"It is slow, and in many ways like watching the grass grow." -- Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan on the lengthy process of weaning Americans off petroleum, as reported by The Associated Press
Stanford's MBA program, already highly rated, is about to undergo a radical change. On June 6 the Palo Alto (Calif.)-based business school announced a new curriculum, to be implemented in the fall of 2007, that brings two new characteristics to the MBA world: customization and flexibility. Unlike the traditional MBA fare, which requires core courses in the first year and offers electives in the second, Stanford's curriculum will match each student with a menu of course options based on that student's past education, work history, and goals. All students must also sign up for a global experience, like an internship overseas or an exchange with a student from Tsinghua University in China.
Stanford's B-school, whose relatively small student body (about 750) and large endowment gives it the flexibility to rewrite its playbook, created the new MBA program after soliciting feedback from hundreds of students and alums. What officials heard, says Garth Saloner, an economics professor who headed the task force that developed the new program, was that "the one-size-fits-all curriculum wasn't working." The new approach, he says, is "part of the maturation of the MBA."
In a corporate crisis, public-relations experts know, a company must craft its public messages to reassure investors and employees. So what exactly is Hyundai Motor Co. doing? Asked by Automotive News recently if the jailing of its chairman, Chung Mong Koo, has affected the group's strategic planning for Hyundai and Kia Motors, spokesman Oles Gadacz replied: "With Chairman Chung not here, people are sunk." Ever since Chung was arrested and jailed in April on charges of creating a $100 million slush fund to bribe officials, Hyundai officers have publicly lamented their "management vacuum."
Korean securities analysts say such statements are aimed at convincing the government that Chung's prolonged imprisonment would seriously harm Hyundai and, in turn, Korea's economy, given the 620,000 workers at the company, its affiliates, and its suppliers. So far the campaign hasn't scared investors too much: Hyundai's stock has fallen 8% since Chung's arrest, less than the 10.8% drop in Korea's Kospi index. But the tactic may underscore the real challenge Hyundai faces: poor corporate governance. Thomas Joh, dean of Konkuk University's School of Business in Seoul, says the chairman's concentrated power and the intragroup dealing that allowed him to set up his bribery fund will weaken Hyundai globally in the long run. Few expect the 68-year-old to serve a long prison term if convicted. But if his release means reverting to old practices, Hyundai will be heading into a real crisis.
The saga of Sweetheart the goat and her creator, GTC Biotherapeutics, (GTCB) the Framingham (Mass.) biotech company, may end on a high note after all (BW -- Jan. 16). On June 2, the European Medicines Agency issued a positive opinion on GTC's ATryn, the first drug derived from the milk of a genetically modified animal. Sweetheart and the rest of her herd were engineered to carry a single human gene that lets the goats produce a clot-preventing human protein in their milk. The protein, normally found in blood, prevents dangerous clots in surgery patients whose bodies don't make enough of it naturally. Initially, European regulators rejected the drug over concerns that the clinical trials didn't include enough patients and that the process for making the end product would differ from the one for the trials. But after reexamining data provided by GTC and consulting experts, the agency reversed itself, and GTC's shares rose 85%, to $1.81 a share.
GTC is completing clinical trials needed for U.S. approval. Rodman & Renshaw analyst Navdeep Jaikaria, who estimates ATryn could eventually hit $226 million in annual sales, sees the European opinion as "positive for the biotech industry."
A survey soon to be released by the nonprofit CEOs for Cities shows that two-thirds of college-educated adults aged 25 to 34 decide first where to live, then where to work. New York was named both the most appealing city (culture) and the least (crowds). Other desirable locales: Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego, where the climate admittedly is a lure. Washington (perceived as dangerous) joined New York on the least-desirable list. Overall, respondents both married and single say they are drawn to safe, clean, affordable cities. The message, says Carol Coletta, head of CEOs for Cities: Companies that "want to attract young talent" can't afford to disengage from civic involvement.
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"On a recent trip to London, I was astounded by an ad...for a company called Be [Un limited]. It advertised 24 [megabytes per second] service at 24 British pounds per month -- about $50. To get something comparable here...you would have to pay about $180 per month....Dozens of companies [offer] broadband throughout the U.K.....As our legislators contemplate the fate of Net Neutrality legislation, they may want to consider the win-win situation abroad and adjust their thinking."
Try not to be hospitalized over the next few months. Unhappy about an upcoming decision by the National Labor Relations Board, some of the country's 500,000 or so unionized nurses (out of 2.4 million nurses overall) are considering a rash of strikes. The NLRB is poised to rule that nurses who direct colleagues even part of the day are supervisors -- a decision that could affect up to a third of unionized nurses. Such "charge nurses" could still be in unions, but employers would be free to fire them for union activity. As a result, the nurses are demanding guarantees from employers that they won't be fired for being in unions. In early June, some 7,000 nurses and other health-care workers at eight New Jersey hospitals threatened to strike before winning this new protection in their contracts. If the NLRB rule is written broadly, says AFL-CIO Organizing Director Stewart Acuff, it could also cause disruptions in construction and other industries where workers supervise colleagues as part of their job.
The "special relationship" between Britain and the U.S., literary branch, is under strain. The issue: British publishers are upset about how many English-language books published in America are being sold directly into Europe in this Web-enabled age -- and into Britain itself.
British publishing houses want U.S. publishers' author contracts to acknowledge all of Europe as the British houses' distribution domain. U.S. publishers say Europe should be an open, competitive market for selling English-language books. So heated is the debate that two weeks ago publishing big shots like Gina Centrello, president of Random House Publishing Group, and Simon & Schuster CEO Jack Romanos crowded into a standing-room-only presentation billed "U.S./U.K. Turf Wars: The Defining Rights Issue of Our Time" at BookExpo America, the industry's annual trade show.
The dispute is being fueled by the weak dollar, which makes U.S.-published books especially tempting to European wholesalers serving the EU market for books in English. Once the books arrive on the Continent, they are easily sold into Britain, thanks to EU single-market laws. Hachette Livre CEO Tim Hely-Hutchinson estimates the annual European trade in U.S. books at $93 million.
Caught in the middle are authors and their agents. Brian DeFiore, a New York agent, laments that a once "fairly easy negotiating point" about geographic rights with houses on both sides of the Atlantic is now "so charged that publishers are pulling deals off the table."
The Lenovo Group may be the world's third-largest personal computer maker, but outside of China, where it got its start, not many people are familiar with it. So the company, now based in Purchase, N.Y., is trying something that would have been completely out of character for staid IBM, whose PC operations Lenovo bought last year: viral marketing.
Lenovo created a spoof Web site, The Lenovo Tapes (www.lenovo-tapes.com), which pretends to let viewers in on some superadvanced technologies being tested by the company. The site's anonymous producer has supposedly received some purloined videotapes revealing the secret research. Once viewers click through to the tapes, the joke is apparent. One clip shows a Lenovo notebook computer being dropped by a test-robot, then defying gravity before gliding to an absurdly soft landing. Another shows a lab technician leaving his post and being replaced by a holographic twin.
The idea of promoting Lenovo through viral marketing came from Mike Etherington, Lenovo's distribution marketing manager. MEME London, a British marketing consultancy, came up with the spoof concept. The videos were shot in Geneva, where their creators had to scramble to find an Asian man to play the lab technician. (A game Chinese investment banker was pressed into service.)
Since it appeared a few weeks ago, the site has had more than 3 million visitors. Says Etherington: "We got across the point that we're Lenovo, we exist, and we're innovative."