Dude, where’s my bike?


Just walkin’ around the TJU corner to see a billion bikes… no big deal. It’s just one of the many corners of the campus. I’ve been told nice bikes are a “nono” unless you’re rich enough to have them replaced. Ahhh theft of your transportation vehicle… reminds me of home sweet home. Surrey WHAT! jk, […]

Tianjin University (TJU)


  This is the TJU East Gate entrance. This is where my cool mates from AIESEC TJU study and dorm. AIESEC if you don’t already know is the largest student run organization all about sending students abroad and exploring new cultures and making connections and stuff. I always forget what “AIESEC” stands for though. It’s […]

Ma crib and how I lib (My apartment)


  My clean-ass empty-ass zen looking cool apartment (a bit cold at night actually..but I got a trick for that!) oooohhhhh semi furnished. Just how I like it. Start fresh from scratch. I have the freedom to furnish it however I want. I can totally furnish it with some contemporary modern furniture… Like a dual functioning […]

TQM: What’s the point? or points?


TQM: What’s the point? or points?

TQM stands for Total Quality Management. TQM is “an approach to quality management that involves everyone in an organization in quality management and continual effort to improve quality and customer satisfaction” (Stevenson & Hojati, 2011). However, I believe there is one particular area that needs to be updated since the term was coined in the early 1920s. (“History of quality,” )

According to one of the great pioneers and quality gurus of quality management, W. Edwards Deming, there are 14 points to help companies improve their quality and productivity (“Total quality management,” ). You can view all 14 points here. My observation is this: in recent years I have seen time and time again successful companies growing with the help and feedback of not only their internal stakeholders, but external ones: their customers. Through the grapevine, word of mouth, and daily buzz, I am listening to stories and learning about websites where everyday consumers and citizens are creating (and/or contributing  their resources to) new products and technologies. Two specific websites that I have stumbled upon in the recent months come to mind:  Indiegogo and Kickstarter. These websites provide a platform for inventors, entrepreneurs and everyday citizens to share their ideas/projects with the rest of the world. The rest of the world watches and listens, and many decide to offer their support to help finance these new projects. Millions of dollars have been raised this way. Customers are more integrated into the product and even process design than ever before.

Lush Cosmetics is a great example of a successful company that engages with consumers to receive fresh new ideas, information, and feedback.  They not only listen to their customers, they respond and initiate a dialogue with them. They even have Lush employees who actively engage on forums where they have conversations with customers. Lush has even made products based on customers’ demands. Here’s a short two-minute video clip showing how Lush engages with their customers:

So, taking a look again at Deming’s 14 points, “leverage customer insights and resources” or anything similar to that is nowhere in sight. Deming’s 14 points aren’t bad, but I believe an explicit focus on customers is now required more than ever. If I were to update Deming’s 14 points, I would update the 9th point. His 9th point is this:

“Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team to foresee problems of production that may be encountered with various material and specifications.”

What I would add to the above point is this: include consumers into the picture. Personally, I believe consumers care a great deal about quality management. How is the product being produced, what materials and resources are being used, where are the raw materials coming from, are they ethically sourced, is there a lot of waste and spoilage? The list really can go on…and on… and on…  (and on!) These are questions demanding answers from consumers more and more every day.

One of the principles of TQM is to concentrate on preventing defects, rather than focusing on inspection after the production process. Similarly, I argue that products that are of high quality, low-cost, and economically-friendly, should already have customers’ questions built into the product. In other words, rather than creating a product and asking what customers think after the fact, co-create and have customers’ ideas and specifications built right in. Deming has 14 points, but for today’s blog, I just have one: be transparent with customers and break down the barriers between them and the organization.

References

(2011). Tqm- it really works. (2011). [Web Graphic]. Retrieved from http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/publicroads/95fall/images/p95a24.gif

Cosmetics, L. (Producer). (2010). Lush cosmetics – engaging with customers. [Web Video]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGYb8FOXROU

History of quality. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.bpir.com/total-quality-management-history-of-tqm-and-business-excellence-bpir.com.html

Indiegogo. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.indiegogo.com/

Kickstarter. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.kickstarter.com/

Stevenson, W., & Hojati, M. (2011). Operations management. (p. 290). McGraw-Hill Ryerson.

