Looking back, forward

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Articles - January 2013
Monday, December 10, 2012

0113 EditorsLetter 01

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The new year always brings the urge to assess the past and gaze into the future. Looking back over the year’s efforts by the Oregon Business team, I measure our success not only by the breadth and depth of our coverage and how well we covered the diversity of Oregon’s business issues, but whether we consistently got at the “why” behind news stories and economic trends.

One of the most important services that OB provides is getting behind the numbers and analyzing the data. OB research editor Brandon Sawyer is a specialist at that. His Data Dig feature in the October issue delved into the CEO pay of Oregon’s top public companies versus the stock performance of those companies. If you haven’t read it, the results are surprising and important. It’s research that no one else in the state has done and made publicly available.

Our coverage reached far and wide, from a story about how a family ranch in Maupin survives economically in this day and age to the money behind the sale of Oregon’s Kiger mustangs. We traveled to a good bit of the state with reports on Corvallis, Newberg-Dundee, The Dalles, and the corridor cities of Salem, Albany, Springfield and Eugene. In each, we wrote about how those towns and regions are innovating and meeting their challenges. Our coverage of wildly different trends included the rise of the “Mommy” economy, the maturation of Oregon’s film and TV industry, why Portland has such a hot restaurant economy (it isn’t just the good food) and 10 green ideas that can change the world.

And while numbers and regional trends are important, so are the leaders in the state. We profiled many of them over the months, including consummate businessman and go-to citizen Tom Kelly, as well as Mike Green and his efforts to bridge the tech economy and black America.

These were just a few of the many, many stories in our magazine and on our website that we produced with the mission to intelligently inform our readers about business and economic issues.

Looking forward, we’ve got a great year coming up. Most notably, our 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon workplace research project turns 20 in 2013. That is another effort by Oregon Business to set the standard for great practices and also to help businesses get the information they need to thrive. We hope your holidays are warm and merry, and your New Year filled with success.

 

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There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.

This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay. 

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.

New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”

That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

— Linda


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