Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wisdom and Foolishness of Crowds

Jonah Lehrer had a nice column in the weekend Wall Street Journal about the "wisdom of crowds" - the notion that we can get the right answers to tough problems by marshaling the collective intellect from a large group of people through a mechanism such as a voting process. Lehrer points to a study by Swiss scholars that suggests that crowds may not always be so smart.   Lehrer writes:

The experiment was straightforward. The researchers gathered 144 Swiss college students, sat them in isolated cubicles, and then asked them to answer various questions, such as the number of new immigrants living in Zurich. In many instances, the crowd proved correct. When asked about those immigrants, for instance, the median guess of the students was 10,000. The answer was 10,067.
The scientists then gave their subjects access to the guesses of the other members of the group. As a result, they were able to adjust their subsequent estimates based on the feedback of the crowd. The results were depressing. All of a sudden, the range of guesses dramatically narrowed; people were mindlessly imitating each other. Instead of canceling out their errors, they ended up magnifying their biases, which is why each round led to worse guesses. Although these subjects were far more confident that they were right—it's reassuring to know what other people think—this confidence was misplaced.

The results do not surprise at all.  The key to the wisdom of crowds, as James Suroweicki explained in his great book on the phenomenon, is that individuals must make independent judgments.   In a voting process, where individuals do not interact prior to rendering their judgment, we have independence.  However, in group and organization settings, social influence often plays a powerful role.   People are affected and even swayed by the judgments of others, and that often has a negative effect on the "wisdom" of the crowd.  I've always highlighted this fact by asking people whether they think the audience's accuracy on the game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire would go up or down if people had time to sit in a conference room and deliberate about the particular trivia question.   Because of social influence, I have always argued that accuracy would likely fall.  This simple experiment reinforces that conclusion. 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day & Louis Zamperini's Story (Unbroken)

For those who have not yet read the book, Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, I recommend taking a look at this Fox News Report... and then reading the book.  What a tremendous story of an American hero.  We at Bryant University bestowed upon him an Honorary Degree last weekend, and it was truly an honor to hear him speak to us.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Amazon Apologizes for Lady Gaga Error

Amazon moved quickly this week to rectify the problem that hindered customers from taking advantage of a terrific deal on the new Lady Gaga album.   On Monday, when Amazon offered Lady Gaga's new album for only 99 cents, customers rushed to download it.  The incredible demand overwhelmed Amazon's systems.  To their credit, Amazon apologized for the error, fixed the problem, and then brought the offer back to its customers on Thursday.   The company deserves credit for learning from its less effective response to its cloud service difficulties just a few weeks ago, when it was slow to acknowledge the problem and apologize to customers.  

The story offers a few key lessons for managers. First, learning from your stumbles and translating that learning into immediate improvement can have a powerful positive effect.  In addition, when you do make a mistake, you have to do three things.  First, you have to acknowledge your error publicly.  Second, you have to fix the problem.  Finally, you have to remedy the situation with your customers when you are sure that you are able to serve them effectively.    Too many companies either are too slow to admit their mistakes, or they rush to make it up to customers when they still aren't ready to offer an exceptional service experience.  Amazon took a couple days to get the problem ironed out before coming back to its customers with the deal on Thursday. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Why are you losing employees?

Have you lost some valuable employees in the past year?  Does your firm understand why those employees are leaving?   If you are like most companies, exit interviews serve as a mechanism for unearthing the reasons behind these departures.  I learned something quite interesting this week though.  In talking with a group of human resource executives, I discovered their frustration with the traditional exit interview.   Many executives expressed concern that departing employees are "too nice" in those exit interviews - they simply don't offer a candid assessment of why they have chosen to leave the firm.  Several HR chiefs offered a solution to this problem.  They described how their firms have eschewed the traditional exit interview.  Instead, the companies have hired a third party to conduct confidential surveys/interviews of these individuals several months AFTER they have left the firm.  The executives reported that these interviews yielded much more valuable insights... and much more candor, than the traditional exit interview.  

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Does Your Board Conduct After-Action Reviews for Acquisitions?

