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Houston, Texas Quote of The Day

Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.

– Neil Armstrong



Lean 6 Sigma: The Ultimate Cure For Healthcare?

By: Oscar L. Orias
One of the newest concepts being thrown around in the Texas Medical Center seems to be 6 Sigma and lean management. With many hospitals facing smaller payments and tighter quality controls by CMS (Centers of Medicare/Medicaid Services), clinicians and administrators are thinking of ways saving money while maintaining a good service level. They have turned to 6 Sigma, a methodology that has seen successes in industries like cell phones, computers, and cars. Of course with this methodology, there have been failures in the past. In a study more than 60% of corporations that implemented Lean 6 Sigma have failed to yield the target results. Will this result reoccur within healthcare?

How Quality Variation is Killing Healthcare
One of the biggest threats, according to many experts is the variation of quality within the healthcare system. Wide variations in quality lead to reduction of the overall quality of service and increased cost, two very noticeable patterns seen today in healthcare and two things that Lean 6 Sigma focuses on. These quality issues come in the forms of variation like utilization, charging insurances, quality due to geography, quality of care due to socio-economic status, and services provided. There is also a quality issue when it comes to paying insurances and the government. This particular quality issue increases administrative costs of the hospital (a major cost in healthcare). The same pattern is seen with material and logistics management and utilization. For example, many healthcare systems don’t know the average amount of resources used most procedures. Many times they order materials based on past usage or other less accurate measuring techniques.

How does increase variation cause drops in service and increase costs? For starters, trying to determine how to utilize resources with such a wide range of variations becomes complicated and costly. This also leads to an increase of errors, since variations leads to disorganization. Errors in healthcare can become a costly marketing, financial, and even legal ordeal. For one patient it might cost a health care system $5000 per yr but for another similar patient due to differences in variation, it might cost $4000. With the government and private insurance reducing reimbursements, traditional methods of tackling expenditures like cost shifting are no longer viable options. Another way how variations make service worse by sending mix signal and expectations for patients. Patients retail customers expect a consistent level of service. With variations, trying to create steady level of service become very difficult. By delivering consistent levels of service, the organization can create sustainable patient satisfaction. Sustainable patient satisfaction is much easier and cheaper to manage than prospecting for new patients.

Why Lean 6 Sigma?
One of Lean 6 Sigma’s main goals in increasing quality is reducing such variations and reducing waste and non-value added activities. Lean 6 Sigma says that by reducing variations you improve service, which leads to real permanent cost savings for the company. Lean 6 Sigma can give you that consistency that patients want out of an experience in healthcare. Consistency also makes utilization, financial and human resource management much easier to measure and handle. Reducing variation in quality also make coordination operations and business strategy between different geography location smoother.

Another huge reason for Lean 6 Sigma comes in the form of creation of ACOs and CMS 33 points of quality. Now hospitals that service Medicaid and Medicare patients are heavily monitored for quality assure of the patient. ACOs under CMS reward healthcare systems that reduce cost and improve quality; something that lean 6 sigma excels in. Lean 6 Sigma traditionally tackles this issue directly by using several of this concepts, basic tenants, and methodologies such as:

1. Clear and measurable goals from 6 Sigma projects. Ex.: Healthcare systems can use this in reducing hospital staph infection.
2. Healthcare systems and institutes have to be deeply committed to continuous and quality improvements.
3. Engaging in Continuous Improvement using the DMAIC methodology. This stands for define, measure, analyze, improve, and control. These steps are utilized by black belt professionals and used in all stages of Lean 6 Sigma.
4. Using statistical tools like standard deviation in the bell curve to measure the variations between standard deviation. The farther the standard deviation is away from the curve, the higher the likelihood that errors and variations of quality will occur. The ideal goal is 1 sigma.
5. Empowering all employees. Bridge the gap between administrators and clinicians would be a good start to empowering employees. Make sure as an administrator that doctors have the ultimate input.
6. Reducing waste.
7. Reducing non-value added business procedures and units
8. Standardizing organizational and procedural issues.
9. The use of visuals signs or aids to help workers

Is Lean 6 Sigma Merely False Hope and a Fad?
With reductions in quality of service and an increase of cost, you would think that Lean 6 Sigma is a slam dunk for healthcare, but many administrators and experts are saying not so fast. More than 60% of Lean 6 Sigma projects fail to yield the desirable goals. Much of it is due to the complexity of healthcare, the discipline needed for real Lean 6 Sigma, and the changing nature of healthcare legislation.

