Where Does The Insight Come From For Serious Think Tank Members?

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As the Online Think Tank coordinator often we are asked after we turn down an application; “why didn’t I qualify?” The answer to the question is somewhat irrelevant, as a better question might be “Where does the insight come from for a serious Think Tank members? The answer to that question is that it comes from many sources, not just one book, way of life, industry or area of thought.

To illustrate this truth, let me show you some of the books we discussed today in our Online Think Tank. They are all very diverse topics in many regards, yet in a way, everything is inter-related and thus they may not be so different after all. Here they are with a short explanation after each as to why they are so important to our current period and modern day issues:

“The Boating Doctor” by Allen Berrien – 1998. This book discusses cleaning, painting, troubleshooting inboards and outboards gasoline and diesel motors. Wiring and Electrical, pumps and plumbing, winterizing and re-commissioning are also discussed and lastly, keeping care of boat hulls and maintaining emergency gear was explained in the book.

It might be important to note that indeed Marine Sales are down nearly as much as home sales, indeed they two are somewhat tied together as folks take second mortgages to buy luxury craft often. Folks who are unable to sell their boats to move up, will most likely need to maintain them well until the market picks back up, say in 4-years or so.

“Planetary Explorer – The Immigrant Trail” in Vol. 49, No. 4 December 2038. This short story starts out in a Space Port in Palmdale, CA where the travels; agricultural specialists are going to a colony station in space and others are going to a transfer station and simulator training and then onto Mars Colony. The description of the trip and future events written in 1988 seem very real today, considering the Mojave Based “Spaceship One” and the NM Space Port being built by Billionaire Richard Branson.

Spaceports are being built in many other countries and places such as Dubai, India, China and Australia. The future of private space flight cometh and space travel will soon be affordable thanks to economies of scale, new materials and free enterprise.

“I’m Okay – You’re Okay; a Practical Guide to Transactional Analysis” by Thomas A. Harris, M.D. – 1967. This is a classic for psychology and of noteworthy interest for all. The book goes through life stages and psychological observation from child, teen, adult and old age life experiences. Pre-adolescent child and the ascension to I’m Okay – You Are Okay, perspective is a lifecycle process and that to must be noted.

Rhetoric in politics is common and yet he who points fingers is often the person you most need to watch for he has not reached the plateau of their own psyche. Make sure those you converse with are okay and know you too are okay otherwise you may need to give them a little room to maneuver as they have not quite yet found their way.

“From Mind to Market – Reinventing the Retail Supply Chain, a radical new approach from America’s top retail marketing guru” by Roger D. Blackwell – 1977. This work is obviously the culmination of decades of experience and observation and perhaps 3000 pages of notes. He speaks to the consumer driven demand supply chain theory and how they must meet consumer’s needs and desires, as the consumer themselves change lifestyles and demand more information, faster. And how these changes must be met with supply chain management functions and strategies, while the JIT meets the new acceptable speed to markets. He cites many actual strategies of the top winning retailers, including Wal-Mart, whose CEO helped him edit the book’s manuscript. He also cuts to the chase of what can be expected and must occur in the future to ensure success. He rightfully predicted many things that are now the norm although missed a few such as predicting the Dominance of Enron.

Today we see companies like Amazon.com and other direct sellers with no retail outlets, and few if any inventory locations, how do they do it? How did they know? Well, perhaps they read this book or saw it coming, or maybe they were the visionaries who made it so. Think on this.

“The Solution – Winning Ways to Permanent Weight Loss” by Laurel Mellin, M.A., R.D. – 1997. Today Americans are overweight and at risk of diabetes and the cost to our individual lives and health care system is astronomical. In this book Laurel Mellin dispels the myths of weight loss and allows us to consider six causes of being overweight; weak nurturing, ineffective limits, body shame, poor visibility, unbalanced eating and stalled living. Those who wish to lose weight must come to terms with their inner strengths and admit the causes. This book is a wealth of informational understanding and a workbook to help one lose weight.

“Burning Fat Foods – and other weight loss secrets” by Judy Jameson – 1994. This book explains why American Diets are not working. This book lists all the good foods you can eat and the ones you should not. The book explains how to read labels and know what you are really looking for.

