What Rebekah Brooks can teach us about power

Rebekah Brooks, former editor of the U.K.’s The News of the World and The Sun, confidante of British Prime Minister David Cameron, and a favorite of Rupert Murdoch, is back. Acquitted of phone hacking and three other charges last summer, recent reports suggest that she may be returning to News Corp to take on an executive role, leading the media company’s digital initiatives.

Profiles of Brooks, who rose from being a secretary to one of the most powerful people in British journalism, invariably mention her toughness, willingness to bend if not break the rules, her networking ability, her capacity to manage up, and her combination of “charm, effrontery, audacity, and tenacity.” She displays confidence and is not afraid to use profanity and exact revenge against those who cross her. In short, she seems to behave in ways that defy common stereotypes about women.

Why powerful people are rarely punished appropriately

Justine Sacco, Lindsey Stone, and Alicia Ann Lynch all lost their jobs and suffered tremendous emotional distress from the vitriol unleashed in the social media world on each of them. Their “crime”: some tasteless posts on Twitter or Facebook.

Around the same day that several stories of Internet harmsurfaced, we learned that Dominique Strauss-Kahn—who after being accused of assaulting a New York hotel maid was allowed to address the French parliament and was appointed to a bank’s board of directors—was about to have charges dismissed related to his participation in orgies involving prostitutes. At Stanford University, since 1997, only 25 sexual assault or harassment caseshave made it through the university’s disciplinary process, with just 10 students found culpable, only one of whom was expelled. People who post inappropriate social media posts appear to face more opprobrium than those who engage in sexual assault.

The psychology behind the Brian Williams incident

In the last few days, the world has been surprised and seemingly horrified to learn that NBC news anchor Brian Williams embellished an account of an episode involving him in a helicopter in Iraq years ago. His career hangs by a thread as NBC News has opened an investigation into the incident, Williams has taken a temporary leave from the newscast, and as many people call for him to lose his job.

The single best goal you can set for 2015

It’s a new year—time for those resolutions.

Even the U.S. government is getting into the act by providing a list of the most popular resolutions and tips on how to achieve them. Some 45% of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions, according to Statistic Brain. The most popular are losing weight and getting organized.

So, in the spirit of the New Year, here’s one resolution that, if you make and keep, will make you happier, more powerful, and help others around you develop their potential more completely. The resolution: become less judgmental, particularly about people, but also more generally.

All I want for Christmas are the newspapers I paid for

Without for a moment denying the technological, competitive, and customer challenges that newspapers face, much like many brick-and-mortar retailers, such traditional print media companies have consistently made decisions that worsen their fates.

You might think that an industry that has spawned a website listing the newspapers that have closed, curtailed frequency, or moved to a solely online model; an industry where 39% of subscribers have cancelled a subscription in the past five years; and an industry facing circulation that has declined by 10% in the last decade and advertising revenues that have fallen by half just since 2006; would also be an industry that might want to take good care of the 56% of American adults who still prefer a printed paper and have remained subscribers.

3 critical lessons from Sony’s email hack

The media is having a field day with the recent (and continuing) leak of Sony Pictures’ e-mail exchanges. And why not, because, as one commentator put it, the leaking incident itself would make a great movie, what with money, ego, and temper tantrums on full display.

But behind the pyrotechnics, this incident raises three fundamentally important issues.

First, am I the only one who sees the huge contradiction between the endless stories about how everything—from payments, to control over houses, power plants, factories, and even moving vehicles—is moving to the web and the ample evidence that the Internet is completely unsafe and that essentially everything—ranging from credit cards to emails to financial data—can be hacked?

How to make a fortune without ‘doing’ anything: The Uber, Airbnb story

Uber is much in the news recently, for mostly the wrong reasons. One of its senior executives threatened to investigate journalists who wrote negative things about the taxi service platform. An Uber passenger was allegedly attacked by a driver. And an Uber-affiliated driver ran over a pedestrian in San Francisco. And the company’s CEO has been accused of fostering a frat boy culture.

Without downplaying the seriousness of these events, I believe the fundamental issues posed by Uber have less to do with the company’s specifics and more to do with a business model that works by offloading responsibilities, something that many other platform companies—businesses that make money by making connections rather than providing a real product or service—do as well. I am not sure people fully appreciate the many problems inherent in this type of business.

Openness and transparency will not solve our problems

On Election Day this year, voters defeated a proposed soda tax in San Francisco (although they passed one in Berkeley) and defeated laws requiring the labeling of genetically modified food ingredients in Colorado and Oregon. We know that beverage companies spent at least $9 million in San Francisco, that biotechnology and food companies spent $14 million in Colorado, and that in Oregon, DuPont and Monsanto alone put up more than $10 million to defeat the food labeling initiative.

We know these facts because there are disclosure requirements that make campaign contributions fairly transparent. But as these election results demonstrate, transparency—knowledge about company actions—frequently doesn’t change outcomes.

Why health insurance companies are doomed

It’s that time of the year. No, not Halloween, but something almost as scary—open enrollment season.

It’s time to choose among the many plans offered through the various health exchanges as part of Obamacare, among the variety of Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans offered by private insurers as part of Medicare (for those who are age-eligible), and, for the 62% of employeeswho are have the opportunity, time to sign up for an employer-sponsored health insurance plan.

As we struggle to make sense of the health insurance landscape, it’s a good time to consider why health care costs in the United States are so high and outcomes so relatively poor and, more importantly, what the future is likely to bring.

How airline loyalty programs seduce and abandon you

Had a nice summer flying on crowded, often-delayed planes and being charged extra for every conceivable service ranging from checked bags to sitting in an exit row to talking to a customer service agent on the phone? Well, at least you earned all those airline miles, as you carefully selected trip routings that permitted you to fly on the airline to which you consistently show your loyalty. Too bad that loyalty isn’t reciprocated.

Airline mileage programs are designed to be psychologically attractive, even addictive, to customers. But as their benefits have decreased, so too has passenger loyalty.