Total quality management (tqm). (n.d.). Retrieved from http://asq.org/learn-about-quality/total-quality-management/overview/overview.html

 

Flatter Organizations: More than Thicker Wallets


Flatter Organizations: More than Thicker Wallets

To be flat, or not to be flat. That is the question. Traditional companies had a “tall” organizational structure: the CEO and the few decision makers would be at the top of the hierarchy, middle-managers in the middle, and the many workers at the bottom. As a diagram, this looks like a triangle, or the typical “pyramid” structure. More companies have since then adopted a “flatter” organizational structure for several benefits. (Click this link for an image to see the difference between a tall and flat organization)

Flatter organizations usually have fewer middle-managers, which can do at least three things: save the company money, allow employees to make quicker decisions, and provide employees with greater job satisfaction. According to the Harvard Business Review, Gill Corkindale describes the pitfalls of red-tape and bureaucracy as “Over-regulation”. Corkindale tells of a story she came across where a British banker had “to get approval from so many people for a major project that he wasted six months trying to get it off the ground, [which] severely [limited] his ability to compete in the market.” (“The importance of,” 2011) But flatter organizations don’t only speed up the decision-making process, but they directly benefit decisions-makers themselves.

According to an article on Forbes.com, David Stein writes that by flattening an organization’s structure, employees “are intrinsically motivated based on personal satisfaction”. This involves allowing your front-line employees to make decisions that would normally be made by “higher-ups”. This increased level of autonomy allows employees to think critically to think of new solutions to new challenges. People love challenges, and they love to overcome them. Why else would people spend hours of their lives solving crossword puzzles, Sudoku puzzles, brainteasers, and so on? Money is usually not the prime motivator, at least to my knowledge. People want to actually use their brains, and they want to have the recognition and satisfaction when their own efforts have paid off.

In this Youtube video, a Google software engineer talks about his experience of working under Google’s flat organizational structure. The open work environment fosters innovation, autonomy, and teamwork. (“Working at google,” 2008)

I’ve recently learned about a website called Kickstarter.com, which encompasses all of the elements mentioned above. Although it doesn’t have a formal organizational structure, it appears to have an informal structure that is very flat. This website is a great example of how a flatter organization is better, and that money is not the only reward to motivate individuals. Kickstarter.com is a website where innovators receive financial, as well as, moral support from friends and fans from all over the globe. According to their website, since April 2009, 2 million people have pledged $250 million to fund 24,000 successful projects. (Kickstarter, 2012) (Think of the TV series, “Dragons’ Den”, except that potential investors are made up of thousands of every-day people across the world instead of a small panel of savvy businesspeople.)

This environment of co-creation provides individuals with a sense of ownership, and a sense of camaraderie. They have the freedom to do what they please: they spend both their money and their time however they wish. They are part of the entire process: from bringing the idea into a reality, and to seeing it become a success. Nobody is looking over their shoulders, forcing them to be more productive; yet, they have a desire to succeed. Their structure is extremely flat. In fact, there are no middle managers at all… but the system works.

Autonomy, ownership, and a strong sense of teamwork, are all elements that a flatter organizational structure can encourage; this increases levels of motivation, innovation, and ultimately an organization’s level of success. So, even though the world may not be flat, I am thoroughly convinced that an organization should be.

 

Works Cited

(2012). Types of organisation. (2012). [Web Graphic]. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/business/people/ictrev3.shtml

Corkindale, G. (2011, February 11). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://blogs.hbr.org/corkindale/2011/02/the_importance_of_organization.html

GoogleStudents. (Producer). (2008). Working at google zurich – luuk: Software engineer. [Web Video]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TABgBBuxP9k

Kickstarter. (2012). Retrieved from Kickstarter. (2012). Retrieved from (2012). Types of organisation. (2012). [Web Graphic]. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/business/people/ictrev3.shtml

Stein, D. (2011, February 02). Dear ceo: The’yre just not that into you. Forbes.com, 2. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/2011/02/02/flat-organization-structure-leadership-ceonetwork-ceo_2.html

 

Corporate Culture: Creativity or Productivity?


