Business Case Studies, Executive Interviews, Tamara J Erickson on Managing Troubled Times

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Executive Interviews: Interview with Tamara J Erickson on Managing Troubled Times
March 2009 - By Dr. Nagendra V Chowdary


Tamara J Erickson
Tamara J Erickson, President nGenera Innovation Network


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  • Let’s for a moment look at the US (now presumably global) financial crisis. Where was the talent that was supposed to pre-empt all such catastrophic events? These talents came with a high price too. But in the final analysis, is it correct to conclude that it was that over-rated talent that pushed the US and rest of the world into this unwarranted mess?
    'Talent' can be applied to a variety of ends—good, bad, business savvy, or ivory-tower and completely improbably. The keys to harnessing talent successfully are sound leadership and a sustainable purpose.

  • One of the often quoted arguments in the press has been the talent shortage with the regulatory authorities (may it be SEC, Federal Reserve, Treasury Department or other overseeing bodies) overseeing the US financial system. After all, the argument supporters argued, the best of the talent was with the investment banks and other banking giants, who in their drive to bolster their bottom line, were always after financial engineering or coming out with innovative financial products. However, the regulatory authorities were behind those financial innovations bereft of the necessary talent to detect the possible wrongdoings. Is there a merit in this argument?
    Yes. Government service has not attracted the best and the brightest over the past several decades. In addition, the flow of the highest intellects to financial service has taken talent away from key roles in science and technology, quite likely reducing the innovation potential in the economy.

  • What is your assessment of the possible impact of the US Financial Crisis on the midlife careers of millions of employees across the globe, let alone US? Do you think that the financial crisis would have advanced all the unpleasant experiences that would normally have come at a later stage?
    Although everyone in the workforce is feeling the pinch of today’s difficult economy, of the three major generations in the workplace today, midlife employees – those in Generation X – are almost certainly facing the most difficult challenge. Many Xers are carrying significant financial burdens – old school loans, mortgage payments, child care expenses, and other ‘adult’ responsibilities. Today, the average debt held by Gen Xer households is double the debt held by boomers at a comparable age.

    Even before this past years’ economic decline, Generation X had become the first generation to have lower net worth than its members’ parents did at the same age. Xers bought houses when prices were high, driven up by a huge bulge of home-buying boomers, and assumed large mortgages; many today have negative home equity. Xers’ overall net worth fell precipitously over the past decade even prior to this year.

    And, Xers are entering what has historically been the ‘big spender’ phase of life. The highest levels of spending typically occur between the ages of 46 and 50 – when people would normally move up to larger homes, furnish those homes, and send children to college. The financial pressures Xers face will only mount.

    Bottom line: the key challenge for Xers today is to remain gainfully employed through a time when layoffs will almost certainly continue to be a day-to-day reality in many organizations. In a downturn, rather than trying to tighten control and hunker down, the best path forward is to find ways to help your organization succeed – to become more spontaneous, innovative and reflexive. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that if you lay low and keep out of sight you’ll be safe, the best approach in difficult times is to step forward – to lean into the challenge.

1. Troubled Times Case Study
2. ICMR Case Collection
3. Case Study Volumes

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