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Alok’s reading and meeting notes – Part 2!

For years, I’ve been reading The Economist, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Financial Times, Fortune etc and attending meets, conferences etc.

Most of the stuff I’ve picked up and learnt is in my head & I’m guessing that isn’t the best ‘long term’ storage place. Also, thankfully, my memory is NOT publicly google-able by others. But this stuff HAS to be shared!

So, I’m just adding notes and snippets that I think are worthy of sharing (ONLY for non-commercial, academic and general interests).Browse them once in a while – or specifically when you are making a PPT or writing an article, for interesting quotes or chat-patta trivia! 

Abbreviations – E- The Economist ; WSJ – Wall Street Journal; F – Fortune (F); NYT (New York Times), FT (Financial Times) & others mentioned case on case. PLEASE CREDIT these sources if you use these quotes and link to the content if possible.

I separate updates (typical monthly by adding *** at the end)

TO be updated on additions, simply add any comment at the end. You will then receive an e-mail from me everytime I update this page!

Also, don’t miss Part 1 of my notes (massive)!

Here goes:

January 2015

Networking is not just for the elites. A study of staff at a range of German workplaces, carried out over three years by Hans-Georg Wolff and Klaus Moser of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, found a positive correlation between the amount of effort the workers said they put into building contacts—inside and outside their offices—and their pay rises and career satisfaction. “Networking can be considered an investment that pays off in the future,” it concludes. (E)

Academic research has found that people’s susceptibility to flattery is without limit and beyond satire. In a study published in 1997, B.J. Fogg and Clifford Nass of Stanford University invited people to play a guessing game with a computer, which gave them various types of feedback as they played. Participants who received praise rated both the computer and themselves more highly than those who did not—even those who had been warned beforehand that the machine would compliment them regardless of how well they were doing. Yes, even blatantly insincere, computer-generated flattery works. (E)

But shamelessness needs to be balanced with subtlety. Pretend to disagree with your interlocutor before coming around to his point of view; that gives him a sense of mastery. Discover similar interests or experiences. People are so drawn to those like themselves that they are more likely to marry partners whose first or last names resemble their own. Go out of your way to ask for help. Lending a helping hand allows a powerful person to exercise his power while also burnishing his self-esteem. In his time in the Senate, in 2005-08, Barack Obama asked about a third of his fellow senators for help and advice. (E)

The second principle is that you must have something to say. Success comes from having a well-stocked mind, not just a well-thumbed Rolodex. It is tempting to treat the conference’s official topic as a bit of a joke. Wrong. The more seriously you take it, the more you will succeed in your, and the gathering’s, true purpose. Go to the main sessions and ask sensible questions. (E)

The third principle is that you need to work hard at networking. Swot up in advance on the most important people who will be at an event. If you manage to meet them, follow up with an e-mail and a suggestion to meet again. Mukesh Ambani, the boss of Reliance Industries, one of India’s largest conglomerates, makes sure that he is briefed on people he is about to meet, and asks them about their interests. Mark Tucker, the boss of AIA, one of Asia’s biggest insurers, follows up conversations with detailed e-mails, sent at all times of the day and night. Julia Hobsbawm of Editorial Intelligence, a firm which coaches executives on how to network, says that it is like exercise and dieting. You need to incorporate it into your daily routine. (E)

In 1971 Klaus Schwab was a 32-year-old business professor, who might have spent his life publishing obscure academic articles. But instead Mr Schwab organised a meeting of European executives, which grew into the WEF. It now has an annual budget of $200m, and the bosses of the world’s biggest firms pay tens of thousands of dollars each to rub shoulders with him. (E)

Sharing an office raises the chances of getting more than two colds a year. In 2011 Danish scientists found that workers whose offices held at least six people took 62% more sick leave than those in private offices. And last year Swedish researchers studying the link between office layouts and illness found that people who worked in open-plan offices had the highest risk of becoming ill. The reason, they concluded, was more than just the easier spread of infections. Stress caused by lack of privacy and workers’ inability to control their surroundings played a part, too. (E)

Views matter, too. A study in 2003 in Sacramento found that call-centre workers with the best views processed calls 6-12% faster than those with no view. Office workers with better views were much more likely to describe themselves as healthy, and less likely to say they were fatigued. They also performed 10-25% better on tests of mental function and memory recall. Higher cubicle partitions were associated with working more slowly. (E)

