I'm Phil Young, a global corporate education consultant based in New York. I design and deliver corporate education programs in finance, strategy and marketing. I have over 25 years of experience doing this for companies all over the world. Reach me at philyoung582@gmail.com
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SEATS ARE GREAT„, BUT SO IS SERVICE!

Airlines spend billions of dollars in research and development to improve and refine their seating in business and first class.  Seating is one of the few key ways that an airline can differentiate itself from its competition.  Moreover business and first class tickets of course command the highest profit margin.  According to a recent article in the New York Times, the manufacturing of each business class seat can cost up to $80,000.  It could cost up to $250,000 to build a first class seat…. Now if only some of these airlines (particularly certain U.S.-based ones) could only offer flight service that is consistently excellent in all classes of service! 

In any case, check out this recent article from Fast Company…. 

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fastcompany:

JetBlue unveils first-ever business class "suite seat" with sliding door

All the seats will have a massage function, cushions that inflate to your desired firmness, aisle access, and 15-inch widescreen TVs. Initially they will fly just two routes, JFK-LAX and JFK-SFO.”

AN AMERICAN CLASSIC “REPOSITIONED” IN QATAR

Long ago in a universe not too far away (i.e. America in the 1950s), many moms were homemakers.  One of the things that stay-at-home moms did was to bake cookies.   A favorite of many kids in those days, including myself, was "Toll-House cookies."  Recently, on a business trip to Doha, Qatar, I came across this food stand (pictured at the top) on the second floor of one of the city’s largest shopping malls.  Seeing it suddenly brought back childhood memories in Hawaii of coming home from school and entering the house full of the wonderful aroma of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies.

After a few nostalgic moments, the ‘nerdy” business side of my brain kicked in.  What has happened to this well-known food brand during all of these years?  Why hadn’t I heard of it since I was a kid?  How did it end up being a brand name for a food stall only a short walking distance from a current global brand so well-known that one doesn’t even have to read Arabic to know what it is? (See second photo.)

As it turns out, the "Nestle Toll-House Cafe by Chip" is a franchise operation started in the United States a little over a decade ago and currently in the throes of a global expansion.  Hence, my sighting of its presence in Doha. 

Here’s how the franchise operation describes its concept on its website:

All great stories have a sensational beginning. A once upon a time. For us, it was a rich history of Nestlé brands woven into our lifestyle and a dream to make the world a beautiful place to spread the love and enhance the way we live. From the beginning, Nestlé® Toll House® Café by Chip® was destined to be more than just a bakery; it’s our passion for those sweet memorable moments in life.

You can go to their site to read the rest of what they have to say, but I think the concept is brilliant.  Take an established brand that was made famous in another era when people had more time to actually bake their own cookies, and reposition it as a ready-made, fast food that still carries with it the memories and sentiments of “home-made” and a much slower and simpler life style. 

I must congratulate the founders of “Chip Franchise,” Ziad S. Dalal and Doyle P. Lisenfelt.  Their innovative concept seems to be a great financial success.  I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing that they pay Nestle a licensing fee for the use of the brand name. Entrepreneur magazine ranks them #249 in the 2013’s top 500 franchise operations. 

An old saying in marketing is that one sells “the sizzle rather than the steak.” It’s pretty hard to go wrong with a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie.  But when you buy one from Nestle’s Toll House Cafe, you get  to imagine that it was made by mom and not Mrs. Fields.

"SPEAKING ITALIAN WITH A SPANISH ACCENT"

I must say I was amused when I heard this comment from one of the reporters covering this week’s major story on Pope Francis I.  I’m not sure if the reporter was American, but that observation reminded me that for many Americans, a “foreign accent” automatically implies someone is speaking English with the accent of another language.  I confess that I, myself, was one who always assumed this.  It was not until I was in an airport in Bangkok some years ago when I heard a sales clerk speaking to a customer in Japanese that it hit me: “Wow, this is interesting, someone speaking a foreign language with an accent of another foreign language.”  Then a whole range of possibilities came to mind.  How about speaking Chinese with a French accent, Russian with an Arab accent, or Filipino with a British accent?  

