PULSE: In the News
The worldwide pulse. Things that matter.

WWSG speakers are actively involved in major events around the world and play a key role in shaping their trajectory and outcome. Below is a sampling of today's top stories that may be impacting your business and for which WWSG can help address these critical issues.

Pulse: In The News

Sally Hogshead: How Does The World See You? (+/-)

By: Nick Morgan, Forbes Magazine

I first met Sally Hogshead when she was at the beginning of her author-speaker-wisdom leader life, fresh from a meteoric career as the youngest advertising agency chief in the U.S. with the coolest clients.  She’d handled a difficult pregnancy by, among other things, writing an amazing little book, Radical Careering.

That alone should tell you something about Sally’s creativity, drive, and general ability to turn life’s lemons into lemonade.  But the thing that impressed me most, I think, about Sally wasn’t her dynamic stage presence, or her bold ideas about how to create interesting ads, but her ability to come up with five hundred – yes, 500 – ideas during a brainstorming session for a client she was working with.  In an hour or two.

She often says she gets her drive from her name. Can you imagine how it toughens you up on the playground as an eight-year-old to have the last name “Hogshead?” But wherever it comes from, it’s a natural force, unstoppable, like tsunamis and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

It was evident as we worked together on the ideas that became Fascinate, Sally’s groundbreaking book on how to get and hold attention in a distracted world.

But it seemed like I only took my eyes off her for a minute or two, after Fascinate and her speaking career were well-launched, that she created a whole new way to think about the mysteries of human personality on top of that book, with its seven keys to holding attention (passion, power, prestige, mystique, alert, innovation, trust).  Now readers of her new book, How the World Sees You, can determine their own personality archetypes, figure out how to best use their strengths (and minimize their weaknesses), create an anthem that tells the world who you are, like an elevator pitch only better, and then compare what they’ve found to the vast database that she and her team have built based on their research into personality, drive, and attention.

It’s an extraordinary achievement, and Sally’s system has created a juggernaut of insight into how we work, play, and relate as our best selves.  You can increase your business success, make yourself more fascinating to your mate of choice, and find your highest and best use on the planet.

Speakers owe it to themselves to buy Sally’s book to ascertain whether or not they’re marketing themselves in the best possible way, speaking about the best possible subjects (for them), and connecting with audiences in the most powerful ways (for them).

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Sheila Bair: New Banking Rules--More Isn't Always Better (+/-)

By: Sheila Bair, Fortune

Regulators at last have finalized the Volcker Rule, which bars banks from speculative trading. For that, they should be commended. Unfortunately the 71-page rule, which comes with 900 pages of explanations, has renewed debate over mounting regulatory costs and whether the benefits outweigh them. J.P. Morgan Chase -- whose halo in Washington has been replaced by a big bull's-eye -- estimated in 2011 that its increased costs for compliance and controls would be about $3 billion over the "next few years." But JPM, which generated $56 billion in earnings since 2011, can handle it. And if better controls help the bank avoid litigation and incidents like the $6 billion London Whale trading loss, it will be money well spent for its shareholders.

The benefits are less clear for regional and community banks. Many of the new regulations have hefty, fixed startup costs, which disproportionately impact smaller institutions. For instance, Buffalo's M&T Bank estimates that its annual compliance costs have nearly doubled, from $50 million in 2003 to $95 million in 2011, more than 10% of its 2011 earnings. Similarly, at a recent conference at the St. Louis Federal Reserve, one state bank survey reported that compliance costs are eating up 10% to 15% of community-bank earnings. The irony is that most small banks did not make dodgy mortgages or hold the high-risk derivatives that created losses for the big banks.

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Steve Wozniak Speaks for Trade Dinner Series (+/-)

By: Brian Ryback, Breakthrough Technologies online magazine

The Jewish United Fund (JUF) has brought many distinguished guests to Chicago as part of their Trades Dinner Series. But this year, the tech community received a special treat when it was announced that Steve Wozniak, Co-Founder of Apple Computer, was one of the speakers.

His engaging conversation with Brad Keywell of Groupon, LightBank, etc. was in front of a large audience at the Sheraton Chicago on May 29th, with the topics ranging from the humble beginnings of the company to his thoughts on the Beats acquisition and Net Neutrality.

I thought there were a couple of great nuggets he shared throughout the evening:

  • It was interesting to hear him opine on why Apple acquired Beats. One observation he had was that Apple was one of the few top Silicon Valley companies not to sign a letter to the FCC asking them to back off proposed Net Neutrality measures. He wondered if that tied into Beats subscription music service.
  • As expected, Wozniak drew a clear demarcation between his tech-based and Steve Jobs’ product-based responsibilities when discussing the growth of the company.
  • His favorite apps when on the road are a tipping app that lets you find out each country’s tipping customs and SongKick so he can see if any of his favorite music acts are performing. 

