Struggle of Illegal Immigration– Parallels Between U.S. and Ancient Rome: Lesson Learned, Unintended Consequence

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Immigration is a hot issue today, many believe that illegal immigration is reaching such levels that it threatens national security, and perhaps even the national survival. Others believe that the country should give legal status to those who are already illegally in the country… According to kurtedwr; the U.S. has already done this once, in 1986; and the result was that millions more, seeing that there was hope for eventual legal status came illegally to the U.S. hoping for amnesty. We now have over three times more illegals in the U.S. than in 1986.  Some say that if we continue to do this eventually we will reach a point, if we haven’t already, where there are so many illegals in the country that– they will not learn or adopt the U.S.’s– culture, traditions, laws, ethics, language… and they will never become Americans…

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It happened before; just ask ancient Romans: Around the middle of 4th century AD, conditions outside boundaries of the Roman Empire became so bad that large numbers of people who were not citizens of the empire wanted entry for a better life… And just like in U.S. today, there were many ancient Romans, at that time, who believed that any kind of immigration (illegal or not) was good for the country and there were economic benefits that could be derived from allowing illegals to stay and  settle in the country… Sound familiar: Isn’t that today’s U.S. story line; illegals are doing work Americans won’t do and the economy will suffer without their low-cost labor? The ancient Romans subsequently changed laws to give illegals legal status. Once illegals had legal status, other illegals wanted to enter the empire to gain legal status also. (sound familiar). It’s estimated that there are between 12 and 20 million illegals in the U. S., and under various proposals that are being considered by U.S. government, almost all of illegals will be given opportunity to gain legal status and eventual citizenship…

According to Heritage Foundation; over the next 20 years perhaps as many as 50 million illegals could gain legal status, if some of the current thinking prevails… And these illegals, too, have relatives who will want to come to the U. S. and, just as the illegals before them, many will also enter illegally… And should this migration of illegals continue it will have a profound impact on very ‘core’ of U.S. culture, traditions, laws, politics… But if we step back in time; there are lessons that can be learned from past great movement of illegals, for example; they overwhelmed the ancient Roman Empire, smothered its culture… The U.S. is now at a critical point; either effective action is taken or the country faces much greater issues later, such as the ancient Romans did…

However, there are no easy solutions for illegal immigration, for example; many immigration advocates say that it’s impossible for the U.S. to deport the many millions of illegals in the country, so just let them stay… But others say, that since illegals are here to work and make money, which many of them then send the money earned in the U.S. to families in their country of origin… so then their logic goes, if existing laws against the employment of illegals were enforced, the magnet of employment would disappear. And without the prospect of work many or most of the illegals would deport themselves… The presence of millions of people who have no regard for the U.S. culture, traditions… who speak little English, whose loyalties lie elsewhere is not a recipe for a healthy country. The prospect of taking action to legalize millions of illegals, which will attract tens of millions more is recipe for national suicide… If it seems far-fetched, remember; ancient Rome thought it was safe to legalize great numbers of illegal immigrants, and it was one of several factors for ancient Rome’s down fall…

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In the article Illegal Immigration And Fall Of The Roman Empire by alpineski writes: The ancient Roman Empire demonstrated the veracity of the adage that– all empires fail for the same reason– in the end it costs more to maintain an empire than the empire can afford to pay… But is this adage shop-worn and of no real value in the modern world? And is disappearance of the ancient Roman Empire simply an obscure event from a long ago and irrelevant past? So, lets imagine a tourist traveling throughout the Roman Empire in the year 405 AD and they would have found it modestly prosperous and relatively peaceful. True, millions would have been living in abject poverty in an economy based on subsistence agriculture. The middle class would have been small and embattled with most of the wealth concentrated at the top of the social and economic pyramid, about 2%-3% of the population… Also, the tourist would have found that the most prominent and successful institution was the army, disciplined, well-trained and an altogether formidable fighting force… but then just fifty years later all this was gone…

One of the factors was illegal immigrants, they were equal to perhaps 10% of the native population… Not that illegals were rare and unusual, they had been seeping into the ancient Roman Empire for almost two hundred years, but what changed were the increasing large numbers… They crossed the Rhine River by the tens of thousands and kept coming… Historians say that the ancient Roman army was unable to stop them, and the native population did not seem to object, like we are seeing in the U.S. today… and there were indications that the illegals were even welcomed into the empire as workers… And, since the empire was sparsely populated it appeared that there was plenty of land to go around… So where does this leave U.S. and other western nations regarding illegal immigrants? I would say; it’s a bit of sticky wicket, I fear. However, modern western nations are stunningly wealthier now, and far more flexible than the brittle ancient Roman Empire; and yet, even here and now, there are limits…

During the past half century the costs of sustaining a developed nation has risen dramatically, while the ‘core’ of their productive economies, i.e., manufacturing… has transferred to the third world countries where labor costs are far less, and in a sense the U. S. and other western nations have been exporting their wealth to the third world and importing third world poverty… But more important, can national cohesion complicated by the importation of illegals, without genuine assimilation be maintained?  Will native populations of western nations and the U. S.– as they watch their standard of living decline, and as new wealth is being generated by the system, which is being mostly concentrated at the top of the social and economic pyramid– be counted on to support the government? Will the middle class remain loyal to governments who renege on their long-standing promises for– better jobs, more opportunity, better life– in order to pay benefits to illegal immigrants who pay virtually nothing?

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In the article Roman Empire: Gold Standard of Immigration by Cullen Murphy writes: There’s a widespread view that the Roman Empire was swept away mainly by a relentless tide of hostile outsiders; and we’ve all heard ugly references to the ‘barbarian hordes’ in today’s immigration debates. But truth is that ancient Rome was the world’s most successful multi-ethnic state and history’s longest lasting one, bar none… So it’s natural to wonder if ancient Romans might have something to teach the U.S. about the illegal immigration issue, and I’d argue that they do: One lesson is the notion of ‘taking control of the borders’ is overrated; borders were pliable then, and are even harder to define (or police) now. A second lesson is the importance of nurturing a national culture: It was the source of ancient Rome’s power, just as it’s the source of U. S’s…

Ancient Rome‘s ability to assimilate newcomers is so well-established that it’s easy to lose sight of it… But expansion of the Roman Empire to include tens of millions of non-Romans– and then absorption of the immigration of many more millions– was even a bigger phenomenon still… Military service integrated some illegals but ‘romanization’ occurred without the help of tools that U.S. takes for granted, such as; public schools, mass communications, even a single language (In the Roman Empire the elites spoke Latin and Greek, but the empire was polyglot.)… The historians observed what ancient Roman’s called ‘culture’ was in fact what kept the illegals in line…

The U.S. too, is an assimilation machine… Looking back, U.S. managed to accommodate the huge waves of immigration in 1850s, 1880s, first decade of the 1900s, and 1980s– despite skepticism at each of those moments that it ever could. Every age doubts that it can retain the absorptive capacity of ages past, just as every generation  fails to remember the human heartache, wrenching adjustment of past immigration. In the end, the example of ancient Rome suggests that the most effective long-term stance toward illegals lies less in building walls, and more in strengthening the foundation of society– bolstering not just tangibles, such as; education, healthcare… but also intangible, such as; equality, principles of access and opportunity, entrepreneurial spirit… If we take care of these, much else will take care of itself…

