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Gladwell Tidings

Through 25 years of consulting, I've watched a parade of new management techniques -- from short interval scheduling to zero inventory -- all leading American industry to salvation. The latest messiah? A young tipping-point Canadian, Malcolm Gladwell, telling us that if we are "thinking outside the box," there is something wrong with the box. I propose a panacea: I'll go from company to company, cut out fads that produce "meetings and paperwork," and bring companies back to well-thought-out plans, good measurements, and simple and effective controls -- ideas that actually might cure everything.

James Coulter
Founding partner
Reference Intelligence Inc.
New York, New York

I read with great interest your article on Malcolm Gladwell ("The Accidental Guru," January). Academic work goes back decades on the spread of innovation and the forces that create momentum and then a tipping point. Gladwell's witty way of naming phenomena and crafting real-world stories made the concept a household phrase. While his descriptions bring it alive, applying it to business is still a challenge.

Pam Weppler
Principal
Proffit and Weppler Consulting
Raleigh, North Carolina

Although the accidental guru offers interesting approaches and ideas in Blink, I believe there is a fundamental flaw in the argument. I agree that by putting the right people in place, companies can liberate themselves from their obsession with data-driven decisions. But I don't agree that you can achieve this by teaching people to change the way they formulate first reactions and go about decision making. Organizations are obsessed with data-driven decision making because human-resource departments focus on hiring individuals who make such decisions.

Only when the organization changes to a more balanced approach will it hire and retain individuals who complement data analyzers. Let's not try to change the innate abilities of people. Rather, let's create a team of individuals and allow people to focus on their different abilities to come up with the best decision for the company.

Alan Schatten
Founder and president
The Schatten Group LLC
Oyster Bay, New York

Content Application

Reading the "Commercial Success" article about Yahoo (January), I could not remember a time when I underlined so much and felt that the content was exactly what I needed to read. I just started my own company specializing in custom publishing, after spending 20 years in traditional publishing. I've been very interested in online branding applications, but until I read your article did not realize how much things have changed in the past few years. Your article has given me hope that there's a new day arriving for online advertising, with a broader application than what we've seen up until this point.

Cliff Johnson
President and CEO
Dearborn Media Group
West Chicago, Illinois

The Wages War

"Bridging the (Gender Wage) Gap," (January) was really interesting, but I was conflicted reading it. I was one of six presidents at a medium-sized agency network; the only female. I worked long hours, had a great portfolio of clients, and had little balance in my life (my choice). My offices had the largest revenues and were by far the most profitable. Yet I had the lowest salary of all the presidents. When I asked for more equitable compensation, I was always given a new hurdle to achieve or told it was because I was in a smaller market. I was pegged as "only being out for myself." Would they have said that to a male?

In the end, my offices were the only ones to succeed and continue to thrive. All the others closed for financial reasons. So in the end, there was justice. There is still a huge gender gap in salary; women's hard work is not rewarded like men's hard work.

Sharon Napier
President and CEO
partners + napier
Rochester, New York

I found Linda Tischler's "advice" for women utterly unhelpful. The real issue lies with employers who refuse to extend paternity leaves -- thus ensuring that mothers will be the primary caregivers -- and with women who don't put enough stock in their years of experience and worth to an organization to step up and demand what they deserve in salary, whether they're willing to work weekends or not.

Helpful advice might have been how to seek out, support, and apply to organizations that are family-friendly. Or how to have a frank conversation with HR about your skill set and how serious your company is about holding on to you. Work longer hours? Take a job that expects you to take it home? Even Tischler has the sense to say, "If you're seeking a life with more sanity, these are the behaviors to avoid." But what, then, is her point? Apparently, no matter what women bring to the table, they're going to get paid less.

Anne DeAcetis
Brand marketing content coordinator
Jack Morton Worldwide
New York, New York

Social-Capital Giving

Reading "The Change Masters" (January) inspired me to review my work, my life, and my expression. I appreciate the opportunity Fast Company gave me: I'm now looking at what I'm doing, and how I'm being, from a different perspective. This isn't about a new year of resolutions, sweeping changes, or lofty goal setting. This article brought action and inspiration into my own living room.

Jason Womack
Productivity consultant
David Allen Co.
Ojai, California

I was delighted by "A Lever Long Enough to Move the World" (January). My fiancee and I are getting married. In place of the traditional registry, we have asked that gifts be made in our name to Ashoka (www.ashoka.org/involved/invest.cfm ). I am hoping that one result of this choice will be to inspire more citizens to become change masters.

Flavio Alejandro Bonilla
Staff scientist
Asylum Research Corp.
Santa Barbara, California

Creative Myth Making

A key driver to creativity in the work environment is space ("The 6 Myths of Creativity," December 2004). Each of us can attest to the fact that when our creative thoughts and free thinking are most alive, we feel safe, and more important, comfortable. Management should study the energy, or lack thereof, inherent in a physical environment. Providing different settings throughout the facility, large or small, colorful or plain, promotes options. These options reduce the level of discomfort, which gets in the way of innovation. By studying the space around you, stagnant thinking can be solved.

Matt Endriss
President and CEO
Birkenstock USA
Novato, California

I'd like to add a seventh myth: Creatives are creative. Curious and voraciously persistent people are creative. As a person hired to be creative, I have found that epiphanies require a complete understanding of revenue creation. The more I understand about a business challenge, the wider the spectrum of precedents I can call upon to solve a creative problem. You have to know why the needle needs to move before you set out to move it. Creativity almost always happens as an accidental by-product of learning the where, why, when, and who in anticipation of the how.

Name withheld
Interactive strategist
Raleigh, North Carolina

Fast Fixes

The name of Jacques Torres's new Manhattan emporium (Report From the Past, February) is Jacques Torres Chocolate Haven.

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