I learned yesterday that the Board of Directors of one major industrial firm in the US does regular after-action reviews on major acquisitions.  What a great practice!  What does this systematic practice achieve? First and foremost, we all know that acquisition proposals and valuations involve many assumptions (about things such as the amount of synergies, the discount rate, etc.).  Moreover, the valuations turn out to be HIGHLY SENSITIVE for some of those assumptions.  We also know that many deals don't turn out as advertised.  The after-action reviews not only allow the firm to reflect on past actions and adapt plans moving forward.  They also provide a measure of accountability that is desperately needed when it comes to pitching deals and capital investments.  Because managers know that the Board will revisit the deal pitch in the future, they will tend to be more "intellectually honest" when it comes to their assumptions about synergies and the like.  Hopefully, that accuracy will lead to better deals and more appropriate valuations.

Could Skechers Shape-Ups be what society really needs?

I highly recommend this blog post from my colleague, Keith Murray, regarding Skechers' marketing campaign for its new footwear line. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Congratulations, Graduates!

Congratulations to the Class of 2011 graduates at Bryant University and beyond!  May you never lose your thirst for knowledge, and may you enjoy much personal and professional success in the days and years ahead. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Beyond Good and Evil: HBS Dean Nitin Nohria

Banning Ronald McDonald?

Ronald McDonald made big news this week after a corporate watchdog group encouraged approximately 600 health-care professionals to sign a letter asking McDonald's to stop using Ronald to appeal to children.   When I heard the news, I became a bit  perplexed.   I'm open to hearing a vigorous debate about the issue of the ethics of marketing certain products to children.  That's not my source of surprise.  My real question is this: Is Ronald really relevant to children these days?   Do my kids connect with him at all?  I don't think so.  He doesn't have a bad image.  He just doesn't appear very prominently when it comes to characters with which they resonate.  Put simply, I'm not sure Ronald is the reason my children, or most children in fact, want to go to McDonald's - I'm pretty sure it's the really tasty french fries!   At the end of the day, if we want to get our children to eat healthier, I'm not sure banning Ronald will have a measurable effect.

What's the lesson of this story for other companies?   Many firms have to think about the ethics of marketing to children.  They need to be ready for an increasing amount of challenges to their policies, especially around the issues of health and wellness.  For start-ups and younger firms, executives might even ask:  Do we have a clear policy yet as to what marketing strategies are allowed or not allowed in our firm?   Should we work together with our employees to outline such a policy before we have a public relations mess on our hands?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Torre, Francona and the Importance of Soft Skills

An executive asked me the following question the other day: "How do I persuade the skeptics who continue to denigrate the importance of "soft skills" in management?  Can you give me a concrete example that I can use to help influence their thinking?"   He posed a tough question, because we all know that persuading these skeptics can be a very challenging endeavor.  I offered an  example for him to use that I think might be helpful. Consider the managers of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox for much of the last decade - Joe Torre and Terry Francona.  Fans in baseball love to dissect a manager's game decisions.  Should he have issued an intentional walk in the 7th inning?  When should he have pulled his starting pitcher?  Should the manager have pinch hit for the weak-hitting catcher in the 8th inning? 

Often times, I believe fans over-estimate the importance of these "hard skills" for managers.  What do they under-estimate?  The soft skills.  Fans often do not understand how critical the manager's skills are with regard to managing the clubhouse, dealing with different personalities, enforcing team rules, managing conflict, etc.   Torre and Francona, I believe, excelled at these "soft skills" - even though they, at times, frustrated fans with their actual game management decisions.  Were they superb in those "hard skill" areas?  Perhaps.   However, they surely excelled on the soft skills.  A recent example this week reinforced my view on Torre and Francona.  The New York Yankees' current manager, Joe Girardi, did not handle an issue with aging catcher and designated hitter, Jorge Posada, very well at all, and as a result, we had a controversy that stretched for days. 

For business executives, we can take a lesson from this baseball example.  Do we attribute success to the wrong set of skills at times?  Do we fixate on the small technical miscues, while missing the fact that some leaders have tremendous people management skills that actually overwhelm any small technical deficiencies?  What really matters most for organizational performance?  That's what every executive should ask themselves.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Depth of Analysis Inversely Related to Importance of Decision

On Monday, while teaching an executive leadership program, an executive made a terrific observation.  He said, "Often, it seems that the rigor and depth of our analysis is inversely to the importance of the decision."  He meant that the finance organization seemed to scrutinize investment proposals by lower level managers quite extensively.  Yet, when the CEO or a member of the top team wanted to make an acquisition or embark on some other major investment initiative, the proposal often received less scrutiny.  I was taken aback, because that observation rings true given my experience with many organizations from across a range of industries.