I have had two false starts attempting to learn Chinese. The first time was in graduate school and the second time years occurred years later with a self-study course.  Both failed miserably.  However in both attempts, the first country that the text books taught us to say in Chinese was “Mei Guo” or the United States (which by the way literally means “Beautiful Country”).  On my first trip to China, I stopped in a bookstore and asked  the sales clerk to recommend their best “Learn Chinese” book.  She suggested a book written by a Frenchman to teach Chinese to native French speakers. The method was so successful that the book was translated into English to teach Chinese to  English speakers.   As expected, the first country that the readers were taught to say in Chinese was “Fa Guo” or France.

What’s my point?  To be a truly global citizen, I think it is important to not only have an understanding of different countries from the perspective of one’s own country, but also to have at least an awareness, if not understanding, of the relationships between two or more foreign countries without one’s own as the intermediary or filter. For example, for Americans reading this blog, try thinking about the relationship between the following without considering the United States:  Israel and Iran, North Korea and China, and India and Pakistan. Not easy, is it? 

The map shown at the top with the United States in the center looks pretty much like the map that hung on the wall of my classroom from kindergarten through high school in Hawaii.   I daresay you won’t find it in any school today, because it is not “politically correct.”  The world map more commonly used today is the one below it, with the United States off to the left.  It might not seem like a big thing, but I think having a map in which one’s country is in the center can result in a bit of ethnocentrism.  That being said, I kind of like the old map because at least the Hawaiian Islands could be clearly seen.  The new maps squeeze Hawaii way off to the side. 

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I recently stumbled upon a site called "Rate My Professor.”  It’s been around for the past decade, but under my radar screen, because I’ve been out of academia for awhile. To me, it’s a sort of “academic Yelp.”  Students sign in and rate their professors on a scale of 1 to 5 in four categories:  Easiness, Helpfulness, Clarity, and Rater Interest. They are also free to provide a short commentary. After going through the reviews of various professors, some chosen at random and some whom I know, my immediate reaction was that this site must be under the radar screen for the poorly rated professors as well.  Students, particularly undergrads, can be pretty brutal in their assessment of professors. Perhaps one of the offsets to bad reviews is that I  sometimes found a connection between the harshness of the students’ comments and their spelling or grammatical errors.  For example:  ”This professor is horrible and doesn’t deserve tenor (sic).”

I’m not writing to defend professors or belittle the student comments.  Indeed, if I were a professor and out of a sample of 50, 47 students felt I was well below par (to put it mildly), I would be concerned and would try to do something about it.  But at the same time, based on my limited sample of student comments, I would say that if you discounted the “tough grader” or “requires too much work” factors in their comments, the student assessments of the low-ranked professors would actually be  higher.  Nevertheless, for those with low ranking, I still found a lot of “can’t teach,” “very confusing,” etc. etc. Believe it or not several students commented that one professor, who I happen to know, actually falls asleep (or at least appears to be asleep) while up in front of the class!

So besides sharing my initial impressions of this site, what is my point?  My point is that the debate between live, face-to-face and virtual or video classes is purely academic.  Today’s technology definitely allows us to provide high quality, virtual or non-face-to face education in a cost-effective way.  Administrators and faculty should not be trying to defend the “direct human interaction” value proposition (see my previous blog on this).  Instead they should be trying to improve the quality of teaching, easing into retirement those who no longer have the enthusiasm to give it all they’ve got in the classroom, and giving more support to professors who want to try new methods of teaching besides traditional classroom instruction. In turn, students should realize  that over the long run, a high GPA is not the end-all of higher education and certainly not a  guarantee of success in life. (Easier said than done I know.)

In summary, here’s my advice to any professor who wants a good “Rate My Professor” score: 1. Know your material and be as clear as possible in your presentations 2. Inject some humor into your lectures 3. Don’t play favorites 4. Be clear and consistent about your expectations of what is required to do well in the course.  And of course, give everyone an “A!”

I think this is a useful list.  The "Petri Dish" metaphor is a new one for me.

fastcompany:

The 5 Questions Every Company Should Ask Itself

IN INTERVIEWING SOME OF THE BIGGEST INNOVATION EXPERTS, INCLUDING CLAYTON CHRISTENSEN AND ERIC RIES, WARREN BERGER FOUND THAT ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS CAN BE MORE CHALLENGING THAN FINDING ANSWERS.

1. WHAT IS OUR COMPANY’S PURPOSE ON THIS EARTH?

Keith Yamashita

To arrive at a powerful sense of purpose, Yamashita says, companies today need “a fundamental orientation that is outward looking”—so they can understand what people out there in the world truly desire and need, and what’s standing in the way. At the same time, business leaders also must look inward, to try to clarify their own core values and larger ambitions.

