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Selling a city - with musical bus stops.

Selling a city - with musical bus stops

‘Worsted to the world’ was a proud claim in the Yorkshire city of Bradford. During the Industrial Revolution the city’s wool industry developed world-beating ways of working, new machinery and new products. Its consequent expansion as an international trading centre in the mid-nineteenth century brought merchants from Germany and Ireland. They were followed, in the twentieth century, by immigrants from eastern Europe and the Commonwealth.

Few of these people – or of the indigenous population – now work in the textile industry. The city has diversified into financial and commercial services, media industries and electronics. But one legacy of the waves of immigration is the lively cosmopolitan atmosphere that the city still boasts. When Bradford applied to be a 2008 European Capital of Culture, its slogan was ‘One landscape, many views’.

There was plenty for the judging panel to see. Take Saltaire, an entire village that entrepreneur and philanthropist Sir Titus Salt built to provide his workforce with healthy homes, plus educational, leisure and social facilities, as well as a place to work. The giant Salt’s Mill, which dominates the village, today contains Europe’s largest collection of works by Bradford artist David Hockney. The village as a whole is a World Heritage site. Or take the National Media Museum, one of Britain’s most visited tourist attractions outside London. Or take virtually any one of the city’s 5,800 listed buildings – more per square kilometre than any other regional city in Britain.

Of course, the judges could see only a few of Bradford’s many treasures on their visit to the city. But one stop – a bus stop – did particularly stick in the minds of at least some of the panel. Complete with solar power and sensors, it detects when anyone enters and plays music to them while they wait for the bus. Perhaps such frivolity wasn’t exactly what the panel was looking for in a Capital of Culture. In any case, the judges eventually awarded the prize to Liverpool.

Oakes and North (Journal of Marketing Management, Vol 24 Nos 5-6, 2008) would probably have taken a more positive view of the musical bus stop. Starting from the premise that many people view queuing as boring, frustrating and a loss of valuable time, the authors examine the effects of playing music to people in a queue. Their research reveals that slow-tempo music played to people while they wait can help to relax them and increase their satisfaction with the service when they receive it. Fast-tempo music does not have this effect. Nor does playing no music at all.

It’s bad news for those who believe that the sound of silence is a golden opportunity for quiet reflection. Modern quality systems are working on us, even while we stand in a queue.

Those who use their ‘quiet’ time for reflecting on the subject of football will doubtless, at some time, have considered why teams with the largest number of quality players so often fail to perform to their full potential. Just as, in the words of the Beatles’ hit Money Can’t Buy You Love, nor can it buy a team that that is certain to win the Premiership, FA Cup and European Cup.

With Manchester City’s new Middle Eastern owner promising to put so much money into the club that it will come to rival its big-spending neighbour Manchester United, Brady, Bolchover and Sturgess (California Management Review, Summer 2008) provide Premiership examples of sides stuffed with expensive talent that are regularly outperformed by teams of medium-quality, average-cost talent.

The authors conclude that, in football as well as in business, it all comes down to talent management. In this way, the article sorts out the confusion that occurs when considering the roles played by talent and by talented managers in the success or failure of an organization.