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Fred PhillipsRSS Feed of this column.

After a dozen years as a market research executive, Fred Phillips was professor, dean, and vice provost at a variety of universities in the US, Europe, and South America. He is now Professor at University... Read More »

(This continues a discussion of the topic I started here, in Spanish, and in §5.4 of this published paper, in English. Not necessary to read those first; this blog stands on its own.)

There are many definitions of sustainability.



Sep 03 2009 | comment(s)

What was it that my late aikido and Zen sensei asked me to do, on that day twenty-some years ago?  I do remember his request struck me as difficult to carry out, and perhaps not really necessary. I recall with great clarity the short exchange that followed the request:

“I’ll try,” I waffled.

Sensei just stared at me.

“OK, I get it.  There is no try, only do or don’t do.”  I weakly attempted to mollify Sensei with a line from the new film, Karate Kid.

Years back, conversing with a now long-retired dean, I happened to let slip the words “common sense.” He replied, “It’s been a long time since I heard that phrase uttered on this campus, much less seen it practiced.”

He had a point.

We management professors are very conscious of the "professional school" label given to colleges of business, law, medicine, engineering, nursing, and education in diversified universities – universities in which some clinical fields, like psychology, may be part of the college of Arts&Sciences, and thereby on the other side of the divide. (At my alma mater, clinical psych is in A&S, and counseling psych is in the College of Education.)

Though a few verbal grenades are tossed over the divide each semester, schools on both sides generally co-exist tolerably well. What are the differences between them?

Last week I posted a column on cost accounting. But I didn’t say it was about cost accounting, and nearly eight hundred people read it.   Let’s try a (ahem) “scientific” experiment, starting with this announcement: This column is about cost accounting too. I’ll share the readership numbers with you next week!

Among the first things we teach students of business operations are the cherished principles of incremental cost (cost resulting from an action taken, minus costs that would have resulted had the action not been taken), opportunity cost (cost relative to the next best alternative), and sunk cost (past, irrecoverable, and hence irrelevant costs).

Last month New York’s Attorney-General Andrew Cuomo criticized banks – including Citi, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase – for paying large (okay, huge) executive bonuses when the companies were losing money.

He called this an illicit transfer of shareholder wealth to the pockets of individual managers. 

Cuomo’s report spurs me to tell you about a certain illicit transfer of taxpayer money to private pockets, one that’s been bothering me a lot...