As technology continues to take us to the stars, increasing opportunities abound for private entrepreneurs to market space travel to the ordinary civilian.  Well, we’ll define that word “ordinary” a bit more shortly.

Virgin Galactic is planning to offer rocket rides into space from a terminal base in New Mexico’s Jordana Del Muerto Desert.  After three days of training, you will lift off horizontally in the SpaceShip Two, which is cradled within the larger mother ship, WhiteKnightTwo.  Once WhiteKnightTwo has reached 50,000 feet, SpaceShip Two will be released to ignite its own rocket engines.  Over the next 30 seconds your craft will reach 2,500 mph.

Once free of the earth’s gravitational power, you and five cohorts (plus two pilots) are free to unfasten your seatbelts and enjoy weightlessness for a few moments.  Your total time in space will only be about four minutes.  Nevertheless, you will get to peer into the blackness of outer space unlike most humans ever have.

Now, about that definition of “ordinary.”  Virgin Galactic’s success depends on its catering to a very select demographic—the very wealthy.  The ticket price (round trip only) is $200,000.  So, “ordinary” means you are not a professional astronaut, and you’re ready to burn money faster than rocket fuel.

Do you think the company has a viable business plan?  I vote yes; almost 500 customers have already put down $65 million in deposit fees.  And hey, lots of people want to be space cowboys.

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Christopher Elliott had an interesting article in Newsweek (“Databeast: Patting Down the TSA” 3/19/12, p. 16).  He throws some number at us to challenge the effectiveness and efficiency of the TSA.  Why I’m surprised at Christopher!

The numbers are rather enlightening.

Since 2001 we have spent $57 billion on the TSA.  Over the last decade the staff has grown 400% and the average annual salary of the administrative personnel in Washington, DC, is $103,852.

Those are big numbers.  Perhaps we can justify them.  I will let you decide.  Consider this:  Airlines estimate they lose $4.4 billion annually due to the inconvenience of TSA screenings.  To date the TSA has never apprehended a terrorist.  Hmm.  I wonder if terrorists like the TSA.

But don’t worry.  You see, you have to be highly experienced to work as a TSA agent.  In fact, if you lack a high school diploma, you must have at least one year of work experience.  (I feel better already.)

Additionally, TSA agents are very professional.  That is why one allegedly lifted $5,000 from a passenger’s coat.  Another agent pranked passengers by producing fake cocaine during a routine search.  Now wait a minute—Aren’t these the same people who have all the big signs up telling us “NO JOKES”?  Oh, that’s right.  Those rules only apply to us.

Moral of the story?  Never assume an organization is doing everything right just because it has a prestigious name.  The TSA has some homework to do; I think we would all agree.  But then again, don’t we all?

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Sometimes we can get so set in our ways and our world that we miss vital business insights.  When that occurs we need something to give us a new perspective.  That is what happened to Kim Lowry, principal of South Elementary in Kennett, Missouri.  At the time, Lowry’s school was not meeting key federal and state benchmarks.  That left the school vulnerable to state takeover.

Her superintendent took the initiative in 2009 to enroll Lowry in a part-time business program via the University of Virginia, Darden School of Business.  Initially, Lowry was very resistant to engaging herself in a new academic program when she could so clearly see the needs at her home base.  Nevertheless, if you talk to her today, she is thrilled.

Lowry aggressively took all she learned about best business practices and contextualized them into the educational arena.  She created a school transformation plan that got key stakeholders involved.  She tapped consultants for specific components of the plan.  Finally, she made certain every teacher was held publicly accountable for student performance.  Today her school meets the required federal standards.  Student test scores jumped 26% in English and 29% in math.

I never cease to be amazed at the blessing of a new perspective.  Although I earned my M.B.A. later in life than most, I found the experience to be richly rewarding in so many ways.  The educational experience gave me a new perspective on so many things.  I gained new tools, resources, ideas, concepts, and insights.  My perspectives were genuinely broadened in totally positive ways.

The next time you feel you are in a difficult situation, why not seek a new perspective?  You won’t necessarily need to earn a new degree, but I am certainly not discouraging that.  Sometimes just reading a new book or article, doing some fresh research on the Web, or having a significant conversation with a mentor, is all it takes to give you a new perspective.  The results may surprise you and everyone around you.

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Nike’s total annual marketing budget has grown to $2.4 billion.  Yet over the past three years, Nike has decreased its U.S. television and print advertising 40%.  It is choosing to put more funding into the Internet and social media to market its products.

Like many companies, Nike has woken up to the new realities.  Many things have changed.  In a recent interview with Fortune magazine, Nike CEO Mark Parker explained it this way:

Connecting used to be, “Here’s some product, and here’s some advertising.  We hope you like it.”  Connecting today is a dialogue. (Cendrowski, Scott. “Nike’s New Marketing Mojo.” Fortune, 2/27/12, p. 84).

That word, “dialogue,” is key.

Nike reminds us that successful businesses today cannot just throw money into advertising and hope something sticks.  That’s a good way to go broke.  Rather, they must carefully consider the landscape, think about who their audience is, and create multiple opportunities for interchange.  The Internet and social media allow that to happen unlike it has ever happened in the past.  This is where companies and consumers connect; this is where they dialogue.

Knowing that every “buy” decision is fundamentally an emotional decision, wise companies are taking full advantage of it.  Remember, it’s much easier to get emotional when you’re not talking to a vacuum.

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U.S. District Court Judge Denis Cote has extended the deadline that was originally March 8, this year, to July 9, for organizations to ensure their IT systems are free of DNS Changer Trojan.  (See my 2/28/12 post, “Beware the Eighth of March?” or click the ALERT category on my blog).

Amazingly, as of late February, estimates stated 19% of Fortune 500 companies plus three major government agencies were still infected.  These organizations are working hard to eliminate all traces of this malware from their systems.  Once July 9 arrives, all organizations that still have DNS Changer Trojan as a stowaway will find their Web sites are no longer accessible due to the countermeasures the FBI will be executing.  Yes, this is serious cyber warfare.

These cyberspace battle plans are necessary due to the overwhelming size and power of DNS Changer Trojan.  Hopefully, all these remaining organizations will handle this important matter by the deadline.

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but whether it is an enterprise-level IT system, or the desktop in your living room, keeping your OS and your antivirus software up to date is an absolute nonnegotiable.  I shudder to think about how one in five of our nation’s largest corporations have allowed these infections to occur.  Alas, once again I am reminded:  Dilbert is alive and well!

For those interested, the Computerworld link below has a more detailed article on this situation.


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