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I read with delight about the business world's acceptance of The Bhagavad Gita as another source of ancient wisdom ("Karma capitalism," Special Report, Oct. 30). But your readers shouldn't stop there! Study the provocative ideas of the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, whom I consider the world's first creativity teacher. His style is designed to whack us out of our habitual thought patterns so that we can look at what we're doing in a fresh way.
Roger von Oech
Certain verses in the Bhagavad are both profound and practical for implementing Six Sigma, which Motorola (MOT
) Inc. pioneered in the late 1970s to reduce defects and make companies globally competitive. Note Sri Krishna's counsel: "You have the right to karma, but not to the results of that karma!" This can be fully incorporated in the definition of the outcomes of work processes as desired in Six Sigma.
Pradeep B. Deshpande
Unfortunately, many managers today base their careers and business moves on another literary work not mentioned in your article: Machiavelli's The Prince.
Orange, Calif. "Web Numbers: What's real?" (Info Tech, Oct. 23) discusses a recurring theme, asserting that third-party online audience metrics are somehow inaccurate because they do not match a company's internal server logs.
Third-party estimates are very specific in what they measure, and they do it consistently across all players. The rules truly are the same for everyone. The automatic assumption that a company's internal server log data "must be" 100% correct is very often unfounded. In the vast majority of the cases we investigate, the comScore Networks Inc. numbers prove to be sensible and correct. Internal data often overcount audiences for a variety of reasons, such as counting cookies instead of people, and often include page views not requested or seen by end users.
Regarding the article's assertion that online audience measurement is a "crapshoot," we categorically reject the statement as ludicrous. The fact is that the Internet has more precise third-party measurement than practically any other established media, including television, radio, magazines, billboards, etc. It features sample sizes that are orders of magnitude higher than offline measurement systems. The data collection methodology is much less intrusive and far more reliable than paper diaries, readership surveys, or electronic people meters. It is also very cost-effective since clients pay a small fraction of what offline media outlets pay for much less robust, detailed measurement.
ComScore's data are used by more than 600 clients, including industry giants such as AOL, (TWX
) Google, (GOOG
) MSN, (MSFT
)and Yahoo! (YHOO
) These types of companies have ample opportunities to examine and use our data. Fortunately for us, they are voting with their checkbooks. Their ranks grew more than 30% in the last year alone, which would not have occurred if online audience measurement was a crapshoot.
We understand the pressure some companies feel to report higher numbers because it is a reflection of a site's popularity, competitive strength, or a manager's personal performance. For some companies it can be a matter of survival. This is why unbiased third-party services like ours are needed. We work hard to stay abreast of the ever-changing Internet landscape, and we measure all players fairly and consistently. Our job is to do our best at fairly reporting online audiences, unmotivated by any biased interest in claiming larger audiences based on potentially flawed internal data. If there is a crapshoot, it's companies bragging about internal data that are inconsistently computed and typically inflated.
Chief Technology Officer
comScore Networks Inc.
Chicago "Medicine In Conflict" (Special Report, Oct. 23) completely fails to recognize that many of the lifesaving devices patients rely on have made their way to the clinic because of physician entrepreneurs like Dr. Martin B. Leon. The superiority of the U.S. medical drug and device industry is significantly driven by the economic rewards researchers receive for their inventions and accumulated knowledge. Crimping physician entrepreneurs, as many academic and government bureaucracies propose, would impinge on the development of new products and reduce even more the shrinking financial incentive for smart young individuals to pursue a career in medicine.
As for drug companies influencing physician behavior by buying lunches and giving gifts, I'll stop accepting drug-company dinners when CMS, UnitedHealth (UNH
), or Aetna (AET
)decide they want to start funding continuing medical education.
James C. Hamilton, MD, MBA
Your article implies that it is always a negative if someone has an interest in the outcome of the subject of a paper. Wrong. Most people are ethical, and further, many good contributions to society would go unnoticed if only disinterested people wrote for journals. A disinterested person would not have the fire in the belly to get the job done.
How would you go about getting someone to do the work of writing an article that has to be rigorous enough to go through a peer-review process for free?
C. Norman Winningstad
Newport, Ore. I struggled with the implication in "Go to the head of the class" ("The Best B-Schools," Cover Story, Oct. 23) that executives teaching in MBA programs are limited to telling "war stories." After a 45-year career that includes positions as a division manager for a Fortune 500 company, a partnership in a successful contracting business, and years of volunteer consulting to small businesses and charitable organizations, I certainly have a "war story" for every situation.