In the article Laws Governing Immigration Don’t Work; When Not Enforced by John F. McManus writes: U.S. immigration legislation and policies just are not getting the job done… Many laws are being ignored, others are working  contrary to their intent, and some that are not even laws (e.g., executive orders) have the effect of increasing large numbers of illegal border crossing. U.S. is country of immigrants and there is no doubt the rich history of immigration has contributed significantly to making the U.S. productive and strong… Nor can there be any assurance that past procedures were problem-free… But the penniless immigrants of years gone-by came into the U. S. legally. They got in line, secured qualified admittance, and eventually won citizenship… 

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Allowing today’s millions of illegals to bypass the previous process for entry into the U. S. denigrate the worth of properly gained citizenship achieved by millions. But that is not the only issue; many of today’s illegals have found jobs, worked hard, obeyed laws… but, with little concern or understanding of the U.S.’s very foundation; its culture, its traditions, its laws… There are more than enough laws on the books to manage the illegal immigration crisis. What’s needed is the determination to– use them properly, humanely…

According to Edward Gibbon who wrote; ‘The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’ said; emergence of a ‘welfare bread and circuses state’, and the great riches of ancient Rome became a big magnet for those looking for a better life… and the great numbers of illegals were a factor that ‘hollowed out’ the very core of ancient Roman Empire’s– culture, laws… and by the fifth century the empire was in free fall, and quickly disintegrating… A lesson to be learned from ancient Roman Empire’s illegal immigration issue is– in order for a country or empire to survive, prosper its population must understand and protect its ‘core’ principles– culture, loyalty,  ethics, traditions… 

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The Big Kludge; Clumsy, Goofy, Awkward… but, Good Enough: Tangled-Mess of ‘Kludgeocracy’ in Business, Government…

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Get with the ‘kludge'; Yes, kludge… Kludge is word of the decade: Need to sound smarter than smart? Kludge… Need to rip with flair? Kludge… According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary; kludge means; awkward, clumsy… it’s an inferior system, program that is crafted quickly to resolve a pressing problem… According to Oxford-English Dictionary; kludge means; collection of ill-assorted parts assembled to fulfill a particular purpose, which provides a temporarily and clumsy solution for a specific fault, problemA kludge is a work-around, quick-and-dirty solution that is clumsy, inelegant, difficult to extend, hard to maintain, and yet it can be an effective, quick solution to a problem… It’s a rough synonym for the term ‘jury-rig’, and has come to mean– ‘not smart’, ‘ ridiculous’… However, to many people ‘kludge’ is seen as innovative and is often referred to as a ‘MacGyver’ type solution (after highly inventive TV character of the 1980s), which allows a system to stay-up, running despite its clear need for a better solution. It’s clever trick intended to solve a difficult issue in a quick but not so elegant manner… and many times it works for the wrong reason…

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According to Eric Raymond; the term is indirectly derived from the German ‘klug’ meaning– clever… its general meaning and usage was possibly inspired by the Kluge Company’s ‘paper feeder’– a fiendishly complex assortment of cams, belts and linkages, and devilishly difficult to repair… but oh, so clever! According to J W Granholm; a kludge does not work for amateurs; there is a certain, indefinable, masochistic finesse that must go into true kludge building– an amateur may readily presume that– ‘that’s the way things are done’… But, a professional can easily spot it as a kludge… According to Arturo; probably the most famous visual representation of a ‘kludge’ is found in Goldberg machines, i.e.; Rube Goldberg’s invention that involves complex devices to solve a simple task…

But sometimes the process of ‘tinkering and kludging’ can be a good thing, for example; the terms; ‘change or perish‘ is a business truism, but so is its unhappy corollary; companies ‘change and perish’. The process of change can badly disrupt an organization… According to Eric Abrahamson; companies can alternate major change initiatives with carefully paced periods of smaller, organic change, using processes he calls ‘tinkering and kludging’ (kludging is tinkering on a large-scale), and he says the result is dynamic stability, which allows change without fatal pain… visualize it as a process of continual but relatively small reconfiguration of existing practices and business models rather than the creation of new ones. As they tinker and kludge, successful companies would be wise to follow four guidelines; don’t reward shameless debt; appoint a ‘chief memory officer’ who works with the company to avoid making the same old mistakes; ‘tinker and kludge’ internally before searching for solutions externally, and hire generalists who tend to be more adept at tinkering and kludging…

As might be expected, the concept of kludge has made the leap from science to public policy, and partly into economics… Today, much of U.S. public policy might be described as clumsy and wasteful, but temporarily effective… To see policy kludges in action, one need look no further than, for example; mind-numbing complexity of health-care system, or the Byzantine system of funding higher education, or the bewildering federal-state system of governing everything from welfare, to immigration, to environmental regulation… According to Paul Krugman; Obamacare is a big kludge; clumsy, ugly structure that more or less deals with a problem, but in an inefficient way…

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In the article Kludgeocracy: The American Way of Policy by Steven M. Teles writes: The issues that will dominate politics for foreseeable future is the complexity of government, rather than its sheer size. Greater attention will be placed on rickety, complicated and self-defeating complexity of public policy across multiple and seemingly unrelated areas of government activity… But, you cannot solve a problem until you can name it: There are names for many areas of politics, e.g.;right vs. left’, ‘big vs. small government’... But no name for what should be an equally important set of questions that cuts straight through the ideological divisions, namely– complexity vs. simplicity.  And, for lack of a better alternative the name given is ‘kludgeocracy’. The most insidious feature of kludgeocracy is the hidden, indirect, and frequently corrupt distribution of its costs. Those costs can be put into three categories– costs borne by individual citizens… costs borne by the government that must implement the complex policies…  costs to the character of the democracy… The price paid by citizens to comply with government complexity is the most obvious downside of kludgeocracy…

Moreover, kludgeocracy is a significant threat to the quality of the democracy. The complexity that makes so much of U.S. public policy vexing, wasteful is also what makes it so easy for organized interests to profit from the state’s largesse. The power of such interests varies in direct proportion to visibility of the issue in question… According to Mark Smith; corporations are most likely to get their way when the political issues are out of the public gaze… That is why business invests so much money in politics– to keep issues off the agenda... The cost of kludgeocracy is considerable, but addressing the problem requires that we understand why U.S. politics turns to kludgey solutions so regularly…

A condition as chronic as kludgeocracy inevitably results from many causes at once, but the key interlocking causes are, for example; the structure of government agencies, public ambivalent, contradicting  expectations of government… and, most disturbing, the emergence of a ‘kludge industry’ that supplies a constant stream of complicated, roundabout policy solutions… Kludgeocracy is self-generating; it feeds off the system’s appetite for complexity, in the name of markets and innovation, and driven by increasingly strict and often arbitrary limits on government. U. S. has created what public administrators call a ‘hollow state’, in which core functions of government are hired out to private contractors, operating under oversight of increasingly overwhelmed civil servants… The great agenda for the foreseeable future is coming to grips with– kludgeocracy…