Lean 6 Sigma faces many challenges due to the nature of health care. For far too long the culture of healthcare has been to consume and use the latest innovation and instruments without taking to account the cost and resources consumed. Part of the reason is that hospitals have been traditionally not-for-profit research institutes that are more concerned with using new technology; not reducing costs. Lean 6 Sigma would make these institutes do a complete transformation and many feel that Lean 6 Sigma is way too unproven to make such a large investment in money, time and energy. Another reason is that becoming a Lean 6 Sigma champion is difficult in a healthcare setting because many physician feel that power of treating patient or micromanaging them is too great.

Another problem with Lean 6 Sigma is that many companies simply don’t have the time, discipline, company wide support, and resource to sustain 6 Sigma as a long run methodology. For example, hospitals today are concerned with filling as many beds as possible with as many patients as possible. According to 6 Sigma, the quality of care of a patient is more important than the quantity of bed filled. For many healthcare systems the fill rate is very important to generating revenue to keep costs down. Many managers might not have the discipline or have the company wide support to put quality always over volume. Of course this discipline problem is made worse by the uncertainty of healthcare and its future.

Healthcare legislation also plays a huge role into the uncertainty of Lean 6 Sigma in healthcare. Lawmakers and health leaders agree that a change is need but what kind of change is still up for debate even after the passing of the new healthcare legislation. For example CMS reduced the quality measure from 65 points to 33. Heck Republicans in many states are trying to remove the law altogether. This unstable nature makes the jobs of healthcare administrators harder, especially when they are trying to implement and sustain a complex program such as Lean 6 Sigma.

Fundamental or Fad?
Lean 6 Sigma creates some interesting solutions as well as challenges in healthcare. For the most part, it brings the important focus of reducing quality variations as a way to reduce cost while improving the patient experience. In this blogger opinion I think Lean 6 Sigma will fall short of goals set by many healthcare systems but it will bring concepts like waste reduction, creating quality by reducing variations in care, reverse logistics, lean management, and DMAIC to the culture of healthcare. These concepts, ideas, and methodologies are sure to make a positive impact in the future. At the end Lean 6 Sigma will leave a positive legacy for the health industry as a whole.

Thank you for the support y’all! Add me on Linkedin!

Work Cited


The Tiwanaku Civilization: Made by Man Not Aliens

BY Oscar L. Orias


Tiwanaku: The Gateway to The Sun

In the dry and arid flatlands of Bolivia an advanced and ancient civilization flourished in the seemly windy and harsh Andean environment. Relatively little is known about the civilization since they left no written records and more than 50% of the ruins still lay underground. All there is at the site is a desert littered with mostly petrified piece of the civilization. As a tourist it was an awe yet eerie experience. It is almost like some sudden yet cataclysmic event wiped out the civilization in one swoop. As I soon learned through my guide and research on the internet, the collapse of the civilization was slow with several factors contributing it’s the down fall.

Much of the daily activities of the Tiwanaku and their engineering greatness has been lost to time and colonization of the Spanish. This void of information has left people to come up with numerous theories, many of them absurd like the History Channel’s segment on how aliens Created Tiwanaku. I went to Tiwanaku and spoke to several guides and researchers at the site, I can tell you it was created through hundreds of years of technological advances and blending of different technologies by different tribes in South America.

The Rise and fall of Tiwanaku
Unlike what the history channel implies, Tiwanaku didn’t flourish all of a sudden by Aliens, it was civilization that came into being through centuries of innovation and blending of different cultures and tribes. This blending and assimilating of different cultures brought out new innovation and form the culture of the civilization. The Weather was also much better, in fact during that time in the Altiplanos of Bolivia supported Pumas and other temperate climate fluana. There was also more rain and access to water during that time period. These factors allowed for a large number of people to live in one place and develop their society.

