Thursday, September 17, 2009

Product knowledge

The recently held computer and consumer IT exhibition COMEX 2009 made record sales in its history with S$63 mil of goods sold.

Indeed it's a popular event packed with people. I came back with two nothing in hand and two disappointments.

First is the item which I was looking for, Panasonic Lumix LX3, is not on display. In fact Panasonic did not participate for whatever reason.

The second disappointment is that most sales persons I spoke to do not understand what they are selling. One look really confused when I asked about the lens' aperture. The other one told me that there is no difference between a 24mm lens and a 28mm lens, "All you need to do is to take a step back," she said.

For people who studies consumer behavior, this type of places is one of the best to conduct field experiment and see if the theories are adequate. After all, with such level of product knowledge, and not forget about the economic situation, we still see a record in sales here.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Raising a sick child

The way corporations is managed today is akin to raising a sick child -- with TLC (tender loving care). The logic is simple, if corporations cannot survive beyond tomorrow, all the talks about long term visions and values are as good as thrash. It is not an easy task to manage a corporation that is constantly pressured to deliver short term results.

It is similar in raising a sick child. What if the child does not live beyond tomorrow, next month, six month, one year, five years... Tender loving care, the doctors will tell you. Educating a sick child with values and principles that will help make him a better person when he grows up sounds like a nice thing to have, but maybe irrelevant.

I have seen in paediatric wards how some parents struggle emotionally to 'educate' their children. I remember one mother said, "I will just give you whatever you want, anything, anytime." It is heartbreaking to hear this under such circumstances.

At the back of these parents' mind, there is probably another question -- What if the child lives long enough, longer than the parents? While science has advanced tremendously, the survival rate of many illnesses still bogged down to a probability game. There are simply too many factors that affect a patient's survival.

Turning the lens to the corporations. Many corporations are fighting for their survivals; and their survivals are similarly affected by a confluence of internal and external factors. Should the management think only short term then?

My family is rather unfortunate that one of the youngest member of our family is diagnosed with an uncommon illness since he is merely 16-month old. I have the pleasure to host him for close to a year when he's in Singapore for medical treatment. While the adults keep saying that we should treat him no different from a normal kid, the reality is that it is a very difficult thing to do. It seems like two simple choice: 1. Treat the child as perfectly normal kid and schooled him with values and principles the way we were raised. 2. Treat it like there is no tomorrow and spoil the child with tender loving care...

As with most rational people, we chose the middle path. And as with most parents (we have a daughter of our own), we soon found that we were jumping from one extreme to the other, and couldn't stop blaming ourselves for being too hard on him or spoil him when he should have learnt his lesson. Now, we stick to certain principles, but not setting fixed boundaries.

This experience doesn't make me better in managing similar situations. What I do learn, though, is that middle path is a means, and so is other choices. We took a principle-based approach. Others might prefer TLC. The end motive is probably the same.

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