Both of these books seem to discuss common sense and diets. One thing for sure is too many Americans over indulge in foods that are unhealthy, fattening, over processed or contain little nutritional value with only harmful ingredients. That old saying; “you are what you eat comes to mind” and that of course is common sense as well. Your unsightly belly bulge should be telling you something.

“1999 Federal Government Contractor’s Manual” by Ms. Wangeman a specialist with EDS. This book helps a business person develop a plan, win bids, understand solicitations, learning to work with government procurement. Also listed are how to develop a proposal team, sizing up government agencies during visits, management of projects and virtually everything you need to succeed in government contracting. Everyone who is involved government contracting needs such references to ensure they understand the rules and regulations and how things actually work and with 543 pages it is all there.

Most small businesses that deal with the government and contracting will later advise against it. Larger corporations who sponge off the government become so highly and politically motivated that the government, which runs on tax dollars, is ripped off and we all lose. Government contracting is a huge problem and the system is broken. From a Think Tank perspective this book was very interesting and almost inviting new entrants into that market, even though that market is highly saturated in politics and new comers rarely have a chance in the mix.

“Responsibility in Business – Issues and Problems” by Blair J. Kolasa – 1972. This book takes the concept of social responsibility to the concept of a good corporate citizen. It deals with concern for consumer, economic power, employee quality of life, community, and the environment. There have been many business books sense that deal with all these issues using the latest buzz-words and these issues are nothing new – from nepotism in management to environmental responsibility to corporate governance and manipulation of the game, it seems to be all the same.

This books talks about the human reality of automation and company competitive survival, black market dealings, hiring younger people who will work for less and laying off older slower workers. It discusses glass ceilings, racism, and discrimination of all types. What about bribes, payola, kick-backs, moonlighting, union games – Yes, its all there. Trade secrets, corporate espionage, health benefits, fair trade, price wars, dumping, consumer fraud, and more are also discussed, thus, I consider this book a Business Ethics Primer, and it should be read; what about the fact that it was written in 1972, well that fact makes it all the more valuable.

This book is written and well footnoted in academia style and cites philosophical thought, research, studies and business cases, but it should be noted that it should be read with a grain of salt and along with Ayn Rand. Businesses are to make money, they are for profit ventures and common sense dictates that social awareness and consideration are good, but so are profits if you want to stay in business and therefore there must be a balance too.

“The Spirit of Manufacturing Excellence – an Executive’s Guide to the New Mind Set” by Ernest C. Huge and Alan D. Anderson – 1998. This book discusses a new mindset that is needed in manufacturing if companies are to compete in the Global market place to keep the American Might strong. I find that many of the excellent suggestions in this book have been ignored much the same as how the Auto Manufacturers denied the fore-telling during the Deming Years. The authors discuss not only improvements in scheduling modeling but also the cultural changes needed in the management and rank and file. New leadership style, roles, commitment that align with the needs of the individual and corporate goals. A new reward system is duly needed and must be noted.

The book describes MRP, OPT and FMS and touches on FCS and how a delicate balance must be struck between these manufacturing processes and the leadership at the helm. This book comes pre-ISO-9000, Six Sigma and tries to gap the TQM decade with the new and it comes from an accounting, management and financial POV. Too, JIT, TQC, KANBAN and CIM are discussed as buzz-words, but also their reality in a changing faster paced game, as market demands challenge manufacturing sectors and the strategic implications of missteps and meeting those demands. Implementing technology was also a common theme from a productivity, financial and reality based standpoint. Integration into the culture and the costs of messing it up by not getting everyone committed to it or having them accept it is real and an entire chapter is devoted to only that issue.

What happens when manufacturing companies do not pony up to the challenges in the market place? Well they get lapped. For instance, consider GM and Ford and their inability to meet customer desires, well they were passed standing still by Honda and Toyota, and that is not all as Mercedes Benz is now building a Hybrid – 42 mpg! This just in from Auto Spies News Online:

Can you imagine a full size car that gets over 40 mpg? A pipe dream you say? Maybe not. While the Lexus LS460h has an EPA highway rating of 27 MPG, in reality it seemed to only fair just a bit better than it gasoline counterpart, but Mercedes Benz came to the table with the S400, the World’s 1st Luxury Hybrid diesel. So how does it stack up you say? How about to the tune of 42 MPG, this is an astounding figure for such a large car. Needless to say quite a few of you were stunned with that kind of statement. But the real question might not be how, but when will the competition be able to catch up.