In the article High Cost of Rube Goldberg Policy-making by Kevin Drum writes: Corporations regularly rail against the complexity of the tax code, but they’re crying crocodile tears… The U.S. ‘statutory’ corporate tax rate is one of the highest in the world, but the ‘actual’ tax rate that corporations pay is one of the lowest. Why? Corporations have spent decades lobbying for mind-boggling array of– loopholes, exemptions, change definitions… Likewise, Wall Street complains that the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill is too complex, but they’ve spent the past couple of years trying to make it even more complex. Why? Because complexity is a friend… simple and blunt rules are hard to evade, but complex ones have lots of escape hatches for those clever enough to find them. And make no mistake; the geniuses on Wall Street and the tax accountants at Fortune 500 firms are very clever… So are their lawyers, who will spend the next decade getting agency rulings, and court decisions that lock in place all the loopholes that they discover…

According to Steven Teles; complexity affects policymaking, e. g. ; First, U.S. has a natural affinity for fairness. We want social policies to be fair, which means, (a) making sure not a single deserving person is excluded, (b) making sure that not a single undeserving person gets benefits they shouldn’t. We’re just not willing to accept 95% fairness anymore, and that leads us down a rabbit hole of ever-increasing complexity… Second, social policy-making has become so hard that it can only happen if it’s hidden in the fine print, so to speak… This means accepting a second or third-best option that doesn’t raise too many hackles, rather than a first-best option that might be both better and cheaper, but can never get through legislative process.

So what’s the answer? There are many suggestions, e.g.; policy-makers made to be embarrassed when associated with kludginess… The truth is that more transparency would be good for everyone: Good because it makes the costs of programs obvious, and when taxpayers understand how much programs cost, they’re less excited about expanding them. But it’s also good because it allows for the design of better and more cost-effective programs, and that makes government more efficient. And, a more efficient government with fewer corporate subsidies is one that taxpayers are more likely to support…

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What makes a program or policy qualify as ‘a kludge’? A program or policy qualifies as a kludge if the fundamental policy mechanism is substantially more complicated than the problem it is trying to solve… In general, it’s a ‘kludge’ when it builds upon rather than supersedes, the policies that came before it… According to Sheryl King; economists are famous for lifting concepts from scientific theory and applying them to issues in their field. In that spirit, I propose adding one more, namely; ‘kludge’… because it goes a long way to explaining sluggish economic growth and poor business productivity… There are at least two ways kludge can suppress private sector economic growth: When business opts for quick fix rather than complete overhaul, replacement of out-of-date processes… and, when it holds off investing in new and more productive capital equipment... Quick fixes enable a business to achieve a near-term boon to the bottom line and shareholder return, but at expense of sustained business performance. 

According to Steven Teles: I’m not entirely sure that anyone actually does have an incentive to reduce kludginess. I do think that if the costs of kludgeocracy were more visible, there would be more incentive for business and government to propose– anti-kludges. If the compliance costs of various public policies were clearer, the craziness of doing things indirectly might be clearer and politicians might actually worry about being blamed for them… According to Suzanne Mettler in her thesis; ‘Submerged State'; it’s a kludge in action when the political system buries the actual actions of government under a confusing web of laws… And the greater the number of laws, the more nooks and crannies for the ‘kludge industry’ to embed itself by pulling the fundamental knowledge needed for governing and putting it into the private sector, thus they become nearly indispensable… Hence, it’s not so much about big government, but more about the big ‘kludge’ government…  

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Managing the Customer Experience– No Jerk Rule: Deliver High Expectation and Inspire Brand Loyalty

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The customer experience is the sum of all experiences a customer has over the duration of their relationship with an organization, and it’s the single most important aspect in achieving success for companies across all industries… A successful customer experience program is based on the ‘right’ people doing the ‘right’ things at the ‘right’ time for customers over the long-term… and no jerks allowed– No Jerk Rule: Jerks (whether leaders or employees) can easily derail any attempt to implement an effective ‘customer experience’ program and thus do much harm to the overall strategy of the business… Each business has a unique customer experience profile, and each program must be tailored and designed to fit each business’ value propositions– there is no one size fits all According to Ewan Duncan; organizations that are skillful at managing and executing their customer experience program can reap enormous rewards,e.g.; higher customer loyalty, less churn, more revenue, greater employee satisfaction…

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A well-conceived customer experience program is consistent across all channels and is the basis for significant competitive advantages… which sets it apart from the competition in the eyes of customers, and that serves to inspire loyalty… According to Accenture survey; 85% of executives say that customer experience is a very important strategic priority; 88% indicate they are investing more in this area year over year… 75% of respondents say the increasing importance of the customer experience is resulting in major and sustained changes across their business. This importance is driven by customers and the fundamental changes in customers expectations, interactions with business… However, metrics of value and ‘return-on-customer experience’ investment remains elusive…

Temkin Group Report, ROI of Customer Experience (CX), 2014: To understand how customer experience corresponds to loyalty, this survey examined feedback from 10,000 consumers describing their experiences with and their loyalty to 268 companies. The analysis shows a strong correlation between customer experience and loyalty factors, such as; repurchasing, trying new offerings, forgiving mistakes, recommending the company to friends and colleagues… The survey compared consumers who gave companies an excellent customer experience rating to those who gave companies a very bad customer experience rating, and found that the percentage of customers who plan on repurchasing products is 18 percentage-points higher at organizations with excellent CX ratings. Additionally, the Net Promoter Scores (NPS) of companies with excellent CX ratings average 22 points higher than the scores of companies with poor CX…

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In the article Customer Experience Is Today’s Business Benchmark by Martin Zwilling writes: Customer experience is the cumulative impact of multiple touch-points over time, which result in a ‘real’ relationship feeling, or lack of it… The advent of social media and real-time interactive feedback via Internet allows every customer to build a relationship with a business rather than just touch-points. Yet we are all still learning what that really means, in terms of hard business practices… Maybe it time to focus more on the customer experience: There is evidence suggesting that companies with higher customer experience rating typically; grow faster, more loyal customers, more profitable… than their competitors. However, these programs can be a double-edged sword; by focusing on ‘wrong’ experiences a business can lose competitively very quickly. Have you checked your ‘customer experience’ lately?

In the article What Is Customer Experience? by Vala Afshar writes: To get the customer experience right, companies first need to get the definition right, and according to Esteban Kolsky; meaning of the customer experience is ever-changing; here are a few insights into how it’s being redefined: 1. Customers are not listening to what you have to say; customers already have information about your business, they no longer need to rely on what you say… 2. Customers create their own experience; companies must rethink the notion that they control the customer experience… reality is about building an infrastructure that allows the customers to do whatever they need to do, using any channel they choose to do it… 3. Customers interaction is complex and unpredictable; companies can no longer be silos… customers actions have changed from ‘well-defined’ to ‘anything-goes’… 4. Customers are in communities– that’s where the knowledge is; the community is replacing– knowledge systems, which have become a depository of outdated information… now, social media links the communities of knowledgeable people who are the new depository of current and relevant information…

In the article Customer Experience Metrics Every Successful Company Tracks by Amar Zagorica writes: Customer satisfaction is the most important metric your company must be aware of, everything else is secondary! Customers expect you to respond to their issues in a timely manner… Timeliness and speed have a direct correlation with satisfaction! Research shows 62% of customers select a company because of the knowledgeable employees… and, because customers have the ability to easily find information or get help they need… A well-conceived customer experience program is a key competitive issue… and it’s one of the critical factor for instilling customer loyalty. Companies that master the customer experience can capitalize on a powerful competitive issue, simply because customers are more likely to believe what they– experience or feel… rather than what they– read or hear. Consider: Happy customers tell 3 friends; but, Unhappy customers tell GOOGLE (the universe)…