Tiwanaku started to peak from 300 AD. During this time many of the great pyramids and structures seen today were created. Huge monoliths honoring the Gods and keeping track with the lunar calendar were also created. This period lasted several hundred years and the empire expanded greatly (evidence of Tiwanaku are seen in the Yungas region of Bolivia). Around 700 AD the empire started to decline and fall apart little by little. There are several theories and factors that attributed to this decline:

1) Change in climate of the Altiplano region of Bolivia. There is evidence of a great drop of precipitation in the Altiplano region for an extended period of time. A great drought would have seriously cut the crop yield and weaken the empire. Much of its power was based on the control of resources and how it distributed them among the different cities and people of the region.

2) A possible civil war between the holy and elite people of Tiwanaku the rest of the diverse population. The Elite and holy clergy of the State Cult controlled the resources and had access to the holy pyramid, they were referred to the People of the Sun. The theory says that the other ethnic group rose up against the People of the Sun (the elite). This would explain why the Door of the Sun (Puerta del Sol) was found nearly broken in half by Spanish explorers.

3) The arrival and creation of rival tribes and people. This didn’t probably didn’t bring down the Tiwanaku single handedly but might have a symptom of what was going on or they might have outright contributed to the fall. There is a strong correlation between the arrival of the Aymara People to Tiwanaku and the start of the collapse. Many expertise debate whether they came to conqueror the Tiwanaku or just came to settle in a land that was in turmoil. Whatever the case may be, the Aymara people ended up absorbing many of the people of Tiwanaku. Modern Aymaras consider Tiwanaku a very sacred site. It is believed much of their culture and customs derived from the original people of the ruins.

Some of What I Saw

Like I said earlier, it is a beautiful place that leaves tourists in awe and wonder. Everywhere you go you it feels like you are stepping in land before Latin American revolution, Spanish Colonization, and Incan Empire. The Incas described it as a place where there God and creator Viracocha had risen from Lake Titicaca to create mankind and a city for them. The thing that really stood out to me and most tourists was the artwork and sheer accuracy of the stone masonry. In Puma Punku it seems like the Tiwanaku used modern day machines to drill precisely in into Diorite (a very tough stone).

Another remarkable design and feature of Tiwanaku the left me stun was the climate control methods they used for their structures. Certain stones in the Temple of Kalassaya have the ability to absorb energy from the sun and emit the heat throughout the temple. When you are near the stone it feels warmer and harsh winds of the Andes subside. Honestly the longer I felt the more urge I had in taking off my gear since it felt so nice and cozy.

Coming back to Puma Punku; it is a marvel of artistry and engineering. Many of these blocks seemed to be carved from modern machines. Many believe based on how accurate the circles and blocks were edged, that they may have known complex mathematical concepts like Pi and Zero. There is evidence in the pyramids and structures of complex and accurate system of measurement. If you look at some of those blocks, there are physical markers of measurements. The surfaces and carvings of many of these blocks are smooth and accurately flat.

The Monoliths are also another wonder that left many tourists and me in awe and wonder. Many of those Monoliths are actually used for the lunar calendar and other astrological events

Tiwanaku: A Kingdom Immortalized in Stone
Tiwanaku as seen in the pictures and explained by me wasn’t creating by aliens; it was created by the imagination and man’s aspiration in trying to copy the work of nature. They drew their inspiration from the mountains, rivers, and animals of the Andes. Mix that with the assimilated cultures of the regions and you get a civilization that is unique to the existence of mankind.


Late Bolivia for providing the informational tour guide and expert on the Trip

“Field Notes 2004.” Archaeology’s Interactive Dig. ARCHAEOLOGY Magazine, 2004. Web. 15 Aug 2011. .

Hirst, Kris. “Tiwanaku Empire.” About.com Archaeology. About.com, n.d. Web. 08/16/2011. .

“Tiwanaku Q&A.” Archaeology’s Interactive Dig. ARCHAEOLOGY Magazine, 2005. Web. 15 Aug 2011. .

“Tiwanaku: Spiritual and Political Centre of the Tiwanaku Culture.” World Heritage Convention. UNESCO, n.d. Web. 08/16/2011. .

Vranich, Alexei. “Revealing Ancient Bolivia.”Archaeology’s Interactive Dig. ARCHAEOLOGY Magazine, 2004. Web. 15 Aug 2011. .

Vranich, Alexei. “Tiwanaku: History & Context.”Archaeology’s Interactive Dig. ARCHAEOLOGY Magazine, 2004. Web. 15 Aug 2011.

