Browsing posts in: Books

Book review: The Great Atlantic & Pacific and the Struggle for Small Business in America

 

One of the deep, illuminating satisfactions of reading history is when you recognize a pattern from the past that directly corresponds to something happening in the present. Learning how that parallel story played out in the past is a little like staring into a crystal ball and seeing a possible outcome in store today. Truly, reading history is as close as humanity comes to predicting the future. The details change in every age, but in most ways, the old saying most holds true: there is nothing new under the sun.

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I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what we can learn from these historical parallels after finishing Marc Levinson’s 2011 book, “The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America.” A few months ago, I read Levinson’s best-known work, “The Box,” and I found his ability illustrate just how truly world-changing a seemingly pedestrian technology was to be incredibly interesting. “The Great A&P” didn’t let me down either. Let me tell you why.

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Book report: what the history of the shipping container can teach us about analytics

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I find these ships truly awe-inspiring.

Fifty years ago, the notion that it would be possible – let alone cost-competitive – to produce enormous quantities of consumer goods in far-flung corners of the globe, ship them thousands of miles, in bulk, to their eventual consumers and then sell them at razor-thin margins would have been rightly laughable. “Globalization” is the term we’ve adopted to describe this system today, but that hugely simplified term obscures the incredibly intricate and interlocking systems of manufacturing, shipping, trade and infrastructure that developed over decades to bring us to today, when I can walk into any Target or Wal-Mart in the land and interact with supply chains touching almost every country in the world.

A few nights ago, I finished “The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger” by Marc Levinson. Through the history of the basic, standardized shipping container, Levinson (a former editor at The Economist) tells a much larger story about the integration of the world economy and emergence of globalization in the last half of the twentieth century. In doing so, the book is also a case study in how the innovative application of new ideas, combined with the right leadership, can be transformative to industry and the world. After mulling it over, I’ve come to some first thoughts about how these lessons also directly apply to the marketing function and analytics industry – so follow along and let me know what you think!

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