Corporate Culture: Creativity or Productivity?

Thinking Outside of The Box Isn’t Easy for Everyone

By Antony Le

This week’s topic has to do with developing a corporate culture that encourages creativity and innovation.  During a recent discussion I had with the Operations Manager at a local Vancouver manufacturing plant, the topic of creativity versus productivity came up. The company has been well-known for their fresh and innovative products. Employees are always encouraged to think outside of the box, and even contribute to producing the company’s new products. However, this corporate culture that has a “go with the flow” and “follow your gut” vibe, while focus on productivity and efficiency has gone by the wayside. With the success of so many knowledge companies today, we can see how valuable innovation is.  Some examples are technology giants like Google and Facebook. It’s something many companies want, but what at what cost? What I want to find out is whether a company can design a culture that encourages their employees to be creative, innovative, inventive, excited, and curious, but without forgoing high levels of productivity and efficiency.

What comes to mind when thinking about a company that is highly productive and highly efficient? What first comes to my mind is McDonald’s or Wal-mart. Companies such as these have not been known for encouraging their employees to be creative and innovative. It’s not because the employees, as individuals, don’t have the ability to invent new burgers and to try new things. It’s because they are discouraged to do so! The goal of these organizations is to be highly efficient and cost-effective. Employees are expected to follow orders to a tee, no questions asked.

In this article, Laird D. McLean, discusses the work by Tesluk, Farr, and Klein (1997) who have identified five dimensions of how an organization’s culture influences the creativity and innovative thinking of employees.  I would like to focus on one particular dimension:  “means emphasis”.  Defined by Tesluk et al., this is “the extent that the methods and procedures for creativity and innovation are conveyed to employees.” If management shows that they value creativity, risk-taking, and challenging the norm, not only by what they say, but by what they do, then employees are more likely to take on those traits. To me, this sounds more like the creative-processes artists go through when creating a work of art.  According to a study prepared for the European Commission by KEA European Affairs, “the nature of culture-based creativity is closely linked to the nature of artistic contribution as expressed in art or cultural productions.” Sometimes, things can get messy, many trials have to be done, and materials must be “wasted” to get to the finished product. In other words, to create something new, I believe one does have to take risks and try new things; this sometimes means waste,  and mistakes are bound to happen.

Therefore, a company that wants employees to be highly creative cannot simultaneously apply pressure on them to also be highly efficient and productive. An organization has to clearly communicate to their employees what it is that the company values the most.  Of course, many other factors such as employee  personalities matter as well. Providing the right culture is not enough. That is why the recruitment process and hiring the right people is still very important. I found this model, the Elements of Creativity from the KEA European Affairs report:

So, though culture plays an important role in bringing about innovation and ideas, it is not the only element to focus on. Having a highly creative organization means some level of productivity and efficiency must be foregone. However, that’s not to say that an organization must be either one or the other. A balance between the two can be achieved. Personally, I will strive to help other organizations, as well as my own, to provide a culture that fosters creativity, risk-taking, and questioning the orthodox, but balancing it with a good level of productivity and efficiency. Creativity can be a double-edged sword: it can bring about improvements that minimize waste, or it can be used in extremely wasteful ways that can, unfortunately, use up the limited resources that we have. Therefore, the fine balance between creativity and productivity in the workplace is not just about fun and morale, or even about money and the economy; the importance is on a much grander scale. It’s about how responsible and conscientious we, as humans, decide to be while we continue to create, invent, and build, on the only inhabitable planet to our knowledge and within our reach: our Earth.