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In the article Customer Experience Is The Best Offensive Strategy by Christine Crandell writes: The ‘real’ rock-bed of building enduring customer relationships lies in the perception customers hold of value. Value is increasingly not in the product but in the experiences that sellers provide. Yet, value is in ‘eye of beholder'; each customer defines what value is, and is not… and, the definition changes along the life cycle of the relationship… Value is the new credit/debit of the customer trust bank… A company’s ability to deliver on a customer-defined value is closely tied to a company culture; remember the saying ‘happy employees lead to happy customers’… According to Ken Klein; there is congruence between how you treat employees and how they treat customers; the employee to customer engagement is a key factor for company success… All employees must be empowered to simplify solutions and make decisions, on the spot, which will help customers achieve their goals– No Jerk Rule…

According to Report, Navigate the Future of Customer Experience in 2014: Customers are becoming increasingly dissatisfied because organizations are often delivering; (1) inconsistent cross-channel experiences, (2) reactive not proactive customer engagement, (3) one-size-fits-all customer process, (4) inefficient customer interactions… Let’s face it, in most cases, customer experience programs are all over the place; it’s time to get focus, deliver on a consistent customer experience program… Some supporting statistics, consider:

  • Customer experience will overtake price, product as the key brand differentiator…
  • 90% of customer experience decision makers say that a good experience is critical to their success; 63% think the importance of the customer experience is greater…
  • 62% of global consumers switched service providers due to poor customer service experiences, up 4% from prior year…
  • 63% of companies expect to spend significantly more or some what more on customer experience in 2014 than they did in 2013, up from 54% in 2012 and 46% in 2011…
  • 51% of companies plan to increase the staffing of their customer experience team in 2014, while only 3% expect a decrease…
  • 82% view customer experience as a competitive differentiator, and the most important attributes are; accuracy and quality of information provided and ease of interaction…
  • 73% of companies with the most positive CX impact understand the link between customer experience and business results; and only 65% of companies with the least positive CX impact don’t…
  • 8% of companies say they currently provide an ‘integrated’ customer experience; 58% say they are just now developing a strategy…

Companies must face the reality of the changing dynamics of the customer. Today, customers engagement is fundamentally different and the customer journey to purchase is more dynamic, more informed, more continuous… whereas, the traditional journey is built around a ‘linear path or funnel to purchase’… Superior customer experience programs can be the differentiator, and it pay significant dividends, e.g.; higher growth, greater profitability… According to Ross Beard; creating a highly differentiated customer experience can help turn dissatisfaction or indifference into delight. People like to be ‘WOW’, and have expectations exceeded… According to Bain & Company survey; only 8% of companies deliver a superior customer experience. On the flip-side, when the survey asked companies to rate themselves, 80% thought they delivered a ‘superior experience’ to the customers.

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Companies that deliver a truly outstanding customer experience, typically, divide customers into individual segments and design an ‘experience-focused value propositions’ for each one. They tailor and design customer experiences for different customers– not one size fits all… and an emphasis is put on cross-functional collaboration, rather than just one-dimensional… According to Adam Feigenbaum; keep the customer experience program consistent: Hire right; make sure the employees believe in the brand and what it stands for… Own the issues; make someone own the issue and the solution satisfies the customer… Empower the team; the entire team must be actively involved in resolving and solving customer issues… Don’t let it fester; identify the issue quickly, and fix it ASAP…

People want to deal with people not with brands, companies… Every engagement with a customer should be a personalized experience… which is an opportunity to build a strong relationship… According to Peter Kriss; most rationales that focus on customer experience tend to be driven by a ‘gut’ belief that it’s just ‘the right thing to do’… but, the problem with this approach is that often it simply becomes a battle of opinions… But in fact; it’s time to stop the philosophical debate about whether investing in the experience of your customers is the right business decision: It’s not a question of belief or opinion– the impact is a matter of profit and loss… According to Zig Ziglar; people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care… a carefully orchestrated customer experience process is evidence that you care…

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Sugar Industry Business Model: Cronies + Tariffs + Big Sugar’s Sweet Spin = Flawed U.S. Trade Policies

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Sugar: Dirty little secrets that the sugar industry (Big Sugar) and the government would rather you not know… Sugar represents just 2% of the total value of U.S. crop production, but the industry accounts for 33% of ‘the crops industries’ total political campaign donations and 40% of ‘the crops industries’ total lobbying expenditures. There is nothing illegal about sugar producers lobbying Congress, supporting political candidates… but, there is a problem when government intervenes in the economy supporting special interests… According to Senator Mike Lee;  the problem is not that there is too much money in politics, it’s that there’s too much politics in the economy… It’s time for government to stop protecting special interests through unfair trade rules… According to Milton Friedman; no one can logically defend sugar trade quotas– they are indefensible… According to Will Rogers; if business thrives under a protective tariff, that doesn’t mean that it’s a good thing… it just means that the consumer pays more than they should; hence, a few get rich at the cost of the many…

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In 2013, U.S. consumed 12  million tons of refined sugar with the average price for raw sugar at 6 cents per pound higher than the  average world price. That means, based on 24 billion pounds of refined sugar usage U.S. paid an unnecessary $1.4 billion extra for sugar. That is equivalent to more than $310,000 per ‘sugar farm’ in the U. S. The  U.S. sugar program is a relic of the Great Depression with the Jones–Costigan Act in 1934. This act enabled the government to reduce imports of sugar by imposing tariffs. Americans pay a big surcharge for sugar because the federal government guarantees a minimum price for sugar. To maintain this minimum price, the government restricts low-priced imports by establishing a quota that limits the amount of sugar U.S. can import at relatively low tariff rates. Any imports above this quota are subject to prohibitively high tariffs. Based on 2013 world sugar prices, the average above-quota tariff rate was 88% for raw sugar, and 73% for refined sugar.

Since the turn of the millennium, Americans have paid an average of 79% more for raw sugar and  87% for refined sugar compared to the  average world price… In April, the price of raw sugar in the U. S. was 43% higher than average world price, and price of refined sugar was 39% higher… Although the ‘North American Free Trade Agreement’ (NAFTA) eliminated tariffs between the U. S., Mexico, and Canada, a loophole allows domestic sugar producers to request anti-dumping duties to protect them from international competition. Sugar beet and sugar cane farms account for about one-fifth of 1% of U.S. farms and sugar producers account for 1.3% of the value of total farm and livestock production. There are 2.2 million farms in U. S.  and of that total, there are just 3,913 sugar beet farms and 666 sugar cane farms. This relatively small sector of the economy is very politically engaged, and the special treatment that it gets from the government drives up the price of sugar, which jeopardizes overall export growth, and weakens the U.S. economy…

The U.S. Sugar Policy costs consumers and businesses up to $3.5 billion annually in the form of a hidden taxes; all to provide subsidies to already profitable U.S. sugar producers… According to Daniel Pearson; the sugar industry is rightfully considered to be the most protectionist segment of U.S. agriculture… According to Daniel J. Ikenson; sugar prices in the U. S. are on average 85% greater than the world average price, which adversely impacts all the U.S. industries that rely on sugar as an important ingredient in producing their output…

