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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Between March 9, 2009, and March 9, 2012, the Dow Jones industrial average virtually doubled from 6,547 to 12,922.  Although it was a bumpy, zigzaggy ride at times, it was a massive blessing for investors who hung in there.

Whenever this happens, I never cease to be amazed by the individual investors who come out of the woodwork crying about their losses and the ruthlessness of the stock market’s gyrations.  These are the people who were frightened out of the market during one of the prior major declines.  They chose to pull all their money out of the market, and then cried doubly as they watched the market sail on to greater highs.

First, if you are the kind of investor who has to pull your money out of the market at the first sign of market weakness, then you should not be in the market at all.  By virtue of being invested in the market you are accepting the realities of the market.  Second, if you are the kind of investor who absolutely cannot stand for your portfolio to lose significant value in the near-term future, then you should have been more diversified into bonds and income fund holdings where you would not be subject to such major fluctuations.

As J.P. Morgan once quipped, “Stocks tend to fluctuate.”

Please don’t misinterpret me.  I’m all for the small investor buying into the market and riding it up, up, and away.  But he or she better do the homework first.  Throwing hard-earned money into the stock market is not a frivolous activity nor does it guarantee a return.  Whatever money you throw into the market should be part of a long-term, planned, comprehensive investment strategy.

The worst action you can take—and there is always a segment of the investing community that does this—is to have money in the market, see a crash, pull your money out in fear, and then keep it out as the market recovers onto new highs.  This is called “buying high and selling low,” and it is a recipe for investing disaster.  On the other hand, the educated, disciplined investor will, over time, buy low and sell high.  This is what enables the stock market to be your friend instead of your enemy.

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With fascination I have been watching the virtual world’s evolution.  Not that watching the physical world’s evolution isn’t enough to keep me amused, mind you.

As the virtual continues to augment and in some cases replace the real, an interesting situation is arising that all of us should consider.  That is the issue of virtual assets ownership beyond the original owner’s death.

Increasingly, upon a person’s death, lawyers must address the issue of which next of kin owns which digital assets.  For example, if the deceased had a LinkedIn profile primarily used for cultivating business contacts and leads, might another business associate or family member wish to assume control of that account to extract its content value prior to its deletion?  Play out that same scenario with all its potential ramifications for a virtual farm in Farmville, a personal blog, a virtual store in Second Life, the influence of a Twitter account, a Web site, or a powerful character in World of Warcraft.

Another difficult situation arises when marriages dissolve.  Attorneys already report squabbles among clients when a divorce occurs and the two parties argue over who can or cannot retain certain friends on Facebook.  The possible conflicts are endless.

I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers on this one.  It will be interesting to watch though.  Meanwhile, now is probably as good a time as ever to begin thinking about your virtual estate planning.

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