References

(2009). The impact of culture on creativity. Retrieved from    http://ec.europa.eu/culture/documents/study_impact_cult_creativity_06_09.pdf

Glasbergen, R. (Artist). (2005). Thinking outside of the box. [Web Graphic]. Retrieved from http://blog.cachinko.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/out_of_the_box-300×269.jpg

McLean, L. (2005). Organizational culture’s influence on creativity and innovation: A review of the literature and implications for human resource development. McLean Global, Retrieved from http://mcleanglobal.com/public/MGC/publications/Org Culture and Innovation.pdf

Group Dynamics: Leading Your Team Through a Storm


Group Dynamics: Leading  Your Team Through a Storm

by Antony Le

Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, Adjourning
There are so many aspects of “Group Dynamics” I can delve into. For example, how come certain social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest took off, but sites like Google+ didn’t? And will Loveit.com eventually overtake the oh so popular Pinterest? Researching decision makers and how leaders influence others would be a good starting point… Other very interesting aspects of group dynamics include, but are not limited to, choosing the optimal team size for the job, social loafing, groupthink and so on. However, for a blog which I’m aiming to be in the 600-word range, I can only choose one topic!

Considering I’ve recently been involved in the formation of two team projects, and another one is right around the corner for my Advanced Organizational Behaviour (OB) class, I decided that it’ll be most helpful to study the five stages of group dynamics: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. (Note: the image above excludes the fifth and final stage: “adjourning”)

Organizational experts have observed teams and found that there are five stages that teams go through before achieving optimal performance. “Each stage presents the members with different challenges that must be overcome before they can move on to the next stage.” (Department of Innovation, n.d.) It’s sort of like a video game: you have to complete one stage, to get to the next. (Unless you know of a cheat to skip right to the boss stage.)

I’m currently apart of two new teams, less than a month old: one in academia and the other in the professional realm. After some reflecting, I believe both of my teams are moving away from the storming stage, and on the verge of entering the norming stage. (Thank goodness!) During the storming stage, it’s typical to have conflict: disagreement over procedures, competition among members, and a lot of members interrupting each other. (Levi, 2010) About three weeks ago, during a team meeting with one of my groups, I noticed two individuals kept talking over each other, constantly interrupting not only each other, but myself and another team member. I started to feel very annoyed, and when one of them interrupted the other, I abruptly interrupted them (ironically), and expressed how annoyed I was becoming with this display of impatience and complete disrespect for each other. Truth is, I regretted expressing myself too emotionally, and I let the heat of the moment get the best of me. I did express how much I loved their energy, and how that level of excitement is going to be great for the team’s success, but in hindsight, I would have done it more tactfully and patiently.

My team members did, thankfully, take it very well, and I’m certain they didn’t realize they were doing it in the first place. Since then, I’ve noticed our team collaborating and sharing new ideas a lot better: our listening skills and our display of respect for each other has improved.  I’ve noticed people are waiting for a chance to speak, or at least politely asking to interrupt. For example, I’m hearing things like: “Sorry to interrupt, but you just gave me an idea…Can I share before I completely forget?” These are the informal rules and procedures taking place in the “norming” stage. There’s a clear increase in supportiveness and it feels much easier to communicate and collaborate during our meetings. This table outlines some characteristics to indicate what stage you and your group might be in. It also lists what actions to take to move things along toward the final stage: performing. (Understanding Group Dynamics, n.d.)

Understanding what stage your group is in can help by understanding what needs to be done. For one of my teams outside of school, I noticed our team morale was low and our relationships were too weak for my preference. I wanted us to get to know each other better. So, we planned a team outing: bowling and a potluck after. The results were extremely effective, and our team got to know each other a lot better. We have a better understanding of each person’s personality and tendencies. As a result, it makes communication more comfortable, and delegation of tasks much easier.

The stages your team goes through are normal, and knowing what stage you’re in is helpful to determine what actions to take in order to move into the next stage. This knowledge will help for any team-based activity: professional projects, school projects, or even sports teams. My personal goal is to do what it takes to speed through these stages to get to the final stage where the team can achieve maximum performance. Know where you’re at, and know what to do. It’s a lot like goal-setting: know where you are, determine where you want to be, and create an action plan.