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In the article U.S. Sugar Policy: Bad for Consumers, Bad for Agriculture, Bad for U.S. by Bryan Riley writes: This Depression-era program, which was supposed to end in 1940 has outlived its intended life span, and It should be abolished… The U.S. government artificially inflates sugar prices by imposing quotas that cap the amount that food manufacturers and consumers can buy from producers in other countries, for example; when bakeries, candy companies… wants to import more sugar than is allowed under the government’s quota, it must pay a prohibitive tariff per pound for sugar. At current prices, that works out to be over 62%  tariff rate… But, when you examine the many arguments that the sugar industry uses to justify their quotas and you compare them with ‘the actual facts’– the results are, at best, misleading, for example:

  • Falsehood #1: Sugar program is a ‘no-cost’ policy. Fact: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the price of raw sugar was 40% higher in the U. S. than in the rest of the world. Although the sugar program does not directly transfer funds from the federal government to sugar producers, it cannot accurately be called a ‘no-cost’ program, since it increases prices for everyone who buys sugar or sugar-containing products… As long as government has the ability to hand out favors to some industries and punish others, resources will be diverted away from productive private-sector activities to fund lobbying campaigns in Washington, D.C. This is true for all industries, not just sugar. However, sugar producers have invested heavily in lobbying activities, political donations relative to the size of their industry… This behavior can result in ‘crony capitalism’– a system in which business success depends on a close relationship with the government…
  • Falsehood #2: Sugar policy didn’t cost taxpayers a dime. Fact: U.S. sugar policy costs taxpayers millions of dimes per year. According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, the sugar program imposes a $49 million net cost on the economy. According to a study commissioned by the Sweetener Users Association; the program costs consumers $2.9 billion to $3.5 billion. According to a study by American Enterprise Institute; program costs consumers $2.4 billion per year with a net economic cost of $1 billion per year.
  • Falsehood #3: One-sided trade deals force U.S. to import sugar from 41 countries regardless of our needs. Fact: There is not a single person in the U. S. who is forced to import sugar from other countries. However, more than 313 million Americans are forced to pay inflated prices for sugar. Sugar industry lobbyists have repeatedly subverted U.S. trade policy and made it more difficult for trade negotiators to expand U.S. export opportunities…
  • Falsehood #4: U.S. sweetener industry has a positive annual impact of $21.1 billion on the U.S. economy, and adds 372,000 direct and indirect jobs in 42 states. Fact: According to a 2006 study by the U.S. Department of Commerce; for each one sugar growing and harvesting job saved through high U.S. sugar prices, nearly three confectionery manufacturing jobs are lost… In general, trade barriers do not increase employment; they shift the composition of jobs away from competitive industries toward those favored by the government…

What should be done with sugar: According to the American Sugar Alliance; 71% of Americans prefer to buy homegrown sugar, even if foreign sugar is cheaper… So, consumers deserve the opportunity to prove whether this is true: The government should give Americans that choice by removing caps on sugar imports…

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In the U. S., once the government bestows political favors on one industry, others come to Washington to seek their own special treatment or to fend off special-interest requests from competing industries. The influx of special-interest-seeking businesses and lobbyists are draining billions of dollars from the U.S. economy… For example; U.S. sugar producers may have learned from tomato growers, who used the threat of anti-dumping duties to convince Mexico’s  tomato growers to ‘voluntarily’ increase the price they charge their U.S. customers. The Mexican tomato growers accepted the U.S. terms, which raised the reference prices substantially, in some cases more than double, and this accounts for the changes that have occurred in the tomato market since signing of the original agreement.

It’s relatively common policy for developed countries to restrict trade in many agricultural products, and many other industries to protect domestic producers… But how does a country decide when a protective tariff is appropriate– setting aside political cronyism, lobbyists..? If the government economists would calculate the costs and overall impact on the nation’s economy, and the general well-fare of the consumer… for each specific trade restriction, so that more informed decisions can be made, then that is be a good first step… for example; if the cost of the sugar import quota is costing the nation only $1 million per year, maybe than the  program is a cheap way to protect sugar farmers… But, if the cost is in the ‘billions of dollars’, maybe not…

According to Mark A. Groombridge; nowhere is there a larger gap between the U.S. government’s free-trade rhetoric and its protectionist practices, than in the sugar program. Through preferential loans and tariff-rate quotas, the U.S. government thwarts price competition to maintain an artificially high domestic price for sugar– a price that can be twice the world market price or higher… The U.S. sugar quotas pose a threat to multilateral and regional trade negotiations: U.S. trading partners routinely and rightly point to the sugar quota as being inconsistent with U.S. demands for more open markets abroad. The sugar program has become an obstacle to lowering foreign trade barriers for U.S. exports…

The U.S. sugar program is a classic case of concentrated benefits and dispersed costs: A very small number of sugar producers get enormous benefits, while the costs of those benefits are spread across the whole U.S. economy, including; consumers, confectioners, food producers…  According to economist Anne O. Krueger; fact that  protectionism  inflicts harm on ‘consumers’ is widely understood, but the impact of protectionism on ‘other producers’ and on the macro-economy as a whole is grossly under-estimated and is much greater than generally recognized… The ability of special interests to manipulate political decision-making compounds the problems and serves to highlight both the need for institutional change at the national level, and importance of a multilateral approach to free trade…

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Happiness is The ‘Core’ Deliverable for Any Successful Business: ‘Happy’ is the Greatest Competitive Advantage…

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The greatest competitive advantage in the modern economy is a positive, engaged (and happy) workforce; a business will only be successful if it creates happiness… A decade of research proved that happiness improves nearly every business outcome; improves sales by 37%, productivity by 31%, accuracy on tasks by 19%, as well as, a myriad of health and quality of life improvements. Yet many businesses still ignore the role that happiness plays in business performance… Given the unprecedented level of unhappiness at companies and the direct link between employees’ happiness and business outcomes, the question is ‘not’ whether happiness should matter to companies, but the real question is: Can a company do anything to improve the happiness level of employees and, in turn, customer happiness?

Findings clearly indicate that not only can a company influence the happiness of its employees with a short intervention and a low investment of resources… but, more important, the effects are sustained even in times of great challenge… In other words, investing in ‘happiness’ pays great dividends… According to Patrick Dixon; happiness is a dominant concept in marketing, customer loyalty, product design, workplace motivation… All successful businesses want their customers to be happy, suppliers to be happy, workers to be happy: Win, win, win… Happiness in a core business model; implementing a ‘happiness-centric’ strategy is imperative for success… According to Jiří Černák; many studies suggest that happy work teams are linked to success; happy employees work harder, they are more efficient, more loyal, make customers happy...

