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Repose and reflection

I’ve just read Dan Gillmor’s column on the need for reflection. “You have to wonder how many leaders in the valley or throughout the nation truly reflect on much of anything.”

This has been a constant theme for me (to the extent of running a couple of Davos sessions on it). I’m convinced that wisdom emerges partially from moments of repose and reflection.

In thinking about one of John Brockman’s annual posers, it occured to me a question that had disappeared was, “Can I sleep on it?” For a CEO in particular, suggesting that time is needed for thought and reflection is anathema in a culture that prizes speed and responsiveness. There’s a danger in this, both for the quality of decisions and for the continued health of the executives themselves.

The Webvan way

Brent Simmons, who is usually on target, reckons Webvan failed because Americans are cheapskates.

That may be part of it, but a larger problem was building nine $35 million distribution centres 18 times the size of a supermarket. The margins for groceries — even if you don’t charge everyday low prices — just can’t support that kind of capital outlay up front. The Financial Times makes the good point that supermarkets had not been challenged previously by the kinds of alternatives that thrive in other areas, like catalogue shopping.

Tim Jackson, as so often, strikes the nail on the head.

F-ed Company, incidentally, has 21 pages and counting of haiku on the demise of Webvan.

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