2. WHAT SHOULD WE STOP DOING?

Jack Bergstrand

But the harder question has to do with what you’re willing to eliminate. If you can’t answer that question, Bergstrand maintains, “it lessens your chances of being successful at what you want to do next—because you’ll be sucking up resources doing what’s no longer needed and taking those resources away from what should be a top priority.”

4. IF WE DIDN’T HAVE AN EXISTING BUSINESS, HOW COULD WE BEST BUILD A NEW ONE?

Clayton Christensen

“…Answering this question can point to future opportunities and help your share price to outperform the market by showing “that there’s more growth here than analysts may have thought.”

4. WHERE IS OUR PETRI DISH?

Tim Ogilvie

Ogilvie’s question is really asking, “Where in the company is it safe to ask radical questions? Where, within the company, can you explore heretical questions that could threaten the business as it is—without contaminating what you’re doing now?”

5. HOW CAN WE MAKE A BETTER EXPERIMENT?

Eric Ries

“This means that instead of asking “What will we do?” or “What will we build?” the emphasis should be on “What will we learn?”

[Image: Sketch via Shuttershock]

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"Direct Human Interaction."  This is what the provost of a prestigious private college told me was the "value proposition" of an institution of higher learning that costs a student $60,000 a year.  Many institutions of higher learning, notable among them the Unversity of Phoenix, have long offered online courses at far lower cost to both students and themselves.  Only recently, big name universities such as Stanford, Harvard, and MIT are offering selected online courses taught by their own professors for free.  How far this trend towards non-traditional forms of education delivery will go is unknown. But there is no doubt that this move is a direct assault on the primary method of teaching going back to Socrates. Do students need to have a direct face to face (no fair skyping), interaction with their professors in order to get a high quality education?

Leaving aside the pedagogical argument for a moment, we can easily see that the economics of providing education outside of the traditional classroom environment are compelling.  Arthur C. Brooks, a former professor at Syracuse University talks about “My Valuable, Cheap College Degree,” (received from Thomas Edison College, NJ) in yesterday’s NY Times.  Thomas Friedman, author of "The World is Flat" also weighed in on this phenomenon in an article in the NY Times a week ago.  His thesis is that online education from reputable institutions offered at nominal or no cost will give access to quality education to millions of hungry learners around the world.  This in turn will eventually provide their respective countries with human capital to help propel their development and growth. 

For those seeking another prespective on the debate between proponents of the “direct” and the “indirect” delivery of education, I invite you to go to a site that I only recently discovered a few weeks ago:  Rate My Professor."  This site, started over a decade ago, contains the personal feedback on the classroom and office-hour performance of thousands of professors across the country by millions of their students.  Out of curiosity, I poured over the evaluations of dozens of professors (some selected at random and some whom I knew).  I will discuss what I found in my next blog.  In the meantime, here is what was reaffirmed by my review of the student reviews of their professors:  regardless of the setting of the teaching and learning experience (e.g., in a classroom or in a webinar or chat room) what counts the most is the quality of the professor (knowledge, dedication, enthusiasm, motivation, etc.) as well as the desire of the student to learn.  More on this next time.

FROM LEOPARD TO MOUNTAIN LION
It is one thing to read about advances in technology and quite another thing to experience it.  Last week, I got a warning message from Firefox that it was no longer going to support my current Apple operating system and that I would have to upgrade to a later version in order to be protected by its security features whenever I used it as a web browser.  I was advised by my Apple-loving techie friend that I buy the latest version (Mountain Lion) from  the Apple App store.  He said for about twenty bucks I would be able to download what I needed to bring me up to date.  And so I tried but was unsuccessful.  When I told him he about this he advised me to contact the Apple Help Desk.
Within about 5 minutes, I got someone on the phone to help me. (People rave about Apple products and those “Geniuses” at the Apple Store. I also think that the Apple online and phone Geniuses are as good.)  Anyway, to  me his explanation of why I couldn’t download the latest Apple OS was a great example of how fast technology progresses.  I bought my Apple iMac in 2009. It came with an OS called “Leopard.”  Since then the company has come out with three newer operating systems:  ”Snow Leopard,” “Lion,” and “Mountain Lion” (see above photo).  The Apple call-center Genius told me that I couldn’t skip operating systems. I would first have to go to Snow Leopard, then to Lion, and finally to Mountain Lion in order to have the latest operating system on my 2009 hardware.
Readers who are tech savvy must be laughing at my naivete.  It would be obvious to people familiar with IT that skipping levels is not possible.  Or is it?  Even if it were possible, from a business standpoint it would not make sense.  First what would it cost in programming hours to make this possible, assuming it is?  The techie friend who advised me to call the Apple Help-Desk loves to use the acronym “SMOP” (simple matter of prgramming) whenever I ask him something about the business simulation product that I offer).  Second and more important, I realized that instead of paying $20 for the upgrade to Mountain Lion, I would have to pay a total of $60 (including $20 to upgrade to Snow Leopard and $20 to upgrade to Lion).  So for a company to allow a user to skip versions of software would involve additional programming cost and lost revenue.  This would not be good business.
But here’s the part of the story that for me was most telling about the rapid pace of technology.  As consumers of software and digital content, we pretty much take online distribution for granted.  It started most prominently with music and quickly progressed to books, newspapers, magazines, television programs and most recently movies. All this happened with a relative short period of time.  
Apple delivered Snow Leopard to me via DVD shipped by UPS which I received in two days.   Within about 12 hours, Apple sent me an email giving me instructions on how to go to a link and put in a special password to download Lion.  Once I had Lion up and running, I could then order Mountain Lion via the Apple App store.  From shipped DVD to downloading via email instructions to downloading via an App store, all within a period of a few years.  And the pace of technology change will ony get faster.
By the way, for now, I am okay with Lion.  I have been reading mixed reviews about Mountain Lion and I’m pretty happy with the look and feel of Lion.  Perhaps one of you readers can advise me if I should take the last step and upgrade to Mountain Lion.

FROM LEOPARD TO MOUNTAIN LION

It is one thing to read about advances in technology and quite another thing to experience it.  Last week, I got a warning message from Firefox that it was no longer going to support my current Apple operating system and that I would have to upgrade to a later version in order to be protected by its security features whenever I used it as a web browser.  I was advised by my Apple-loving techie friend that I buy the latest version (Mountain Lion) from  the Apple App store.  He said for about twenty bucks I would be able to download what I needed to bring me up to date.  And so I tried but was unsuccessful.  When I told him he about this he advised me to contact the Apple Help Desk.

Within about 5 minutes, I got someone on the phone to help me. (People rave about Apple products and those “Geniuses” at the Apple Store. I also think that the Apple online and phone Geniuses are as good.)  Anyway, to  me his explanation of why I couldn’t download the latest Apple OS was a great example of how fast technology progresses.  I bought my Apple iMac in 2009. It came with an OS called “Leopard.”  Since then the company has come out with three newer operating systems:  ”Snow Leopard,” “Lion,” and “Mountain Lion” (see above photo).  The Apple call-center Genius told me that I couldn’t skip operating systems. I would first have to go to Snow Leopard, then to Lion, and finally to Mountain Lion in order to have the latest operating system on my 2009 hardware.

Readers who are tech savvy must be laughing at my naivete.  It would be obvious to people familiar with IT that skipping levels is not possible.  Or is it?  Even if it were possible, from a business standpoint it would not make sense.  First what would it cost in programming hours to make this possible, assuming it is?  The techie friend who advised me to call the Apple Help-Desk loves to use the acronym “SMOP” (simple matter of prgramming) whenever I ask him something about the business simulation product that I offer).  Second and more important, I realized that instead of paying $20 for the upgrade to Mountain Lion, I would have to pay a total of $60 (including $20 to upgrade to Snow Leopard and $20 to upgrade to Lion).  So for a company to allow a user to skip versions of software would involve additional programming cost and lost revenue.  This would not be good business.

But here’s the part of the story that for me was most telling about the rapid pace of technology.  As consumers of software and digital content, we pretty much take online distribution for granted.  It started most prominently with music and quickly progressed to books, newspapers, magazines, television programs and most recently movies. All this happened with a relative short period of time.  

Apple delivered Snow Leopard to me via DVD shipped by UPS which I received in two days.   Within about 12 hours, Apple sent me an email giving me instructions on how to go to a link and put in a special password to download Lion.  Once I had Lion up and running, I could then order Mountain Lion via the Apple App store.  From shipped DVD to downloading via email instructions to downloading via an App store, all within a period of a few years.  And the pace of technology change will ony get faster.

