If you've had a tough year marked by a poorly framed decision or a miscalculation of gargantuan proportions you'd probably rather avoid the additional publicity that comes when your corporate fumble appears on Fortune's list of the 101 Dumbest Moments in Business for 2007. The addition of YouTube, blogging, and social networking sites makes it harder than ever to hide your mistakes behind a well-crafted press release.
Fortune's 101 Dumbest provides some painful reminders that
- Who you are individually and what a company is collectively are revealed most clearly when we encounter difficulty.
- The need to anticipate and plan for problems never goes away.
Many of this year's winners are companies with plenty of bright and talented people that just didn't think far enough through a brilliant idea to realize what it might create or become (Merrill Lynch's $1.3 billion purchase of First Franklin Financial). A few other cases are examples of people who allowed their personal goals to smother the life out of their common sense (the District of Columbia judge who lost his reappointment due to a failure to demonstrate "appropriate judgment and judicial temperament" following his $54 million lawsuit against a dry cleaner who misplaced the judge's pants).
Fortune's list has at least one great example of a company that learned from the past and planned for the worst. Fast-food chain Taco Bell did a great job anticipating and planning for people mistaking the fast-food giant's menu for Mexican food when opening a new restaurant in Mexico. After a failed launch in Mexico 15 years ago, Taco Bell opened a new store this year by describing meals as "a fast food alternative that does not pretend to be Mexican food."
Lloyd and Harry would probably have a good response for that.