288 (26 October 2016)

Welcome to week 288!  The articles below caught my attention this week.  Please note that what are intended to be relatively objective “briefs” are preceded by dashes (——–), whereas additional material or relatively subjective comments are preceded by asterisks (********).  The links to articles preceded by [SR] require a subscription to be read in their entirety, although complete articles may frequently be found by an Internet title search.

(21 October 2016): “K Street gearing up for peak busy season” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2016/10/21/k-street-gearing-up-for-peak-busy-season/)

********”K Street” is the verbal shorthand for the lobbying industry as it relates to the federal government (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K_Street_(Washington,_D.C.).  Although it “many of the largest lobbying firms have move out” since the late 1980s, the term continues to be used.  Building up its “fame,” HBO created a short-lived TV series about it (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K_Street_(TV_series)).  With that background, here is the article.

——–“Every four years, while the rest of the nation heads to the polls, Washington’s coterie of lobby firms works overtime to tend to a mad rush of demands from corporate clients who all want to know the same thing: How do we best lobby a new president?  A new Congress?  That season is now upon us.  The fall and winter that bookend a presidential election are the busiest months for K Street’s hired guns.  Late October is particularly harried, as they scramble to draw up contingency plans mapping out all potential outcomes of the election—presidential, House and Senate—and how companies should adjust their lobbying strategies accordingly.”

********Presumably corporations are not the only organizations looking to get “an edge” with a somewhat different cast of players after the election.  Clearly, the legal environment constructed by the political process influences the demand and supply of many—one might well say all—goods and services.  In the work of the denizens of K Street, the connections between the invisible foot and the invisible hand are most easily seen.

(24 October 2016): “Odd Lots: Why Everyone Is Freaking Out About Globalization” (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-10-24/odd-lots-why-everyone-is-freaking-out-about-globalization)

********The title of this 34-minute podcast is somewhat overstated but it is a clear discussion of some of the issues associated with globalization from the 1990s on.  This “Odd Lots” podcast is hosted by Tracy Alloway and Sid Verma, with the latter sitting in for the travelling Joe Weisenthal.  Their guest is Dani Rodrik, a professor of International Political Economy at Harvard University, who “was writing about the downside of globalization before it was cool.”  One of his books on the topic is The Globalization Paradox: Democracy and the Future of the World Economy (https://www.amazon.com/Globalization-Paradox-Democracy-Future-Economy/dp/0393341283).  The talk was wide ranging and I am going to resist the temptation to summarize it.  There were two things, though, that clearly stood out for me.  First, the statement that the current main constraint on the global economy is “Legitimacy, not lack of openness.”  This statement is put in context from 18:00 to 19:00 minutes in the podcast.  Somewhat related is the discussion of the World Trade Organization and the Trans Pacific Partnership that takes place between 20:00 and 23:00 of the podcast.  Here Rodrik distinguishes between a concern for free trade and a concern for reduced regulation, noting that that the WTO and the TPP were (are) not about free trade but about regulation.  In elaborating upon this he quickly mentions the Investor-state dispute settlement process (ISDS) that has drawn so much attention by a variety of individuals and groups.

********You can learn more about ISDS at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Investor-state_dispute_settlement or https://ustr.gov/about-us/policy-offices/press-office/fact-sheets/2015/march/investor-state-dispute-settlement-isds.  A search on “ISDS Warren” will reveal an argument by Senator Elizabeth Warren about the ISDS especially as it relates to the TPP.  Another perspective is provided by The Heritage Foundation at: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2016/05/straight-talk-on-the-isds-provisions-in-the-trans-pacific-partnership.

(25 October 2016): “Record Green Power Installations Beat Fossil Fuel for First Time” (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-10-25/record-green-power-installations-beat-fossil-fuel-for-first-time)

——–According to the International Energy Agency, “New installations of renewable energy overtook conventional power for the first time in 2015 . . . Global green power rose by a record 153 gigawatts, equivalent to 55 percent of newly installed capacity last year.  Total installed capacity exceed coal for the first time, the IEA said.”  The Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report of the Agency noted that “About 500,000 solar panels were installed each day across the globe in 2015.”  The IEA “raised its estimate of the amount of green energy on power grids by 13 percent, revising its forecast to 42 percent by 2021.”

********The IEA publishes a variety of Medium-Term Reports for sale.  You can learn more about them at: http://www.iea.org/publications/medium-termreports/.  Just a bit more free information is provided at: https://www.iea.org/newsroom/news/2016/october/iea-raises-its-five-year-renewable-growth-forecast-as-2015-marks-record-year.html.

(26 October 2106): “Newspapers Are Social Media” (http://www.wsj.com/articles/newspapers-are-social-media-1477436218)

——–[A review of The Content Trap: A Strategist’s Guide to Digital Change (https://www.amazon.com/Content-Trap-Strategists-Digital-Change/dp/0812995384/), by Bharat Anand.  Anand, trained as an economist, is a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School.]  “Digitization exposes weak links.  Then it breaks them.  So much so that it makes you wonder what people were thinking in the first place.  According to Bharat Anand . . . the weakest link is between producing content and everything else.  Such connections ‘are at the heart of what shapes any digitally touched business today.’  He looks at the content assumptions behind various industries and shows the ways in which, over time, they can become an obstacle to success.  To see why, consider the news.  By the end of the 20th century, the master plan for a newspaper in a major metropolitan area was something like this.  Step 1: Produce great journalism.  Step 2: Become a trusted news source . . . Step 3: Use that reputation to get subscribers.  Step 4: Offer the readers up to advertisers.  Step 5: Market the weekend edition to nonsubscribers.  And, finally, Step 6: Use the virtuous circle (readers beget advertisers beget more advertisers) to charge high ad prices.”  Steps 1 and 2 focus on content creation, and for newspapers “Digital technologies break the plan somewhere between steps 3 and 4.”  In effect, “Mr. Anand argues that concentrating on content—steps 1 and 2—can blind you to ways of getting to step 6.”

********The Asheville-Citizen Times recently (25 October 2016) that is was laying off full-time employees (http://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2016/10/25/gannett-layoffs-impact-citizen-times/92737022/).  Furthermore, staff cuts at The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are in process.  So, a book like Anand’s can provide prospective on what they are going through and, perhaps, how they might address the challenges they face.  The distinction between content and connection seems like an important one and reminds me of Peter Drucker’s magnum opus Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practice (https://www.amazon.com/Management-Responsibilities-Practices-Peter-Drucker/dp/0887306152/).  There (p. 49) he asks, “What is our business and what should it be?”  It seems like Anand is pointing out that, in an age of digital technology, businesses—all organizations?—must ask these questions anew.  Regarding questions, it is good to recall a concise book about them: The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization (https://www.amazon.com/Five-Important-Questions-About-Organization/dp/0470227567/).

May you have a good week!

Bruce

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