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Financial Myths: Work Smarter Not Harder — Part III

By  +Follow July 1, 2014 7:21AM
Tickers Mentioned:

value of business consultants, working harder versus working smarter, examples of working smarter, bad business advice

Much like Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegone Days, everyone wants to be above average, so, by definition, people work smarter if not harder. The first installment showed that this myth appeals to many but it fails to yield unvarying success.

Jumbo Shrimp, Anyone? 

Part II looked at the curious tendency toward oxymorons, an ironic word for the Work Smarter devotees. The platform concept in manufacturing generates its own incongruity – small car extravagance; fuel efficient large car feel, affordable luxury. Curiously, this apparent lack of logic may open the door to market hegemony as emerging markets cut into the apple of success.

The myth deserves a more probing exploration of the “Work Smarter” notion. Those who work smarter spur the product and business methods sovereignty of the United States. Iconic brands such as Coca Cola (KO) , Microsoft (MSFT) , Apple (AAPL) , McDonald’s (MCD) and Phillip Morris (PM) circle the globe. Business practice leadership shows itself in the growth of Masters of Business Administration (MBA) programs worldwide, including the former Soviet Union. Students see American business practices as the most practical and successful.

Despite a long record of such breakout successes, popular wisdom holds that the US economy is in a slump and that China will soon rank first. What an opportunity for the Myth Buster!

Satchel Paige’s idea that “Something might be gaining on you” is not new. In previous decades, it was widely believed that Japan would overtake the American economy through seizing ideas that are loosely considered American and making them better: cameras, televisions and automobiles, for example, Canon (CAJ) , Sony (SNE) and Panasonic (PCRFY) . Japanese firms made their mark through a single-minded dedication to quality. Even though the Iphone is thought to have changed the way people communicate, Samsung, a South Korean company, holds higher market share than Apple. So, the idea of Americans inventing a product or technique and someone else perfecting it has been in our face for decades.

A major adherent to this subset of the Work Smarter Not Harder myth is Germany, which is also grabbing American ideas and making them work. The latest target is less attractive emerging markets. Take, for example, the expansion of on-line shopping. The wizard behind the curtain is a German company, Rocket Internet GmbH, which employs 27,000 in 50 countries. While eBay (EBAY) focuses on Russia, China and Brazil – members of the well known BRIC group -- Rocket Internet uses concepts developed by Amazon (AMZN) , Groupon (GRPN) and eBay to target Latin America, Africa (especially Nigeria) and the Middle East. While the American progenitors of online shopping reap the profits of the wealthiest markets, German entrepreneurs make the concept work in the shadow of the United States and Europe, much as Japan first focused on small cars with superior quality.

Being Smarter and Working

An intriguing sidebar of this myth is those who really are smarter; how hard they work is another matter. If you have been in management for a long time, you know that some senior managers possess limited experience managing people, money or projects. They reach their positions by fitting the profile of a good manager -- they’re smart. At least they appear smarter than their colleagues.

Some years ago, the author worked for a CEO who thought he could raise $35 million based on his ability to convince others of the soundness of the project. He flopped. Only when a feasibility study was created that showed the purposes and uses of funds and how the investment would work did the financial spigots turn on. The CEO convinced himself that he wrote the feasibility study. After all, he was smarter than everyone else. It is rumored that he is now selling sand in the Sahara equipped with attractive financial projections.

This vignette reveals the power of this myth – being smart can outduel experience and hard work. Here is how it works. Think of an organization that abhors a new technology, a competitor or a new product. How can they find independent verification for their passion? Senior managers are more likely to believe a point of view if it comes from an outside consultant. Outside means independent; consultant means smart.

According to Duff McDonald’s The Firm: The Story of McKinsey and Its Secret Influence on American Business, one of the worst examples of bad advice was McKinsey & Co. advising AT&T against mobile phones. Let’s give this the myth buster review. Which company did not want to hear that mobile phones had potential? AT&T (T) , the masters of land lines and wall phones? By comparison, which organization was most certain that Fed Ex’s (FDX) overnight mail idea was ridiculous? The Post Office (USPS)? Beyond the idea that mobile phones really might have been a bad idea at that time and beyond the notion that McKinsey could couch its recommendations in a dizzying array of statistics, outside experts confirming what management thought would prove very welcome.

This smart consultant effect is true even if the manager inside the company already believes the idea and even if he or she told the consultant about the idea. Notice the distinction. Many critics cite consultants for giving bad advice. In many instances, they only delivered bad advice derived from the company.

So, some managers who listen to the consultant’s presentation are thinking they agree because they already knew what the consultant says. A few disagree but cannot say anything – after all, the advice is coming from smart, independent consultants. Underlying this sweet spot of the management consultant is the Work Smarter Not Harder myth.

Considering three installments on this intriguing myth, it has staying power. But to get the most out of it, do both: Work Smarter and Harder. The next article will examine another compelling myth.