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Studies also show that happy customers– spend more money, more loyal, and spread their positive experience to others… According to a study by University College London; employees who are happy and engaged in their work are more successful and are more likely to deliver satisfying customer experiences… According to Shawn Achor; many people feel that if they become successful at work, they automatically become happy… but, that scenario should be reversed. It’s important to become happy, which will then help you become a success… According to Nancy F Clark; debunk three happiness myths:

  • Myth 1: Happiness is something that you find, like Shangri-La: ‘Not’ true, so don’t wait around for this magical occurrence…
  • Myth 2: Circumstances determine happiness. ‘Not’ true, so don’t think; If only this would happen, then I’d be happy… This is a trap everyone falls into at some time…
  • Myth 3: Either have it or you don’t. ‘Not’ true: You can change things and make improvements…

Does Employee Happiness Really Matter for Business Success? Some say– Yes: While others say– Maybe. Here are some– ‘Pro’ and ‘Con’:  

  • Pro: According to Teresa Amabile, Steven Kramer; productivity measured across national economies have captivated the attention of policy makers and executives alike. Ultimately, though, the source of productivity is the individual knowledge workers who get things done every day. And the evidence is clear: People perform better when they’re happier… Gallup study quantified the link between employee feelings and corporate outcomes, reporting that lost productivity due to employee disengagement costs more than $300 billion in the U.S. annually… But, if you pay careful attention to the data, rather than anecdotes and intuition, you’ll find it’s clear that happiness boosts performance…
  • Con: According to Costas Markides; having happy employees has many benefits, but sometimes the costs can outweigh the benefits… For example, happy employees tend to enjoy the status quo so much that they might resist changes to it. This is hardly a recipe for success in today’s world, where agility and embracing change are essentials for success… Another potential cost is that happy employees can feel so satisfied with their work that they refrain from taking on new challenges… The truth of the matter is that whenever we make a difficult choice, some people will win and some will lose. The winners will be happy and the losers unhappy. It’s impossible to make everyone happy all the time. If most everyone in your organization is happy, that means that leadership is failing…

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In the article Truth About Workplace Happiness by Geoffery James writes: Employees don’t work hard because they’re happy; they’re happy when they’re working hard… Most bosses understand (if only in theory) that happy employees are more productive than miserable ones… However, it often turns out that many of the things that make employees happier don’t make them more productive… For example, companies often try to make their employees happier by trying to make the workplace more ‘fun’… for example; having a on-site video game room, an in-house gym… Other companies host community-building exercises to build a greater sense of connection. However, while this approach may make employees ‘happier’, they probably don’t increase employee productivity, and may end-up having the opposite effect…

According to Matthew A. Killingsworth; data from a smartphone ‘app’ called ‘Track Your Happiness’, which lets people report, in real-time, how they actually feel… The most surprising results came from people who are most often the happiest when there are completely ‘absorbed’ in what they are doing; aka, being ‘in the zone’… In other words, employees are more happy when they’re focused, which can make them more productive, as an accidental byproduct... Therefore, all the ‘fun’ things can indeed increase employee happiness, but that happiness isn’t going to translate into more productivity… So, rather than just ‘fun’ things, companies should make it easier for employees to become ‘absorbed’ in their work, thereby making them more productive and happier at the same time…

In the article Building Happiness-Based Business by adminec writes: Imagine if you never had to advertise, or promote your business, or go out of your way to find new customers ever again. Imagine if new customers contacted you and it was up to you whether you wanted to work with them or not. And imagine if you could concentrate all your efforts on providing the best possible customer service… According to Paddi Lund; transitioning your business from a ‘money-based’ business to a ‘happiness-based’ business can be more profitable with a lot less effort… transitioning from an environment of unhappy employees who are constantly–  squabbling, disagreeing… and a workplace that’s– uncooperative and unpleasant… all of which will lead to unhappy customers…

Once you realize that– if management are happy and they, in turn, make employees happy, who in turn make customers happy… and that makes the business easier, happier, more profitable… So, ergo– the ‘Happiness Meter'; a simple process whereby employees rate their levels of happiness and stress on a scale of 1 to 10 every day. This encouraged employees and management to think about happiness and stress, to identify what contributed to happiness and stress and to come up with specific changes to improve happiness and stress in the workplace…

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In the article Happiness Dividend by Shawn Achor writes: Nearly every company in the world gives lip service to the idea that– ‘their people are their greatest asset’… Yet according to a Conference Board Survey; employees are the unhappiest they have been in their 22 years of tracking job satisfaction rates… Around the same time, CNN Money reported a survey that indicated; 84% of workers are unhappy with their current job. And, the Mercer’s– ‘What’s Working’ survey found that; ‘one-in-three’ (over 30%) of employees are serious about leaving their current jobs. So, Why is the lack of happiness at work important? Because the single greatest advantage in the modern economy is a happy and engaged workforce...

The argument is simple: A decade of research suggests that happiness at work– defined as pleasure, engagement, sense of meaning– can improve revenue, profitability, staff retention, customer loyalty, and workplace safety. Many of the studies suggest that positive emotion increases creativity and problem-solving ability and aids in fighting stress… However, according to some researchers; cheery thoughts aren’t for everyone all the time. There are plenty of jobs that require anxiety, pessimism, even fear… which mean that a focus on happiness is not necessarily always the answer… According to Jerome Kagan; the psychology of happiness is little understood, varies dramatically across time, cultures, individuals…

Given its very nature, happiness is very subjective and it can mean different things to different people… It’s difficult to compare one person’s happiness with another’s. However, The idea that happiness is important to a society is not new. Thomas Jefferson put the ‘pursuit of happiness’ on the same level as ‘life and liberty’… Despite a large body of positive research into the relationship between happiness and productivity; happiness in the workplace has traditionally been seen as a potential by-product of a positive outcomes, rather than a pathway to success in business. However a growing number of scholars, including Boehm and Lyubomirsky; state that happiness  should be viewed as one of the major sources of positive outcomes in the workplace…

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People should pause and think about how they working; when you’re not happy, when you are feeling negative, anxious, stressed… Are you creative? Inspired? Motivated? Engaged? Is your productivity at its peak? Now turn it around: When you feel happy; how are you working? Are you charged up, feeling creative, positive, energized about the outcomes? According to the book ‘The Joy of Work‘; companies with higher than average employee happiness, in fact, exhibit much better– financial performance and customer satisfaction…

Hence it may seem obvious, but it’s very important for companies to create and maintain a positive and engaged work environments… company leadership must create a workplace environment that celebrate happiness and well-being, because it’s in the best interest of the company, employees, customers, and in fact all stakeholders involved in the business… It’s common for people to have ambivalent feelings about their work; many people find it difficult to decide if they are actually happy at their job… But, studies suggest that happy work teams are more creative, productive, effective… Just think about it: Happy employees are nicer to be around, they make customers happy… and they work harder towards achieving that goal. Happy customers spend more money, and are more loyal to a brand… Happy Employees = Happy Customers

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Two-Sided Markets, Two-Sided Networks… The Yin-Yang of Business Models: Works for Google, eBay, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft.

