WHO'LL BE THE BOSS?: Companies are focusing more on planning for their future leadership, spurred by an aging work force and a sense of vulnerability, according to a survey by J. Howard & Associates, a Boston-based consulting firm.
Nearly 67 percent of human resources managers polled in the survey said succession planning had become more important over the past five years, while another 10 percent said such plans had always been considered important.
''For many companies such plans used to be just an obligatory exercise required by the board,'' said Tom McKinnon, an executive consultant with Howard. ''But for various reasons succession planning has captured the attention of senior management.''
Many companies realize that older executives will be looking to retire once there's an upturn in the performance of their 401(k) and other retirement accounts.
They also expect to promote their leaders from within -- 88 percent of the 210 respondents said they usually or often fill senior openings with internal candidates.
NAME CHANGES: A company by any other name might be a useless expense, many companies concluded last year, when corporate name changes plunged by 35 percent.
Worldwide, 2,346 firms changed names last year, down from 3,602 in 2001, according to an annual survey by Enterprise IG Inc., a New York-based brand and identity consultancy.
The moribund global economy gets part of the blame. The usual catalysts for new names, mergers and acquisitions, public stock offers, and new marketing campaigns, were all depressed last year.
You may have heard of some of the newcomers: Miller Brewing Co. became SABMiller, after its purchase by a South African brewer; SBC Communications Inc. replaced its regional brands such as Pacific Bell and Ameritech with the more succinct SBC; and one tiny Chinese burg seeking tourists got permission from the government to rename itself Shangri-La.
In the United States, California led the list with 145 new corporate identities, followed by New York (137), Massachusetts (75), Texas (69) and Illinois (48). Globally, Britain ranked first with 138 new company names, followed by Canada (126), Japan (55), Germany (51), and France (42).
INDISPENSABLE GADETS: You've got your cell phone, Pocket PC and Blackberry, along with numerous other gadgets piled around the house.
But what's most crucial? That 600-year old weapon against funky breath, the venerable toothbrush.
In a survey of 1,042 adults and 400 teens, 42 percent of adults and 34 percent of teens ranked the toothbrush as more important to them than cars, microwaves, computers and cell phones. The car came in second.
In other data, more than half (60 percent) of adults and 56 percent of teens said they expect a cure for cancer is possible in their lifetimes. And more than a third of adults, 35 percent, believe solar-powered cars will replace gasoline-burning ones, while 29 percent of teens agreed with that assessment.
The interviews were conducted in late November for the annual Lemelson-MIT Invention Index Survey, a project of the Lemelson-MIT Program to foster invention and innovation among youths.
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