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SEPTEMBER 10, 2007


The Workplace Of Tomorrow

In my research of people of all ages and walks of life, the future of work that emerges is based on a balanced life with meaning. It's a process, not a destination, as discussed in my book, Pursuit of Passionate Purpose. In your articles, many examples focus on technology—particularly information technology—as the obvious solution.

In fact, such technology offers a way to provide instant access and connectivity for employees, but it can often result in less balance and meaning for them. The companies that will succeed in the future are those that can combine both technology and workplace cultural advancements to energize and empower employees. The key is to ignite employees' passion through work and align that passion with the organizational purpose. The result is greater productivity and corporate profits with employees that deliver more, have more fun, and make a lasting contribution. That, in my view, is the real future of work.

Theresa M. Szczurek
Technology & Management Solutions
Boulder, Colo.

Although Diane Brady writes that "turning yourself into a brand isn't easy" ("Creating brand you," The Future of Work, Aug. 20/27), the "Make 'em take notice" sidebar makes it seem that anyone can be known for, essentially, anything.

Here's what it really takes to be a branded influence or "thought leader": Start with unusual depth of knowledge in your field. Without knowledge, the world will brand you as a fake. Check that you have the ambition to make a small piece of the world a better place. Then you must own an idea, brand it, publish it in book form, and hold sway in front of many audiences. If your idea does become part of the popular or industry lexicon, you'll be known as someone who influences many.

Finally, make sure your skin is thick enough to manage those people who invariably will try to take you down.

Roberta Guise
Guise Marketing & PR
San Francisco

In the piece "Which way to the future?" it is stated that employers are hiring workers with higher levels of education. Not recognized is that when employers today hire someone with a bachelor's degree, they get the same competence a high school graduate had 40 years ago. I taught in my university right after I obtained my advanced degree in the 1950s and then not again until after retirement in the 1990s. Since the exposure to the modern college student was abrupt, the deterioration in ability was immediately apparent.

Harry R. Clements

My experience is working with private companies and their executives. They, like their public counterparts, realize the future of their business is the future of work. Most of all what was discussed can fall under the umbrella of human resources. The ability to hire, retain, and motivate employees will continue to be the primary need of every organization.

Notions of globalization, diverse workforce, new methods of communication, and a leveling of the field of opportunity come as no surprise. Neither do generation gaps, a flexible work arrangement, and the desire for financial success: That's not the "future"—it's here right now.

The future of work is going to be very different for any individual depending on education, location, and willingness to take personal responsibility. A worker's needs will evolve over time through Abraham Maslow's hierarchy—from economic survival, to job security, belonging, ego gratification, and eventually self-actualization. It is easy to see the future of work for the self-actualized will be different than for those in survival mode. Companies that master the relationship side of the equation will have the brightest future.

Don Phin
West Palm Beach, Fla.

Your discussion about the logical and physical extensions of the workforce fails to address one of the most critical issues facing corporations today: knowledge management. Firms vying for sustainable competitive advantage, that have a dispersed workforce, are hampered by their capacity to tap into the collective wellsprings of employee ideas. Although increased connectivity does provide the firm with nimbleness and network interoperability yields massive quantities of data, the methodologies that stimulate idea creation remain elusive. Ideally, the extension of the firm should not only provide returns in operational effectiveness and higher employee morale, it should also bring about enhanced creativity that grows in lockstep with the cultures and regions it touches.

James W. Gabberty
Columbia Consultants Inc.
Wantagh, N.Y.

Bottled Water And The Environment

You'd never know from Ben Elgin's description that the Icelandic bottled water company he writes about ("How green is that water?" Marketing, Aug. 13) has a carbon footprint estimated to be one-third lower than the industry average, thanks to the use of geothermal energy for all of its manufacturing operations. He sniffs at the validity of the company's carbon-neutral certification, although it's the only bottled water company to receive such a rating, and ignores any discussion of the stringent certification process the company went through to meet these guidelines.

The failure to report the full facts surrounding our environmental business practices is simply a conscious decision to further criticize the bottled water industry for its existence. Leading the environmental charge in any industry is hard enough, and for BusinessWeek to ignore and discredit our efforts in such a way sends entirely the wrong message to other companies that might be considering how they too can make positive environmental changes. The image depicted in the article is also grossly offensive.

The bottled water industry isn't going away anytime soon. As the most environmentally friendly bottled water company currently operating in the U.S., we aim to continually improve and set industry benchmarks to help inspire others.

Patrick Racz
Chief Operating Officer
Icelandic Water Holdings

Are Saturn Owners More Likely To Default?

We already have enough headaches for a while without your magazine inducing still one more ("Another headache for Detroit," Up Front, Aug. 20/27). The article apparently was based on research taken from a book to be published latter this year, Household Credit Usage.

This research, reportedly from a single bank, consisted of 7,000 loans and concluded that buyers of American cars are generally more likely to default on their loans than owners of Japanese or European cars. The article further stated that Saturn owners are 22 times more likely to default on their loans than Toyota buyers.

As the owner of six Saturn Stores in Dallas and Houston and the former president of Saturn Corp., I feel this conclusion, based on a sample that would shock most researchers, is simplistic. My experience is that over 80% of Saturns are financed mostly with GMAC or a single bank that each Saturn retailer elects to use, with the subprime contracts going to various other lenders. In other words, the major lenders had already turned down most of the "research sample." We expect more from you than a superficial overview.

Don Hudler
Charlotte, N.C.

The "Long Haul" Is More Than Six Months

I found "A stockpicker's progress" (Finance, Aug. 13) quite misleading in trying to show that Gene Marcial can "outperform the market over the long haul." Twelve out of the 40 stocks listed as best picks (30%) are also some of the worst picks. My question is: Since when does making a good pick for one day, one month, three months, and six months qualify as long term? I can tell you that if you calculate real long-term performance, he has not outperformed the market.

In your flawed analysis, you show that over a six-month period, Marcial's stock picks would beat the Russell 2000 Index by 2%. How does that compare with the commission fees for choosing his stock picks? I bet you that commission fees would more than add up to the 2% your article claims that he is ahead of the market.

Cef Bada

Xerox Color. It makes business sense.

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