Their customers may love free delivery but some firms should find more profitable ways to juice sales

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

When Zappos started selling shoes online in 1999, its founders had bigger concerns than the much hyped Y2K bug that was supposedly going to wipe out computer systems at midnight Jan. 1. Their existential challenge was to find a way to overcome the hesitation of customers to buy shoes online without testing them with their own tootsies. The founders took the then radical step, apparently based only on intuition, to offer free shipping and free returns. …

There is an artificial intelligence tool for every stage of the business startup process

Photo by Andrea De Santis on Unsplash

Garry Kasparov never had a chance. In 1997, the world chess champion lost to Deep Blue, a computer powered by artificial intelligence (AI). In the match, Kasparov was evaluating three chess moves per second. Pretty impressive. In that same time, Deep Blue was plotting more than 200 million moves.

Imagine you’re an entrepreneur today. What sort of edge would you gain by having Deep Blue’s smarter cousin as a consultant on your senior management team? How many more viable business ideas would you generate? How much…

Message to board recruiters: a legal education proves its worth in the C-suite

Dru Armstrong, recently named CEO of fintech company AffiniPay

It is one of those perennial parlor-game questions: What type of educational background makes for the best CEOs? Plenty will swear by the value of a finance or engineering pedigree, while others will insist you can’t go wrong with a battle-tested marketing executive. There is no right answer, of course. An engineering background may be great for a CEO of a technology firm but ill-fitting for a CEO of a fashion retailer.

Curiously, you won’t find many people arguing in favour of a legal education. Judging by…

When it comes to keeping norm violators in line, it sure beats ostracism or physical confrontation

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Social norms keep communities and organizations humming along. These unspoken rules are easy to overlook. But when you violate a norm — talk when a teammate is giving a presentation, for example, or sit next to a stranger in a half-empty theater — you’ll either have some explaining to do or suffer serious reputational damage.

Just as there are norms about acceptable behavior, there are norms about norm enforcement. When do we react to a transgression? When do we pretend not to notice? And if we react, what’s a suitable response? Across cultures, we know that there are three common…

Celebrating women who break through the glass ceiling or pushing the business case for diversity can set back the drive for equality

Photo by Denise Chan on Unsplash

If you work in the diversity and inclusion space, you likely have a couple of go-to moves. Celebrate progress made by a woman in a high-profile leadership position. And tout the business case for diversity to win over skeptics.

It is indeed heartening to see women, such as Jacinda Ardern, prime minister of New Zealand, and Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, steering countries and corporations successfully. And the business case for diversity is certainly compelling. …

New York City parking ticket scofflaws teach us a lesson about the limits of behavioral economics

Photo by Josh Newton on Unsplash

Over the past decade, if you feel you’ve been played like a puppet — nudged to pay overdue taxes or limit water consumption — it’s not your imagination. It’s just some government department dabbling in the dark arts of behavioral economics to encourage (arguably) better choices for society.

Those nudges often work. Manipulating the way choices are presented to people can indeed have an impressive impact on outcomes. A reminder note based on a social norm (“Nine out of 10 people pay their taxes…

Peer mentors can provide a bigger boost than traditional mentors. Pity that few organizations bother to tap this hidden power

Image: iStock

Management thinkers are not used to looking to the education or health-care systems for inspiration to improve organizations. If they did, they might appreciate a simple yet effective tool: peer mentorship.

Peer mentorship is what’s left when traditional mentorship is shorn of power dynamics. Peer mentoring refers to a one-on-one relationship between people of similar tenure, status, or age in which the more experienced person acts as an adviser for the less experienced peer. Imagine an upper-year Indigenous student role…

Companies with strong environmental, social, and governance metrics often do better in tough times. This pandemic may be different

The Covid-19 pandemic has been miserable for business across the board, buzz-sawing through corporate plans and industry assumptions. But it also accelerated trends rumbling in the economy’s background. The virtual workplace, for better or worse, is here to stay. And, if you believe a growing chorus of market analysts, so too is sustainable investing.

During the pandemic’s first wave, J.P. Morgan polled investors from 50 global institutions (representing US$13 trillion in assets under management) on how they expected the pandemic to…

Dense friend networks and tight community ties give start-ups better access to bank loans and other formal investments

Social capital is like a trump card that improves any hand you’re dealt. Having a dense network of family, friends and colleagues — or living in a trusting community in which members volunteer and look out for one another — is good for your mental and physical health and career development.

It’s even good for business. Research has shown that firms located in U.S. counties with high levels of social capital receive lower-cost bank loans, enjoy lower audit fees and report higher…

Why greenwashers and their ilk need some time in the rinse cycle

Have we ever lived in a greener, more socially aware and public health-loving era of corporate activity?

The greenwashers tell me that bottled water is the most environmentally responsible product in the world. The coronawashers suggest I focus on the 2,700 ventilator parts that an arms manufacturer produced rather than on their main line of business. The wokewashers are proud to support Black Lives Matter, though their management ranks look awfully monochromatic. The pinkwashers say I can join the fight against breast cancer by buying their fried chicken dinner. …

Alan Morantz

I write about new management ideas. And other stuff. Author of Where Is Here: Canada’s Maps and the Stories They Tell.

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