In 1994 the average North American office worker had 90 square feet of space. By 2010 this was 75 square feet. (Executive management gained floor space over the same period, according to the International Facility Management Association.) (E)

CICERO once said that “Nature has planted in our minds an insatiable desire to see the truth.”  (E)

It is reckoned that four-fifths of smartphone owners check their devices within 15 minutes of waking up, and that the typical user does so 150 times a day. (E)

Rockefeller once controlled 80% of the world’s supply of oil: today Google has 90% of the search market in Europe and 67% in the United States. (E)

Henry Ford cut the price of his Model T from $850 in its first year of production to $360 in 1916. In 1924 you could buy a much better car for just $290. The silicon sultans performed exactly the same trick. The price of computer equipment, adjusted for quality and inflation, has declined by 16% a year over the five decades from 1959 to 2009. Each iPhone contains the same amount of computing power as was housed in MIT in 1960. (E)

As Peter Thiel, PayPal’s cerebral founder, put it in “Zero to One”: “All failed companies are the same: they failed to escape competition.” (E)

The largest individual shareholder in Exxon, the grandchild of Standard Oil, is Rex Tillerson, the company’s chief executive. He owns 0.05% of the stock. But tech is different. Together Google’s two founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, and its executive chairman, Eric Schmidt (who also sits on the board of The Economist’s parent company) control two-thirds of the voting stock in Google.  (E)

Carnegie tried to make equality of opportunity mean something by founding 2,811 public libraries. Rockefeller’s intellectual legacy, the University of Chicago, is one of America’s greatest. (E)

THE causes of the impressive reduction in New York’s crime rate are a perennial subject of debate, but the police department’s decision to take minor crimes seriously certainly played its part. In 1990 the then head of the transit police, Bill Bratton, directed his officers to arrest as many turnstile-jumpers as possible. They found that one in seven arrested was wanted for other crimes, and that one in 20 carried a knife, gun or other weapon. Within a year, subway crime was down 30%. (E)

Stealing cars is seen by many criminologists as a “debut crime”, the first step on a journey to more serious offences. (E)

Last year around 25m people played golf, 18% fewer than did so in 2006, although the population grew by 6%. Although still played by men and women, including businesspeople hoping to bond over more than lunch, golf does not hold the same appeal for the young and minorities, groups that will determine its future health. In recent years more people have abandoned than taken up the game. (E)

Last year 160 of the country’s 14,600 18-hole equivalent golf facilities shut up shop, the eighth straight year of net closures, according to the National Golf Foundation, an industry group. (E)

In England, for instance, the number of people playing golf at least once a month has declined by more than a quarter since 2007 and golf-club membership is down. In Australia club membership has fallen by a fifth since its peak in 1998. In Japan golf participation is down more than 40% from its high in the early 1990s, although numbers have stabilised in recent years. (E)

In 2016 golf will re-enter the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro for the first time in 112 years, which will raise its profile internationally. People who have never watched golf on television will be exposed to it for the first time. (E)

Click on Medicast’s app, and a doctor will be knocking on your door within two hours. Want a lawyer or a consultant? Axiom will supply the former, Eden McCallum the latter. Other companies offer prizes to freelances to solve R&D problems or to come up with advertising ideas. And a growing number of agencies are delivering freelances of all sorts, such as and Elance-oDesk, which links up 9.3m workers for hire with 3.7m companies. (E)

April – Dec 2014:

One of the Valley’s most prominent venture capitalists, Mr Horowitz’s financial controller recommends being forthright with investors as well as staff. “If you are going to eat shit, don’t nibble,” he says, in a phrase that should be immortalised in corporate-finance textbooks. (E)

According to Mr. Horowitz, one of the most important skill of a successful CEO is “the ability to focus and to make the best move when there are no good moves”. (E)

According to data from the British Council for Offices (BCO), an industry club, the average office tenant now uses around 11 square metres per worker, 35% less than in 1997. A new building in Ludgate Hill, in London’s financial district, will allocate just eight square metres to each employee. In many offices, rows of “hot” desks have replaced individual offices and even cubicles. “Nowadays it’s almost frowned on to have your own office,” claims Nick Wentworth Stanley, of i2 Offices, a big serviced property firm.