The enduring, take away message though was directed toward the entrepreneurs in the crowd. Discussing the tough beginnings of Apple, he recalled the story of how his then-employer Hewlett-Packard rejected his initial personal computer concept……5 times.  His persistence in an idea that he truly believed in, what ended up being the Apple I personal computer, was the foundation of Apple Computer, one of the leaders of the technological revolution that we are all a part of today.

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Steve Wozniak: Two Drivers for the Utility Future (+/-)

By: Patty Durand, Intelligent Utility 

One of the most compelling discussions in the power industry today focuses on how consumers’ digital-era sophistication and growing expectations for service—along with technology innovation—are impacting utilities.

Many thought leaders agree that utilities need corresponding changes in the regulatory compact and to evolve their own business models in order to survive.

And the time for adaptation is now.

The twin genies of rising consumer expectations and technology innovation are out of the bottle and can no longer be contained.

Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, gave the keynote at the Energy Thought Summit in Austin earlier this year. In response to the question “What’s it like to be privy to new technology before we all see it?” Wozniak said that he preferred the role of ordinary consumer, buying technology off the shelf and assessing its strengths and weaknesses as it reached the market.

Wozniak is known as an original thinker and inventor, and his work creating personal computing has inarguably changed our lives—yet he preferred the role of consumer over creator or insider. What a universal perspective that offers: We’re all consumers, no matter our expertise within certain domains. Of course, this aligns with my own professional domain as executive director of the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative as we listen to, study and track consumer behavior.

Consumer expectations: rising

It is clear that the availability of affordable personal computing and mobile combined with telecom has empowered consumers across the entire socio-economic spectrum.

Always-on, near-instant access to information and control over life’s preferences has set new expectations for service. This is a wake-up call for the power industry. The monolithic “ratepayer” has become the “valued customer” almost overnight. Utilities are each handling this sea change differently, from some doing nothing differently, to others leading the way with unparalleled consumer engagement and programs, and everything in between.

We know from the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative’s (SGCC’s) own research that consumers are a diverse group falling into five broad categories of values with varied motivations regarding their electric service. Many consumers expect service options, including their energy use data and the means to manage their use.

What I think has been under-appreciated by many stakeholders is the speed and fundamental nature of market-based changes now underway, which could to overtake even the opportunity for utilities to reinvent themselves.

The speed of change

In a new, influential article, “The disruptive potential of solar power,” by David Frankel, Kenneth Ostrowski and Dickon Pinner at McKinsey & Co., the authors point out that although solar photovoltaics (PV) currently provide a tiny percent of overall power generation in the United States, it accounts for an increasing proportion of new capacity.

This is a key realization this article drove home for me: By diverting new demand, that undermines the traditional driver for new investment in central generation.

The writers conclude: “In effect, though solar will continue to generate a small share of the overall U.S. energy supply, it could well have an outsize effect on the economics of utilities—and therefore on the industry’s structure and future.”

In an online poll related to the article, readers were asked how many years it will take for solar to seriously disrupt the power sector. The vast majority (82 percent) said 0-5 years. Only 17 percent chose a longer timeframe of 6-10 years. The implication is that utilities have five years to implement their future-oriented business plans.

One might be tempted to think that online readers may be overstating the case, but David Crane, CEO of NRG Energy, also refers to solar power as a “mortal threat” to the power industry in the guest essay “Keep Digging” in the January/February issue of EnergyBiz. The “pace of demand destruction … [will] accelerate” due to distributed generation and automated energy management options in homes and businesses, Crane writes. “The grid is ripe for the plucking by disruptive innovation.”

The result? According to Crane, whose Fortune 500 company currently provides power for two million customers in 16 states, consumers will only turn to utilities and the grid for “deep backup.”

Utilities: offense or defense?

One common reaction is to be defensive. Many utilities appear to understand the threat to their business model and the demand for centralized power and, accordingly, have attempted (or will attempt) to put constraints on net metering for distributed solar resources. Another defensive tactic is to charge fixed fees for interconnecting that distributed solar power. NRG’s Crane thinks that pursuing political lobbying for such constraints rather than innovating for market-based solutions would be a mistake.

In fact, Jim Rogers, former Duke Energy CEO, in an interview titled “Threats to the Monopoly Model” (EnergyBiz, January/February 2014), even suggests that third-party opportunities for disrupting the current centralized power model are so strong and their effects so swift that utilities may not beat them to the punch through changes to existing regulatory and business models.

