Matthew Budman

I'm author of the forthcoming Book Collecting Now: The Value of Print in a Digital Age. As an editor and freelance writer, I've spent my life immersed in words, and it's great to have a place to put many of them. Here are most of my post-college bylined articles, organized loosely by category, including a section with entire issues of The Conference Board Review, which I edited for six years.

I've had an opinion column three times: At my college newspaper, for two months at the Chico News & Review (the managing editor was on vacation), and as editor-in-chief of The Conference Board Review.

Openers: Right the First Time?

Sure, the quality movement turned out to be a fad, as does pretty much everything that gets labeled a movement. But the impulse, and the effort, were absolutely on target: Aim to get it right the first time, with zero defects, and you won’t hemorrhage goodwill and money fixing it later. In many areas of modern working life, though, the whole get-it-right-the-first-time idea seems antiquated and obsolete. As manufacturing becomes ever leaner, ever more of us spend our days (and mornings, and nights, and weekends) doing knowledge work that, more often than not, has no endpoint or finished product. Increasingly, the products that our organizations create and sell are digital—and subject to constant revisions, additions, and upgrades.

Openers: Corporate Unsustainability

To many people outside the business world, sustainability is just corporatespeak for environmental concerns. Inside, its meaning keeps expanding to encompass every point at which an organization interacts with the rest of the world—supply chains, product life cycles, risk. Indeed, for many companies, after years of work reducing emissions and waste, it’s easy being green—it’s everything else that’s a problem.

Openers: A New Normal?

WHATEVER WE'RE TRYING ISN'T WORKING. After so many quarters of treading water, everyone is impatient for growth. Management teams can’t count indefinitely on the indulgence of boards and shareholders. And marketing campaigns, product adjustments, and social-media initiatives aren’t doing the job. Sure, there are success stories, but all too many companies managing to beat the curve seem to be doing so in ways that seem almost accidental or as side effects of government programs. Little of it feels stable and solid. In aggregate, corporate profits are at record highs; in particular, almost all of it is going to banks and bankers.

Openers: Metrics and Mismanagement

One common, and completely legitimate, complaint about corporate regulation is the giant sucking sound of man-hours spent in compliance. Tax laws in particular practically constitute a full-employment act for accountants. Sure, every single government demand for evidence and metrics—to prove compliance with some rule or movement toward some goal—is there for a reason, perhaps even a good reason. But at what point does assessment turn counterproductive and signal a general disrespect for people’s effort and expertise? When does the desire for accountability morph into a memo generating waste of time?

Openers: Overload

Not too many months ago, all our complaining about e-mail overload came down to gripes and jokes about spam: ads for magical diet programs and work-from-home riches; earnest pleas from sons of Nigerian cabinet ministers who needed our help to release millions from government treasuries; plugs for discounted Viagra—sorry, Vi@gra—and other products whose use implied sexual inadequacy. Our inboxes runneth over with messages no one wanted to receive; every morning began with a massive delete, followed by panic that we’d inadvertently erased that one crucial e-mail for which we’d been waiting.

Openers: Fat Cats

Nearly a century ago, President William Howard Taft tipped—flattened, more likely—the scales at 335 pounds. Don’t feel bad if you remember nothing about Taft other than his mustachioed corpulence—it’s his most lasting contribution to American culture. His rounded silhouette, with a waistcoat but no waistline, has survived as the instantly recognizable stereotype of the plutocrat, an ironic fate for a trust-busting politician.

Openers: Occupiers vs. Occupied

It’s too soon to conclude whether the Occupy gatherings constitute an actual movement or just a series of demonstrations, but corporate leaders in every sector need to take them seriously. Obviously, Wall Street is the prime target, and when the protests didn’t dissipate as quickly as brokers and bond traders hoped, Chase and B of A and every other big bank quickly pulled together TV image ads for prime-time viewing. (Turns out—who knew?—banks’ primary societal function is lending money to cheerful neighborhood cupcake shops and wide-eyed Internet startups, not, as many previously thought, destroying the global economy for the benefit of a few millionaire executives. Foreclosures? Credit default swaps? Nothing to see here.)

Teenage Mutant Nintendo, or, How I Got My First Taste of Game Power

Next to a wall of Nintendo games—more than 180—sits a real innovation: Homework First, a $17.99 "video game lock for Nintendo." Homework First controls "when and how much time your family plays Nintendo," according to the package. "Great motivator for homework, chores, grounding, etc." The games that make Homework First necessary inhabit the most popular section of Toys R Us, where parents hope to find gifts to appease demanding children of the video age. More and more are choosing home video entertainment systems, starting at about $70.