America spends 17% of its GDP on health, yet its people are not particularly healthy. (E)

During the internecine violence in Colombia in the 1990s, Miguel Caballero knew a politician’s daughter who was tired of wearing heavy body armour. His firm developed a lightweight, haute couturealternative that is now available in Harrods, a high-end London department store. It has since branched out into bulletproof backpacks for American schoolchildren. “In everything bad,” observes that Syrian banker, “there is something good.” (E)

“Spinsters” were early 19th-century Britain—single women who were paid piece rates for spinning textiles at home (E)

Entrepreneurs are taking over!

In his new book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” (Harvard University Press), Mr. Piketty, 42, states that the Gulf War showed him that “governments can do a lot in terms of redistribution of wealth when they want.” The rapid intervention to force Saddam Hussein to unhand Kuwait and its oil was a remarkable show of concerted political will, Mr. Piketty said. “If we are able to send one million troops to Kuwait in a few months to return the oil, presumably we can do something about tax havens.” (NYT)

Google hires about 100 new people a week (NYT)

Laszlo Bock, who is in charge of all hiring at Google :

“Your college degree is not a proxy anymore for having the skills or traits to do any job.”

What are those traits? One is grit, he said. Shuffling through résumés of some of Google’s 100 hires that week, Bock explained: “I was on campus speaking to a student who was a computer science and math double major, who was thinking of shifting to an economics major because the computer science courses were too difficult. I told that student they are much better off being a B student in computer science than an A+ student in English because it signals a rigor in your thinking and a more challenging course load. That student will be one of our interns this summer.”

The first thing Google looks for “is general cognitive ability — the ability to learn things and solve problems,” he said. In that vein, “a knowledge set that will be invaluable is the ability to understand and apply information — so, basic computer science skills. I’m not saying you have to be some terrific coder, but to just understand how [these] things work you have to be able to think in a formal and logical and structured way.” But that kind of thinking doesn’t have to come from a computer science degree. “I took statistics at business school, and it was transformative for my career. Analytical training gives you a skill set that differentiates you from most people in the labor market.”

How do you write a good résumé?

“The key,” he said, “is to frame your strengths as: ‘I accomplished X, relative to Y, by doing Z.’ Most people would write a résumé like this: ‘Wrote editorials for The New York Times.’ Better would be to say: ‘Had 50 op-eds published compared to average of 6 by most op-ed [writers] as a result of providing deep insight into the following area for three years.’ Most people don’t put the right content on their résumés.”

What’s your best advice for job interviews?

“What you want to do is say: ‘Here’s the attribute I’m going to demonstrate; here’s the story demonstrating it; here’s how that story demonstrated that attribute.’ ” And here is how it can create value. “Most people in an interview don’t make explicit their thought process behind how or why they did something and, even if they are able to come up with a compelling story, they are unable to explain their thought process.”

Only 3% of Indians pay income tax, leaving a hole in government finances. About 90% of jobs are informal, leading to widespread poverty. Agriculture is feudal and food shortages cause inflation. India is meant to be industrialising but manufacturing contributes only 15% of GDP and 11% of jobs, and its share has been falling. A majority of India’s 50m manufacturing workers toil in facilities without electricity.

India’s median age is 26, and every year for the next decade 10m people will enter the workforce. That requires a new vision for India and deeper reforms. ( E)

India’s has not run a budget surplus since independence in 1947

Mahindra & Mahindra, India’s local car champion, has a research-and-development budget that is 1% of Volkswagen’s.

As Andy Palmer, a Nissan executive, puts it, premium car models account for “12% of the volume and 50% of the profits” of the entire car industry.

Toyota, Honda and Nissan, have been left trailing (see chart). Together the German trio now have 70% of the market for fast, expensive and luxurious cars, whereas the Japanese have just 10%. And they are being overtaken by Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), a British (but Indian-owned) firm, which last year sold almost half a million cars, just behind Lexus. (E)

Researchers have long been intrigued as to whether this ability to avoid, or defer, gratification is related to outcomes in life. The best-known test is the “marshmallow” experiment, in which children who could refrain from eating the confection for 15 minutes were given a second one. Children who could not wait tended to have lower incomes and poorer health as adults. New research suggests that kids who are unable to delay rewards are also more likely to become criminals later. (E)

David Akerlund, Hans Gronqvist and Lena Lindahl of Stockholm University and Bart Golsteyn of Maastricht University used data from a Swedish survey in which more than 13,000 children aged 13 were asked whether they would prefer to receive $140 now or $1,400 in five years’ time. About four-fifths of them said they were prepared to wait.

