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Euro Disney Pricing: Pure Mickey Mouse!

By Shlomo Maital

Mickey Mouse

If you’re a manager or entrepreneur, here is a 100% certain proven way to get into hot water. Take the advice of economists. I should know – I am one of them.

   EuroDisney is a good example. According to basic microeconomic theory, if you can segment markets with different prices, then you set prices inversely to the price sensitivity (or, elasticity) of demand. Low sensitivity? High price. High sensitivity?   Low price.

   Many Europeans buy Disney packages on-line. That means that Disney can charge people from different countries, different prices, because the Internet knows where you are.   And of course, that’s just what Disney does. Disneyland Paris practices “geo-blocking” (Global New York Times, July 30, p. 18). “For an identical stay, the Euro Disney website often offers higher prices on German computers than on French ones.”   Euro Disney had 14 million visitors last year with prepackaged prices. This year? Geo-blocking.

   So what’s wrong with price discrimination, if you’re a monopoly and can get away with it?   For one, it is not legal. The European Commission says national borders are supposed to be erased, and prices should be the same for all.

   But worse than that —   discriminatory pricing causes major resentment. Imagine that you bring your family from Berlin to Disney Paris, and find that your neighbor, on the merry-go-round, from Paris, paid half what you did.   I know – it happens all the time on airplanes. Nearly everyone on the plane has paid a different price, from very high to very low.  

   Disney could say: If we charged one price, we’d have fewer customers, and would have to charge EVERYone much more to recover our costs.   But this is pure Mickey Mouse!

   When economic theory and profit maximization collide with basic fairness and empathy for customers, paying high prices,   empathy should win. In the long run, it is simply good business. Beware of what economists advise. It is based on math, not on people.

The Purpose of Life?  Little Things Mean A Lot

By Shlomo Maital    

Little Things    

In a recent blog, “Disney Theory of Life” (April 14),  I referred to David Brooks’ New York Times column about the purpose of life.   I offered my own theory,  based on the Disney World mantra, “Make People Happy”.

     In today’s New York Times, Brooks returns to this theme and quotes emails he received from readers.    “I expected most contributors would follow the commencement-speech clichés of our high-achieving culture:  dream big; set ambitious goals; try to change the world.  In fact,” notes Brooks, “a surprising number of people found their purpose by going the other way, by pursuing the small, happy life.”

     Examples?    Kim (apparently a therapist):  “Now my purpose is simply to be the person who can pick up the phone and give you 30 minutes in your time of crisis”.   Terence:   “big decisions have less impact on a life as a whole than the myriad of small seemingly insignificant ones.”   Hans:  “At age 85, …I am thankful to be alive. If there is one thing that keeps me focused, it’s the garden. Lots of plants died during the harsh winter, but, amazingly, the clematises and the roses are back, and lettuce, spinach and tomatoes are thriving in the new greenhouse.”

      So, bottom line?    Follow the wise advice of a woman I read about (probably in the excellent AARP retired persons’ magazine):   “Ask yourself each morning, when you wake:  what will I do for others today? And what will I do for myself?”     And, as you fall asleep at night, ask yourself, “what did I do for others today?  And what did I do for myself?” 

      A kind word?  A helping hand?  A smile?    Little things, tiny things.  They add up to something really big.   They give real meaning to our lives, one day at a time.

       Here are the words to the lovely song, Little Things Mean a Lot,  

Blow me a kiss from across the room

Say I look nice when I’m not

Touch my hair as you pass my chair

Little things mean a lot


Give me your arm as we cross the street

Call me at six on the dot

A line a day when you’re far away

Little things mean a lot


Don’t have to buy me diamonds and pearls

Champagne, sables or such

I never cared much for diamonds and pearls

’cause honestly, honey, they just cost money


Give me your hand when I’ve lost the way

Give me a shoulder to cry on

Whether the day is bright or gray

Give me your heart to rely on


Send me the warmth of a secret smile

To show me you haven’t forgot

For always and ever, now and forever

Little things mean a lot


Give me your hand when I’ve lost the way

Give me your shoulder to cry on

Whether the day is bright or gray

Give my your heart to rely on


Send me the warmth of a secret smile

To show me you haven’t forgot

That always and ever, now and forever

Little things mean a lot


And, here is the link to Kitty Kallen’s lovely rendition of it.