Photographs by Oscar L. Orias

Becoming an Agents of Adjustment vs. Agents of Change

By: Oscar L. Orias
One of the constant things in life is change. People claim to love change and improvement, but in reality change is a very difficult pill to shallow and most of them hate real change with a passion. For businesses trying to stay competitive in this globalized world change is inevitable and very difficult. Any business manager, consultant, or employee can tell you how they have at one time or another failed at a cause they champion at their company. Even when introducing well-planned and thought out change. In politics you see this all the time, politicians rallying on the moniker of change and improvement but when he or she tries to implement such changes they are met with great resistance and are vilified. For businesses and nations stability is key but adapting to change is crucial for success.

Some of the Reasons Why Hate Change
Change is like the economy, some will gain and some will lose. For many they fear that gains and losses can come in the form of losing a job or having instability in the workplace No one likes having instability in the workplace and environment. It leaves an air of uncertainty, animosity, discontent, and disconnect. A great example of this changes is the evolution in technology and automation, which resulted in comfort for consumers and increased in productivity but at the expense of jobs. Much of the unrest today you see in U.S., Middle East, and Europe is a result of loses of jobs due to the evolution of technology and automation. Most of those job will never comeback or be available ever again. In fact in the U.S., companies have gone back to near pre-recession productivity levels with a smaller workforce. Advancements in technology and business engineering have made this possible. Understanding this concept of gains and losses is important for trying to convince people of change and improvement.

Another reason why people hate change is that it implies that the job and how they did the job was wrong. Most people take pride in what they do and how they do it. One of the worse thing you can do to a person is to wound their pride or belittle their lively hood. Sometimes agents of change end up doing both at the same time. In the medical industry, administrators and clinical managers have had issue in trying to modify or make suggestions on reducing cost and improving patient care. For hospital staff and clinicians trying to adjust to new ways of purchasing and protecting resources is seen as difficult and an extra chore to their already busy lives. Many feel that their way of live and lively hood are being changed with little input from them. No one ever likes having to do more than they have to without proper additional compensation and without being properly consulted. As an agent of adjustment you have to keep these things in mind when trying to teach new and champion programs that result in deep changes in the organization.

Some Things You Can Do To Become an Agent of Adjustment

The reason I use the term Agent of Adjustment over Agent of Change is that Agent of Adjustment implies that you are merely trying to improve on an already great system with great employees. Like I stated before change is difficult and painful because it requires heavy readjusting, work, and fear of instability. Adjustment implies you are merely making suggestion to make life easier for the employee, customer, and company. This doesn’t mean you aim for a lower goal, what an Agent of Adjustment means is that you aim for that same high goal but you address everyone’s point of view. This doesn’t mean every employee or organization will get on board with you but it does make it easier to impliment real change. Like the old adage goes “If you shoot for the moon even if you miss your will amoungst the stars.”

In order to live up to the title and name Agents of Adjustment must be able to have high goals and expectations, a well thought out plan of attack, execution, and a high level of persistance in getting what you want. Here are a few pointers that will help you become a better “Agent of Adjustment”:

1. Look at things for the perspective of the employees or managers you are making suggestions to. Like professional selling you need to know the wants and needs of the people you are targeting and use it to sell your idea. People are much more inclined to listen to someone that make suggestion on improving their lives than imposing new alterations (this comes back to the adjustment vs. change argument). Always make sure that the change benefits them much more than it would benefit you.

2. Make sure the lines of communication are open between you and the people you are consulting or managing. When making adjustments make sure that you get the views and concerns of all the parties involved. One of the most common errors in implementing new ideas and programs are ignoring the needs of the people who are directly impacted by it. Don’t be afraid to get suggestions and criticism from them, they may end up saving you or the company from a flawed plan. The only thing people hate more than change is change that is ill-planned and poorly executed.

3. Identify and work with key figures and people that are resistant to change. Sometimes it takes one person to shut you down completely. When you sit down and address the person’s concerns you can get sense of why they feel that way and convince them why the change would benefit them. Most of the time the motives are reasonable and understandable.