Crane, Rogers and others point out that such fundamental challenges require fundamental solutions, such as creating consumer value propositions and opportunities tied to the challenge, rather than simply warding it off. Crane suggests that utilities that offer both electricity and natural gas may come to favor distribution of the latter because it could serve to generate power on site in homes and businesses, which creates a new business value stream. And, in the face of the anticipated, greater frequency of extreme weather, the natural gas distribution system is already underground creating a new value stream around resiliency and hardening.

The power of consumer engagement

All of this craning to see into the future—even if it’s right around the corner, as some stakeholders suggest—can leave one with a stiff neck. In closing, I must return to one of SGCC’s fundamental research findings: An engaged customer is a more satisfied customer. And utilities have the front-line opportunity to engage their customers and shape the relationship. Even if third-party disruption leaves utilities as an option only for “deep backup” (which is unlikely) that fundamental security will be needed.

Right now, dozens of utilities are adopting the U.S. Department of Energy’s Green Button initiative for providing customers with energy use data and encouraging third-party software applications that can help customers to understand that data and manage their energy use. Tens of millions of customers are taking advantage of new offerings for personal energy information, gaming and apps, and demand response programs.

The Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative is helping to create understanding around the value proposition for consumers by documenting thoughts and facilitating discussion around the consumer value proposition for the smart grid. We have gathered thoughts from hundreds of industry leaders and will have a formal draft available sometime this summer. We look forward to fulfilling a role as the organization that logically brings together disparate thoughts from all of you and creating a shared view into how consumers benefit from smart grid investments that we can all get behind.

Though fundamental changes to the power industry appear to be close upon us, utilities have access to the insights and the tools to shape their destiny—a destiny that must rely, in great part, on consumer engagement.

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Matt Bai: Cantor Didn't Need to Move Right, He Needed to Get Real (+/-)

 By: Matt Bai, Yahoo News

In all my years of covering election nights, through all the frustrations inherent in dealing with candidates and campaigns, I have never once resorted to chiding someone who ended up on the losing side. I will admit, though, that after Eric Cantor's stunning defeat Tuesday night, I was tempted to check back in with his press secretary, Megan Whittemore, who had informed me, when I decided to write about the primary a week earlier, that Cantor would not be granting me an interview on the substance of his record.

Whittemore told me that there really wasn't a story in Cantor's race against economics professor Dave Brat, that I'd just be wasting time on a fringe candidate, and that "real people" cared about the "real issues" in which I apparently had no interest. (This last bit involved a lecture on how families had to pay bills at their kitchen tables and whatnot — precious minutes I can never get back.)

I raise this now not to be ungracious, but because something about the interaction feels relevant after the fact. Predictably, Cantor's defeat has undammed a flood of punditry on why he lost, most of it focusing on immigration policy or on the tea party's supposed resurgence. In truth, it's way too soon to know exactly what went on in Virginia's 7th District, and by the time we get any perspective, it's not clear that anyone will care.

But one way to look at Cantor's humiliation might be as an indictment of the culture of incumbency itself, and of the dysfunctional way in which a lot of Washington politicians get used to communicating, or don't.

I can tell you this: Cantor didn't lose because his opponent, who was backed by radio hosts and tea party activists, articulated some brilliant distillation of conservative thought. Brat struck me, when we spoke, as affable and well intended but nowhere near fluent in the complexities of policy or government. "Really, who I am is a free-market guy" is how Brat described himself. Meaning, he went on, that "regardless of race, skin color, all those kinds of things, everyone should be treated equally."

Brat said the first things he would do when he got to Washington were to "vote for term limits" and "bring the 10th Amendment into play." (That's the one that sharply limits the role of the federal government, an amendment that hasn't really been "in play" since Franklin Roosevelt.) At one point, he asked me, "Hey, is it true that taxes went up under the Ryan-Murray budget deal?" Which seemed like something maybe he should know.

It's telling that the first thing you encounter on the "What We Believe" page of Brat's website, before you even scroll down to the Pablum about conservative ideals, is a huge picture of Ronald Reagan, circa 1986. As far as Brat's concerned, that about covers it.

But, hey, at least Dave Brat talks like an actual person and engages in something resembling an actual conversation. There's not a lot of that going on in the hallways of the U.S. Capitol. What happens to members of Congress, after they've been there a while, is that they spend so much of their time giving stilted talks to one delegation or another in their office lobbies, or speaking in nonsensical generalities to the reporters who stalk them in designated public spaces, that they begin to confuse obfuscation with meaning. They start to think they're being cagey and persuasive when, really, they're just being confounding.