Michael McTague, Ph.D. is Executive Vice President at Able Global Partners in New York, a private equity firm.

DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not represent the views of equities.com. Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

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Results for ko
Parag Kanade
24 Oct 14 19:27:44
@KymLang it is true. sorry don't see how its $KO $PEP fault? is it couch manufacturers' fault too? TV Remote's fault. EveryoneButOnself
Matt Soleyn
24 Oct 14 19:06:42
RT @CocaCola: All you need for a unique Halloween cooler is a large pumpkin, ice and some Coca-Cola. #TrickOrSip http://t.co/CblCRbv1O4 $KO
Kym L
24 Oct 14 18:41:38
...didn't work out so well with $KO doing that last year...or was it $PEP ?
Kym L
24 Oct 14 18:41:13
Love how $KO $PEP $DPS got together for the "you're fat because you don't exercise" campaign "our products have nothing to do with." LOL
Stock Wire
24 Oct 14 18:36:08
Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc. (NYSE:DPS), The Coca-Cola Co (NYSE:KO ... $KO http://t.co/sERIktS8lA
24 Oct 14 18:30:03
Coca Cola : Sustainability initiatives http://t.co/2P6MJnMHDr $KO
Colorado Wealth
24 Oct 14 17:33:50
http://t.co/lRouZbcVUY $KO #KO Earnings Update Released
Stock Wire
24 Oct 14 17:16:23
Coca-Cola names new CMO as Tripodi retires $KO http://t.co/xMylKS7tTk
Stock Wire
24 Oct 14 17:04:28
Coca-Cola Replaces Marketing Chief $KO http://t.co/S9Nhu2g2IB
Hammer D. Lane
24 Oct 14 16:34:04
RT @michaelsantoli: No company's too big to assail. As Coke, McDonald's and IBM flop, can activists be far away? New post. http://t.co/kw7Y…
Richard Hargrave
24 Oct 14 16:22:52
WEEKLY WRAP UP, $NYAD, $SPY, $NYSI, $IWM,, $IBM, $F, $QQQ, $IYT, $KO, $UNG, $USO, $ETC $ETC. http://t.co/eBB6nRdMv2
Ron Smith
24 Oct 14 16:01:47
RT @themotleyfool: If you lost $2.4B on 2 stocks in 7 days, you'd likely freak out. But that's not how Warren Buffett rolls. http://t.co/Pa…
Bidness Etc
24 Oct 14 15:45:04
#CocaCola has appointed a new chief of marketing http://t.co/0RxaxRE0cE $KO
Financial Buzz
24 Oct 14 15:01:14
Earnings Season is upon us! $CAT, $AAPL $TXN $VZ $GM $CMG $AMZN $IBM $KO $T http://t.co/4T9v25PJWh
Top Stocks
24 Oct 14 14:32:10
Josh Brown: Stock Buybacks Are a Gimmick for at Least 3 Blue Chips http://t.co/QZ11peugRx $MCD $KO $IBM $SPX
24 Oct 14 14:32:10
Josh Brown: Stock Buybacks Are a Gimmick for at Least 3 Blue Chips http://t.co/0Z82MJwAM3 $MCD $KO $IBM $SPX
Investors Hangout
24 Oct 14 14:15:48
$FXI Company Info Click Here: http://t.co/zxG5tcGUZz Also See: $KO $QID $FITX $AEP ~
Marco Di Dionisio
24 Oct 14 14:13:53
Longs cost basis $CLDX ($15.58) $GE ($26.91) $GILD ($100.26) $JNJ ($83.82) $KO ($37.29) $MU ($27.90) $SWKS ($51.75) $TWTR ($52.12) $V ($177)
Marco Di Dionisio
24 Oct 14 14:10:53
Closed the week with these longs: $CLDX $GE $GILD $JNJ $KO $MU $SWKS $TWTR $V
24 Oct 14 13:32:18
Our Penny Stock Alerts Gained 371% In 2 weeks! Sign Up For Free Text Alerts For Our New Pick: http://t.co/dLDRavoCi4 $TWO $KO $EMR
24 Oct 14 13:30:06
Downgraded: $CQB $CAB $IG $JAKK $IT $BDBD $YELP $DDD $ANGI $ADHD $GLF $KO $CIE $MJN $PNC http://t.co/XQITF0lRKD #analytics #dow #stockpicks
24 Oct 14 12:43:54
@Finovate @Capitalcube is now carrying #earnings analysis on stocks like $LUV, $DPS, $KO, $CELG, $YELP, $XRX, $MCD http://t.co/rh2DUU3jUh
Rhonda Reger
24 Oct 14 12:38:12
SodaStream Stock Pops On Pepsi Test Consideration http://t.co/yw0DFLaR6g #IBDNews via @IBDinvestors $WMT $PEP $SODA $KO $GMCR $BBBY
24 Oct 14 11:34:05
