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Consultant's View, 2013

January 2013

Simple and Complex Risks

We humans are used to simple risks. However, sometimes, a simple risk changes into a complex risk. Two of the common complex risks are "Compound Risk" and "Connected Risks". Humans have a hard time identifying when a perceived simple risk has modified into a complex risk. The rules we learned about simple risks do not apply with complex risks.

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Investment, Rarity and Risk

All investment strategies are dependent on the fact that not everyone is doing that strategy. This rarity includes bank savings accounts. When everybody is doing something, we pay for the privilege. When everybody is saving money in a bank, the bank does not pay interest;

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February 2013

Social Media for Small Business

Social Media can be overwhelming. With all the new Social Media outlets, a person could spend most of their time trying to keep up between Twitter "feeds", Facebook postings, Yelp, Digg, and more. There are ways for small business to use Social Media, but the focus should be first on providing the best products and services and then on telling a compelling story.

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ClickJacking

ClickJacking is a new way to take over your browser. What it does is to float an invisible button under your mouse when you are browsing some page. When you click your mouse, that click just got hijacked and causes action on a page other than the one you thought you were clicking on.

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March 2013

Where is Outsourcing Headed?

American businesses have done quite well by outsourcing production. We have moved production from our cities to the rural areas, then to nearby countries, then to Asia. However, there are signs that we are not just reaching the rational limit, but going past it. Outsourcing always has risks and as we reach further and further, the risks increase. There are major risks to outsourcing: health, ethical, intellectual, and political.

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Who do we really need?

A recent newspaper article bemoaned how long companies were taking to hire new employees. Candidates were being put through interview after interview and yet, not hialignCenter. The article talked about companies looking for the "purple squirrel" - something that does not exist. We do not need someone who perfectly matches today's requirements; we need people who can

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April 2013

The Chain of Command is Broken

American businesses have built up a chain of command (especially after World War II). This chain of command has allowed the businesses to grow into global corporations. However, the chain of command has several major problems to it. It distorts information. It hides ethical problems. It keeps the business from the future that the business needs.

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What is your planning process?

There are a number of different ways that companies do planning. These can range from the "no planning at all" to the "death by planning". Each style of planning has its place, strengths, and weaknesses. In all cases, "fact free" planning is best avoided.

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May 2013

Six Sigma - Good Idea or Bad?

In "American Turnaround" by Ed Whitacre, he states that Six Sigma is a really bad idea as it puts all the responsibility for failure on the worker. Another person claims that Six Sigma ruined 3M. Why all the negativity about Six Sigma? Isn't it a good program for high quality?

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Hacking is picking up

Between "Spear Phishing" and other attacks, hackers have taken $40 million from the banks, caused a flash drop in the stock market, and infected thousands of cell phones. Health card organizations are being hit very hard.

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June 2013

Are You a Good Decision Maker?

Decision making is the essential skill of management, yet few people examine how they make decisions or try to improve their decision making. There are ways to make our decision making better. Research is showing that the speed in which we make a decision affects the quality. There are a number of ways to improve a decision including getting multiple choices, increase the time in which we make the decision, and

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Agreement with a Decision

When the American Colonies finally won independence from Great Britain, there was substantial unity among the colonists, but the revolution did not start that way. At the beginning, many including Benjamin Franklin, were opposed to the revolution. This illustrates one of the problems with any decision we make: people react to any decision with various levels of support.

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July 2013

Does your company have ADD?

There are companies that act as if they have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). They bounce from major redirection to major redirection. While that might work for some employees, others find themselves with "whiplash" and want to leave. The marketing costs can be huge. There are ways to cope with market demands without incurring such high costs.

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Who will Challenge Visa/MasterCard?

Now that both card associations are publicly traded companies, they will (subtly) move away from the unspoken basis for their existence - the trust of the bankers and consumers. That means that there is an opportunity for a challenger to step up. While other card associations will try to step up, the real challenge is likely to come from a different quarter and from a disruptive technology. The real question is whether a centralized or a decentralized system will win.

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August 2013

Better Before Cheaper

For many years, Avis Car Rental had the slogan "We are #2, we try harder." That slogan was wildly successful and Avis kept it for many years. It illustrated their commitment to being better than the rest. One of the rules for corporate success is: work to make your product or service better instead of trying to make it cheaper. Recently, "The Three Rules: How Exceptional Companies Think" was published reflecting a lot of research into how companies can create and maintain a long term competitive advantage.

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Fail Forward

In 1864, General Grant was given the command of the army of the North. His plan was to engage the South on every side and just keep on fighting. The problem was that he never could move as fast as General Lee. In essence, Grant lost every battle that summer. Each time, he just kept on moving. His tactics failed over and over again. He kept failing forward.

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September 2013

Anonymous Digital Currency?

After the Feds shut down a couple of trading hubs, Bitcoin was public in how it was not an anonymous currency. That raises the question, "Can we have an anonymous digital currency?" The short answer is "no", but it helps to look at why. The main reason is counterfeiting.

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Body Clock and Career

Are you a morning person or an evening person? This is not an idle question. Our industrial society assumes that everyone is the same. However, study after study is showing that there are significant differences between morning people and evening people.

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October 2013

NSA Snooping - So what?

Recently, it was revealed that the NSA was snooping on a lot of emails and phone calls even from people within this country. For most of us, that snooping isn't a big deal. However, for nearly every corporate security officer, the news brought a major headache. If the NSA can get at our business emails, read our databases out in the cloud, and listen in on our phone calls, so can a well financed competitor.

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Chase Dropping Gift Cards

Recently, Chase ended its selling of gift cards. Sales of gift cards have been growing year by year. For a bank such as Chase to get out of that business, there has to be a good reason. The implications for merchants are that they will need to pick up more of the cost of gift cards through fees or running their own service.

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November 2013

Is it time to start over?

Recently, Texans went to the polls. On the ballot were a number of amendments to the State Constitution. One of which was a measure changing the wording about a specific county being allowed to build a hospital. The Texas State Constitution is over loaded with specific issues for single counties or even single cities. Nearly every election, there is another item that needs to be changed to reflect current conditions. Is it time to start over with a clean slate?

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The wisdom of crowds is wrong.

If everyone is doing it, you can be sure that it is the wrong thing to be doing. Instead of following the crowd, seek out the path that everyone is ignoring. Therein lies the profit.

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December 2013

Learning from Software Disaster

Disasters fascinate us. We slow down to look at auto accidents even on the other side. While a disaster is nice to watch, we can also learn from them. The new healthcare.gov web site offers some good lessons on how not to do software development. Some of these lessons are: Bad news needs a way to reach the top

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Results Oriented Work

Which are you more concerned about, whether or not an employee made it to work on time or what that employee accomplished while working for you? Far too often, a manager measures the minutes in the office and fails to measure the accomplishments.

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Prairie Trail Software offers a complementary newsletter, A Consultant's View.

These newsletters are our chief form of marketing. But beyond letting our clients know that we exist, they also provide a great source of information about consulting in general and specifics for transaction processing systems.

Our newsletters are completely free and available on request, see our ordering page, for more information. Recent newsletters are available on the web after print publication.