Additionally the German Automaker has also another new concept car the F700 on the front burner, now a video popped up on U-Tube that is being tested on a secret track and the car will be at the Frankfort Auto Show. The F-700 Concept Car is a luxury compact with 40 mpg fuel economy. That’s not all Mercedes will begin full production of Fuel Cell cars by 2010, factories being built right now. Also from Auto Spies News Volvo is getting into the scene;

Volvo Cars will unveil the Volvo ReCharge Concept, C30-based plug-in hybrid vehicle with a grid-rechargeable lithium-polymer battery pack and individual electric wheel motors. The Volvo ReCharge range on a full battery will be 62 mile (100 km), before the four-cylinder 1.6-liter flex-fuel engine kicks in to power the car and recharge the battery. For a 150 km (93 mile) drive starting with a full charge, the car will require less than 2.8 liters of fuel, giving the car an effective fuel economy of 124 mpg or about 1.9 l/100km. The combustion engine starts up automatically when the battery pack reaches a 30% state of charge. A full charge when plugged into a standard power outlet takes approximately 3 hours, but according to Volvo even 1 hour plugged-in gives the car a 50% charge.

Are US Auto Makers being left in the dust? Yes, but whose fault is that? Government regulation, intervention and industry lobbyists have made the US Auto Makers weak and the Unions have assisted; now they are being blown out of their own market that they indeed created. Lessons learned – again and again.

“Go Get Em Tiger – becoming the person you want to be” by Jimmy Weldon – 1990. A wonderful book for young people who want to succeed in life and could use some good advice and mentorship along the way. This book will motivate, mentor and help build self-esteem and belief in self.

We have a severe problem in America and that is poor work ethic, lack of competitive spirit and general laziness on the part of the next up and coming, but why? What have we done here in the greatest nation in the history of mankind, has over abundance made us weak, have we taught our kids to act socialistic instead of striving for success? This will destroy the productivity here, we need more hard chargers, winnings and those are willing to work hard, work smart and never give up. I say go get em tiger, and recommend this book.

“Moments of Truth – new strategies for today’s customer driven economy” by Jan Carlzon President of Scandinavian Airlines, foreword by Tom Peters – 1987. Turning around an airline is never easy, yet the methods that Jan Carlzon used to do it, have been written about and repeated for years. The successes of such companies as Southwest Airlines, Enterprise Rent-a-Car and Fed Ex come to mind when reading this book.

Giving power back to the people and allowing them to exercise their best judgments much the same as an ESOP company might. Ditching the bureaucracy for common sense. This is a must read for any MBA student even if it somewhat smashes many of the centralized MBA myths. After trimming 40 million in operating costs, he also “Flattened the Pyramid” of management to make for smoother operations.

It seems the efforts of Bob Six were similar in many regards as he took charge at Continental Airlines, prior to the gutting of the company by Frank Lorenzo. In the case of SAS, the unions jumped on board to the concept of a consumer driven company and the profits jumped too. The employees were rewarded for doing all the real work and then they rode a second wave to make the airline one of the premier airlines of the world securing its reputation and elevating its brand name beyond all others at the time.

Many business books talk a good game about how to unite an organization and empower the people and employees, but few ever really do. SAS did and the book is worth a read for sure, and yes there are plenty of examples of corporations walking the talk and doing it right, but alas, for ever one that is, I bet I can name ten that are not.

“How to Raise Money for Anything” by Ronald Zalkind – 1981. Right off the bat the book goes into fund-raising strategies such has how to formulate your plan, budget, committee and market your concept. He describes telephone diplomacy, cover letters, presentation and face-to-face meetings whether you are trying to raise money from your family, angel investor, venture capitalist for anything from a business, non-profit or even your college costs. In the book is how to raise money for a social club or community project. Into politics – well there are great suggestions for that as well. There are templates, formats and planning forms in the book and these are all excellent indeed.

One thing I find when running a think tank is that ideas are not worth much unless they are acted upon and for that it takes a spokesman, marketing and money. Raising capital for projects is very important indeed and this book sure hit the spot on that topic. Well, that was today’s books and tomorrow is another day. What I hope you have learned from this session is that nothing good in life is easy and it takes dedication to be a member of a think tank and a diversity of knowledge from many venues. Sincerely, Lance.

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