Sunday, 25 October 2009

Retail's New Normal

Senior Editor Diane Brady speaks with management writer Jena McGregor about how retailers are adjusting to the new reality in consumer spending.

Click here, please.

Weather 'shapes human body clock'

                             Weather 'shapes human body clock'

Our internal body clocks are shaped by the weather as well as by the seasons, scientists have discovered.

Researchers used computers to model the workings of internal biological clocks.


They found the mechanism had to be so complicated because it was able to deal with varying amounts of light from hour to hour, as well as changing seasons.


It is hoped the research, led by a team from Edinburgh University, could help tackle sleep problems caused by jet lag and shift working.


The researchers said the findings gave them a greater understanding of what drives the internal rhythms of people, animals and plants.


Environmental signals, such as hours of daylight, affect the daily rhythms which many plants use to control flowering and ripening.


The findings may also help scientists develop crops that can cope with climate change.


The study was led by the University of Edinburgh, and involved researchers from the California Institute of Technology and the University of Warwick.


Dr Carl Troein, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Biological Sciences, said: "By better understanding why biological clocks are so complex, we stand a better chance of controlling them.


"Our study goes some way to explaining how and why these in-built rhythms have developed. We hope it will be useful in informing treatments for sleep disorders as well as helping scientists develop crops that can survive in the long term."

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/edinburgh_and_east/8314332.stm

Published: 2009/10/20 07:16:29 GMT

© BBC MMIX

                                                        Listening Activity:



Our internal body clocks are shaped by the weather as well as by the seasons, scientists have discovered.


Listen to the podcast in Scottish accent here, please.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

MOTIVATION

Professor Nick Epley from Chigaco Booth School of Economics talks about motivation.

video

Reset your body clock

CNN's Melissa Long reports on a clock we often don't think about - our body clock and how it works.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Friday, 9 October 2009

Investing in Brazil.

video


source: Bloomberg

Sunday, 4 October 2009

The Fox and the Hedgehog.





The fox knows many things; the hedgehog knows one big thing.
-Archilochus, 8th century BC



A short film based on the essay by Isaiah Berlin, who believed there were two 'types' of people in the world.






THE LAST DAYS OF THE POLYMATH
By Edward Carr
Created 01/10/2009



People who know a lot about a lot have long been an exclusive club, but now they are an endangered species.


Carl Djerassi is a polymath. Strictly speaking that means he is someone who knows a lot about a lot. But Djerassi also passes a sterner test: he can do a lot, too. As a chemist (synthesising cortisone and helping invent the Pill); an art collector (he assembled one of the world’s largest collections of works by Paul Klee); and an author (19 books and plays), he has accomplished more than enough for one lifetime.

Yet as human learning has flowered, the man or woman who does great things in many fields has become a rare species. Young was hardly Aristotle, but his capacity to do important work in such a range of fields startled his contemporaries and today seems quite bewildering. The dead cast a large shadow but, even allowing for that, the 21st century has no one to match Michelangelo, who was a poet as well as a sculptor, an architect and a painter. It has no Alexander von Humboldt, who towered over early-19th-century geography and science. And no Leibniz, who invented calculus at the same time as Newton and also wrote on technology, philosophy, biology, politics and just about everything else.
Although you may be able to think of a few living polymaths who rival the breadth of Young’s knowledge, not one of them beg¬ins to rival the breadth of his achievements. Over the past 200 years the nature of intellectual endeavour has changed profoundly. The polymaths of old were one-brain universities. These days you count as a polymath if you excel at one thing and go on to write a decent book about another.
Britain goes out of its way to create monomaths, by asking students aged 15 to choose just three or four subjects to study at A-level. Djerassi thinks this is a mistake. “There’ll be students here at age 16 or 17 who are much better than many Americans at French or maths or something, but abysmally ignorant in another area,” he says. “We really preach intellectual monogamy more and more in this day and age. That’s by necessity, but we’re overdoing it. And what we really ought to do is start with intellectual polygamy.”
In an age of specialists, does it matter that generalists no longer thrive? The world is hardly short of knowledge. Countless books are written, canvases painted and songs recorded. A torrent of research is pouring out. A new orthodoxy, popularised by Malcolm Gladwell, sees obsessive focus as the key that unlocks genius.

Just knowing about a lot of things has never been easier. Never before have dabblers been so free to paddle along the shore and dip into the first rock pool that catches the eye. If you have an urge to take off your shoes and test the water, countless specialists are ready to hold your hand.

