Conexiones Blog

Advice for Business Failure? Part I

Charlie Rose interviewed Donald Keough this week on PBS. A former executive at Coca Cola, Mr. Keough’s book was released last month: “The Ten Commandments for Business Failure,” a rather provocative title. According to Mr. Keough, the ten things he list-reminds me of the Seven Deadly Sins (Mr. Keough is a Catholic and was on the board of directors of Norte Dame University)-fit right in with what I feel is the problem with the failure to recognize-even talk about-the transition from an industrial to a knowledge economy.

Here is the list: 1. Quit taking risk 2. Be inflexible 3. Isolate yourself 4. Assume infallibility 5. Play game close to foul line 6. Don't take time to think 7. Put faith in consultants 8. Love bureaucracy 9. Send mixed message 10. Be afraid of future 11. Lose passion for work & life. (OK, so he thought of one more at the end of the book.)

I find each and every one of these to be indicative of people with whom I speak-i.e. when they talk-about the transition to a knowledge economy. Mr. Keough cites examples from his experience in business to explain the Commandments. He is almost saying; just know what not to do and you will have happiness and longevity in business. He despises the word Success! I suppose Carl Icahn could have written this book as well.

The one glaring example Mr. Keough mentions while at Coca Cola was the decision to create a "New Coke". All the research and taste groups and years of considering the decision told them people would like the new taste. Wrong! It was hot about taste.


Their revenue did not really suffer, it was the overwhelming opposition expressed by people to the change.. They had to hire extra people just to handle the phone calls in protest to the change. They were lucky no social networks existed with bloggers at the time. Mr. Keough himself manned phones. At some point he took a call from a lady who said she wanted the Real Coke back. He asked her when was the last time she had a Coke and she said, “twenty years ago but that is not the point, you are messing with my childhood” My favorite was another example he mentioned to Charle Rose about going to an out of the way Italian restaurant while in Monaco. He said when they sat down the owner came over carrying a wicker basket covered with a napkin. The owner leaned over on the table, slowly uncovered the basket and said in a whisper: "we have the real thing", it was a bottle of old Coke.

What a lesson about one of the key elements of the knowledge economy which is grossly ignored-brand superiority-which has to do with... Valuing Intangibles! (To be continued…) 

Posted by Anastacio Bueno on 18th August, 2008 | Comments | Trackbacks

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