4. Never criticize. We as human beings have a tendency to pick out people’s faults first before making suggestion. By doing that their defenses go up and they will refuse to listen to us. Criticism causes any message no matter how good it is to fall on deaf ears. As an agent of adjustment you always make suggestion with making the lives of who will be influence easier. This is why it is important to know the needs and wants of the organization and employees. Adjust your ideas to fit what are their needs and concerns.

5. Adjustments and long lasting improvements are a team effort from all levels of the organization. In order to make adjustments last, you must have a total team effort and commitment from all people in the organization and all people being directly affect by the change. This where the use of cross-functional teams come into play. You are as strong as your weakest link.

6. You should replace words like “must” to “suggestion” and “selling” to “educate” in most cases. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be persistent and direct but remember to keep the point of view and needs of your target in mind.

Final Notes
This blog is just an overall guideline to a difficult and challenging issue of addressing and implementing change. Becoming an agent of adjustment in another country and culture requires adaptability and openness. You must familiarize yourself greatly with the culture, values, and languages of that country. What works in America won’t work in Japan, Italy, or Brazil. The most important thing I want the readers to get out of this blog is that an agent of adjustment always looks at things from the point of view of the employee and to never criticize others. Always make sure that what you are trying to educate them benefit them much more than it benefits you.

The Latin Shift Series: How Latinos Are Changing Health Care Pt. 1

The Potential Hispanic-American Public Health Crisis

By: Oscar L. Orias

The United States government has released the new census report and Latinos have surpassed all predictions by reaching 50 million people. Latinos now make up more than 16% of the population and there are no signs of slowing down. In Houston, Latinos make up more than 40% of the population and contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to our economy Their number in Houston the rest of the country keep growing at an exponential rate (43% increase since 2000). With this rapid shift in population come shifts in customs, culture, lifestyle, and health to this nation. For Latinos health and wellness is becoming a concerning and dangerous issue. 1 in 2 Latino children will develop type-2 Diabetes and 1 in 4 Latinos are obese. The numbers are similar to other minorities groups, especially if they are below the poverty line. This is due to factors such as low socio-economical status, income levels, and the change in diet and lifestyle from Latin America. Since Latinos children are the fastest segment group in the U.S., their well-being is crucial to health of the country. Unfortunately, the government has done little in the way recognizing and dealing with the problem from a public health aspect. This is still seen by many as a Latino problem not an American problem. With such exponential growth, the nation can’t afford to ignore Hispanic concerns. This series raises awareness of the different health aspects and problems that Latinos face. Latinos are changes how health care is viewed, implemented, consumed, financed, and delivered.

Diabetes and Obesity: The Latino Killers?

Latinos came to this country to achieve and share the American dream with their family. That American Dream has come at a high price to the fitness and well-being of the Latino family, especially children. More than 1 in 2 Latino children will develop diabetes in their lifetime and Mexican-Americans are more lightly to become obese. These statistics become bleaker when you look at the fact that Hispanics are 1.6 times more likely to die from diabetes than their White counter parts. For Mexican-Americans, they have 56% higher chance of dying from diabetes than Whites.

Diabetes and obesity are catalyst to health problems down the road. They can cause other concerns such as heart failure, cancer, renal disease and failure, pregnancy complications, and premature death. It can even damage and disrupt bone development in teens. Obesity has been linked to psychological and social problems in children, especially young adults. It can even lead to diabetes down the road.

The direct economic toll to treat these arrays of diseases reaches in the tens of billions. In 2007 the economic cost of treating diabetes was $127 billion. According to the American Diabetes Association this was a $42 billion dollar increase in spending from 2002. For obesity the toll is as high as $147 billion annually (2006 figures). The indirect economic toll such as lost productivity and quality of life are also very high. For diabetes the indirect cost is over $58 billion with a loss in national productivity of $26 billion.

The Burden of Diabetes and Obesity to the Households

It is estimated that diabetes cost on average $11, 744 per person per year. For obesity, patients spent an average of $1,429 more on health care than did people within the normal weight range. Even with adequate insurance coverage and government assistance many Latino families, especially ones below the poverty line have a difficult time paying for treatments. Families sacrifice basic and essential needs like heating and food in order to pay for treatment and prescription medication. Many of these impoverished patients end up accumulating huge credit card debts in order to pay for these large expenses. Paying these credit card debts and their high interest rates can cause long-term and even generational economic problems. These families focus most of their resources in combating diseases and debt at the expense of important long-term financial investments like college education (Latinos rank near the bottom in college attendance). This isn’t strictly a Latino issue, these diseases effect all races and ethnicities from the lower socio-economic standings.