This isn't a new story in Washington (I remember former Senator Bob Kerrey saying once that his kids had banned him from ever again using the words "with all due respect"), but it's especially problematic at a moment when so much of political activism has moved online, where the prevailing culture tends to be informal, personal and direct. As angry as these new partisan activists may get at elected officials who seem too pragmatic or timid, what really galvanizes them is when, after they air those grievances, the politicians respond with what sound like North Korean communiqués. That's when they really start to think: Maybe this guy needs to go.

In person and offstage, Cantor can be thoughtful and candid, very much unlike the villainous geek Democrats portray him to be. But you just have to follow Cantor's Twitter feed — a droning mix of voting announcements, attacks on the White House and meaningless non sequiturs — to understand how trite and stilted his projection of himself had started to sound after years in leadership.

"We need to empower every single child to have the best education and the best future" is a typical Cantor tweet. Or how about: "Let's focus on what we should be focusing on which is a better economy and #AnAmericaThatWorks." You get the idea.

If Cantor was having an intern do his tweeting, that's a problem right there. If he was actually writing that drivel himself, it's just horrifying.

I wasn't at the district convention last month where delegates actually booed Cantor and then voted down his pick for local party chairman, but it's a safe bet that what they heard from Cantor, as he attacked his challenger from the podium, was that same condescending tone, as if aimed at a C-SPAN camera and not a crowd of voters whose support he badly needed. There's some garbled audio of that speech bouncing around YouTube; it sounds about as heartfelt and spontaneous as your average consent decree.

Even Cantor's own ads and mailers (the $2 million-plus barrage he unleashed against this supposed fringe candidate), in which he attacked Brat as a "liberal college professor" and accused him of plotting to take away Social Security, probably reinforced this sense among primary voters that the congressman had become just another Washington dissembler. The message didn't ring true, and it sounded like exactly the kind of rhetoric these lawmakers lob at one another all day long — a classic distillation of the political culture no one can stand.

Of course, establishment politicians will take lessons from an upset as profound as this one, and there are plenty they can take. Maybe Republicans on the Hill really will decide it's moronic to pursue something like immigration reform when the populist, anti-immigrant wave can rise up so powerfully. Or maybe, as I posited last week, some conservatives will look at what happened to Cantor and conclude that it's impossible to bank hard enough to the right to placate the ideologues, so you might as well vote your conscience instead.

But one thing they and their aides should probably take away, especially if they're climbing their way into senior roles, is that it's a dangerous moment in American politics to sound like the tinny voice of an institution, rather than someone with genuine conviction and the courage to defend it. It's all fine and good to bore the rest of us with vapid soliloquies about the "real people" who struggle back in the "real America." Just don't be shocked if they no longer feel like standing in line to vote for you.

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Mark Mazzetti: Hagel Defends Bergdahl Trade as a Part of Waging War (+/-)

By: Mark Mazzetti & Charlie Savage, The New York Times

A defiant Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday defended the prisoner exchange that freed Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl after years of captivity with the Taliban, telling skeptical lawmakers that the decision had been kept secret from Congress because leaks could have scuttled the deal or increased risks to the soldier before the swap.

In the first public testimony before Congress by a senior member of the Obama administration since Sergeant Bergdahl's release, Mr. Hagel described the exchange of five Taliban detainees from the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, as a ''military operation'' that had been in doubt until the end. He called prisoner swaps part of the ''dirty business'' of war.

''War -- every part of war, like prisoner exchanges -- is not some abstraction or theoretical exercise,'' he told members of the House Armed Services Committee. ''All these decisions are part of the brutal, imperfect realities we all deal with in war.''

Mr. Hagel showed flashes of contrition, acknowledging lawmakers' ''legitimate questions and concern'' over why they were kept in the dark about the operation, and admitting that the Obama administration ''could have done a better job'' of keeping lawmakers informed.

The Obama administration bypassed a statute requiring Mr. Hagel to give Congress 30 days' notice before transferring a Guantánamo detainee, based on a signing statement issued by Mr. Obama asserting that he could lawfully sidestep the requirement under certain circumstances.

But Mr. Hagel did not give ground about the necessity of the prisoner swap. ''We had to stay focused on what the objective was, and that was getting an American P.O.W. back with the reassurances that we needed to be able to say it would substantially mitigate the risk and it was in the interest of our country,'' he said.

