The Business Detox Project

January 25, 2011

Switching gears…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tim Ragan @ 8:19 pm

This is my last official blog entry for this blog. I am still planning to write regular posts and in fact am hoping to write more frequently. My challenge has been that I have been trying to feed two blogs simultaneously and the truth is that I am just not that good or prolific a writer.

So, from now on I will be posting all my blogs to my new consolidated blog titled “Musings of a Business Engineer”, which you can find here. My new blog will still be covering off all of the aspects that I was covering in the Business Detox blog, just now as elements of a broader theme about “all things business”.

I hope you enjoy the new blog — please don’t hesitate to send lots of comments. Happy reading!

December 17, 2010

Light at the end of the tunnel, or another train?

Filed under: Employment — Tim Ragan @ 2:30 pm

Came across a great article in one of the Silicon Valley technology newsletters I subscribe to — guest blogger Steve Blank lays out his somewhat contrarian viewpoint that we (the US specifically, but my read is that it is equally applicable to the world’s free-market, open economies) may be just entering the “golden age of entrepreneurship and (more…)

December 10, 2010

The trouble with our approach to “education”

Filed under: Employment — Tim Ragan @ 12:47 pm

After a breakfast discussion with a friend about many of the themes explored in the “detox project” (notably about trying to design a blueprint for a more harmonious 21st century), he emailed me this link to a video exploring some of the ways in which our institutionalized education systems fail us. It is a very engaging video, presented by Sir Ken Robinson, and well worth watching. (more…)

October 11, 2010

What motivates us?

Filed under: Employment — Tim Ragan @ 7:33 pm

Just finished reading a great book with the byline “The surprising truth about what motivates us”… the author is Dan Pink and the book is titled “Drive”. It is a really good read (like all Dan Pink books — I’m definitely a fan) and continues with Pink’s usual theme of exploring — from some perspective or other  –  the future of work. (more…)

September 10, 2010

Anti or pro business…?

Filed under: Consumer Labeling — Tim Ragan @ 3:05 pm

I’ve just come from a very productive meeting with a gentleman who has very a impressive business and government policy pedigree; the intent of the meeting was to get some feedback from him on the Business Detox Project and some insights on how I might accelerate moving it forward.

Perhaps not surprisingly, his opening statement was “…I thought your brief was a bit radical, in a Naomi Klein kind of way…”. Basically his take was that “business detox” as a positioning statement will immediately be taken by business and policy leaders as an anti-business statement and so only serves to turn people off who might otherwise be aligned with what the project is really about.

Of course, that is not my intention — I’m a strong believer in the free-market economy and its associated corporate business structure, and believe that reforming it (or re-engineering it?) will only serve to enhance society by letting business get on and do what it is incredibly good at doing; innovating, solving problems, creating wealth, and supporting productive lives for millions of people.

Interestingly, it did in fact turn out that much of his and my thinking was highly aligned and that he did recognize the strong desirability of driving change in our current system to improve society’s outcomes — and we both agreed that business and business leaders could and should be major players in driving this change.

So my question: does branding this initiative as “The Business Detox Project” actually get in the way of making real headway by turning off the key constituent of serious business minded people?

July 21, 2010

Johnson & Johnson and the 1982 Tylenol murders

Filed under: Consumption — Tim Ragan @ 2:50 pm

As I was scanning through some of Andrew Winston’s previous blog entries at HBR, I came across this one that I thought had some interesting take-aways relevant to the Business Detox Project. The specific “lesson” that I was intrigued by was labeled “Downplaying your mistakes is, well, a big mistake“, and it referred to the 1982 Tylenol murders and the crisis response of Johnson & Johnson, which is still held to be the “gold standard” of crisis management. I commented: (more…)

HBR guest blog: new Sustainability tool

I just came across this blog entry from Andrew Winston, writing in the Harvard Business Review — it presents a nice conceptual wheel that can help companies better strategize about how to develop meaningful, strategically relevant sustainability practices for their companies. (more…)

July 18, 2010

How to detoxify your business

Filed under: Consumption,Employment,Environment,Externalities — Tim Ragan @ 9:29 pm

If you buy into the concept that business is — by design and structure — an inherently “toxic machine”, then one question that has to be asked is…. How would one go about truly detoxifying their business? While a fundamental belief of this initiative is that ultimately we need to change the rules such that businesses have strong economic incentives to detoxify (and by extension, are penalized in the market and possibly by regulators for “being toxic”), one could see a (more…)

Commenting on BP “buying” researchers…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tim Ragan @ 6:56 pm

Chris MacDonald, in his business ethics blog, pointed out an article highlighting how BP was approaching the university research community and effectively “buying up” their support and silence for their upcoming legal battles. The blog entry (and link to original article) is here. (more…)

July 13, 2010

Deregulation: it’s not the “easy” answer…

Filed under: Regulation — Tim Ragan @ 12:41 pm

A recent article from George Monbiot over at the Guardian examines the role of government and regulation in the market and looks at the new announcement coming from the UK Health Secretary regarding “streamlining regulation” in the food industry. Fittingly the article is titled “Sending off the Ref” and makes the point that the role of government is akin to the role of the referee in football (soccer) and that the game would be very different indeed with “de-refereeing” or “self-refereeing”… (more…)

July 5, 2010

Toxic Consumption — toys

Filed under: Consumer Labeling,Consumption,Externalities,Regulation — Tim Ragan @ 12:24 pm

An article this morning in the local paper — The Ottawa Citizen — caught my eye. You can read the article here;  it is planned as a three part series that looks at how illegal toxins (like lead) get into child’s toys….

Of course, there is nothing unique about toys and toxins — the article series itself looks to be specifically focused on the toy industry, supply chain management, and Health Canada regulations as they relate to the toy industry. However, for “toys” replace “food”, “automotive parts”, “cosmetics”, or just about any other product or service — they all have the same basic constructs as the toy industry which includes a global supply chain with myriad suppliers and sub-suppliers, paper-based inspection criteria and lots of self-regulation requirements, and strong profit motives which create incentives to “cut corners”.

More on this entry as the newspaper series continues…

June 29, 2010

BP: When a “wake-up call” probably isn’t

Filed under: Environment,Externalities,Regulation — Tim Ragan @ 1:57 am

There is lots of discussion about how the current BP Gulf of Mexico situation is a “wake up call” for the government and for Big Oil. We said the same thing about the banks and the global economic meltdown of 2007/08.  It is not that I don’t think that we will evolve our regulations over the (more…)

June 18, 2010

More on the BP disaster

Filed under: Environment,Externalities,Regulation — Tim Ragan @ 5:22 pm

Just posted this comment to the Economist, after reading the latest article on the BP disaster and the mounting costs. The article is here; here is my posted comment: (more…)

June 8, 2010

Business reform, not (just) bank reform

Filed under: Environment,Externalities — Tim Ragan @ 12:36 pm

Now that the economic meltdown of 2007-2009 is starting to shrink away in our rear-view mirror, all the talk through the US, the EU, the G20, and various other camps is centered on “bank reform”. Whether we’re talking about new taxes on them, regulation around capital limits, compensation caps or the like, we’re still only talking about the banks and regulating their “performance”.  While I certainly don’t disagree with the concept of reforming the banks, I think we aren’t looking holistically enough at what is really going on. We need “business reform”, not (just) bank reform. (more…)

June 3, 2010

Labour unrest… in China

Filed under: Employment — Tim Ragan @ 7:26 pm

A couple of news items struck me as note-worthy over the past couple of days. One was the rash of suicides at the Foxcomm plant in China (where they make iPhones for Apple), and the other was the recent strike by Honda workers in China over their wages. (more…)

Costs, the Market, and BP

Filed under: Environment,Externalities — Tim Ragan @ 7:06 pm

One of my major beliefs (and the rationale behind much of the philosophy of the Business Detox Project) is that the world would be a much better place if we worked to price “externalities” into our market transactions. The current fiasco that is playing out in the Gulf of Mexico with BP provides a real-life case where we explore what this might look like. (more…)

May 11, 2010

Reform, withdraw, or “damn the torpedos, full speed ahead!”

Filed under: Environment,Externalities — Tim Ragan @ 12:51 pm

In a recent blog entry “Money’s Hunger”, Guardian newspaper columnist George Monbiot ponders the quandry we’re in by asking: “Industrial civilisation is trashing the environment. Should we try to reform it or just watch it go down?” (his blog at www.monbiot.com is well worth reading on a regular basis).

