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.

Bad Behavior at Business School Becomes Corporate Misconduct Later

One of the striking aspects of the recent financial crisis is not just that there were few criminal prosecutions (virtually none) of people who oversaw the writing of fraudulent loan documents, the botching of foreclosures, and the misleading of unsophisticated consumers with unclear loan terms. What should truly shock you is the near-complete absence of stigma adhering to corporate boards or executives following all this corporate misbehavior.

Let’s Be Honest About Lying

If lying — or even just exaggerating a bit — would help your team win, would you do it? More provocatively: should you do it?

Consider the case study unfolding right now in Brazil at the World Cup. For many players, pretending they’ve been fouled is no big deal. Called “flopping” or “diving,” a player who has felt a minimal amount of contact will grimace in agony, fall to the ground, and, often enough, get a bit of sympathy from the referee, who will award his team possession of the ball. But the players on the U.S. and the U.K. teams, reports the New York Times, don’t like to fake fouls. Are they leaving goals — and wins — on the table?

Here’s Why Amazon Is More Ruthless Than Walmart

With no stores and an IT infrastructure that makes the cost of adding inventory close to zero, Amazon doesn’t have to care about its suppliers

The recent dustup between Amazon and publisher Hachette reminds us that retail is a brutal business — tough on employees, really hard on suppliers. Walmart, the largest physical retailer, and Amazon, the largest retailer online, illustrate the pain produced in the effort to make consumers’ prices as low as possible.

Underpaying Employees Can Hurt a Company’s Bottom Line

There’s little evidence to indicate that raising wages will lead to job losses, and studies show that high-wage companies fare better than lower-wage ones.

Just this week, Seattle workers won a significant battle when the city raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour. Richmond, Calif, recently voted to hike theirs to $13 by 2018, while polls indicate San Francisco voters favor a $15 minimum. Even the CEO of McDonalds is somewhere between neutral and positive on raising the minimum wage.

Win at Workplace Conflict

No matter how sound or well-intentioned your ideas, there will always be people inside — and outside — your organization who are going to oppose you. Getting things done often means that you’re going to go head to head with people who have competing agendas. In my career studying organizational behavior, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing some incredibly effective conflict management techniques. I’ve distilled a few of them into some rules for dealing with organizational conflict:

1. Stay focused on the most essential objectives.

The Latest Executive Dustups Prove Relationships, Not Skills, Determine Success

The media firestorm over Jill Ambramson’s firing from the New York Times mostly ignores a simple but crucial lesson for people at any organizational level: Critical relationships have to work.

You have to make them work, not only to get things done in the web of interdependencies that characterize most jobs, but also to keep your position. Leaders need support—from their subordinates, customers, and most importantly, their bosses. When that support vanishes, so do their careers. This lesson holds true regardless of your job performance and track record.