Why does that happen in organizations?  In many cases, lots of analysis does take place on the proposals put forth by senior executives, but those initiatives are essentially fait accompli.   The analysis cannot stop the deal from moving forward.  It may even simply be rationalizing decisions that have already been made.  Meanwhile, for lower level managers, their proposals get put through the ringer, because they don't yet have the senior level sponsorship. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Viral PDFs and a Best-Selling Book: Go the F*** to Sleep

Now here's a Fast Company story that will surprise and delight!  Adam Mansbach has written a humorous "children's book for adults" with the terrific title, "Go the F*** to Sleep."   Mansbach wrote the story after experiencing the frustrations of trying to get his adorable two-year old daughter to sleep.   All parents can relate!   Mansbach's book hit #1 on the Amazon best-seller list this week, and it won't even be released for a few more weeks!  How did this come to be?  Well, a pirated copy in PDF form has been flying around the web.  Tons of people have seen the story, and they found it very humorous.  As a result, a ton of buzz has emerged about the book.  That buzz has now driven the book to the top of Amazon's best-seller list.  Here seems to be a case where a free version of a product has actually helped generate a ton of real revenue.   Perhaps more publishers and media companies will derive lessons from this interesting case.

I'm sure Chris Anderson is smiling right now. Who is Chris Anderson? He's the best-selling author of two terrific books: The Long Tail and Free: The Future of a Radical Price.  In the latter book, Anderson describes how companies can offer free products and services as part of their business model, and yet still derive solid profits for the firm as a whole.   Mansbach's story reminds me of how important it is for all firms, especially media companies, to understand Anderson's compelling case for "free" business models.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Advice for College Graduates

With graduation ceremonies taking place at many colleges and universities this week, I thought it would be appropriate to re-run this post from last year with advice for graduates:

A few words to those graduating from college this year...

As you leave this place, you will become builders. You will build a career, a home, and hopefully a family. For many of you, life will take on a certain rhythm eventually. Routines and rituals will mark your days. You will experience a measure of comfort with the familiar – familiar people, places, and activities. As you grow older, the unfamiliar will jar you, unsettle you, at times. You will want to retreat to that which is comfortable and familiar.

My advice to you today: Do not become wedded to the old and familiar in your lives. Cherish the past, but always look ahead. Seek out novel experiences. Keep breaking new ground, even as the hairs become gray. When in his 80s, Michelangelo, the great Renaissance painter and sculptor, once said, “Ancora imparo.” – I am still learning. I hope that you will live to such a ripe old age, and that you will utter those same words. Researchers have shown that novelty stimulates the brain. So, I tell you know: Exercise your minds throughout your lives. Memories do not nourish the brain. New challenges do. They say that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. Do not listen to such rubbish. I’m confident that you have the ability to transform yourselves, to make yourselves new, time and again throughout your lives.

As you experience the new and unfamiliar, you will feel discomfort, even fear, at times. Do not let that apprehension get the best of you. Dr. Peter Carruthers of Los Alamos National Laboratory once said, “There’s a special tension to people who are constantly in the position of making new knowledge. You’re always out of equilibrium. When I was young, I was deeply troubled by this. Finally, I realized that if I understood too clearly what I was doing, where I was going, then I probably wasn’t working on anything very interesting.”

As you learn and grow as individuals, do not keep your new knowledge and skills to yourself. Share your knowledge and insight with others. Do more than that; serve as an exemplar to others. Mentor young colleagues, teach your children well – through actions as well as words. Your impact on the next generation will become your enduring legacy.

Singer and songwriter Ben Folds once wrote to his daughter Gracie, “One day you’re gonna wanna go. I hope we taught you everything you need to know.” I love that song, but I know that we have not taught you everything you need to know. I sincerely hope, though, that we have cultivated your intellectual curiosity and nourished your love of learning. May that spark of youthful curiosity remain with you all the days of your lives.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Panera Knows Your Name

Has anyone noticed that Panera Bread employees always greet you by name if you have a MyPanera card? Why don't other retailers with loyalty card programs do the same? It's a small gesture, but it's truly wonderful. Here is how Panera does it: They ask for the card before you order. Then, they can use your name throughout the rest of the process, including when they inform you they your food is ready. It's amazing to me that other retailers aren't taking this approach. So simple, such a nice touch.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Leo Kahn, Tom Stemberg, and Staples

Leo Kahn, a co-founder and former Chairman of Staples, died this week.  I worked at the firm back in the mid-1990s.  Tom Stemberg transformed the office supply industry with Kahn's help and guidance.  Before Staples, the industry was highly fragmented.  Stemberg brought the big-box concept to the industry, and in the process, created a much more efficient value chain which enabled customers to have a broad offering at low prices.

