Oh Brother! - "ninja is a hot new job title, vying to become the "guru" of the new century." - WSJ.com

In Japanese folklore, ninjas were warriors who were skilled in espionage, traveled in disguise and often employed stealth fighting techniques many centuries ago. Today, a ninja is a hot new job title, vying to become the "guru" of the new century.

Ninja is "sexier" than its predecessor, Mr. Schliker says: "Guru is so Web 1.0."


The Collapse of Complex Business Models - Clay Shirky

In 1988, Joseph Tainter wrote a chilling book called The Collapse of Complex Societies. Tainter looked at several societies that gradually arrived at a level of remarkable sophistication then suddenly collapsed: the Romans, the Lowlands Maya, the inhabitants of Chaco canyon. Every one of those groups had rich traditions, complex social structures, advanced technology, but despite their sophistication, they collapsed, impoverishing and scattering their citizens and leaving little but future archeological sites as evidence of previous greatness. Tainter asked himself whether there was some explanation common to these sudden dissolutions.

"Managers at big companies often have more incentives to minimize costs, than to find new business or develop new ideas..." ☛ @berkun

Obsessive Optimization – When you have 5000 employees, or $500 million in revenue, fractions become significant. A .5%  increase in revenue is not a small thing, it’s a big thing. It can be bigger than many companies’ entire revenue. And as companies age the culture looks to optimize and refine, eventually to a point where the good things that led to all the success have been whittled away. Managers at big companies often have more incentives to minimize costs, than to find new business or develop new ideas since minimize costs or optimizing an existing process are cheaper wins that show results in the short term. In an optimization centric culture, the myopic love of short term wins can makes long term improvements, which often require short term sacrifices, hard to pull off.

Chubb, the High-End Insurer, Looks Like a Bargain Play - WSJ.com

Chubb has one of the best brand names in the property- and-casualty insurance industry. Its Masterpiece homeowners coverage is the top choice of wealthy Americans to protect their houses.

The well-managed insurer, based in Warren, N.J., also has a conservative underwriting and investment approach that enabled it to weather the 2008 financial crisis with little damage to its balance sheet.

Considering its consistent profitability and franchise value, Chubb (CB) looks attractive at its current price around $50. That's less than 1.1 times the company's estimated 2009 year-end book value of $46.50.

"When companies start to imitate one another, it's usually either an extreme case of flattery—or war. In the case of Google and Apple, it's both..."

Tensions in Silicon Valley's special relationship began to emerge in late 2007, when Google announced plans to develop Android for mobile phones. Apple had unveiled its iPhone in January of that year, and it was clear that the two companies would spar in the smartphone business. Still, both were niche players, with more formidable rivals in companies like Nokia (NOK), Samsung, and Research In Motion (RIMM). Only after software developers began creating thousands of mobile apps, and it became clear that phones would become the computers of the future, did the conflicts begin to grow serious. Last summer, Apple refused to approve two Google apps for sale to iPhone users, raising questions about how much of a Google presence Apple would allow on its devices. In August, Schmidt gave up his board seat. "Unfortunately, as Google enters more of Apple's core businesses," Jobs said at the time, "Eric's effectiveness as an Apple board member will be significantly diminished, since he will have to recuse himself from even larger portions of our meetings."

I Don't Buy it! ☛ Did Foreigners Cause America's Financial Crisis? - TIME

A number of economists and policy analysts believe Caballero makes a lot of sense. Alex Pollock of the American Enterprise Institute says it's clear the foreign investors who bought the bonds of mortgage guarantors Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac served to fuel the housing bubble. Ohio State University professor René Stulz, who has studied the financial crisis, says Caballero has hit on a critical contributor. Says Stulz, "Investors looking for safe investments in the U.S. created a demand for new products that caused our financial system to work differently from how it had worked in the past and to become more fragile in ways that were not well understood at the time.

Just because there was "demand" in the market for "new product" doesn't absolve the creators of products where the risks are not clearly and accurately understood or communicated to the buyers... Make sure you read the full article.

CNA Chief Motamed: What's Ahead for CNA, Economy, Industry

After 30 years at Chubb Corp, Thomas Motamed joined Chicago-based commercial lines insurer CNA Financial in January 2009 as chairman and CEO. In this edited interview with Insurance Journal’s Andrew Simpson, Motamed talks about his goals and changes at CNA, as well as the state of the economy and the financial and competitive environment facing the property/casualty insurance industry.  He also adds some advice for agents and brokers.