Going forward, I hope this will help you and me both (especially if you’re on my team for our next Advanced OB team project!). Our team will “form” on Tuesday June the 19th; let’s just make sure we’re ready for the coming “storm”!

BONUS VIDEO: A nice little break from the academic sphere: to better understand what these five stages look like, check out this entertaining and inspirational 8-minute video from the motion picture: “Remember the Titans”, starring Denzel Washington:

Works Cited

(2010). Tuckman’s stages of team formation. (2010). [Web Graphic]. Retrieved from http://blog.teamtrainingunlimited.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/slide.0011.jpg

Department of Innovation, Business and Development, Regional Developement. (n.d.). Group dynamics. Retrieved from website: http://www.ibrd.gov.nl.ca/regionaldev/gd.pdf=0

Kpkammer. (2011, April 19). Remember The Titans- Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, Adjourning. [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hEJaz3sinEs

Levi, D. (2010). Group dynamics for teams. Sage. Retrieved from http://books.google.ca/books?id=tiqSARlVmF8C&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad

Understanding group dynamics. (Arizona State University) Retrieved from http://www.asu.edu/studentaffairs/mu/greeklife/advisor/sheet-groupdynamics.pdf

The Halo Effect on Succession Planning


The Halo Effect on Succession Planning

By Antony Le

What exactly is the halo effect? (No… it’s not the effect of feeling invincible after playing the highly addictive first-person-shooter video game called “Halo” all night long.) The halo effect is the false assumption that if somebody is good at “A”, we assume that they are also good at “B”, “C”, and “D”. (Hindle, 2009) Similarly, if they are bad at one thing, we incorrectly assume they are bad at other things.

As a leader, in particular, it’s important to be aware of the halo effect, and to ensure we avoid misconceptions as much as possible. As an aspiring serial business owner, it is particularly critical that I select the right candidates to run my various future businesses. One example from the Harvard Business Review, “Are You Picking the Right Leaders”, explains how many employers incorrectly select managers to lead their organizations. For example, an employee can follow directions to a tee, work well with others, and consistently be on time, and by doing so, they may become very well-liked by their employer. As a result, the employer might falsely believe that this employee will be an effective manager or leader within the organization. On the contrary, this is not necessarily the case: this employee might be very adept with precisely following set instructions to complete tasks by pre-determined deadlines, but if they were asked to delegate tasks and determine deadlines themselves, they might not be able to.  The Harvard Business Review tells the following story to illustrate this point:

“Consider the classic story of the lieutenant who, after his captain orders, ‘Take that hill’, promptly does so. But when the captain asks instead, ‘Of those seven hills out there, which one should we take?’ the lieutenant has no idea.” (Sorcher & Brant, 2002)

The article further explains that knowing how to solve a problem is one thing, but knowing which problem to solve and actually having the initiative to solve it is another. As an aspiring entrepreneur and leader, I could not agree with this concept more. As a future graduate, I can enter the workforce to work for a well-established company with a great compensation package, or, on the other hand, I can pursue the more entrepreneurial approach and attempt to build a business empire of my very own. If I choose the latter route, I’ll be taking a risk: the business might take several years to pick up, or it might not even pick up at all. I’m faced with the very real risk that my business will not be a success, and I will end up being a 30-year old graduate with nothing to my name but a massive student loan. In my opinion, the following saying is often true, “the higher the risks, the higher the rewards.” (Of course, that’s not to say that taking stupid and unnecessary risks are the ingredients for the formula for success either.)

As an entrepreneur, I must not only seek potential opportunities, have the ability to analyse them, but I must also have the guts and courage to seize them. Through researching the halo effect and taking a moment to think about my innovative businesses of the future, I do believe individuals who are not afraid to take risks will be better qualified to lead my future companies.

