When I read that Amazon was in talks to partner with big fashion retailers like J. Crew, Abercrombie & Fitch and Neiman Marcus, it got my attention. Despite Amazon’s leadership position in online retail, you typically don’t associate these higher-end clothing retailers with a mainstream site that targets essentially everyone.
If we were talking about a partnership between Amazon and Wal-Mart WMT -0.94% or even Costco, that would be far less surprising because of their parallels in broad customer bases and emphasis on low prices. But rather than partnering, Wal-Mart is making its own investments to level the playing field with Amazon. So why are fancier retailers like Neiman Marcus considering such a partnership? What are the risks? And do these risks outweigh the possible benefits? I think they do.
Stopping the spread of Ebola as quickly as possible is crucial. Several disjointed paths seem to be in motion, both regionally and globally. Last month’s Africa Summit in Washington DC touched on it but did not have all Ministers of Health present, and individual African countries have issued scattered curfews but no effective travel bans on citizens in affected areas. The WHO continues to issue warning statements of varying levels of severity, most recently with a casualty figure of 10,000 deaths, which may not impress those who realize that seasonal influenza kills scores more—so should we not worry, then? Meanwhile, many, especially in Africa, are looking to the WHO for more than predictive statistics. The WHOs recently published 26-page Ebola Response Roadmap makes but a small dent in this disease. Read More »
Sports radio isn’t a typical venue for impassioned debate on work-family issues and employment policy. But recently when Daniel Murphy took three days off from his job as second baseman for the New York Mets to be with his wife as she delivered their newborn son, it became just that. Two WFAN broadcasters — Mike Francesa and Boomer Esiason — took to the airwaves to rebuke Murphy’s absence.
“Quite frankly, I would have said [to my wife that she should have a] C-section before the season starts,” Esiason said. (For the record: Major League Baseball has had a three-day paternity leave policy since 2011.) Thankfully, all that machismo subsided when fans and athletes came to Murphy’s defense.
“You know, the man had his first child. He’s allowed to be there. The rules state that he can be there, so he went,” said Terry Collins, the Mets manager.
Bravo to Murphy for exercising his employee right to take paternity leave. Well done to Collins, his boss, for encouraging him to do so. These are welcome developments, particularly in such a male-dominated arena, like sports.
Ask most finance experts about the “world’s largest financial institutions,” and you’ll hear names like Citigroup, ICBC (China’s largest bank) and HSBC. However, governments top the list of large financial institutions, with investment and insurance operations that dwarf those of any private enterprise. For instance, last year the U.S. federal government made almost all student loans and backed over 97% of newly originated mortgages. Add to that Uncle Sam’s lending activities for agriculture, small business, energy and trade, plus its provision of insurance for private pensions and deposits, and you’ll discover it’s an $18-trillion financial institution. By comparison, JP Morgan Chase, the largest U.S. bank, had assets totaling about $2.4 trillion.
While government practices differ across countries, the basic story is much the same everywhere. As the world’s largest and most interconnected financial institutions — and through their activities as rule-makers and regulators — governments have an enormous influence on the allocation of capital and risk in society. And as financial actors they are confronted with the same critical issues as their private-sector peers: How should a government assess its cost of capital? How should its financial activities be accounted for? What are the systemic and macroeconomic effects? Are the institutions well-managed? Are its financial products well-designed?
Labor Day traditions call for celebrating worker struggles of the past that helped produce better working conditions for all. This year we have a bona fide case in our backyard that may just usher in a new era of workplace dynamics that future labor commentators will herald.
Today’s workforce, young and old, executive and front line employees alike, want to identify with the mission of their workplace—whether it is serving customers well and providing value for scarce dollars, improving the quality of care to vulnerable patients, inspiring and educating children to reach their full potential, or creating and producing goods that help sustain the planet. When united in a cause people believe in and experience the pride and material benefits of a job well done, a deep culture of shared ownership inevitably develops. When combined with leaders who reinforce by word and actions the importance of teamwork, compassion when personal or family misfortunes arise, and a willingness to respond to community needs, the power of talented, motivated individuals multiplies into social capital no traditional competitor can match.
Thomas Kochan is the George Maverick Bunker Professor of Management, a Professor of Work and Employment Research and Engineering Systems, and the Co-Director of the MIT Sloan Institute for Work and Employment Research at the MIT Sloan School of Management.