Unlike previous researchers, the authors were able to track all the children and account for their parental background and cognitive ability. They found that the 13-year-olds who wanted the smaller sum of money at once were 32% more likely to be convicted of a crime during the next 18 years than those children who said they would rather wait for the bigger reward. Individuals who are impatient, they believe, prefer instant benefits and are therefore less likely to be deterred by potential punishments.

Victor Hugo supposedly said, “He who opens a school door closes a prison.” (E)

Bill Gates “Not long after I first met Warren Buffett back in 1991, I asked him to recommend his favorite book about business. He didn’t miss a beat: “It’s ‘Business Adventures,’ by John Brooks, ” he said. “I’ll send you my copy.” I was intrigued: I had never heard of “Business Adventures” or John Brooks.

Today, more than two decades after Warren lent it to me—and more than four decades after it was first published—”Business Adventures” remains the best business book I’ve ever read. John Brooks is still my favorite business writer.” (WSJ)

According to a 2013 Harris Poll, 42% of Americans believe in the existence of ghosts, 36% in UFOs and 26% in witches. Rumors of the demise of irrationality are exaggerated; we’re mired in magical thinking. (WSJ)

From an interview of Lindsey Ueberroth, chief executive of the Preferred Hotel Group, was conducted and condensed by Adam Bryant. (NYT)

Some good advice : I remember asking my partner, “What’s the one thing I should know as I start my professional life?” He said, “It’s always better to be tired than bored.”

Graduates who told Gallup (Poll) that they had a professor or professors “who cared about them as a person — or had a mentor who encouraged their goals and dreams and/or had an internship where they applied what they were learning — were twice as likely to be engaged with their work and thriving in their overall well-being,” 

A typical American wedding costs $25,000 or so excluding Honeymoon. (E)

Weddings are pricey because the rich are more likely to marry than the poor, and the average age of newlyweds has gone up, so couples are more prosperous when they eventually tie the knot. High prices, and the fact that many venues require couples to take out liability insurance, feed demand for wedding insurance. A fifth of couples buy it, says the Wedding Report, a trade publication. “If some fat lady slips on a canapé and breaks her hip, she doesn’t give a rat’s ass that this is her boyfriend’s cousin’s wedding,” hypothesises Robert Nuccio of Wedsure, an insurer. “She just wants to get paid.”

Wedding insurance began in Britain: Cornhill, an insurer, wrote its first policy in 1988. But there were few takers. The idea only took off once transplanted to America. In the early days, says Mr Nuccio, there were incidents of couples faking engagements to collect a payout. Since then, most policies have a clause that excludes “change of heart”. 

The proportion of Fortune 500 companies that can be described as family companies increased from 15% in 2005 to 19% today. That is largely because of the rise of emerging economies, in which family firms are more common. But even in the rich world family companies are these days holding their own. Of the American firms in the FortuneGlobal 500, 15% are family firms—only slightly less than a decade ago. In Europe, families control 40% of big listed companies. (E)

Family firms’ strengths, meanwhile, are just as important today as they were in the early days of capitalism. They solve the “agency problem” that Adam Smith put his finger on in “The Wealth of Nations” when he argued that hired managers would never have the same “anxious vigilance” in running companies as the owners. (E)

THE first ever e-commerce transaction, conducted by students from Stanford and MIT in the early 1970s, involved the sale of a small quantity of marijuana. (E)

How Credit Card thieves worked in a recent fraud involve Dominos: They go through lists of stolen credit card numbers using a smartphone app that orders pizza to see which numbers still worked. When they found a number to be valid, authorities said, the thieves used it to order bigger-ticket items online — while people in pockets of Brownsville and East New York in Brooklyn ate the pizzas. (NYT)

To be continued!


Remember – if you want to be notified, just add a comment so that you get a mail back when I add more!


Also, don’t miss Part 1 of my notes (massive)!!



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  1. Nice collection

  2. Great collection. Is sharing the public link to your Evernote Notebook with all these articles also a way to widely and easily share the content you find relevant for the community from your extensive reading? i

  3. “The heart that gives, gathers.”
    You are a giver Alok, Thank you for sharing!

  4. Nice

  5. Thanks Alok, as always your collection and gayan always inspire … I am always surprise … how did you get so much time to keep track of everything …. As a perfectionist ….

  6. Updated!

  7. Thumbs up!

  8. Always read this Alok, thank you for such interesting information and the vast scope… Amazing thing you do!

  9. Thanks

  10. Epic collection !!!

  11.  Great knowledge sharing platform. Look forward to more of this from you, Alok ! 

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