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Two-Sided Markets– It seems like the quickest way to make a billion dollars, these days, is to create a successful two-sided market (or also called– two-sided network, two-sided platform…). A two-sided market is an economic platform having two distinct user groups that provide each other with network benefits... For example; Google is a two-sided market, it serves information seekers (on the 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). The way that eBay makes money is by charging sellers whenever they list something…

There are many other examples, including; Facebook, Match.com, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Airbnb… The distinguishing characteristic of a two-sided market is that the price structure is not neutral; the structure of pricing will affect the extent of participation and usage in the marketAccording to Ruhai Wu; these platforms have gained remarkable success because of a unique feature– positive cross-side network effect; more buyers on a platform attract more sellers, and more sellers consequently attract more buyers…

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Pioneering work on the study of ‘platform markets’ or ‘two-sided markets’ or ‘two-sided networks’ was done by Jean Tirole, who won the 2014 Nobel prize in economics for his work… According to Tirole; two-sided markets are markets where a firm brings together two or more sides, both of which benefit by existence of the platform and both of which may (or may not) be monetized… Key difficulty in these markets is that the price charged to one side of the market influences the demand on other side of the market. The concept is not especially complex; basic idea is that there’s a platform operated by a business that serves two or more groups of customers: 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… the key is to incentivize the group that benefits least from the relationship…

According to David S. Evans; when the theory of two-sided markets was first introduced it was common to hear at least two complaints, such as; it’s nothing new it’s just the indirect ‘network effects’ or ‘wine in new bottles’… it all been considered before… Or, it’s a theory of everything and therefore nothing, since everything seems to be two-sided… One of the problems with two-sided market analysis is that it’s hard to find formal limiting principles, but it’s not uncommon in economics. Sometimes a two-sided market perspective is highly informative, while other times it’s not: It matters when it matters… Two-sided markets require a very different way of thinking and they have very different economics, and while only developed just a couple of decades ago, two-sided markets have become one of the most influential economic concepts…

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In the article Two-Sided Markets: An Overview by Jean-Charles Rochet, Jean Tirole write: Two-sided (or more generally multi-sided) markets are roughly defined as markets in which one or several platforms enable interactions between end-users, and try to get the two (or multiple) sides ‘on board’ by appropriately charging a fee to each side. That is, platforms court each side while attempting to make, or at least not lose, money overall…  A market is two-sided when the platform can affect the volume of transactions by charging more to one side of the market and reducing the price paid by the other side by an equal amount; in other words, the price structure matters, and platforms must be designed so as to bring both sides on board. That is, the relationship between end-users must be fraught with residual externality; factors conducive to two-sidedness include; transaction costs among end-users and platform-imposed constraints on pricing between end-users…

In the article Platform Markets by Alex Tabarrok writes: A difficulty in two-sided markets is the price charged to one side of the market influences the demand on the other side of the market, for example; the price that a newspaper charges to readers influences the number of readers but that in turn influences the price that advertisers, 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 price that newspapers charge readers, for example, is often much less than the cost of the newspaper…

In a shopping mall, for example, it’s often largest firm (anchor) gets the lowest rent (sometimes even zero): But, does this represent an unfair advantage that a large firm has over smaller rivals or is it a rational consequence of the fact that the ‘anchor’ store may bring the most customers to the other, smaller stores in the mall, so that the total package is welfare maximizing? Is Microsoft engaging in predatory pricing if it prices the Xbox at or below cost? Or, when a ‘singles’ bar may have– ‘ladies are free night': Is that sexist or good economics? Platform markets mean that pricing at marginal cost can no longer be considered optimal in every market, and pricing above marginal cost can no longer be considered as an indication of monopoly power. The analysis also impacts such issues as network neutrality…

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In the article Strategies for Two-Sided Markets by Thomas Eisenman, Geoffrey Parker, and Marshall W. Van Alstyne write: Two-sided networks differ from traditional value chains in a fundamental way: In the traditional system, value moves from left to right: To the left of the company is cost; to the right is revenue… In two-sided networks, cost and revenue are both to the left and to the right, because the ‘platform’ has a distinct group of users on each side. The platform product or service incurs costs in serving both groups and can collect revenue from each, although one side may be subsidized… Because of what economists call ‘network effects’, these platform products enjoy increasing returns to scale, which explains their extraordinary impact. Yet most firms still struggle to establish and sustain their platforms.

Their failures are rooted in a common mistake: In creating strategies for two-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 their industries… The key decision here is pricing; providers of platforms for two-sided 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?

Two side marketplace businesses are possibly one of the holy grails of online business models… According to Philip Brown; in a two-sided marketplace, buyers and sellers conduct transactions through a centralized platform. Both sides of the marketplace are self organized and so, the platform owner is able to take a transactional ‘rake’… These types of businesses are extremely defensible because of the ‘network effects’ of marketplaces and high switching costs of moving to another marketplace. For each new buyer or seller that enters the market, the market as a whole becomes stronger… However, two-sided markets are incredibly difficult to pull off due to ‘chicken or egg dilemma'; without buyers, you won’t attract sellers, and without sellers you won’t attract buyers…

Probably the most important overall strategy for building a two-sided marketplace 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 then that is a recipe for failure. If you try to appeal to everyone, you will end up appealing to no one… According to Geoffrey Moore; the ultimate goals of creating a two-sided marketplace is that it’s a business model that scales indefinitely. The real beauty of two-sided marketplaces is the power of the ‘network’ and how each side self organizes around the platform… Two-sided marketplace businesses are very attractive because they are defensible and able to scale with a clear repeatable business model Platforms play an important role throughout the economy by minimizing transactions costs between entities that can benefit from getting together. In these businesses, pricing and other strategies are strongly affected by the ‘indirect network effects’ between the two sides of the platform…

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According to Thomas Eisenmann, Geoffrey Parker, Marshall W. Van Alstyne; the fact that circumstances make it possible for a platform to exist does not mean that it will. Moreover, even if a platform is built, potential customers may find other ways to obtain the services… Attracting complementary participants to a multi-sided market and keeping them there requires the right pricing structure, as well as the right price levels… Traditional market research, which predicts prospective customers’ reaction to varying price points, won’t help much, since the demand by multiple groups of platform customers is interdependent. You thus must figure out how much each side values the other, then calculate the prices that will make sure that both sides show up in the right numbers– and, of course, make sure the revenues will still be adequate to generate a profit…

Although pricing is important, it’s only one element in the design and implementation of a platform strategy… Experimenting on a small-scale and then expanding can help platform businesses 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 benchmarks and starting points for more nuanced analysis… But by contrast, multi-sided platforms, especially those in new markets, too, often require clean-sheet planning from strategists. With multiple interdependent customer groups to serve, companies find that direct costs provide little guidance for pricing strategies… Consider, too, that customer group interdependence makes it far more 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 multi-sided platforms work to their advantage… According to Boris Wertz; building out both sides of the marketplace simultaneously can seem exponentially harder than a one-sided transaction model. But, once you reach scale, things truly start clicking and an established marketplace 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…

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CyberLoaf, CyberSlack, GoldBrick… Workplace Realities: The Impact of Personal Internet Usage at Work…

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Cyberloafing is No.1 reported way employees waste time, according to a survey of 10,000 employees, and 44.7% cited cyberloafing as their No.1 distraction at work… So, if you’re reading this at work you are cyberloafing, as it’s the term for employees who surf the Internet when they should be working. It’s not an especially new word (it dates from the end of the heyday of the ‘cyber-word-creation’ boom, with first example being in Toni Kamins’ article ‘Cyberloafing: Does Employee Time Online Add Up to Net Losses?’ But, it became more newsworthy with an article by Vivien K G Lim when she surveyed a selection of self-identified cyberloafers and found; employees often did so, not out of boredom or laziness but, as an act of defiance against what they saw as unjust actions by employers, so it was a conscious attempt to balance the ledger… but other experts differ on employees primary motivation…

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Cyberloafing is a slang term used to describe employees who surf the Internet, write e-mail or other Internet-related activities at work that are not related to their job. These activities are performed while employees are being paid by their employer. The individual is called cyberloaf(er) and the act is cyberloafing. Other associated terms are; cyberslacking, goldbricking… According to Webopedia; the term is a slang word to describe employees who spend their working hours engaged in online activities that don’t have anything to do with work… According to study by Kansas State University; between 60 and 80% of people cyberloaf… According to Mark Gimen; cyberloafing costs U.S. employers $1 billion per year in computer resources, while other estimate the cost to U.S. economy could be as high as 63 billion dollars per year… Also, cyberloafers may– unwittingly or otherwise– visit websites which can expose organization to legal liabilities, and dangers posed by computer viruses...