Essentially, he challenges the underlying assumptions of the Dark Mountain Project, which an early entry in Wikipedia introduces as:  “Believing that ‘civilisation as we have known it is coming to an end; brought down by a rapidly changing climate, a cancerous economic system and the (more…)

May 10, 2010

A challenge with food labeling…

Filed under: Consumer Labeling,Consumption — Tim Ragan @ 3:11 pm

As one indicator of the challenge of having accurate and consumer-friendly (ie: useful to the lay person) labeling, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is now consulting with various groups to (more…)

May 6, 2010

Results-Only Work (ROWE)

Filed under: Employment — Tim Ragan @ 11:21 am

I heard an interesting interview on CBC radio a couple of days ago — it was a discussion of ROWE, which stands for Results Only Work Environment: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ROWE

In a nutshell, ROWE is attempting to break the concept of paying an hourly rate (or essentially (more…)

May 5, 2010

Some straightforward solutions

Filed under: Consumption,Employment,Externalities — Tim Ragan @ 10:31 pm

In earlier posts, I’ve laid out in some detail the “problems” that businesses generate in our society, which are both intended and unintended consequences of the construction of our market economy. The solutions to these challenges are straightforward, and based on directly addressing these three ironies that are at the heart of how businesses are engineered to function: (more…)

At the heart of business — 3 ironies

Filed under: Consumption,Employment,Environment — Tim Ragan @ 10:29 pm

Being fascinated by business I have spent some time studying the specific toxic natures of the machine. And as any good engineer is taught to proceed, I have deconstructed the machine to try to better understand how and why it operates the way it does. And as that has proceeded, I have (more…)

The reality about business – a toxic “machine”

Filed under: Consumption,Employment,Environment,Externalities — Tim Ragan @ 10:24 pm

I am troubled. I am deeply troubled by much of the wreckage of the outcomes of the modern corporations and its current business practices. I want to be, and generally am, an unfettered advocate for open markets, for globalization, for ownership and private property rights and for (more…)

Our current path is not sustainable

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tim Ragan @ 10:20 pm

I live in a time when we – and I believe that to mean the majority of the human species – are starting to awaken to the reality that we live in a physically closed system. I stress physically closed to properly differentiate from a fully closed system, which of course our Earth is not as we (more…)

A competent engineer with a passion for business

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tim Ragan @ 10:19 pm

What I learned from my undergraduate engineering schooling was that with reasonable tools and assumptions about operating conditions, you could break things down into their component parts, illustrate your solution, state your assumptions, and show your work. You could always get (more…)

Just a spoonful of sugar

Filed under: Consumption,Externalities — Tim Ragan @ 9:46 pm

Calories from sugar have increased, contributing to obesity and diabetes

A spoonful of sugar may help for medicine, but does it really take eight to ten teaspoons of sugar to help drink a cola? That is how much sugar (as corn syrup) is in most soft drinks. That would not (more…)

A grain of salt

Filed under: Consumption,Externalities — Tim Ragan @ 9:41 pm

Salt (sodium chloride) is an inexpensive way to enhance taste and preserve food

Salt is addictive to many food companies. It is a cheap way to preserve food and make it taste better. Cheap if you don’t count the health care costs of high blood pressure. In North America, (more…)

Oil and water don’t mix… or do they?

Filed under: Environment,Externalities — Tim Ragan @ 9:35 pm

When poured in a jar with water or spilled in the ocean, oil rises to the top. Business works the same way, raising the commercial value of oil far above the value of water. An extreme example of this is the tar sands projects (oil sands) in Canada, which use up to four barrels of fresh water to (more…)

Business behaviours are having negative impacts on our economy, environment, and society

Filed under: Consumer Labeling,Consumption,Employment,Environment,Externalities — Tim Ragan @ 9:24 pm

Evil CEOs, greed, corruption, and stupidity are typically blamed for the problems

We are suffering some significant shocks to our economy, from oil prices and environmental anxiety, to a variety of contaminated consumer products, and now a major financial crisis. Corporate greed, stupidity, regulations, and corruption are blamed for these problems, but the (more…)

April 21, 2010

Welcome to the Detox Project

Filed under: Consumer Labeling,Consumption,Employment,Environment,Externalities — Tim Ragan @ 3:15 pm

This blog is going to explore various aspects of a research and advocacy initiative that I have taken to calling “The Business Detox Project”. I’ve been cobbling together my ideas on this for (more…)

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