You might think I’m announcing that today there is strategy in the United States. Such a discovery would indeed be welcome but it’s not what I mean. I mean that you can see strategy in almost every newspaper article. All you need is to want to see it!
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Myth: to be number one you need to be the best. USA Today reported on a Consumer Reports survey of fast-food customers. They ranked McDonald’s last in burgers (The Habit Burger Grill, a regional chain, was first), KFC last in chicken (Chick-fil-A was first), and Taco Bell last in burritos (Chipotle was first).

It’s not that Taco Bell placed last in salads or McDonald’s had the worst egg sandwich. The chains were at the bottom with their core products.

Consumer Reports’ project editor explains the ranking as a result of Millennials caring about things other than mere value for money, such as quality and social issues. I wonder if it is because they still live with parents who pay their bills. That seems unlikely in light of analysis that shows most millennials living at home for economic reasons. Perhaps a few slackers go out to restaurants better than the bottom-feeder fast-food giants while their parents pick up their expenses, but most are probably still eating at the McDonald’s of the world while realizing it is not the best, it is the cheapest.

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Businesspeople often cast critical thinking as a due-diligence gauntlet. Where did that number come from. How confident are you. What does [fill in author, authority, or celebrity] say.

Those aren’t bad questions; they’re just not good enough. They’re necessary but not sufficient. Saying you must be right because you survived the gauntlet is like saying you must be movie-star gorgeous because you floss your teeth.

Think of it this way. No strategy or business plan ever gets adopted without passing the gaunt­let, yet strategies and plans fail. We know that because companies go bankrupt (a severe form of failure), and it’s unlikely that bankruptcy was their goal.

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This is a sad piece. I typically try to keep emotions out of strategy but I feel bad for this company. It arranged a marriage between a new business and an old one, and it ran against what I’d call irreconcilable differences.

Companies in declining industries can get desperate, especially when they’re accustomed to market-leader status. They get beaten down by Wall Street, shareholders, and columnists. Sometimes they bolt way out of their comfort zone instead of trying to tune up the old business, scale down expectations, and ride peacefully into the horizon, making a lot of money in the process for shareholders.

In itself, venturing boldly into a new area when the old one is in decline is entrepreneurial vision at its best. Unless, of course, the new business is so far from the old business’ comfort zone — i.e., expertise, technology, infrastructure, etc. — that it’s like trying to cross a chasm in two steps. This is the case of Barnes & Noble. As USA Today reports, Barnes and Noble’s CEO, William Lynch, the one who led B&N into the e-commerce age with Nook, resigned on July 8, 2013. The reason is that the e-reader market is highly competitive (red, bloody ocean for sure) and Nook has been losing its shirt.

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I like Rupert Murdoch. The news that he is looking to buy the beleaguered Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune from the Tribune Company just made me like him even better.

You might or might not like Murdoch based on his politics. My admiration today, though, isn’t about politics. It’s because expanding your business in an industry everyone thinks is headed for the great recycling bin in the sky is sheer genius, strategy-wise.

Most pundits, industry observers, and Wall Street analysts drool over new hot markets (China! China! China, I tell you, China!) and new high-growth areas (tablets and mobile devices! healthy foods! e-cigarettes! digital readers! especially in China!). They dismiss the old industries threatened by the new.

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Retailers such as Walmart put “smart” radio-frequency ID (RFID) tags in some clothing so they can keep shelves and inventory properly stocked. There are efficiencies to gain, costs to drain, prices to chill, and customers to thrill.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Avery Dennison, which makes RFID equip­ment, says a “pilot program at American Apparel Inc. in 2007 found that stores with the tech­nology saw sales rise 14.3% compared to stores without the technology.” Looks like an ad­vantage, and not inconsiderable.

Surely stores don’t score those sales because customers prefer clothes with RFID tags. Tagged clothes can be tracked as people walk around wearing them, and who wants their gloves to finger them?

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