By the way, for now, I am okay with Lion.  I have been reading mixed reviews about Mountain Lion and I’m pretty happy with the look and feel of Lion.  Perhaps one of you readers can advise me if I should take the last step and upgrade to Mountain Lion.

AIRPORT FOOD
Airline food is always a source of complaint, particularly on American-based airlines. But food served in airports can be acceptable, if not actually desirable, depending on the airport and the terminal.  Here are two examples that I found in my recent travels that impressed me.  The first, shown in the photo, was served to me at a small restaurant hidden off to the side in the American Airlines terminal at Ohare Airport. It was well-appointed with very modern furniture and fixtures and its focus was on its offerings of numerous brands of vodka.  I skipped the alcohol and just ordered the “smoked salmon” off the menu. I was pleasantly surprised at its taste and presentation.  The second is a restaurant located in the British Air’s Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport. I did not have a chance to try the food in this restaurant, because I was running to catch a flight.  But its name, “Naturally Fast Food,” intrigued me.  It seemed to me to be an oxymoron, but I guess that was the point of the name.  I did have time to check out the menu and to take a quick survey of what people were eating and it did seem to me that this restaurant indeed had  “farm to table” offerings for the harried traveler. 
There’s no question in my mind that the asset turnover of the  airport food services is high, simply based on the standard traffic of passers by.  And I have to believe that the profit margin on “upscale” types of food establishments such as the Vodka and the “Naturally” fast food are pretty good as well.  The cost of the smoked salmon dish was about 50% higher than a comparable dishes in deli type places.  I noticed the prices at the restaurant in Heathrow was also higher than average.  The food can be good and as well as good for you, but of course you pay for it.

AIRPORT FOOD

Airline food is always a source of complaint, particularly on American-based airlines. But food served in airports can be acceptable, if not actually desirable, depending on the airport and the terminal.  Here are two examples that I found in my recent travels that impressed me.  The first, shown in the photo, was served to me at a small restaurant hidden off to the side in the American Airlines terminal at Ohare Airport. It was well-appointed with very modern furniture and fixtures and its focus was on its offerings of numerous brands of vodka.  I skipped the alcohol and just ordered the “smoked salmon” off the menu. I was pleasantly surprised at its taste and presentation.  The second is a restaurant located in the British Air’s Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport. I did not have a chance to try the food in this restaurant, because I was running to catch a flight.  But its name, “Naturally Fast Food,” intrigued me.  It seemed to me to be an oxymoron, but I guess that was the point of the name.  I did have time to check out the menu and to take a quick survey of what people were eating and it did seem to me that this restaurant indeed had  “farm to table” offerings for the harried traveler. 

There’s no question in my mind that the asset turnover of the  airport food services is high, simply based on the standard traffic of passers by.  And I have to believe that the profit margin on “upscale” types of food establishments such as the Vodka and the “Naturally” fast food are pretty good as well.  The cost of the smoked salmon dish was about 50% higher than a comparable dishes in deli type places.  I noticed the prices at the restaurant in Heathrow was also higher than average.  The food can be good and as well as good for you, but of course you pay for it.

'YOU CAN'T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT….”

But if you go to StubHub, you might get what you need.  In my previous blog, I expressed my frustration at not being able to find a reasonably priced ticket for the Rolling Stones concert in Brooklyn’s Barclay Center.  But I eventually found a not-so-reasonably priced ticket the day before the concert on the StubHub resellers’ site. 

As did all baby boomers of a certain age, I grew up with Rolling Stones music almost like the air we breathed.  Not only that, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction,” and other such Rolling Stones’ mega hits were an established part of my college rock band’s cover repertois. (Yes, you could say I was the “Keith Richards”..i.e. lead guitarist, of the band.. ahh, what fond memories.) So you can imagine my anticipation when I realized that after all these years, I would finally get to see the Stones in a live concert.  

They gave an amazing performance, made even more so by the fact that they seemed to have the same energy and on-stage movements of 50 years ago.  (Mick Jagger must have a world-class personal trainer.)  But I must confess that after I left the concert, I felt strangely unsatisfied.  I told my niece, who went with me to the concert, that seeing the Rolling Stones live after all these years was sort of like seeing the Mona Lisa in the Louvre.  Not that I would ever dare to compare the art of Leonardo da Vinci with that of the Rolling Stones.  But I’ve been exposed to both the Stone’s music and musical act as well as the face of da Vinci’s mysterious lady so many times over the years that the actual experience of seeing them live did not quite meet up with my expecatations.

