Today’s Top Business Stories tend to have a High Gloom Factor

November 25, 2011

The twenty top business stories provided by Google today reflect a general mood of pessimism. There are no tales of heroic leaders. Bad news stories dominate over inspirational ones. The stories mostly register high on a simple ‘gloom index’

Some years ago when I started collecting leadership stories, such a sample would have contained quite a few feel-good ones would have described the successes of heroic leaders. The proportion of those stories has since that time dwindled.

Introducing the Gloom Index

This week [Oct 24th 2011] I took a look at the twenty business stories obtained from scanning the pages of Google. My crude [1-5 star] Gloom Index rating is a representation of my judgement of the mood conveyed in the stories. Don’t take too much notice of it as a scientific measure, although it might offer promise if developed into an index of cultural mood of business confidence, a kind of ‘feed bad’ factor.

The stories and their gloom factors:

Bank of England ‘to kick start ailing economy’ Presented as reaction to gloomy outlook. Gloom Index ****

Weir group buys US fracking firm for £430 million (good news unless you disapprove of fracking). Positive innovation story with slight gloom factor. Gloom Index *

JD Sports slowdown. Mildly negative financial story Gloom Index ***

James Murdoch resigns from British Boards (Bad news except for Murdoch haters so modest gloom index Gloom Index ***

Banks have ‘racist’ lending policies. Negative leadership story defended in letter to FT Gloom Index *****

Daily Mail profits fall as newspapers come under pressure . Negative leadership story Gloom Index *****

Gas prices to rise. British gas chief asks for forgiveness. News Night yesterday had CEO of British Gas defending corporate policy against assorted pressure groups,no pun intended]. He mostly apologised for lack or transparency re tariffs and promised self-regulated reforms. Negative story. Gloom Index *****

Manufacturing output falls in EU and China
A real five-star gloom story Gloom Index ****

Wage gap for young men widens (could be positive for young women but presented as a bad news story Gloom Index ***

Compass (catering giant) shows good growth globally. Hooray. A good news story [Gloom Index 0]

Nokia Siemans cuts 17,000 jobs world wide. Negative business story, but could signal attempts to survive. Gloom Index ****

Nestle creates 300 jobs in coffee pod manufacturing in UK . A mild hooray for regional good news but tempered with a slight gloom factor at its scale when opposed to the high-gloom Nokia one. Gloom Index *

Poor results from another Utilities company (United Utilities) Gloom Index *****

Tesco slashes prices in promotional campaign (good news for Consumers but neutral presentation with some negative factors as might be expected from The Independent) Gloom Index *

Qinitec (defense firm) in 45% profit rise Good news, unless you consider rise in profits of defence firms in a negative light. Gloom Index *

Banks accused of dishonest lobbying by Sir Roger Jenkins Letter critical of Sir Roger, but still high gloom factor implied in the letter. Gloom Index *****

Lloyds promises more to SMEs and start ups (good news if you believe this; slight gloom factor for cynics) Gloom Index *

50% tax rate risks talent drain from UK (bad news slant, wouldn’t you say?) Gloom Index ****

Note on the Gloom Index

As I indicated above, The Gloom Index is no more than my personal shorthand assessment of the tone of the business stories of the day. It has some connection (in a negative sense) with current attempts to develop a happiness index and measures of feel-good factors. Feel-good measures and the Gloom Index link with the interests of behavioural psychologists, and particularly those interested in the merits of a positive approach to life.

A properly-researched Gloom Index could have value in studying leadership and change. It would connect with work of Teresa Amabile on the progress principle and Richard Boyatzis and colleagues. These approaches are described in the textbook Dilemmas of Leadership.


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