Destination: 2020


In the year 2020, in the year 2020!!!!!!!!!

The Wall Street Journal tackles a pernicious trend taken root in governance and corporate America. The rise of the 2020 report!

But not just any 2020 report, there are multiple organizations that have rolled out documentation called Vision 2020, which, as the WSJ reports, has dismayed eye doctors for hijacking their phraseology.

Behold some of the offerings:

Vision 2020: NYC Comprehensive Waterfront Plan –

Strategic Plan – Vision 2020 – Defense Security Cooperation Agency

Vision 2020 – Siemens AG (PDF warning)

Futuristic reports like these are very easy to churn out seemingly credible accounts, but they fail to illuminate upon closer inspection. They mostly follow the idea that globalization will continue, culture is important, and the world is changing rapidly. And so?

Perhaps a little over two years from now is not an important milestone. AI will be improved, remarkably so, but will it have reshaped our world yet? The erosion of the human workforce is approaching, but can anyone even credibly predict what that will mean and how we’ll address that?

I’d like to see someone take a crack at Vision: 3030 (someone else besides Deltron, that is). Will we all be half-cyborgs? Will the rock on which we currently stand be burning and will we have escaped it? Not sure, but I’m willing to bet culture will be important and globalization will be continuing


Today’s Bonus Thought

Some damning reportage out of Forbes on Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross regarding his net worth. It is said that he has exaggerated his finances by a figure of $2 billion! The entire piece is a study in abject narcissism, where you are left shaking your head at the amount of time Mr. Ross spent haranguing Forbes about accurately depicting his wealth and then trying to weasel out of reportage of his deception. Of all of our great pathologies, our self worth over our net worth is one of the most destructive.


Pizza Parties and Other Important Matters

I’m trying to square Papa John’s logic that the furor around the NFL protests is driving down its sales (Pizza Hut says sales are great; we’re still waiting for Taco Town’s quarterly earnings call to see what they say)

Papa John’s certainly should have pull with the NFL; they are the league’s official pizza and their ongoing campaigns with retired NFL star Peyton Manning brings them even closer to the orbit of the football-watching public.
But Papa John’s doesn’t make it clear WHY sales are down? Are people boycotting sponsors too? While that is a usual tactic (to force corporations – in this case the NFL – to accede to a movement’s goals, it rarely has a material effect. And I had not previously seen any specific Papa John’s boycotts.
Ratings are down, yes; and some studies point to the protests as a partial reason. But overall TV viewership is down (+/- 5%) – and it is more significantly down as a whole than football. And is logical. People want to watch anything on their own schedule; live sports is one of the few things that people still make appointment viewing.
But that decline in viewership is unlikely to produce huge depression in the addressable audience.
Do the (small amount relatively speaking of) people who previously watched the NFL who have boycotted it also index high in Papa John’s customer base?
Or is it more likely that Papa Johns has fallen behind the innovations of its competitors Pizza Hut and Dominos? If we’re to take the pizzas on equal quality footing (I plead ignorance as a New Yorker; I do not wish to find out which is currently the best pizza of that dominant trio).
Dominos has taken a HBR case study approach to its advertising – eviscerating its past self to make its current version palatable. It is also known for being an innovator in technological developments – it’s the 10 year anniversary of None Pizza with Left Beef, after all.
Pizza Hut is in the midst of a major technological leap forward (or so it claims) through advanced heating mechanisms
Papa Johns, on the other hand, is known for its ubiquitous ads with Peyton Manning, who, again, is retired. No new advancements, save for limited edition topping styles. The pizza is the same. The tech is the same. The ordering is more or less the same.
While it is not like Papa Johns has avoided the tech revolution, they always seem a step behind. Is that the missing ingredient? I’m not sure, but it’s as plausible as (slightly) worse ratings.

HR Is Ill-Equipped and Other News that Matters

Thought of the Day

HR will never be effective enough against harassment as long as it reports directly to the CEO/C-Suite. Companies that can afford to do – as a competitive advantage – should design an external body to respond to these complaints, much like a public editor responds to reader complaints. A select group of employees could independently oversee this function. Only an impartial organ can truly feel approachable by the entire workforce.


In the secretive world of watches, Zenith decides to share (NYT)

Why it matters: Businesses are studying the effects of the sharing economy and looking for ways to diversify their income streams. IP and platforms can provide a steady stream of income that can buffer against poor sales quarters.

Google’s first step in air-travel dominance—stop sharing intel with competitors (Fast Company)

Why it matters: Google courts scrutiny with every move it makes because of its size and the breadth of services it provides. Some services are quasi-utilities – usually from previous acquisitions – that helps the company guard against anti-trust questions. But, individually, they make decisions to eliminate sharing of information from these utility-like products in order to bolster their own business. And this brings on the scrutiny and questions of whether they are choking competition. Rinse and repeat.

Why Your HR Department Can’t Stop Sexual Harassment (Bloomberg)

Why it matters: There have been far too few deep investigations into how and why HR departments fail employees when it comes to any type of harassment. HR is often a thankless job, and it is sometimes seen as an extension of the C-suite (which sometimes is the domain of the harasser(s)) and a defender of a company. This article offers some helpful advice, paramount of which is the suggestion that harassment reporting protocol be mentioned in open meetings, so employees have a frame of reference and an invitation to talk about what has happened to them or someone with whom they work.