Archive for January, 2012
Recently I had the opportunity to use a Nissan Leaf™ for several full days, a much more interesting exercise than a simple test drive. As someone working in the sustainability area, as a co-chair of the California Clean Cars campaign and as a likely car buyer in 2012 (my current vehicle has over 230,000 miles on it) I am very interested in the electric vehicle (EV) market.
Nissan’s Leaf™ is among the handful of low emission cars that are presently authorized to carry a Clean Air Vehicle Sticker, entitling a single occupant to use the carpool lanes during rush hours – a very nice side benefit to EV ownership that helped speed my commute this week.
My general impression of EV driving is very favorable. This particular model is roomy, it has all the bells and whistles (bluetooth, navigation, backup camera, etc.) and most importantly, it really drives well. Acceleration, handling and power are all indistinguishable from a gas powered vehicle.
The only issue I’ve had this week is the one that continues to slow down growth in the EV market, namely range anxiety and ease of recharging. I have been charging the vehicle at home and at work using conventional 120v outlets and while the process is simple and easy, it certainly takes a while, e.g. 11 hours to get a full charge last night.
When I left my home the range indicator read “100 miles”, but 35 miles of highway driving depleted that amount to 42. In other words, at 60+ miles per hour, a 35 mile trip used up 58 miles of driving range. Keep in mind, I tried to use the EV just like I use my current one, driving as fast as usual as opposed to crawling along in the slow lane just to conserve the charge. With the indicator staring at you the entire time, you also start thinking about all of the devices that consume electricity in the car, such as the lights, the radio, and the seat warmers and so on. Since I want a fully functional vehicle, the notion of driving around in a dark, cold vehicle is not a selling point.
My conclusions: I love just about everything in the EV experience other than the limitations on range. If the car had a 200-mile range, I would be placing an order tomorrow. Until batteries are improved, however, fast charging 240v stations are essential and the buyers for whom EVs work perfectly may be limited. By the way, Applied Materials is among the companies working to address some of the battery issues. It will also be exciting to see a whole slew of new EVs and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) in 2012.
Bruce Klafter is head of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability at Applied Materials, Inc. and leads the effort to fulfill the company’s commitment to sustainability in the design and implementation of business strategies and worldwide operations.
It turns out that how you present a number is often as important as what that number actually is. Executives and investors tend to focus on numbers because they are quantitative, readily-comparable and solid. Or are they?
A given piece of information, such as the amount of energy a new light bulb uses, can be presented in a variety of ways. For example, it can be stated as watts-per-bulb, dollars-per-year, kilowatts-hours saved compared to the old bulb, net present value, or lifetime costs, to name a few. Each measurement brings to mind different considerations and highlights different comparisons. This can sway the reaction of the audience.
Rick Larrick, a professor of management at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, studies how a single piece of information can garner multiple responses, depending on how it is presented. After attending one of his lectures, I read a paper he wrote with Jack Soll. They found that people respond differently to MPG and GPM (gallons per hundred miles), even though the two ratios nominally convey the same information.
People tend to favor switching from a 30-mpg car to a 40-mpg car over switching from an 8-mpg car to a 10-mpg car. The first option seems to be a better deal. However, assuming the distance you travel remains constant, you actually save more gas (and therefore more money) with the second option.
In GPM terms, the first option involves going from 3.3-gpm to 2.5-gpm, while the second option involves going from 12.5-gpm to 10-gpm. Obviously, saving 2.5 gallons per hundred miles is better than saving less than one gallon.
This is why the new labels for cars require GPM as well as MPG. By presenting the information this way, people are encouraged to minimize their need for fuel. The facts don’t change, but policy and policy goals affect how the facts are presented, which demonstrably impacts how people react to the information. Here’s a quick example, expressed in numbers:
30 mpg > 40 mpg
(3.3 gpm > 2.5 gpm)
8 mpg > 10 mpg
(12.5 gpm > 10 gpm)
Though it may seem that choosing to present facts in a certain way, such as GPM instead of MPG, is a form of manipulation, consider the fact that each choice is a manipulation. Every time you present a number, you are making decisions: which units to use, what to compare it to, what scale to use — and, of course, what to measure in the first place.
In business, numbers are presented all the time. The health of a company is often represented by a single number, as is the measure of sustainability. The context in which you place a number can emphasize certain things and downplay others – in fact, it always does, whether we intend it to or not.
Are your numbers saying what you want them to? What tactics do you use to convey important numbers?
Kimberly Wallis is a graduate student in environmental management at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, where she focuses on energy issues and effective communication. She is particularly interested in how individuals and organizations change.
As a New Year begins I’m sure many have added “find balance” to those New Year Resolutions…again. Many have had this dream before, but maybe this year, finally, you believe that the balance meter can be moved in a favorable direction.
Please allow me to share some personal reflections. I believe that people are really looking for satisfaction in their lives, both personal and professional. Satisfaction is different for everyone. It’s personal. We hold the key to satisfaction. We must make the effort to know what is really important to us. As leaders, we can contribute to the satisfaction of others but the responsibility for attainment is not ours.
Most people don’t have the energy they need to do the things they love and, disturbingly, don’t have the desire to do much about it. Being satisfied requires a strategy, focus, discipline and accountability. This is not a journey we should make on our own. We should have a coach or mentor alongside us.
Work is a richly rewarding part of a satisfying life. We need a workplace where we feel respected and appreciated, where our efforts make a difference, and where the challenges match our abilities.
Wishing you a year where what deeply satisfies you becomes clear and you have the courage to navigate a path to get there. Please be assured that satisfaction trumps balance!
What have been your experiences in finding satisfaction? What advice would you give those who are searching for it?