However, I work very hard to organize and present current theory, and yes, like Robert D. Rogers, I was surprised by the prep work that is necessary. The advantage I have over my academic brethren is that I can augment theoretical discussions with real-life examples of success and failure that I have personally experienced. My students report that this is the most valuable and enjoyable part of the learning experience.
Jack Stiegler, Adjunct Professor
School of Management, City University
Snohomish, Wash. I found it ironic that "The high price of admission" ("The Best B-Schools," Cover Story, Oct. 23) used the number of years to break even as the metric for the economic value of an MBA. As an undergraduate business student at Temple University's Fox School of Business, I found this to be misleading. Besides ignoring the time value of money, this measure completely disregards the higher cash flows an MBA grad earns beyond the payback date. When evaluating whether to choose a top-tier school, the prospective student should consider taking the net present value of this investment, found in every Finance 101 textbook.
Upper Darby, Pa. I was interested to read your article on selecting a good suit for your body type ("How to be well-suited," Executive Life, Oct. 23). As a sales executive in the Boston area, suits are part of my uniform, and I was eager to find tips on cuts, fabrics, and patterns.
Imagine my disappointment when I realized that the article was targeted to men only. Can I expect to find a similar article for your female readers in the near future? Until then I'm left wondering: At 5 feet 2 inches, should I be following the guidelines for "The Short Guy," or do completely different rules apply to women?
Somerville, Mass. Kudos to Christopher Farrell for his excellent article, "Going beyond Head Start" (Social Issues, Oct. 23) on the payoff from preschool programs. Farrell rightly points out the findings from the much-peer-reviewed Perry Preschool Project Study, while noting its relatively small sample size.
Readers may be interested to know that other studies confirm many of Perry Preschool's findings, including high rates of economic returns. Among these are the Chicago Child Parent Center, Abecedarian Project, Milwaukee Project, Early Environmental Enrichment Program, and Infant Health & Development Program studies. It is also notable that the gain in workforce productivity that will result from providing today's children with high-quality preschool educations makes this one of the few proven pro-growth policies and will help keep the Social Security account balance in positive territory in the future when the baby boomers retire.
W. Steven Barnett
National Institute for Early Education Research
Princeton, N.J. "Danger: Explosive Loans" (Finance, Oct. 23) accurately describes some "froth" in the loan market, but that can be said about credit markets generally at this point in the credit cycle. However, bank loans have unique features that protect in times of stress, including credit protection from their seniority and security and financial covenants that control risk. Add their low default rate, high recovery rate, low volatility, and lack of interest rate risk, and you have an attractive asset class in which investors have confidence.
But your article was more about the alleged dangers of collateralized loan obligations (CLOs), one of the types of funds that invest in loans. The article even calls them "just as worrisome" as hedge funds. However, few investment vehicles offer investors the protections of CLOs, such as monitoring by the major rating agencies, sales limited to accredited investors, transparency, collateral tests, and structural protections. Additionally, CLO managers do not just buy loans and package them into a pool for a fee. Nor are managers shortchanging fundamental credit analysis, as stated in the article.
Of course, investors must still conduct their due diligence and invest with managers who have long-standing track records and a disciplined portfolio management style, and who take the time to help structure CLOs to fit the manager's investment style. Chosen correctly, collateralized loan obligations can be an excellent investment opportunity.
Matthew A. Miller, Chairman
Collateralized Loan Obligation Committee
Loan Syndications & Trading Assn.
New York As an Ohio poll worker, I attended training last week, and I can tell you that most of the staff are woefully unprepared to work on Nov. 7 ("Beware the high-tech ballot," Tech & You, Oct. 23).
In Ohio a measure called HB3 was passed in the statehouse. Because this law requires stricter identification standards, it is believed that a huge number of paper provisional ballots will be needed on election day. Since the provisional ballots cost a dollar each, every precinct will receive only 100 provisional ballots. When poll workers run out of those, we're supposed to switch to the "electronic machine provisional system." But no one was properly trained in how to switch systems--even the trainer seemed confused. I expect a long, exhausting day on Nov. 7 for my precinct and state.
Yellow Springs, Ohio Kudos to the Bush administration for pressuring India and China to stop trafficking in tiger parts. ("and on his farm he had a tiger," UpFront, Oct. 16). The novelist Paul Theroux has predicted the extinction of whales, dolphins, gorillas, rhinos, elephants, and tigers by the year 2100 and the near-extinction of giraffes, grizzly bears, pandas, and wolves by that year as well. Entrusting the convention on international trade in endangered species with their survival on factory farms we use to immobilize and slaughter domesticated animals like pigs, chickens, and cows would be like letting wolves guard the henhouse.