I guess I sort of “needed” to go to the Rolling Stones concert because the opportunity presented itself to finally see the musical heroes of my youth.  But after attending the concert, I think I still couldn’t get any satisfaction.  What was I looking for? To be honest,  I think I was looking for my youth gone by when I was the lead guitarist of a rock band.  I can never get that back, but at least I can say I saw the Stones perform  live and in person.  And of course, I still have my fond memories of an age gone by.   I can take satisfaction in that. 

"I CAN’T GET NO SATISFACTION"

In a previous blog, I talked about what I called the  “press generation” (i.e. me)  vs. the “touch generation”  (i.e. my children and grandchildren).  I recently heard this difference described as the “email generation” versus the “social media generation.”  I must confess that I still prefer to email my favorite photos to friends and family rather than post them on Facebook.   I know that I can never be a “digital native,” but at least I can try my best to adjust to the new world.   Take this morning, for instance, when I tried to buy tickets online to the Rolling Stones concert at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

It has been years since I have bought tickets to a major rock concert and so I had  thoughts of either standing in line or waiting on the phone for hours.   Then I read that tickets would go on sale for American Express card members 5 days before they were offered to the general public (i.e. this morning at 10 a.m., EST).  Moreover, the Amex site said the days of fans camping out in line for days in advance of ticket sales were long gone and that most people buy tickets online for major events such as the Stones’ concert.  I often buy my tickets for various events online, but never have I done so for a high profile event such as a Rolling Stones concert.

At 9:55 a.m., I logged on to the Amex site and the event was not yet listed.  So I concluded they literally meant 10:00 a.m.  Unfortunately, answering a few emails distracted me temporarily and so at 10:03, I refreshed the screen again and yes indeed the event was listed and I immediately clicked on “find tickets.”  Then appeared the dreaded “security check” with the scrambled letters alongside of a set of numbers.  Of course on my first try, I failed to properly recognize at least one of the characters.  Now I started to get anxious because the seconds were flying by.  At least I was able to successfully decode the garbled letters and numbers on my second try.

I tried repeatedly to find the lowest priced ticket (about $175, not including ticketing fee), each time struggling to read the security check characters.  Finally, in desperation I selected “any price.”  After three tries, up popped two available tickets for $754.50 each,  $861.90 including a ticketing fee.  As much as I wanted to see a bunch of aging icons play the songs of my youth, at that price I immediately clicked “back.”  After trying for about 15 more minutes for the lowest priced tickets, I gave up.  I tried using the American Express Platinum “Concierge Service,” but of course no luck.  I learned from the friendly concierge on the phote that I was doing the right thing by logging on a few minutes before the exact time when the ticket offer begins and constantly refreshing the screen until the event appeared.  However, perhaps the key was my being distracted for those critical three minutes! 

I will try again next Monday at 10 a.m. when tickets go on sale to the general public.  I may even try to buy tickets from brokers as the day of the event, December 8, nears.   But at least now I can say I’m much more familiar with the digital version of scrambling for tickets for a mega concert. 

KIM CHEE AND GOAT CHEESE

When I first came to New York from Hawaii back in the late 60’s, most Asian restaurants were Chinese.  Thai restaurants were a real novelty and raw fish was still a dish for the adventurous gourmet. Kimchi was considered a dish that only Korean people would eat.  Fast forward some forty or so years and we now see that food from all parts of Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia comprises the fastest growing ethnic food category in the United States.  

Moreover, chefs in the most elegant fine dining restaurants as well as in the humblest food truck have combined ingredients from the different Asian countries to create stunning “Asian fusion” dishes.  They have also combined Asian ingredients with Hispanic, French and American staples to create various “global fusion” dishes. 

I personally don’t care much for most fusion dishes, because they sort of remind me of all the leftovers that I have in my refrigerator! Also, having grown up in Hawaii, I was accustomed to the mixing and matching of various ethnic ingredients and dishes.  (Some of my friends ate kim chi for breakfast along with their linguisa and rice.)  But most important, I don’t think that complexity or variety of ingredients is a prerequisite for culinary excellence.  (Apparently my view is not unique.  Witness the number of hamburger restaurants that have emerged  recently in an attempt to satisfy those in search of perfection in this American staple.)  