''That was the objective, and that's what we tried to do,'' he continued. ''And I know there are differences, and I know there are questions. I get it. But we did get him back, and we don't have any more P.O.W.s.''

Republican critics of the deal have compared it to ''negotiating with terrorists,'' an accusation echoed Wednesday by Representative Howard McKeon, the California Republican who is the committee's chairman. Mr. McKeon, who is known as Buck, also said the deal would ''incentivize'' militants to capture more American troops.

Some Republicans, including Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, have also asserted that the five former detainees -- now being held in Qatar for a year under the terms of the prisoner swap -- have ''American blood on their hands.''

On Wednesday, Mr. Hagel disputed that claim. He said that the former detainees ''have not been implicated in any attacks against the United States, and we had no basis to prosecute them in a federal court or military commission.''

Later, however, under questioning by Representative Mac Thornberry, Republican of Texas, Mr. Hagel conceded that even though there was no evidence of ''direct involvement'' in attacks on American troops, the detainees had nevertheless been ''combatants'' in the armed conflict because, as mid- to high-ranking members of the Taliban government, they were involved in ''planning'' Taliban operations.

Mr. McKeon said, ''Bin Laden didn't pull the trigger, but we went after him because he caused 9/11.''

Sergeant Bergdahl was held in Pakistan by the Haqqani network, a group aligned with the Taliban that the State Department has listed as a foreign terrorist organization. On Wednesday, several Republican lawmakers asked Mr. Hagel to explain why the prisoner swap did not violate the United States' longtime policy of not negotiating with terrorists.

Mr. Hagel said that the Obama administration was not negotiating with terrorists because it had dealt directly with Qatari officials, not militants, and that the Qataris were talking to the Afghan Taliban, who have not been designated as members of a terrorist organization.

Several lawmakers were not satisfied.

''These responses are very, very tortuous,'' said Representative John Kline, Republican of Minnesota.

Lawmakers and Mr. Hagel largely avoided delving into still-open questions about how Sergeant Bergdahl was captured in late June 2009. A classified military investigation concluded that he voluntarily slipped away from his base, but it stopped short of concluding that he intended to desert permanently, according to officials who have read the report.

Still, Mr. Hagel said he had seen no evidence to support claims by some former members of his unit that six to eight soldiers were killed because of the hunt for him, an accusation that has been frequently echoed in the news media but has proved murky.

''I've personally gone back and asked that question inside the Pentagon, in the Army,'' he said. ''In all of our reports, I have seen no evidence that directly links any American combat death to the rescue or finding or search of Sergeant Bergdahl.''

Mr. McKeon said the failure to comply with the statute requiring congressional notice was ''one of the things that has bothered me the most about this.''

Representative Adam Smith of Washington, the top Democrat on the committee, who otherwise largely defended the deal, also criticized the lack of notice, saying that ''the law is the law,'' and he rejected Mr. Obama's use of a signing statement to reserve a right to bypass it.

''When President Bush was in the White House,'' he said, ''he had, gosh, hundreds of signing statements, and there was, I believe, a correct amount of outrage amongst many that those signing statements were put out there as a way to simply avoid the law. If it wasn't right for President Bush to do it, it's not right for President Obama to do it.''

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Russell Simmons: D.E.F Raises Over $1 Million at Diamonds in the Sky Las Vegas (+/-)

By: Staff, Diamond World News Service

The Diamond Empowerment Fund (D.E.F) held its first U.S. based Diamonds in the Sky Las Vegas gala event on May 29th at the eve of the opening of JCK Las Vegas. The organization raised over $1 million to benefit its global mission which aims at supporting initiatives and programs that help diamond communities throughout the world.

At the event, D.E.F. presented the 2014 Global Diamond Industry Achievement Award to His Excellency, the Honorable President Ian Khama and the Government of the Republic of Botswana.

The program was opened with welcoming remarks by D.E.F’s co-founders, Russell Simmons and Philippe Mellier, CEO The De Beers Group of Companies. “Former President Nelson Mandela encouraged us to establish D.E.F to empower people in diamond communities throughout the world. We are here tonight to celebrate that a diamond equals love”, said Russell Simmons. The tempo went pulsating with entertainment segments that included a performance by music icon Chaka Khan and appearances of celebrities. The emcee for the evening was Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., civil rights leader and D.E.F advisor.

Phyllis Bergman, D.E.F’s President of the Board stated that the new ‘Diamonds Do Good’ platform” will send out the D.E.F. message that the body will continue to be a progressive and socially conscious organization. Bruno Sané, Global Marketing Director for Rio Tinto Diamonds, introduced D.E.F’s new Global Diamonds Do Good video.

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