Home > Business > Business reading roundup, week of May 11, 2012

Business reading roundup, week of May 11, 2012

Between freelance (or more lasting) gigs, I find myself with a heap of time to read. So I’ve decided to start collecting a few items that sparked my curiosity in the business pages around the web. I’ll try to update this every Friday or so, offering my perspective on around five stories from the week that was.

1. Sears of a clown

I’ve been following the fortunes of Sears off and on for several years, going back to one of the first papers I ever wrote for business school. Since the mid-00’s, it’s been the epitome of the no-man’s-land retailer: neither upmarket nor down, neither a brick-and-mortar destination nor an e-commerce mainstay. Crain’s Chicago Business had a solid run-down of Sears’s downward slope a couple of weeks ago.

In that b-school paper, I mentioned discussed some of the possible strategies then-new owner Edward Lampert had in mind for revivifying the chain. As his comments at this week’s shareholder meeting show, it seems like he still hasn’t settled on any one of them. It may be a strange thing to get irked about, but chalk it up to parochial pride. Sears and Chicago grew up together, and it’s disheartening to watch it apparently follow the Marshall Field’s name into the dustbin.

2. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to retweet it

A pair of blog posts share social media lessons from two icons of mid-century America. At Ragan, Heidi Cohen offers words of wisdom from Yogi Berra, who perfected Twitter decades before it even existed. At Crain’s Chicago Business, Dan Gershenson enlists Gen. George Patton to lay out a social media battle plan. If this trend continues, maybe I can finally find a home for my piece on what Bing Crosby can teach you about Pinterest.

3. Advertisers exhaustively self-obsessed, says exhaustive study by advertisers

From Fast Co. Create comes this infographic contrasting the views of those who work in advertising and marketing with everyone else. Now, the infographic is not a creature renowned for its nuanced analysis, but I don’t see these observations as all that revealing.

For instance: far more advertising professionals are paying attention to brands on social media than are “normal people.” Which, of course they are. It’s a career obligation to stay informed. I’m willing to bet financial professionals are paying more attention to the Federal Reserve or brokerage houses than anyone outside that industry.

Another one: The gap between those who “strongly agree” that brands should engage consumers more is large (63%-23%). Still, a combined 69% of civilians agreed with the statement, strongly or otherwise—so it’s not exactly outlandish for marketers to invest in engagement strategies.

Then again, maybe the infographic’s very existence is the clearest example of—or a sly meta-commentary on?—the ad industry’s navel-gazing nature.

4. Fittingly, I constructed this post out of steel wool and chewing gum.

The Harvard Business Review blog taps into an important facet of abstract thinking. Post author Tony McCaffrey discusses what he calls the Obscure Features Hypothesis—a method of breaking down items or concepts into their component parts in order to see them in entirely new ways, and discover new uses.

The example about the lawn chair is puzzling (there may be a circumstances in which I’d have both access to a lawn chair and need to navigate a waterway, but I sure wouldn’t call it “mundane”), but the technique is one I rely on constantly when I’m brainstorming.

My only quibble is that McCaffrey misses a huge opportunity by not calling it the MacGyver Hypothesis. That sucker would go viral in a heartbeat.

5. Department of Angling for A Cameo In The Social Network 2

Finally we have this head-scratcher from Carly Fiorina: an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg ahead of Facebook’s galaxy-swallowing IPO. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO has decided that America’s most successful entrepreneur could really use some advice from the person who introduced us to Demon Sheep.

Well, it isn’t “advice” so much as it is three generic tips sandwiched within some risibly naked fawning.

Well, it isn’t so much “three tips” as it is two tips and a non-sequiturish restatement of the segue sentence.

Hey, whatever it is, I’m sure Zuck will appreciate the burst of sycoph…ahem, inspiration, during his rigorous daily perusal of the CNBC blogs, which is absolutely where Mark Zuckerberg goes for sage counsel.

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