Thus, the idea of kim chee and goat cheese does not impress me very much.  But a good tasting kim chee does!  Recently, while shopping at Whole Foods, I came across a Kheedim Oh, food vendor promoting his mother’s home made kim chee. (See above photos.) The product is aptly named “MamaO’s Premium Kim Chi.”  His website is currently under construction but check them out on Facebook. 

Kheemdim was trying to interest passing shoppers by getting them to sample a combination of Kim Chee and goat cheese.  As interesting as this combination sounded, I declined.  But I did sample the kim chee by itself.  It was delicious.  It comes in various degrees of heat.  I had the mild version.  I really liked it because it did not have a sour aftertaste as some kimchis tend to have.  Next time you want to have kimchi with goat cheese on an English muffin, or maybe with linguisa and rice for breakfast, why not try this superb example of the Korean staple. 



SEVEN SIGMA IN SERVICES
Have you ever had a “perfect” retail shopping experience? If so, might it have been at an Apple Store?  I wouldn’t be surprised.  The Apple Store is an amazing place:  always busy but with enough of those pleasant and knowledgeable folks in the blue t-shirts so there is little, if any, wait time.  When you want to buy something, a few key strokes on their hand-held, remote device and “presto” the product seems to appear out of thin air. And there is no standing in line at the check-out line,  because your card is swiped on that same device. 
Such was almost the case yesterday when I went to the Apple Store to buy an iPad.  Everything was going smoothly.  The salesperson gave me a brief, but thorough, review of the iPad’s features and options and answered all my questions courteously and with a slight touch of humor (which I always like).  A colleague had gone in the back to pick up my iPad and handed it to him in less than a minute after he had ordered it on his device.  I wanted him to register my new iPad and set up my email, but I  told him that I was in a hurry to make another appointment.  He said “no problem” and quickly began going through the necessary steps of choosing passwords and security questions.
Suddenly, one of his colleagues (within even saying “excuse me” or even acknowleging that I was there) came up to him and started talking about some other business matter.  This went on for a few minutes, but it seemed like an eternity, because I was in a such a hurry.  I should have said something but didn’t.  Unfortunately, that interruption definitely tainted the usual great experience I have always had when I’m in an Apple Store either to buy something or get the help of one of the “Geniuses.”
Two blogs ago, I wrote about an unpleasant experience that I had when checking out of a hotel that up to then had provided top flight service. See “Six Sigma in the Service Industry.”   My experience yesterday in the Apple Store has prompted me to say now that in when providing a service, one requires “seven” rather than “six” sigma.

SEVEN SIGMA IN SERVICES

Have you ever had a “perfect” retail shopping experience? If so, might it have been at an Apple Store?  I wouldn’t be surprised.  The Apple Store is an amazing place:  always busy but with enough of those pleasant and knowledgeable folks in the blue t-shirts so there is little, if any, wait time.  When you want to buy something, a few key strokes on their hand-held, remote device and “presto” the product seems to appear out of thin air. And there is no standing in line at the check-out line,  because your card is swiped on that same device. 

Such was almost the case yesterday when I went to the Apple Store to buy an iPad.  Everything was going smoothly.  The salesperson gave me a brief, but thorough, review of the iPad’s features and options and answered all my questions courteously and with a slight touch of humor (which I always like).  A colleague had gone in the back to pick up my iPad and handed it to him in less than a minute after he had ordered it on his device.  I wanted him to register my new iPad and set up my email, but I  told him that I was in a hurry to make another appointment.  He said “no problem” and quickly began going through the necessary steps of choosing passwords and security questions.

Suddenly, one of his colleagues (within even saying “excuse me” or even acknowleging that I was there) came up to him and started talking about some other business matter.  This went on for a few minutes, but it seemed like an eternity, because I was in a such a hurry.  I should have said something but didn’t.  Unfortunately, that interruption definitely tainted the usual great experience I have always had when I’m in an Apple Store either to buy something or get the help of one of the “Geniuses.”

Two blogs ago, I wrote about an unpleasant experience that I had when checking out of a hotel that up to then had provided top flight service. See “Six Sigma in the Service Industry.”   My experience yesterday in the Apple Store has prompted me to say now that in when providing a service, one requires “seven” rather than “six” sigma.

