business automation. But the trick for C-level executives is how to balance the benefits from potential drawbacks, e.g.; when a system has a failure and requires employees to execute a manual process– who has the knowledge to function without the automated systems? Hence an unintended consequence is the risk of eliminating too much human intelligence from the process, such that when automation fails you have adequately trained human workers on hand to do the ‘critical job’ required to keep the process running…

The danger of going too far with automation also has the potential to condition employees into mentally lethargic behavior… It’s critically important to balance the enormous benefits of automation with an equal need to recruit and maintain intelligent and innovative corps of employees. Organization must not lose sight of the core business, which means understanding that automated business processes and technologies are only tools… And that a well-trained, motivated, and intelligent core group of workers is imperative for success in business…

Subtle Shifts in Business, Leadership, Management, Organization, Strategy, Innovation– Bring Big Results…

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