Kahn's death reminds me of some key lessons I learned about how Staples developed its business.  For starters, when Stemberg and Kahn began the firm, each new employee, regardless of their position in the organizational hierarchy, spent their first week at the company working in a retail store.  They would stock shelves, operate a cash register, unload incoming shipments, and assist shoppers.    Even the most senior hires took part in these activities in their first few weeks at the company.   Stemberg too spent a great deal of time in the chain’s stores, and he perused his competitors’ locations on a regular basis.    I love the idea of how Stemberg and Kahn wanted every manager and executive to understand the work going on at the store level.

In addition, Stemberg spent a great deal of time observing retailers, such as Costco, that did not compete directly with Staples.    He spent time visiting firms in other industries too.  For instance, he once set out to learn about customer service at Mobil, focusing on their Speed Pass Program, which was relatively new at the time.  He sought to make Staples as successful as possible by opening up to the possibility of learning from as many sources as possible.   

All leaders should try to learn from companies beyond their industry boundaries.  If you simply stay within your industry when benchmarking, it's likely you will end up engaging in me-too strategies, rather than truly innovating and differentiating.  Going outside your industry for ideas can help firms truly be distinctive. 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Luxury Goods: How the Rich are Spending Their Money

The Wall Street Journal has a fantastic article today about how the wealthy are spending their money, specifically their attitudes toward luxury goods.  Christina Binkley reports:

"In fact, one time-honored tenet of the luxury industry—that discounted prices lower products' prestige—appears to no longer be true, according to several studies. A survey released in April by the American Affluence Research Center, a luxury consultant based in Alpharetta, Ga., found that 60% of respondents said discounts didn't affect their opinion of brands.  Items the rich do value at full price are one-of-a-kind clothes and accessories and experiences that create fond memories. Weekend getaways and vacations were the top two things the wealthy intended to spend more money on, Harrison Group says. The new luxuries are things that are in limited supply and have an emotional quality, rather than just a high price tag."

The data suggest that the discounting that took place during the recession has taken its toll on the perceptions of luxury brands.  Once those goods have been offered at steep discounts, it becomes difficult to bring pricing back to previously high levels.  Moreover, it appears that the recession may have some lingering attitudinal effects on all consumers, even those with high incomes.  Finally, the data suggest that wealthy consumers are most likely to have high willingness to pay for authentic experiences and more unique items, as opposed to mainstream luxury branded goods.  It will be interesting to see how this trend holds up as the economic recovery picks up steam.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Jack Malcolm on The Dreaded (DK)²

Thank you to Jack Malcolm for this terrific blog post about my last book, Know What You Don't Know.   Jack runs Falcon Performance Group, a firm that helps sales teams achieve exceptional performance.   I don't recall ever meeting Jack, but I'm flattered by the very positive review of the book. 

Open Innovation and Creatives

Maxine Horn wrote an interesting column for Investors Digest titled "Here's What's Wrong with Open Innovation."  In that piece, she argued,

"There is a growing assertion that “ideas” are free and bountiful – with no value until they are commercialized. This devalues the very professionals in the creative industries that firms need. It devalues their talents, education, years of in-practice experience and their knowledge and know-how. We are increasingly leaning to a mistaken view that any one person’s idea is as good as any other person’s. Creatives are being asked to participate with the crowd for work."

Hank Chesbrough of Berkeley, a former colleague of mine from Harvard, wrote a very thoughtful response at Forbes.com.   Hank argues that, "Open innovation, properly understood, can actually boost the opportunities for creative people, rather than extinguish them."  He explains that open innovation enables creatives to build "deeper, more meaningful relationships with your audience."   As such, it can fuel new breakthroughs, broaden the market for creatives' work, and nurture a community of fans who will spread the good news about the creatives' products or services.  

I agree with Hank, but I do think that Maxine Horn raises some important points about the value of protecting intellectual property in an appropriate manner.  Moreover, she's right when she says we need more dialogue about the proper ethical guidelines when it comes to crowdsourcing practices employed by many companies.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Creating an Internal Labor Market: The AdNovum Case

London Business School Professor Julian Birkinshaw describes an innovative way to staff projects in a column for Fortune.  He explains what happens at a software firm called AdNovum.  That company has created an internal market to match talent with projects.  The founder explains how it started: "So we developed a Facebook-like system on the Web where you as an employee could portray yourself, especially your skill set, for others to review. And we encouraged people to keep their CVs and their skill sets as accurate as possible."  Project managers used this data to select staff members for key projects.  Company managers met to discuss the matches being made via this system, and they would adjust staffing to meet the practical realities of deadlines, budgets, etc.  Over time, the system has evolved.  Nevertheless, the basic concept of trying to find a more innovative way to match talent supply and demand continues to endure.

I am intrigued by the concept, though I would point out that this internal market concept works quite appropriately for project-based work, but it may be less applicable in other types of work environments.   At Enron, for instance, executives used to describe their internal labor market.  They would describe how talented folks could "vote with their feet" by moving to a role in one of the new businesses being created.  That "vote" would inform executives as to which of the new ventures appeared most promising.  What is one of the problems with that type of free movement?  People may rotate too frequently, leaving managers unable to ascertain the true long term consequences of their actions. For project-based work, one can clearly measure results at the end of the project.  For managerial assignments, it can be more difficult to measure performance if someone rotates on to a new assignment before the implementation of their strategies has been completed and the results have been identified over a sufficient period of time.

Monday, May 09, 2011

McDonald's and Beverages

McDonald's reported a remarkable 6% rise in same-store sales growth in the United States in April.  What drove the rise in revenue?  Drinks... smoothies and McCafe beverages not only appear to be selling briskly, but they are attracting customers, who also purchase food at McDonald's during those visits.

While the news appears very good for McDonald's, they will have to keep an eye on service within their restaurants.  As the drink business booms, McDonald's will have to focus on keeping wait times as low as possible.  With the introduction of smoothies and McCafe beverages, the menu becomes more complex.  McDonald's must avoid the downside of that complexity, which could be longer wait times, if the firm doesn't manage its operational processes effectively. 

That point brings us to a fascinating new article in Business Week about the operational processes at fast-food restaurants.  According to the article, "The big brands spend hundreds of millions and devote as much time to finding ways to shave seconds in the kitchen and drive-thru as they do coming up with new menu items. 'The majority of the business now happens around the back of the building,' says Blair Chancey, editor of QSR magazine. 'So much money and R&D go into perfecting the production system because there is so much money to be had.'"

That type of focus on operational efficiency has always been a hallmark of McDonald's.  It will only become more important as the drinks business continues to grow.   For a cautionary tale, McDonald's need look no further than their competitor in the coffee business, Starbucks, which suffered when complexity and process inefficiency began to harm customer service quality a few years back.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Does curiosity trump intelligence?

I'm looking forward to a new book from Andy Boynton (Dean of Boston College's School of Management) and Bill Fischer (Professor at IMD).  The book is titled, The Idea Hunter: How to Find the Best Ideas and Make Them HappenAccording to the authors, highly intelligent people can become very wedded to formulas that have been very effective for them in the past.  That success may deter them from hunting around for new ideas.   Boynton and Fischer argue that innovation comes from people who are fundamentally curious. They inquire, ask questions, and examine situations from varied perspectives.  They keep their minds open to new ideas that might just be around them in their environment.  They scan for those ideas and consider them thoughtfully.  Intellectual curiosity matters a great deal, perhaps more than intelligence itself.  What do you think?   If you are like me, you are intrigued by the premise, and you'll take a look at the book.  I'll be sure to comment further on the book when I've finished reading it.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Using Twitter to Make Money on Wall Street

The USA Today ran a feature story today on investment firms that are trying to mine Twitter for insight as to how the market will move, and thereby improve investment returns.   What's the logic here?  Apparently, some experts have found that rigorous analysis of tweets can yield insight as to people's emotional state.  Experts then believe those emotions drive investment behavior.

