George Packer at the New Yorker on Black Friday and the Race to the Bottom. Why did Black Friday, beginning on Thanksgiving Thursday this year, and continuing into Shopaholic Saturday and Sunday poop out so badly? And why, with the usual brawls over towels and TVs reported on YouTube, did retailers like Walmart and Target take a total hit of more than $1.7 billion less than last year? Packer answers the question and wonders why, with too many Americans now working low-paying jobs stocking inventory and ringing up merchandise, those same stores don't understand that their workers are too poor to buy the products in the big-box stores. You'd think those same firms would be leading the protests for higher wages. Why, when moderate Southern businessmen spoke up for higher wages during the civil rights era, do you not hear that rhetoric today? It may be that America is still waiting for the first retail C.E.O. to see what’s in front of his nose.
Morten Hansen at HBR.org on How John F. Kennedy Changed Decision Making for Us All. Many of us know that the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba was a fiasco, probably the worst decision he ever made in . . .
Bent Flyvbjerg, of Aalberg University in Denmark, writes in Qualitative Inquiry on Five Misunderstandings About Case-Study Research. In it, he resolves a number of important issues for the use of business cases. For example, can you generalize to a current work situation for problem solving and do cases really serve to confirm the writer's biases? This is a highly readable study that I've returned to on numerous occasions, and that serves as a guideline for the use of cases in training and development or problem solving. It's especially readable because you don't have to go through the entire paper at one time. You can just focus on a single question and read the easily written, digested and outlined stuff. I keep it available and inevitably refer to it a couple times a month and since it's easily downloaded, I recommend it to execs.
A.O.Scott, of the New York Times Magazine, writes that The Big Picture Strikes Back. Ever since I was a kid, going to the Saturday night movies with my dad for Hopalong Cassidy or Tom Mix, I've been a movie nut. Scott argues his case that TV is not where all the action takes place and that this year proves there are some things the movies still do better. I fully agree: Big screen. Big crowd. Endless trailers and stale popcorn. Sometimes the theater experience is irreplaceable. Indeed, this is an age of wild and restless experimentation. Maybe even a golden age. Some of my favorites that Scott refers to are Captain Phillips, Blue Jasmine, 12 Years a Slave and The Butler. My buddy insists, too, that I've got to see Gravity--and I sure want to see All Is Lost. In typical Times fashion, you get history, a critique and recommendations oozing out the pores. A must-read article.
The Wall Street Journal's Review and Outlook asks whether the schools that serve the world's leading economy are really only as good as those in Hungary, Lithuania, Vietnam and Russia, in The Human Wealth of Nations. No surprise that PISA, ranking 15-year-old kids around the world on reading and math, reveals that the U.S. brings up the middle—again—among 65 education systems that make up fourth-fifths of the global economy. The Journal blames both parties for their head in the sand. The Republicans for educating the world's smartest young people in U.S. universities only to send them home after they graduate. And the Democrats for blocking reform of the teachers' unions. (Of course the elephant in the room is the family, the third rail of educational politics.) Still gutless writers and political parties. But this is a good read.