February 8, 2011

Warning signs that your company will become the next Enron

Look at company email behavior and you’ll see the problem

David SparkHere’s some of my coverage from the ICIS Conference in St. Louis. I was covering the event for Dice and Dice News.

When a company is sinking, everyone knows, and everyone gets scared. They look to others for support and start agreeing with each other’s concerns.

These were the findings of the research paper “Understanding Communication Network Cohesiveness During Organizational Crisis: Effects of Clique and Transivity” by Shahadat Uddin, Shahriar Hasan Murshed, and Liaquat Hossain of The University of Sydney.

The team from Sydney base their knowledge of crisis behavior within an organization by scanning all the emails passed around at Enron, just before the company collapsed. Looking back, the emails showed people forming cliques, as people felt safety in numbers, and their communications became more transitive meaning people were more apt and eager to agree with each other.

To avoid being the next Enron, Uddin recommends organizations track the behavior of emails over time and compare it to previous months or the same month in the previous year. If they notice that there’s more transitive and cliquish behavior then it could be a sign of impending doom.

January 16, 2007

Interview: Tower Records’ founder on its rise & fall


I recently interviewed Russ Solomon, founder of Tower Records, about the music retailing giant’s rise and fall. The interview took place as employees were clearing out of the company’s headquarters in West Sacramento, Calif.

A couple of surprising comments: "I don’t think we’re seeing the passing of an era (from physical goods to digital downloads). I don’t think the CD is gone." 

"The impact of Napster and free downloading was not as severe as one might suspect." He says the record companies "turned their backs on the kids" by their practices in the ’90s, and he believes the future is big enough for digital downloads and CDs. He also discusses Tower’s overexpansion and financial mismanagement.

Russ is a great guy — down-to-earth, unpresupposing and really smart.

He talks about the momentous changes occurring in the music industry, digital music, and where he’ll be going from here. He hasn’t been involved in running the company in recent years. Here is our 31-minute video interview. (Ourmedia page | watch video)

I also uploaded this to MotionBox, where people can watch it in Flash, but if you click the deep tags there to zoom in on a section of the conversation, it throws off the voice by a half second (at least in my browser).

Later: The popular tech site Techdirt picked up on my video podcast with an article titled, Does Betting On The CD Still Make Sense?, with 35-plus comments.

Cross-posted to Realpeoplenetwork.com blog.

Watch on these sites

Ourmedia page | watch or download video: 31 minutes, MPEG-4/QuickTime (H.264); video quality: **** (out of 5)

Blip.tv;   MPEG-4/QuickTime (H.264); video quality: **** (out of 5)

NowPublic; Flash; video quality: *** (out of 5)

Motionbox; Flash; video quality: ** (out of 5)

10-minute version:

Ourmedia page | watch video; MPEG-4/QuickTime; video quality: **** (out of 5)
Yahoo! Video; Flash; video quality: ** (out of 5)