And yet you will never get very deep. Depth is for monomaths—which is why experts so often seem to miss what really matters. Specialisation has made the study of English so sterile that students lose much of the joy in reading great literature for its own sake. A generation of mathematically inclined economists neglected many of Keynes’s insights about the Depression because he put them into words. For decades economists sweated over fiendish mathematical equations, only to be brought down to earth by the credit crunch: Keynes’s well-turned phrases had come back to life.
Part of my regret at the scarcity of polymaths is sentimental. Polymaths were the product of a particular time, when great learning was a mark of distinction and few people had money and leisure. Their moment has passed, like great houses or the horse-drawn carriage. The world may well be a better place for the specialisation that has come along instead. The pity is that progress has to come at a price. Civilisation has put up fences that people can no longer leap across; a certain type of mind is worth less. The choices modern life imposes are duller, more cramped.

The question is whether their loss has affected the course of human thought. Polymaths possess something that monomaths do not. Time and again, innovations come from a fresh eye or from another discipline. Most scientists devote their careers to solving the everyday problems in their specialism. Everyone knows what they are and it takes ingenuity and perseverance to crack them. But breakthroughs—the sort of idea that opens up whole sets of new problems—often come from other fields. The work in the early 20th century that showed how nerves work and, later, how DNA is structured originally came from a marriage of physics and biology. Today, Einstein’s old employer, the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, is laid out especially so that different disciplines rub shoulders. I suspect that it is a poor substitute.

Isaiah Berlin [12] once divided thinkers into two types. Foxes, he wrote, know many things; whereas hedgehogs know one big thing. The foxes used to roam free across the hills. Today the hedgehogs rule.

Berlin once made a distinction between two types of mind: the hedgehog, which knows one big thing; and the fox, which knows lots of little ones. Thinkers who fixate on one big idea - Plato, Dante, Pascal, Proust, Dostoevsky, Marx, Hegel, or for that matter someone who would investigate a subject such as humanism for decades - are hedgehogs.
However, those who have many little ideas, such as Aristotle, Goethe, Pushkin, Balzac, Joyce, and Turgenev are foxes. Tolstoy, he felt, was a fox who wanted to be a hedgehog.
Most of Berlin’s friends, wrote Michael Ignatieff (The New Yorker, 28 September 1998), saw him as an arch-fox - quick-witted, darting from subject to subject. Yet he also longed to be a hedgehog—to know one thing, to feel one thing more truly than anyone else. He had reached what he recognized was a critical stage: either he would go on to develop a serious intellectual engagement of his own or he would decline into being what he feared most - a “chatterbox.”

www.economist.com/intelligentlife

HEADLINES.

Feelings and adjectives.

FACE2FACE INTERMEDIATE
UNIT 4 -


Saturday, 3 October 2009

Will Olympic budgets blow out?




The Olympic games

Rio’s sporting carnival
Oct 2nd 2009
From Economist.com


Rio de Janeiro will host the 2016 Olympic Games, the event’s first visit to South America




THE founder of the modern Olympic games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, insisted that taking part in the event was equally as important as winning. The gloomy delegations from Chicago, Tokyo and Madrid will find little consolation in the baron’s philosophy as they trudge from Copenhagen on Friday October 2nd. The members of the International Olympic Committee decided that the host city for the 2016 summer games will be Rio de Janeiro.

But is staging the Olympics such a great coup? The pluses may seem obvious. Big building projects will employ lots of people who will spend their wages in the rest of the economy. Railways and roads will be built that might otherwise have stayed on the drawing board for years. Visitors will come from far and wide, either for the games or as tourists afterwards. That all sounds especially alluring in a recession.
The pro-Olympics lobby tends to downplay the disadvantages. Building in the host city may push up wages and prices and crowd out investment elsewhere. Hurrying up building projects raises costs. What suits the games may not be best for the city afterwards. Not every visitor during the games is an extra one; tourists may time long-wished-for trips to watch the sport. Crowds or inflated hotel prices may deter others from coming.

By and large, economists have found it hard to detect the benefits of big sporting events. Robert Baade, of Lake Forest College, near Chicago, describes the Olympics as a “high risk, low reward proposition”, but concedes that the games may prompt spending; say in transport, which boosts a region’s economy in the long term.
The right event at the right time can give a city a lift: Barcelona, host in 1992, is a case in point. However, Stefan Szymanski, an economist at Cass Business School in London, suggests that hosting the Olympics may be a mark of recognition: the effect rather than the cause of change. If so that should also count as another reason for wild partying deep into the Rio night.







