The End is Near!

I remember seeing disheveled men holding hand painted placards and yelling this warning to all who passed by.  “The end is near!”

Of course, their primary message was to “get right with God” before it was too late in most cases.

Now we have something similar playing out due to the apparent surge in electric vehicles.

Look for yourself at

Setting aside the relentless march of technology that promises self-driving cars that you simply call with your phone to take you where you need to go, it is interesting to watch the reaction of incumbents to structural changes like this.

It is helpful to take a close look at the parallels to our own immortality.  My favorite is the work of Kubler Ross on death and dying. (image above)

Robocalls on Steroids

It is ironic that artificial intelligence is now all the rage in the technology news.  Sure, we still do not have robots like the TV Series Humans or the Sci-Fi movie Ex Machina … but we are getting close on a few fronts.

The one that seems to be moving the fastest is voice.  And, according to an article I saw today posted on LinkedIn we are indeed very close.  Take a look for yourself. 

So, are we about to witness a new round of technology in the call centers?  According to Warren Buffet at his gala annual meeting, the answer is a resounding yes.  By the way, he is not a good guy to bet against.

Gee… we have seen a huge transformation in voice, haven’t we?  I used to have to wait until late in the evening to call my parents.  Then, I used to get a huge bill showing me every call.  Now they don’t care how much I call at all or when I do?

Or, are we following more of an airline model where capacity management and convenience interact to give passengers price options?  How much longer will it be for airlines to stop charging passengers for this and that?

No matter where you look, in the energy industry, you are now seeing the influence of big data and the internet of things on business practices.  Well, with one major exception.



Does Homework Cause Cancer? Film at 11!

It is still a journalistic trick to pose a provocative question as an excuse to draw in viewers to watch the news.  The one that caught my eye recently in the Wall Street Journal was the statement that the average tenure for chief marketing officers working for the county’s biggest brands has fallen for the second year in a row.  You could easily infer from that, that marketing was losing its allure.

The WSJ article then fanned the flames of concern with: “Tough business headwinds, new technologies and pressures to change quickly” are among the many reasons for the churn, said Greg Welch, a consultant in Spencer Stuart’s marketing officer practice. “It’s the perfect storm.”  The higher turnover rate is being driven, in part, by tough business conditions that many industries are dealing with, from retailers to consumer-goods companies — sectors that have seen profits slide as consumer shopping and eating habits change.  “If you are CEO and you tried a game plan and it’s not working, what do you do,” Mr. Welch said. “You change the playbook and change the players.”

The winds of change are fickle of course.  My favorite phrase here is to beware of the Seer Sucker Theory … that is for every Seer there is at least one Sucker.  I seem to remember the theory that a chimpanzee could pick stocks as successfully as any of the famous portfolio prognosticators.  It seems so alluring though when you look at the up and down cycles … there just must be a way to beat the odds here and get the upper hand.

The short shelf life for ideas isn’t the only problem discovered in the study. It also revealed shortfalls in the diversity that exists among the top CMOs in the country. Of the marketing chiefs looked at in the study, only 9% were African American, Hispanic or Asian, the study found moreover that about 23% are women.  Advertising agencies are under increasing pressure to address diversity problems, which have been highlighted by several high-profile scandals involving accusations of sexist and racist behavior by agency executives.

This all starts to look like companies hiding behind social change as the excuse for failing to offer products and services customers want.  Maybe that is because they still have not figured out how to differentiate themselves from all the lookalikes and knock offs.  Where is another Steve Jobs when you really need one? We need truly new ideas that break paradigms.

Some of you know what I am talking about.  We will be taking the wraps off this by this fall.   And thanks to those of you who have stuck with us.


What the Lord Giveth…

Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Nerthuz/iStock/Thinkstock and crossstudio/Thinkstock.

Well, there is almost always another side to the story.  I found that out today

when renewing my car’s registration.   Apparently, I am now being “punished” for buying an electric vehicle here in Georgia.  They figured out I hadn’t been paying my fair share of the highway taxes that would normally be buried in my gasoline purchases.

You can read all about it here just as I have.

So, why is it such a public outrage when the electric utilities try to make the same adjustments with solar?

Just like solar, I am now saving very little due to this $200 fee coupled to the low cost of gasoline.  But, I really don’t care.  I like the car.  It’s fun to drive.  And I like that it is electric.


Still Bringing Good Things to Life

I grew up with those GE ads featuring Ronald Reagan with the tag line that they brought good things to life.

My first job out of college was with GE in the nuclear submarine operation called Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, so it is a company near and dear to my heart.

When I started my career in the electric utility industry, I studied how GE positioned themselves as a partner … an advocate … an innovator.  They were always in the power generation business and went into appliances and lights to help build demand for electricity as well as to build loyalty for the GE brand.

So, when I now read that the company that pioneered light bulbs wants to turn off the switch, I see one more twist in the winding road of electric utility relationships.

I doubt any news channel will cover this angle.  Nope, you will hear statements like “General Electric Co is weighing a sale of its consumer-lighting business, which for decades defined the company following its co-founding 125 years ago by Thomas Edison, the inventor of the first viable incandescent lamp.”

 “Exiting the business would be the latest sign that this isn’t your father’s GE. Once associated with refrigerators, microwaves and light bulbs that it sold to consumers, GE is now focused on power turbines, aircraft engines, health-care equipment and locomotives, along with lucrative service contracts for those machines.”

No … that did not define the company.  What defines the company is the original desire of Edison to build the electric generation business.  Once you master building engines, you can use them to power anything from steam turbines generating electricity to engines powering aircraft.  It is also funny to remember that we once thought gas turbines could never be made light enough to be used for flight.

So, GE may exit the lighting business, but the lights are not going out at GE.

Read more about GE on Market Watch.