As a note to my future self (3-4 years or more): remember the “halo effect”. When hiring or promoting the next individual to lead my future company, I must look beyond employee scorecards: I must look beyond just the attendance records, adherence to quality standards, and company regulations. These top performers might be exceptional employees and be extremely essential to the growth and success of my company, and most likely… I will love them for that. However, it would be erroneous to believe that they will make for inspiring and effective leaders based solely on the previous criterion.  The successful candidate to become the successor of my business must demonstrate their abilities as a leader. There’s no room for assumptions. There’s no time to fall victim to the trap of the halo effect: I have an empire to build, after all.

References

(2009). 480_steve-jobs-with-iphone-and-halo. (2009). [Web Photo]. Retrieved from https://antonyle55.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/6a00d83451b74a69e20120a5dbb520970c-800wi.jpg?w=300

Hindle, T. (2009, October 14). The halo effect. The Economist. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/node/14299211

Sorcher, M., & Brant, J. (2002). Are you picking the right leaders?. Leadership Insights, Retrieved from http://www.lbl.gov/BLI/BLI_Library/assets/articles/COM/COM_EI_Picking_Right_Ldr.pdf

Business: Is it still a Man’s World?


Business: Is it still a Man’s World?

 By Antony Le

This Los Angeles Times Op-ed piece by John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio examines a shift in the way business is conducted today: from a “masculine” way of doing business to a more “feminine” way. (Click here to see full article) They state that businesses (and the individuals that run them) are more successful when employing feminine traits, such as being “communicative, reasonable, flexible, and patient.” Now, immediately one (especially a man) might react quite negatively towards this. I, as a male, would certainly like to think that I’m a good communicator. I’m reasonable, I’m flexible (both personality-wise as well as physically for that matter…), and I am very patient! In fact, I haven’t honked or swore at anybody on the road for at least 24 hours! I kid, of course…

So, this article examines the differences between how men and women behave in the business world, as well as in their personal lives.  But before we start calling the authors sexists, and “traitors” to the brotherhood, it’s important to note that we are talking about general traits and tendencies. It does not attempt to define all classes of men and women.

On average, there are indeed differences between men and women, just as there are differences between people of different cultures, or generational differences (e.g., Gen Y versus Baby Boomers).  In my opinion, it would be naïve to believe that every person is the same: no body is the same. When an individual is raised from birth, they are raised in an environment that will greatly affect who they are.

For example, as a marketer I am always looking at consumer products quite closely. When I’m looking at toys at the Wal-Mart or Toys “R” Us, these are the typical types of boys’ toys I see: blue toys, cars and trucks, tools, and action figures of super heroes and wrestlers. What do I see when I look down the aisle of girls’ toys? Rows of PINK: there’s ballerina tutus, ponies, princess dresses, Barbie dolls with fashion accessories, and even little plastic babies that really cry and pee! The latter example still amazes me: young tots as young as four years old are already being conditioned to nurture and care for another being. On the other hand, boys are being conditioned to race cars and fight evil. Could this possibly result in adult men who are more competitive and aggressive? Perhaps.

Where these differences between men and women have originated from, this article does not focus on. But my point here is that if boys and girls are growing up in different environments, and being treated differently since birth, it makes absolute sense that they will grow up to become adults with apparent differences in personalities.

So, men and women are the not the same. Duh! So what does this mean for us in the business world? Well, the authors conducted a survey of 40,000 people to represent the majority of consumers around the world. What they found is that consumers are in line with this philosophy of doing business: more consumers (over 2 to 1) desire traits that they term “feminine” over “masculine”. Companies, both large and small, have already experienced success by listening to their customers and by running a company built on trust. Target and Ford are examples of large corporations, but smaller companies are finding success also. Whipcar is a service company  in London that connects car owners with individuals looking to rent a car for just a few hours or days. Even though screen checks are performed and renters are insured, the business is primarily built on trust. And as the authors state, they are “growing like gangbusters”. (Gerzema & D’Antonio, 2012)

To be a successful businessperson does not rely on one’s gender. But the successful entrepreneurs will be the ones who are cognizant of changing consumer demands. It is often easier to fill demand, than to create demand. As consumers, we all want more transparency and  to build long-lasting trust with our business partners. Furthermore, with the advances in technology everybody is a journalist, a news reporters, or a critic. With social media channels such as YouTube and even WordPress, corporations can’t rely on sneaky tricks and tactics that might have been successful in the past.