Copyright © 2009 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. All rights reserved.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Thriving on adversity.








Thriving on adversity
Oct 1st 2009
From The Economist print edition


Some companies are finding opportunities in the recession.




JUST after Barack Obama was elected president, his incoming chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, told a conference of American captains of industry, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” Here’s hoping his audience was paying attention, because recessions provide as many opportunities for business people as they do for politicians. Although they are often called “slowdowns”, recessions shake things up rather than slowing them down. They reward strengths and expose weaknesses, create new opportunities and kill old habits, release energy and destroy old business models. Distressed assets can be bought for a song, talented people hired cheaply and new ideas given an airing.

The most striking example of this was the Depression. Most people think of the 1930s as an economic desert littered with foreclosure signs and unemployment queues. But for the canny few it was a huge opportunity. DuPont invested heavily in research and development (R&D) and hired unemployed scientists. By the late 1930s 40% of its sales were from products that were less than a decade old—including world-changing inventions such as nylon and synthetic rubber. Procter & Gamble (P&G) invested so heavily in radio advertising that it created a new artistic form, the soap opera. The list of companies which took off during the Depression includes Revlon, Hewlett-Packard (now HP), Polaroid and Pepperidge Farms, the last of which was founded by a society lady whose husband was a victim of the Wall Street crash.
More recent recessions have produced a similar pattern of creative destruction. Two studies by management consultants show that they dramatically rearranged the pecking order of companies in many fields. Bain & Company discovered that twice as many firms made the leap from “laggards” to “leaders” (ie, from the bottom quartile of companies in their industry to the top quartile) during the recession of 1991-92 than during non-recessionary times.

What about the current recession? A great deal is still up in the air, of course. But it is possible to get some idea of the sorts of companies that are doing well and the kinds of strategies they are pursuing. The most obvious winners are established giants: market leaders that entered the recession with cash in their pockets and sound management systems under their belts. These companies are reaping rewards from investors who are skittish about shakier rivals. They are also using their corporate muscle to squeeze their costs (for example, by negotiating cheap rates for advertising) and so win market share from their competitors. BCG, another consultancy, notes that 58% of companies that were among the top three in their industry had rising profits in 2008 and only 30% saw their profits decline. In contrast, only 21% of companies outside the top three had rising profits, and 61% had falling profits.

McDonald’s is simultaneously sharpening its appeal to its core customers, even introducing computer systems that allow its outlets to adjust their prices to local economic circumstances, and moving upmarket with lattes and salads. Asda, a British supermarket chain, is building 14 new stores and hiring 7,000 new workers. PepsiCo has taken direct control of two of its biggest bottling companies, at a cost of $6 billion. Many big companies are also taking advantage of bargain-basement prices to make acquisitions. That is wise: a BCG study of mergers and acquisitions in America in 1985-2001 found that deals done during a recession generated about 15% more return to shareholders than those that took place during a boom.


A second group of winners is made up of companies with a record of innovation. Despite seeing its revenues fall by 23% in the last quarter of 2008 compared with the last quarter of 2007, Intel is continuing to invest heavily in innovation. Craig Barrett, the company’s former boss, insists, “You can’t save your way out of a recession; you have to invest your way out.” P&G is launching its biggest expansion in its 170 years, opening 19 new factories around the world and investing heavily in new ideas, despite disappointing recent results. IBM is holding a series of “innovation jams” designed to squeeze ideas out of its employees.

A third group consists of companies which are using the recession to reposition themselves. Cisco is speeding up its transformation from a backroom network plumber into a much more versatile internet giant, using its cash reserves to snap up start-ups in new fields and expand its business portfolio. Repositioning is a strategy that has paid off dramatically in the past. When the Soviet Union collapsed, plunging Finland into economic turmoil, Nokia’s response was to abandon 90% of its businesses to concentrate on telecoms, particularly mobile phones.

There is also every reason to believe that the current recession will produce lots of upstarts. The Kauffman Foundation, which studies entrepreneurship, points out that about half of Fortune 500 and Inc. 500 companies (lists of the biggest and fastest-growing firms in America, respectively), including such household names as FedEx, CNN and Microsoft, were founded during recessions or bear markets. A disproportionate number of these upstarts produced industry-changing ideas that established companies failed to appreciate until it was too late. Indeed, business is more likely to take advantage of this “serious crisis” than the world’s politicians.







Copyright © 2009 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. All rights reserved.
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