The Purpose of Life:  Ask Walt Disney?

By Shlomo   Maital

 plasticene restaurant


  Last month, I taught a one-week course on entrepreneurship and creativity to 43 dynamic Chinese students, mainly undergraduates studying at Shantou University, Shantou (Guangdong).   The course was in English; the students worked on business plans in teams, and made elevator-speech presentations (in English), prepared 2-minute videos, and wrote business plans (in English).   (The photo shows a Play-Do, or plasticene, model of one of the team’s ideas, for a novel restaurant – they stayed up all night to create it!).  

   I just received an email from one of my students.  I pasted it below, without correcting the syntax…   (Shantou University has a phenomenal English Learning Center, that provides each student with a tailored personal program for learning to read write and speak English)….

      I want to ask you a personal question, this question had confuse me for a very long time, the question is that “what do we live for?”, what’s the point of live? create value? make money? love? i not sure. now i just in my 20s age, i always feel there’s no a direction in my life, i’m not sure what is going on in my rest of life. but you have a lot of experience about life, you have make a lot of achievements in your life, so want to ask your answer about the question, i hope you can give me some suggestion.

 Dear readers:  How would YOU answer my wonderful student?

  My own answer was rather woeful – but, here it is.   Congratulations for just asking the question. Most of us ask it, at the end of our lives, when it is nearly too late to actually change anything.  I think the purpose of life is best defined by Walt Disney.  He set the mantra for Disneyland (later, Disney World):  “Make people happy”.   Create value.  Use your brains, your courage, your intellect, and above all, your CREATIVITY – to create value, by widening people’s range of choices, and thus, making them happy, or at least happier.  When you make other people happy (those around you, family, children, spouses, relatives, friends, total strangers),  you will make yourself happy as well.  If you only try to make yourself happy, in the end, you will be very alone.           


KidZania: Where Kids Find Reality, Not Fantasy

By Shlomo Maital    


   “We make people happy.” This is Disney’s famous mantra, implemented to perfection at Disney theme parks in California, Florida, Hong Kong, suburban Paris and elsewhere.

   “We make kids grown-ups”. This could be the mantra of KidZania, a worldwide chain of theme parks where kids aged four to 14 get the chance to enact the roles of grownups in lavish, scaled-down worlds. The story of KidZania is told in Rebecca Mead’s article in the latest New York issue (“When I Grow Up”, Jan. 19 2015).  

   In KidZania, Mead explains, children “can work on a car assembly line, or move furniture, or put out fake fire with real water. KidZania has its own currency, kidzos, which can be used in branches around the world, or deposited and accessed with a realistic looking debit card.” Children get a check for 50 kidzos on arrival and can add to it with a ‘salary’ they earn for working. The most popular jobs (e.g. training to be a pilot on a flight simulator) pay less than the less popular ones, like being a dentist. (Kids look into a dummy’s mouth – wonder how many kids pick THAT one!). Kids can rent a car (small electric go-karts) and buy stuff at the mini city’s department store.

   KidZania has its own language. “Kai!” means hi, along with placing two fingers over the heart. “Zanks” means thanks. Bye is   “Z-U”, from Santiago to Seoul.   Adult staff are Zupervisors. Staff ends conversations with kids by saying “have a productive day”.