@MINE_STOCK_CLUB $ SODA is popping off. Looks like Pepsi is realizing $KO 's problems are harbinger of things to come.
24 Oct 14 10:59:41
The Coca-Cola Company PT Lowered to $47.00 $KO http://t.co/bE6gNw52kK
Zero Filter
24 Oct 14 10:42:49
For what it's worth if $DPS or anyone else wanted action or all $SODA the $PEP test increases sense urgency $SBUX $GMCR $KO $MNST #CNBC
Quantpost Cnsmr Good
24 Oct 14 10:19:43
$KO News: "How Top 5-Star Dividend Dogs Earned Their Stars $CWT $DFT $DLR $ED …" http://t.co/QPMMNv663n Board view: https://t.co/67uZs7dvIh
Seeking Alpha
24 Oct 14 10:19:40
How Top 5-Star Dividend Dogs Earned Their Stars http://t.co/AuG3ByOodM $CWT $DFT $DLR $ED $FRT $GAS $HCN $IRM $KMP $KO $LEG $MGEE $MO
Lach 14
24 Oct 14 10:02:12
@ReformedBroker @AlephBlog Gee, I was told $IBM, $KO were blue chip, what are they now? Dead Money.
Bidness Etc
24 Oct 14 09:43:19
Can A New Marketing Chief Boost #CocaCola ‘s Revenues? http://t.co/TkOUID7UsR $KO $PEP
24 Oct 14 09:39:00
$KO Have some Coke and a smile. Scrape the rest up and don't waste it.
Stock Wire
24 Oct 14 09:31:21
Coca-Cola Co.'s Q3 Earnings Fall 14%; Sales Remain Level $KO http://t.co/madOfk4Iox
24 Oct 14 09:31:01
Long Coca-Cola $KO » Extreme Compounding http://t.co/o73zybuyKb via @ArizonaTrader
John Kell
24 Oct 14 09:13:32
SodaStream's stock leaps on reports of pact with PepsiCo $SODA $PEP $KO http://t.co/A0uzpX3yt8
24 Oct 14 09:02:51
Long Coca-Cola ($KO) http://t.co/tH1MisccCz $KO
Klaus Daimler
24 Oct 14 08:56:45
@BarbarianCap I don't drink $SODA myself but the majority of people that do want their $PEP & $KO brands. If $SODA incorporates this ++++
Zero Filter
24 Oct 14 08:51:45
First test / then small stake / then larger stake / then buyout=new narrative $SODA $PEP can't sitback while $KO buys up space $GMCR $MNST
Investors Hangout
24 Oct 14 08:48:07
$CYBR 52Wk Low Click Here: http://t.co/rWirdeeKJp Also See: $EVRY $C $HAS $KO ~
Paul R. La Monica
24 Oct 14 08:47:33
$SODA up nearly 20%. Reports company may test $PEP products in its machines. Interesting if true. Prelude to $PEP investment like $KO/$GMCR?
Klaus Daimler
24 Oct 14 08:46:54
As mentioned several times before $SODA 's only chance is to pair with $PEP or $KO for brand recognition. Potential game changer.
Jim Moore
24 Oct 14 08:44:17
@CramersShirt you're right. Haven't seen much out of the $KO and $GMCR story lately.
24 Oct 14 08:42:37
@CNBCnow @CNBC So they're going to test the product first, rather than buy 20% of the company(like $KO would)? How quaint. And smart. $GMCR
Jim Moore
24 Oct 14 08:38:37
@jimcramer look at the $PEP and $SODA. $KO missed the boat?
Zero Filter
24 Oct 14 08:38:05
#CNBC saying $PEP test story true / developing. This is MAJOR situation now - MAJOR $GMCR $KO $MNST $PEP $DPS #m&a shorts #runlikehell $SPY
24 Oct 14 08:26:11
Every1 will 1 day have a $SODA stream machine. I don't even buy any $KO or $PEP products anymore. Who the hell wants to lug bottles anymore
Sleek Money
24 Oct 14 08:24:37
Societe Generale Downgrades The Coca-Cola Company to Sell $KO http://t.co/osgX6kAErM
Trader Anónimo
24 Oct 14 08:05:18
$KO - Coca-Cola Needs a Fountain of Youth -- Barron's http://t.co/Q0SJYtnP49
24 Oct 14 08:05:04
$KO - Coca-Cola Needs a Fountain of Youth -- Barron's http://t.co/AxWaqMzpZV
Brad Thomas
24 Oct 14 07:59:08
Commented on: "Mr. Buffett: Why Don't You Invest In REITs?" http://t.co/ZoTSd46FXP $AXP $IBM $KO $WFC
24 Oct 14 07:55:03
Coca-Cola Needs a Fountain of Youth -- Barron's http://t.co/08bZP1rk1C $KO $GBL $S3258 $MAIL
By  +Follow July 1, 2014 7:21AM



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