A SIDESHOW CAN BE THE MAIN SHOW

The Terracotta Soldiers of Xian have been called the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”  No doubt you’ve seen photos of these soldiers built over 22 centuries ago to guard the tomb of the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Wang. They were discovered on March 29, 1974 by some local farmers.  I have seen one of these soldiers on display at the British Museum. There is even an exhibition of a few of them currently in New York.   But, recently, I went to Xian just to see these clay soldiers. I must say that seeing them all lined up in their natural habitat was indeed worth the trip.

Since I had some extra time, I decided to visit one of the lesser known tourist attractions in Xian:  The Banpo Museum.  This museum consists of the remains of a Neolithic village that are over 6000 years old.  In 1953, workers doing some exploratory work on a piece of land designated for a new power plant accidently found some broken pottery.  This then led to the discovery that they were just a small part of an entire village.  Obviously the Chinese government went elsewhere to build the power plant and left the area to delighted archeologists, whose diligent and scholarly work is now displayed in this Museum.

Since I enjoy cooking, one of the artifacts that amazed me was a clay steamer. (See photo above.) I also learned that there were different clans in the village and each clan’s living space was demarcated by shallow trenches.  Careful research by experts also indicates that marriage was only allowed between members of different clans.  Imagine all this 6000 years ago. The Neolithic age seems pretty civilized, at least in this Chinese village. If you decide to visit Xian to see the soldiers, spend some time at the Banpo Museum.  I found it as fascinating as visiting the “Eight Wonder of the World.”

SIX SIGMA IN THE SERVICE INDUSTRY
The “Six Sigma” approach in manufacturing was first introduced by Motorola back in the mid 1980s.  At that time, Motorola used a combination of statistical analyses and deep problem solving (e.g. going beyond superficial answers to get to the root of a problem) to achieve such a level of quality that errors or defects would occur in no more than 3.4 per million units of production.  At these odds, this is practically a state of “zero-defect.” 
On a recent business trip, I realized how important it is for services in the hospitality industry to strive for”zero-defect” customer satisfaction. I stayed for a week in a highly rated hotel in Bangalore, India.  Throughout the stay, the hotel staff provided absolute top-notch service.  For example, on the first night, I had problems with my Internet connection.  The next morning, I asked the front desk to see it could be fixed.  Of course it could and it was done almost immediately.  I forgot that I was in India, business hotels have a person available 7X24 to assist in IT problems. ( In fact I blogged about this some months ago.)
Upon checking out, I noticed that I was charged for the first night’s usage.  I had been told when I reported the problem that this charge was going to be waived.  Yes, it was only a matter of a few dollars, but I felt it was the principle of the matter that counted.  The hotel clerk adamantly refused.  When I spoke to the manager, he quickly took off the charge from my bill.  I was upset because up till then, the entire hotel staff had been providing excellent service.  This showed to me that “zero-defect” is just as important in the services as it is in manufacturing.  Anyway, I was not that angry with the clerk, at least he helped give me an idea for this blog.

SIX SIGMA IN THE SERVICE INDUSTRY

The “Six Sigma” approach in manufacturing was first introduced by Motorola back in the mid 1980s.  At that time, Motorola used a combination of statistical analyses and deep problem solving (e.g. going beyond superficial answers to get to the root of a problem) to achieve such a level of quality that errors or defects would occur in no more than 3.4 per million units of production.  At these odds, this is practically a state of “zero-defect.” 

On a recent business trip, I realized how important it is for services in the hospitality industry to strive for”zero-defect” customer satisfaction. I stayed for a week in a highly rated hotel in Bangalore, India.  Throughout the stay, the hotel staff provided absolute top-notch service.  For example, on the first night, I had problems with my Internet connection.  The next morning, I asked the front desk to see it could be fixed.  Of course it could and it was done almost immediately.  I forgot that I was in India, business hotels have a person available 7X24 to assist in IT problems. ( In fact I blogged about this some months ago.)

Upon checking out, I noticed that I was charged for the first night’s usage.  I had been told when I reported the problem that this charge was going to be waived.  Yes, it was only a matter of a few dollars, but I felt it was the principle of the matter that counted.  The hotel clerk adamantly refused.  When I spoke to the manager, he quickly took off the charge from my bill.  I was upset because up till then, the entire hotel staff had been providing excellent service.  This showed to me that “zero-defect” is just as important in the services as it is in manufacturing.  Anyway, I was not that angry with the clerk, at least he helped give me an idea for this blog.