In today’s world, consumers are becoming smarter, more aware, and demanding much more. Whether it’s feminine traits, foods free of fillers and pesticides, or shoes not made in sweatshops, consumers just want to be treated with respect and dignity. That means being open and transparent, and just having a genuine interest in the well-being of the end consumer. As successful marketers, let’s be sure to meet these demands. I know I will.

References

Gerzema, J., & D’Antonio, M. (2012, May 11). Want to succeed in business? call mom. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-dantonio-business-mothers-day-innovation-20120511,0,266168.story

(n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.charteredbanker.com/MainWebSite/Resources/Image/Its a mans world.jpg

Business: Is it still a Man’s World? By Antony Le Image


Business: Is it still a Man’s World?

This Los Angeles Times Op-ed piece by John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio examines a shift in the way business is conducted today: from a “masculine” way of doing business to a more “feminine” way. (Click to here see full article) They state that businesses (and the individuals that run them) are more successful when employing feminine traits, such as being “communicative, reasonable, flexible, and patient.” Now, immediately, one (especially a man) might react quite negatively towards this. I, as a male, would certainly like to think that I’m a good communicator, I’m reasonable, I’m flexible (both personality-wise as well as physically for that matter…), and I am very very patient! In fact, I haven’t honked or swore at anybody on the road for at least 24 hours! I kid, of course…

So. this article examines the differences between how men and women behave in the business world, as well as in their personal lives.  But before we start calling the authors sexists, and “traitors” to the brotherhood, it’s important to note that we are talking about general traits and tendencies. It does not attempt to define all classes of men and women.

On average, there are indeed differences between men and women, just as there are differences between people of different cultures, or generational differences (e.g., Gen Y versus Baby Boomers).  In my opinion, it would be naïve to believe that every person is the same: no body is the same. When an individual is raised from birth, they are raised in an environment that will greatly affect who they are.  

For example, as a marketer I am always looking at consumer products quite closely. When I’m looking at toys at the Wal-Mart or Toys “R” Us, these are the typical types of boys’ toys I see: blue toys, cars and trucks, tools, and action figures of super heroes and wrestlers. What do I see when I look down the aisle of girls’ toys? Two rows of PINK: there’s ballerina tutus, ponies, princess dresses, Barbie dolls with fashion accessories, and even little plastic babies that really cry and pee! The latter example still amazes me: young tots as young as four years old are already being conditioned to nurture and care for another being. On the other hand, boys are being conditioned to race cars and fight evil. Could this possibly result in adult men who are more competitive and aggressive? I think so.

Where these differences between men and women have originated from, this article does not focus on. But my point here is that if boys and girls are growing up in different environments, and being treated differently since birth, it makes absolute sense that they will grow up to become adults with apparent differences in personalities.

So, men and women are the not the same. Duh! So what does this mean for us in the business world? Well, the authors conducted a survey of 40,000 people to represent the majority of consumers around the world. What they found is that consumers are in line with this philosophy of doing business: more consumers (over 2 to 1) desire traits that they term “feminine” over “masculine”. Companies, both large and small, have already experienced success by listening to their customers and by running a company built on trust. Target and Ford are example of large corporations, but smaller companies are finding success also. Whipcar is a service company  in London that connects car owners with individuals looking to rent a car for just a few hours or days. Even though screen checks are performed and renters are insured, the business is primarily built on trust. And as the authors state, they are “growing like gangbusters”. (Gerzema & D’Antonio, 2012)

To be a successful businessperson does not rely on one’s gender. But the successful entrepreneurs will be the ones who are cognizant of changing consumer demands. It is often easier to fill demand, than to create demand. If consumers want “femine” traits, give them feminine traits!

References

Gerzema, J., & D’Antonio, M. (2012, May 11). Want to succeed in business? call mom. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-dantonio-business-mothers-day-innovation-20120511,0,266168.story