According to research, the most common forms of cyberloafing are; checking personal email, social media, playing games, watching videos, shopping, managing finances, job searching… A recent Modis survey; found that 30% of IT professionals admit their departments monitor employees who might be violating content policies. And, 48% of admit their company does some sort of banning, blocking or throttling of non-work Web content… According to  Dave Lavinsky; workers are going to goof off sometimes, but for the most part, they’re going to be focused on work related activities… But, when companies choose to play ‘big brother’ and heavily monitor computer use, they’re not going to have happy employees…

According to one report; email is a ‘gateway distraction’ to different cyberloafing activities because it opens up numerous other ways to get sidetracked from work tasks and enticed in other Internet activities… According to  Financial Times article; businesses are losing thousands of dollars per year for each employee that cyberloafs, which equates to a multimillion dollar problem (one number put out there is at about $650 million). As a result of people getting distracted with online entertainment and personal business, reportedly– productivity has decreased, which ultimately has a negative impact on profitability. This leads to some business blocking certain websites or monitoring employee Internet use, which can lead to staff morale problems and other ethical issues in an organization…

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So, what should employers consider when developing an Internet policy? According to Chen; managers must recognize that blanket policies that prohibit all forms of personal Internet usage are not effective and excessive monitoring is likely to lead to employees’ retaliation, and stifle legitimate Internet use… Instead, managers and companies should work toward implementing acceptable Internet use policy, which aims to work out a reasonable balance between some personal Web usage and work… Remember that even if you attempt to control what websites employees visit on work computers, the vast majority of workers bring either; their personal smartphones or tablets with them to work each day, and you’ll never be able to control their activities on their own personal devices. The only real solution to cyberloafing is to find effective ways to motivate employees to be more productive during the ​workday…

In the article Dealing with Personal Internet Use at Work by edward writes:  With all the advantages of the Internet in the workplace it also has some challenges… One of the greatest is the temptation to use Internet for personal reasons during the course of a workday. Even the most loyal, hard-working employee can be tempted to occasionally, e.g.; do a little online shopping, play games, watch videos, check local news or weather reports, or communicate with family and friends using social media… In a survey, here are some more eye-popping statistics to consider:

  • 77% of people check their Facebook account on work computers.
  • 20% of men admit to viewing pornography at work.
  • 4% of men spend 1-2 hours per day gambling at work.
  • 56% of people spend 30 minutes each day researching office betting pools.
  • Employers lose $6.5 billion due to fantasy football.
  • 77% of brides admit to using work hours to plan their wedding.
  • 49% of people shop online while at work during the holiday season.

In the article Does Cyberloafing Have Negative, Positive Impact on Productivity? by Leigh Goess writes: Employees that cyberloaf are involved with a number of different activities which fall into two general categories: entertainment and personal business… In entertainment; people tend to spend time on social media websites, playing online games, video watching, streaming and viewing live events and using instant messaging applications to chat with family and friends… In personal business; people tend to engage in online shopping, banking, job searches, emails…. But are workers really slackers? The term ‘cyberloafing’ has been said to have been derived from the term ‘goldbricking’ which is basically another work for slacker, or something that appears to possess value, but in reality is worthless…

According to Laura Vanderkam; everyone needs a break, and taking a breather and engaging in another activity to relieve stress can lead to happier employees, which generally leads to higher productivity… Whether or not cyberloafing is serious problem, most likely depends on employee’s specific behaviors in any given organization. In some companies it may be a serious problem, but in others maybe not be as much... What it boils down to is ‘balance’– employees that do not waste hours on cyberloaf activities are likely to find their employers more willing to accept the use of limited non-work related Internet activity, e.g.; during lunch hours, breaks, off hours… the key for both employer and employee is balance and flexibility…

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In the article Cyber Loafing Drains Productivity by Peter Strozniak writes: Research finds it takes more than a policy to stop employees from cyberloafing– wasting work time on the Web… Between 60% and 80% of people’s time on the Internet at work has nothing to do with work, which means cyberloafing drains productivity. More important, it could put companies in legal trouble when employees conduct illegal activity or unacceptable behavior like viewing pornography on workplace computers. According to John Urgin and John Pearson; after surveying office workers and university students, the researchers discovered both older and young workers waste time on the Internet but in different ways, for example; older people are doing things like; managing their finances… while young people found it more acceptable to spend time on social networking sites like; Facebook…

Although threats of termination and detection mechanisms are effective deterrents against cyberloafing, they may not be enough… the researchers found that for young people, it was hard to get them to think that social networking was unacceptable behavior… Just having a policy in place did not change their attitudes or behavior at all. Even when they knew that they were being monitored, they still did not care… companies need to be careful when taking invasive actions, people will feel as if ‘big brother’ is watching them and that becomes counter-productive…

It’s hard to fully focus on work when personal issues become a distraction, and when they can be addressed via the Internet so easily… Management experts have estimated that only about 67% of employee’s workday is actually productive (without factoring in personal use of the Internet)... But with the advent of online– music download, shopping, auction sites, fantasy sports… that percentage is quickly and radically reduced.. According to Parry Aftab; some employers have opted for software to monitor employees’ surfing activities and in some cases restrict their online activities… But most have adopted more acceptable-use policies…

According to Will Sturgeon; businesses are losing thousands of hours of productivity each year– workers are being distracted by the endless hours they spend online with– email, Internet, IM… which are often cited as being the biggest factor in office productivity. But some believe that it’s just simply symptomatic of a more serious issue… Whereas, cyberloafing was identified by 23% as main obstacle to a productive workforce; low staff morale and lack of motivation was identified by 32%– suggesting that management must do a better job at managing workers…

According to Gartner Research; about 5% of enterprise workers are engaging in inappropriate online behavior at the office, ranging from simple ‘cyberloafing’ to using company Internet access to hold down a second job… According to a survey by Websense; average employee spent about 24% of his/her working hours on cyberloafing activities… According to a study; one-fifth of all people who visited ‘pornographic websites’ have done it from work… One-third of workers surveyed by the Society of Financial Service Professionals reported; ‘playing computer games’ while at work… A survey by ‘Privacy Foundation’ found; eighty-three percent of companies indicated that employees were using e-mail for personal purposes…

The cyberloafing trend has created a new industry in the form of software that monitors and controls Internet activity, as well as; smartphone blocking technologies… But even when the Internet is blocked at workplaces; the cyberloafing problem is still there, since workers would respond by getting their cyberloafing fix by using instead, their own smartphones, tablets…  According to Tom Peters; Just ignore it and move on! But a more honest view, simply tweeted: Too late… #genie/bottle/out.

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