     The founder is an entrepreneur, aged 50, named Xavier Lopez Ancona. His headquarters are near the KidZania in Centro Santa Fe mall, Mexico, one of Latin America’s biggest shopping malls. KidZania now exists in over a dozen countries, including Japan, Malaysia, and Turkey. Lopez went to bizschool at Northwestern U. and ran GE’s private equity business in Mexico. A friend in the toy importing business came to him with an idea for a role-playing park for kids. Lopez joined the venture. The Santa Fe park opened in Sept. 1999. In the first year, 800,000 people came to it, double what the founders expected.

     Lopez is careful to vary the KidZania parks according to the venue. In Mexico kids spend their kidzos as soon as they get them. In Japan it is hard to persuade kids to part with their kidzos for any reason. In Lisbon kids come with their parents. In the Gulf states kids come with nannies or are dropped off by their drivers. In KidZania in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, girls will be allowed to drive cars – a privilege their moms don’t have and definitely, in my opinion, subversive.

   Mead quotes one child in Kuwait: “In Kuwait parents and adults have responsibility for everything you do. In KidZania it is different – it’s like kids rule the world. That’s fun, but you can also learn how hard and complicated it is and how adults feel when they work. I have learned that being an adult is actually hard.”

The Key to Innovation in Big Companies: Work Together

By Shlomo Maital

Collective Leadership

        Generally I write blogs about books or articles that I’ve read.  This time, I want to write about a book I intend to read soon, based on excerpts and interviews from Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge magazine.  The book is:

        Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation, (Harvard Business School Press)   was written by Prof. Linda Hill, the Wallace Brett Donham Professor of Business Administration, with Greg Brandeau, former CTO of The Walt Disney Studios and current COO/president of Media Maker; Emily Truelove, a PhD candidate at MIT’s Sloan School of Management; and Kent Lineback, Hill’s cowriter on her earlier book Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Good Leader.

    Here is the main point:   “….. innovation is a “team sport,” not the act of a sole inventor. “Truly innovative groups are consistently able to elicit and then combine members’ separate slices of genius into a single work of collective genius,” the authors write.  Or, as Hill puts it, “Conventional leadership won’t get you to innovation.”  The authors identified organizations with reputations for being highly innovative, then found 16 leaders within those organizations and studied how they worked.    …. the authors include narratives of executives within India-based IT company HCL Technologies, the German division of online auctioneer eBay, and the marketing division of automaker Volkswagen in Europe.”  

     Here is the ‘boldest’ example of innovative leadership and teamwork, according to Hill.  It comes from India.

    “Of the 16 leaders studied, Hill says Delhi-based HCL, under former CEO Vineer Nayar, might be the boldest. Nayar, who pulled the company out of a five-year slump, challenged the common belief that Indian companies provide low-cost products and services but don’t innovate. “That (assumption) made him crazy,” Hill says. “He said ‘We can and will compete that way.’ ”   Nayar focused on changing the organization from within, starting by empowering employees. In 2005, he told a team of 30-something young employees called the “Young Sparks” to develop the brand and a plan to change how employees experienced HCL. The group started with an icon, Thambi, which means “brother” in Tamil, symbolizing “the importance of the individual and the value of the collective” at HCL.   Nayar recast his role as leader. He pushed for more transparency, adding 360-degree reviews for all employees and 360-degree feedback of his own work—he promised to resign if his own review dropped to a certain level. He set up a portal that asked employees to solve “my problems” and reported getting incredible answers from workers.  From 2005 to 2013, when Nayar led HCL as president and then CEO, the company’s sales, market cap, and profits increased six fold, according to the book. Fortune magazine wrote that the HCL had “the world’s most modern management” and the company was named one of Businessweek’s most influential companies.  Nayar tells people, “I don’t know the answers,” which goes against the common belief in Indian business that the CEO should be a visionary. For Hill, Nayar shows the possibilities of what can be accomplished by an innovative leader who embraces a new style of leadership.”

    Big organizations ALL have trouble innovating.  Perhaps Linda Hill’s new book will help them figure out why and find a workable solution.




Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital