Amazon’s Dangerous Genius

I am marveling at the Genius of Amazon and Jeff Bezos but also concerned about their future direction. 


Traditionally, they have invested for the long-haul!


For years, Amazon never made a dime, actually operating at a loss.


But all the time making long-term investments in infrastructure (warehouses, supply chain, logistics, etc.) and in customer acquisition. 


Their great selection, reasonable pricing, free shipping, and easy return policy lured hundreds of millions of people to drop the brick-and-mortar stores and even other online retailers to go Amazon all the way. 


Most people I know get virtually everything and anything on Amazon these days. 


Of course, the fear always was that Amazon would become such a dominant player and monopoly that no one else could compete. 


For a long time, they didn’t even charge sales tax!


It seems people can’t even imagine not having Amazon–where in the world would they shop and get all their stuff in 2-days or less (Prime Customers) and still be able to return all the crap they don’t even want. 


So here is the rub.


Now that Amazon is so dominant, guess what?  They are raising the Prime Rates and cutting back on returns–with customers actually being banned for returning too much. 


Ah, the lure, bait and switch. 


Amazon got us all as their slave customers–and we let them and love them for it. 


And after they snared us with all the convenience and security of being able to return stuff, they pull the rug and what can you do, but cry foul?


I love Amazon for their genius and what they have done for eCommerce, but I don’t like that they’ve built in a sense a dark empire to prey on their loyal customer base. 


Mr. Bezos, here is my message to you…


Please stay true to your ideals of customer-centricity and long-term investment in the company that has been the foundation for what you have built into such a retail juggernaut.  


Keep valuing your customers and serving them well and not trading them in for short-term profit gain.


In the end, that is a winning strategy that won’t land you in either regulatory hell and/or antitrust action to then force you to bend your knee or your ultimate breakup. 


Remember, you have one chance to make the right decision for Amazon or I fear that it’s not product returns that you’ll be for long worrying about. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

I Met The Swamp And It Is Us

Swamp.jpeg

So with the election came promises (and hope to some) to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C. and beyond. 


That means redefining the size, scope, and purpose of federal government.


It also means reducing regulations that stifle American business and competitive advantage, placing restrictions on lobbying, and imposing term limits on Congress.


Presumably, it also means addressing mounds of fraud, waste and abuse in the system (many examples of each are out there).  


So here is a funny true story from when I was traveling recently…


A gentleman is riding with me in the elevator and he turns to me to make chit-chat. 


He says, “Good morning. Where you from?”


I smile and respond, “Washington, D.C.,” and add proudly, “the nation’s capital!”


He then asks, “What do you do there?”


Feeling a little perky that morning and with the elevator ride about to come to a stop at the lobby, I quickly blurt out, “Oh, cleaning up the swamp.”


To which, the man responds with the sarcasm galore and probably a good dose of disdain, “Yeah right!” 


There was something so comical about this scene in which I sort of baited this guy and at the same time found the reaction that is all too likely throughout America.


Do people believe and are they committed that we really do the following:


– Change the status quo of big stumbling government


– Right the wrongs done by those who take advantage of the system, its power and big money


– Restrain the ginormous national debt that threatens to consume all of us


– Fairly and compassionately address the nation’s priorities including those for national security, prosperity, and well-being


– Drain the swamp from the horrendous creatures that dwell and thrive therein


And the capital is not built on a preexisting swamp, but it did come and grow, man-made, dark and deep, as a result of the greed and fear that drives too many, far too far. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Drones Neighbor Against Neighbor

Drones
Fascinating perspective in the New York Times today on the future diabolical use of drones.



Yes, drones can be used for defense, law enforcement, search and rescue, neighborhood watch, agriculture, and even Amazon or Pizza Hut deliveries. 



But what about the darker side of drones–used neighbor against neighbor, where anyone can buy a fairly sophisticated drone for merely hundreds of dollars and use it against others in the community.



– Want to use the (surveillance) camera to spy on your neighbor?



– Want to use its claws to pick up and steal something?



– Want to airlift and plant evidence or contraband and frame someone unjustly?



– Want to distract someone or cause an accident or fatality?



Ok, I am going a lot further than the NYT article…but really what prevents people from doing these things and more?



The article does mention new FAA policies “prohibiting drones from flying [over stadiums] near major sporting events.”



But think about a drone in the hands of a terrorist with a dirty bomb or G-d forbid, even a WMD, and the drone swooping into a densely populated area like a stadium or even Times Square…what would prevent this–perhaps, nothing?



Think about it…this is about to become a lot more dangerous world because drones are not just for the good guys anymore, and the bad guys may not care about FAA regulations and penalties. 



(Source Photo: here with attribution to outacontext)

Is Bureaucracy Just Another Name For Governance?

Is Bureaucracy Just Another Name For Governance?

Fascinating opinion piece by Fisman and Sullivan in the Wall Street Journal on Friday (15 March 2013) called “The Unsung Beauty of Bureaucracy.”

The authors argue that bureaucratic rules and regulations serve important purposes in that while “less good stuff gets done–but it also puts a check on the kinds of initiatives that can lead to catastrophe.”

And they give numerous examples of industries that perform sensitive functions that you would want to actually take some extra time to make sure they get it right.

A vary basic example given was the company Graco that makes infant car seat and strollers; they have five design phases and hundreds of tests that add up to two years to product development, but who would rationally argue against such quality controls processes to protect our children.

They make another good point, we always here about bureaucracy slowing the innovation and product development down, but what about the “bad ideas that were quashed as a result of the same rules?”

We all rail against having to jump through hoops to get things done and rightfully so. The mission is important, time is of the essence, and resources are limited–last thing anyone wants is to be told you have x process that must be followed, y gates to get through, z signatures to obtain–and that’s just for the routine stuff! 🙂

But as much as we hate to be slowed down to cross the t’s and dot the i’s, often that’s just what we really need–to make sure we don’t do anything half-a*sed, stupid, or jut plain reckless.

One mistake in an operational environment can bring things to a standstill for thousands, in a system it can have a dominos effect taking down others, and in product development it can bring deadly consequences to consumers, and so on.

So putting up some “bureaucratic” hurdles that ensure good governance may be well worth its weight in gold.

Frankly, I don’t like the word bureaucracy because to me it means senseless rules and regulations, but good governance is not that.

We need to stop and think about what we are doing–sometimes even long and hard and this is difficult in a fast-paced market–but like a race car taking the turn too fast that ends up in a fiery heap–stopped not by their steady pacing, but by the retaining wall protecting the crowds from their folly.

One other thing the author state that I liked was their pointing out the government which is involved in so many life and death matters needs to maintain some heightened-level of governance (I’ll use my word), to get the food supplies safe and the terrorists out.

From clear requirements to careful test plans, we need to ensure we know what we are doing and that it will work.

At the same time, showing up after the party is over serves no purpose.

Like all things in an adult world, balance is critical to achieving anything real. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Analyzing The Law

Analyzing The Law

So I am back in school AGAIN (I’m a life-long learner), augmenting my not so slow-paced job.

Let’s just say that at this point, I recognize that the more I know, the more I don’t know anything.

The class that I am taking now is Cyberlaw, and while I did take law in business school–many moons ago–that was more focused on contracts and business organizations.

This class looks interesting from the perspective of the legal and regulatory structure to deal with and fight cybercrime, -terrorism, and -war.

One interesting thing that I already learned was a technique for evaluating legal cases called IRAC, which stands for:

– Issues–the underlying legal matters that the case is addressing.

– Rules–what legal precedents can be applied.

– Analysis–whether those rules apply or not, in this case.

– Conclusion–rendering an opinion on the case.

This is a structured way to analyze any legal case.

Of course, before you do these, you have to look at the facts–so that is the very first section.

The problem with that is then you have F-IRAC and that can definitely be taken the wrong way. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)