Industry Market Trends

Worth a Look: The Great Recession vs. the Great Depression

Aug 01, 2012

Plus: Rethinking Outsourcing, Supervisors Blocking Lean, Rules that Sabotage Corporate Culture, Pre-Fab Sustainability, the Risk of Spain Defaulting and Getting Rid of Job Interviews.

Sometimes the Internet seems like it's gotten too big. To help navigate this sea of information, Industry Market Trends' weekly Worth a Look feature spotlights some of the more interesting, informative and amusing resources that might have slipped under your radar - all in bite-sized chunks.

  • How the Outsourcing Debate Misinterprets Trade | The ongoing debate about outsourcing highlights key challenges in the United States economy, but it may also be misrepresenting the role of trade. According to the Financial Times, it helps to view the issue in terms of imports and exports: buying services from abroad can make a company more efficient, resulting in greater specialization and productivity gains, which in turn lead to more (and better) jobs. In other words, sectors that bring in imported business services tend to export more of their output.

  • Are Supervisors Blocking Lean Efforts? | Although front-line supervisors are usually supportive of efforts to introduce lean concepts and tools in manufacturing, some of their learned behaviors and habits may be unintentionally blocking effective lean implementation. IndustryWeek explains how even well-meaning supervisors can hinder a lean program by adopting a "keep it running, no matter what" approach, showing reluctance to delegate tasks or having trouble with true problem-solving.

  • 4 Rules that Could Kill Your Company Culture | Companies work hard to build up their reputation and cultivate a specific corporate culture, yet certain commonly accepted business rules can undermine these goals. For example, the notion that the customer is always right may lead an organization to compromise its principles just to accommodate a client, while prohibiting cell phone use or Web surfing on company time can lead to employee disengagement and make talent retention more difficult.

  • The Pre-Fab Sustainable Village | To address the challenges of providing sustainable housing for the planet's growing population, particularly in the developing world, researchers from the U.S. and Malaysia have built a high-tech, self-sustaining community near Kuala Lumpur. The town features 100 homes and a closed-loop agricultural system that provides enough food to eat and a surplus to sell. Energy is supplied by a combination of solar, biomass and hydropower, while each house is composed of pre-fabricated pieces that fit together like a puzzle, taking less than 10 days to build.

  • How Spain's Default Would Affect the U.S. | Although American banks are supposedly at low risk from the European financial crisis, indirect exposure may have dramatic effects on our economy. If Spain defaults on its sovereign debt, banks that have lent to Spain will have to account for their loans. Anyone who has lent money to the banks will either inherit worthless loans or try to cash in their insurance, which will ripple out to other banks and companies in a damaging process economists call "contagion."

  • Should We Get Rid of Job Interviews? | A significant amount of research shows that interviewing candidates reveals little about how they actually perform on the job. As entrepreneur and chief executive Margaret Heffernan explains at, perhaps it's time to do away with the interview process, which is "time-consuming, expensive and emotionally taxing." Instead, we should focus on personality and effectiveness assessments, or simply hire whoever we like and learn about them on the job.

  • The Recession vs. the Great Depression | Many comparisons have been made between the most recent recession and the Great Depression of the 1920s and 30s, but are these two downturns really comparable to one another? A new infographic shows the similarities and differences between then and now. For example, 57 banks failed in the recent recession, while 9,096 failed in the Great Depression; and prices rose by 0.5 percent in the recession, but plummeted 25 percent during the Depression.

Image Credit: Payday Loan