The Rational Optimist

30. November 2010
Bill Gates

The science writer Matt Ridley made his reputation with books like “The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature” and “Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters.” His latest book, “The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves” is much broader, as its title suggests. Its subject is the history of humanity, focusing on why our species has succeeded and how we should think about the future.

Although I strongly disagree with what Mr. Ridley says in these pages about some of the critical issues facing the world today, his wider narrative is based on two ideas that are very important and powerful.

The first is that the key to rising prosperity over the course of human history has been the exchange of goods. This may not seem like a very original point, but Mr. Ridley takes the concept much further than previous writers. He argues that our success as a species, as opposed to earlier hominids, resulted from innate characteristics that allowed us to trade. Not long after Homo sapiens emerged, we were using rare objects, like obsidian blades, far away from the source materials needed to produce them. This suggests that large numbers of commercial links were established even at the hunter-gatherer stage of our development.

Mr. Ridley gives many examples of how exchange allowed groups to thrive, by enabling them, for example, to acquire fish hooks or sewing needles. He also points out that even the most primitive human groups today are open to exchange. I’ve always thought this openness was surprising, considering the risks involved, but Mr. Ridley convincingly describes its adaptive value.

Exchange has improved the human condition through the movement not only of goods but also of ideas. Unsurprisingly, given his background in genetics, Mr. Ridley compares this intermingling of ideas with the intermingling of genes in reproduction. In both cases, he sees the process as leading, ultimately, to the selection and development of the best offspring.

The second key idea in the book is, of course, “rational optimism.” Read the rest of this entry »

Mittel-management. Germany’s midsized companies have a lot to teach the world

29. November 2010

 Date: 29-11-2010
  Source: The Economist Schumpeter

MANAGEMENT gurus are constantly scouring the world for the next big idea. Thirty years ago they fixated on Japan. Today it is India. The more restless are already moving on to Peruvian or Zulu management. Yet in all this intellectual globe-trotting the gurus have sorely neglected the secrets of one of the world’s great economies. Germany is the world’s largest goods exporter after China despite high labour costs and a strongish euro. It is also stuffed full of durable companies that have survived
hyperinflation and two world wars. Faber-Castell, a giant among pencilmakers, boasts that Bismarck was a customer.

Thankfully, a couple of management thinkers have defied the boycott on Germany. On November 18th Bernd Venohr, of the Berlin School of Economics and Law, gave a fascinating talk on the “secret recipe” of the country’s Mittelstand at the second annual Peter Drucker Forum in Vienna. Last year Hermann Simon, of Simon-Kucher & Partners, a consultancy, published an even more gripping sequel to his 1996 book on “Hidden Champions”. Put the two together and you get a good idea of
the management theory at the heart of Germany’s success. Read the rest of this entry »

Intel’s Andy Grove on manufacturing in America

12. November 2010

  Date: 08-11-2010
 Source: CNET

 Among the scores of fabless chip companies and product design houses in Silicon Valley, Intel is a standout. It’s an American high-tech company that not only creates but builds some of the most sophisticated tech products in the world here. That contrasts with others, like Apple and Hewlett-Packard, that consign virtually all product manufacturing and assembly abroad. 


Last week, I asked Intel co-founder Andy Grove how the chipmaker became one of the last, great high-tech manufacturing giants in the U.S. and why many Silicon Valley icons haven’t done the same. Grove was Intel’s chairman from May 1997 to May 2005 and served as chief executive from 1987 to 1998.

Intel’s manufacturing strategy was underscored by a recent announcement to invest as much as $8 billion in new factories and facilities in the U.S. That’s in addition to the roughly $34 billion it has already invested in its U.S. factories, including investment in a joint flash chip manufacturing venture with Micron Technology.
Read the rest of this entry »

The Calm After the Storm?

3. November 2010
Gestern, 02. November 2010, 17:08:41 | Madeleine McGrath, Tom Peters Blog.

[Our guest blogger is Madeleine McGrath, Managing Director of the Tom Peters Company.]

During summer 2010, we (Tom Peters Company) were sensing that among our clients that had survived the worst of the recession, the mood was becoming more buoyant. Our customer base tends to be more forward-thinking and adventurous than the norm, and is often a bellwether of new trends. We therefore decided to find out what this group was seeing ahead, and if there were lessons for other leaders.

Our recent survey involved a select group of clients located in 29 countries and 6 continents. Overall, we found they, particularly those in the private sector, are indeed ready to put the past behind them. One respondent summed it up this way: “We’ve been in survival mode and it has hurt our growth. We need to focus on the future and stop the survival mentality. But how?”

We used our Excellence Audit™ survey to identify the development priorities that participants now see as important. A sign that recovery is on the way was that the prior focus on cost and systems has been overshadowed by a realization that Leadership is now the key element for attention. Read the rest of this entry »

Research Watch: The Economics Edge

1. November 2010
Noch ärger: und das bei der Performance der Ökonomen im letzten Jahrzehnt (Finanzkrise etc.). hfk
Economics isn’t a popular major: Just 1.6% of grads earned a degree in the discipline in 2006. But according to a 2010 study byPatricia M. Flynn and Michael A. Quinn of Bentley University, economics majors are disproportionately overrepresented among S&P 500 CEOs—which suggests that, historically at least, it’s the major that offers the best probability of reaching the corner office. Business administration majors, for instance, were only 39% as likely as economics majors to become chief executives.
Aus der Harvard Business Review Nov 2010

The Next Scientific Revolution

1. November 2010

 Tony Hey, Harvard Business Review Nov 2010

For decades, computer scientists have tried to teach computers to think like human experts. Until recently, most of those efforts have failed to come close to generating the creative insights and solutions that seem to come naturally to the best researchers, doctors, and engineers. But now, Tony Hey, a VP of Microsoft Research, says we’re witnessing the dawn of a new generation of powerful computer tools that can “mash up” vast quantities of data from many sources, analyze them, and help produce revolutionary scientific discoveries. Hey and his colleagues call this new method of scientific exploration “machine learning.” Read the rest of this entry »