These investment firms cite the research conducted at Indiana University last year by Johan Bollen, a professor of informatics.   He found a correlation between the collective mood, as determined by an analysis of millions of tweets, and the movement of the Dow Jones average in subsequent days.  Bollen reports an 87% accuracy rate for his algorithms which use Twitter mood measurements to predict the DJIA over the next 3-4 days. Other research focuses on specific companies.  Arthur O'Connor, a doctoral candidate at Pace University, has performed a research study which found a positive correlation between social media popularity of major brand names and the performance of those firms' stock prices.

While one might doubt the findings of these particular studies, the overall trend bears watching.  More and more investors will try to glean insights from this abundance of data that is available online.  Some algorithms will be better than others, but ignoring the data altogether surely cannot make sense.    Information is power in the investment community, and social media does provide a great deal of data that may be relevant.  The key question is how to mine that dataset most effectively, and then how to build the best predictive algorithms.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

How Norms are Set in Groups

The Wall Street Journal has a good article about the latest research regarding how norms are established in groups.  We all know that pressures for conformity exist in groups, and the article examines that tendency in a variety of ways.  I found the point regarding innovation to be the most interesting one.  Here is an excerpt:

Researchers have studied how new ideas and innovations—whether the latest fashion, electronic gadget or slang word—are introduced and spread within a group. Individuals who innovate tend to be somewhat isolated from the rest of the group, researchers say. Being too much a part of a group may constrain one's ability to think outside of convention, says Christian Crandall, a professor of social psychology at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, who studies social norms. "There's a freedom to innovate" that comes with isolation, Dr. Crandall says. Though innovators may be isolated, the group often adopts their innovations because these new ideas or objects are an accessible way for members of the group to bond or signal solidarity. It could be a baseball cap worn backwards, or a pocket square. Each conveys a different identity. But before others will take up the new idea, someone central to the group, with more connections than the innovator, has to recognize it.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Differences Key to Negotiations: Ask Bill Belichick!

The 2011 NFL Draft has just ended, and all of us can learn a valuable lesson from Coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots (even if you are a slightly misguided fan of the dreaded New York Jets).  Belichick has become known for "trading down" in the draft.  Put simply, he often gives up a high draft pick for a high draft pick the following year, providing the other team also gives him an additional lower draft pick as part of the trade.  Take this year's trade with the New Orleans Saints for instance.  He gave up the Patriots' pick at the bottom of the first round for the Saints' pick in next year's first round (expected to be about in the same exact spot).  However, the Saints also had to give the Patriots a second-round pick this year.   These moves frustrate Patriots' fans, as they tend to not like when Belichick gives up the chance to take a flashy, well-known first round player in the current year.  However, he explains that these moves provide the Patriots "good value" - after all, the Patriots got that additional pick from the Saints.

Interestingly, academic researchers Cade Massey and Richard Thaler have examined the NFL draft and shown that, in the past, general managers tended to overvalue first-round picks.  In other words, teams gave up too much to move up and get another first round pick in the draft.  The brainy Belichick has examined this research, and he takes advantage of the fact that teams are often willing to pay too much to move up in the draft.  So, he gladly makes the trade and moves down.

However, there's more to this story.  By now, most general managers have become aware of this tendency to overpay for first round picks.  Yet, people still make trades like this one between the Saints and Patriots. Why?  The answer lies in the fact that Belichick may have a lower "discount rate" than other general managers. In other words, he may not discount the value of picks in future years as much as others do.  He has a more long term view. Other general managers may have a much more short term orientation, valuing the pick today MUCH more than the pick next year or thereafter.  Naturally, with three Super Bowl championships and a supportive owner, Belichick can afford to adopt a long term view. Some may argue that the Saints gave up too much here, but to them, this made good sense.  The same holds true for the Pats, because they have a longer term orientation. 

The lesson here though is that DIFFERENCES in interests and perspectives provide the MEANS FOR A NEGOTIATED AGREEMENT.   Negotiation scholars tell us this all the time.  Two parties often will find a resolution not by focusing on common ground, but by understanding their differences and using those to reach an agreement. In this case, the Saints and Patriots have a difference in discount rates. From that, they are able to find a mutually beneficially trade arrangement.  We should all take a page from these two teams.  Discovering our differences with other parties can pave the way to an agreement that makes both parties quite content.