Diabetes and obesity create loses in financial production for families and the community. These loses in productivity are devastating for families living on the fiscal edge. Treating diabetes and obesity related disease drains a family’s time, energy, and emotions. That same time and energy could utilized in becoming more financially and socially productive. These poor families end up making hard decisions and creating bad habit just to pay for treatment. Many of them end up consuming inferior foods and goods that are low in nutrients and high in fats, calories, and sugar. These foods are usually inexpensive juices and soft drinks with high amount of fructose corn syrup and fast food burgers laden with saturated fat and calories. For these families eating from the dollar menu at McDonald’s cheaper than buying leafy greens and fruits. In many Latino neighborhoods junk and fast food is more accessible than a grocery store. This ends up being a vicious cycle of disease that never gets properly treated and managed.

Part 2: Inadequate Care for Latinos

These grave health care issues are compounded by the inadequate access to care for Hispanics. This lack of care stems from several factors such as socio-economical standing, government policy, underinsurance, lack of income to treat these diseases, and how Latinos culturally view medicine and certain treatments. The next blog we will explore and go in-depth into these factors, especially into the socio-economic conditions that affect all races and ethnicities.

Stay tuned and please comment on my blog! All comments are welcomed and appreciated!

Wolfe , Lahle A. “1 in 2 Hispanic Children May Develop Diabetes.” World Diabetes Day USA. 1 Oct. 2009. Web. 08 Apr. 2011. .

Pallarito, Karen. “How the Costs of Type 2 Diabetes Add Up – Type 2 Diabetes – Health.com.” Health.com: Health News, Wellness, and Medical Information. 6 May 2008. Web. 08 Apr. 2011. .

Holden, By Diana. “Fact Check: The Cost of Obesity – CNN.com.” CNN.com – Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News. 9 Feb. 2009. Web. 08 Apr. 2011. .

“Direct & Indirect Costs of Diabetes in the United States – American Diabetes Association.” American Diabetes Association Home Page. Web. 08 Apr. 2011. .

Henneberg, Molly. “Hispanic Boom Brings Big Changes for Nation and Its Politics – FoxNews.com.” FoxNews.com – Breaking News | Latest News | Current News. 24 Mar. 2010. Web. 08 Apr. 2011. .

Hip Hop: A Phenomenon 32 Years in the Making Pt.2

Commercializing the Game for Fame

By: Oscar L. Orias

With the album Straight Out of Compton a new and controversial element was added to Hip-hop: corporatism. The West Coast movement was born in some sense by corporations understanding the allure and influence the genre had. This marriage was no coincidence; hip-hop by nature is concerned with image and appearance. B-Boys and Girls along with DJs wore Adidas Shell Toes. Nike, especially the Jordan brand quickly embraced the counterculture and rebellion of urban culture.

“I’m A Nike Head/I wear chains that incite the Feds”

In 1984 the Bulls selected arguable one of the greatest and controversial basketball players of all time, Michael Jordan. His gravity defying leaps and seeming air of arrogance capture the attention of the nation. He was seen early in his career as an arrogant, Machiavellian black superstar basketball player. A superstar who didn’t obey the rules of gravity or the NBA. Jordan was so “Machiavellian and arrogant” that he broke the NBA tradition of wearing white shoes to play basketball. His shoes were black, red, and white; the respective color of the Chicago Bulls. This moved caused the NBA to fine Jordan and banned his shoes. Nike seized on this opportunity and ran a commercial stating that Jordan’s were so “different and rebellious” the NBA had no choose but to banned the shoes. This reflected some of the tenets of Hip-Hip and the “hood” underclass. It taps in to the mind-set and sentiment of the urban youth who felt marginalized to the point of illegality. They felt that their actions and demeanor were looked down by general society. They looked at Jordan as a symbol of themselves and what the future might hold. He was a young rebel pursing the American Dream of material wealth, power, and influence. He was doing all of this while dressing in an “urban matter” and defying the laws of nature and authority. He ultimately answered to no one in general society.

Nike, which begin to recognize the influence hip hop had on youth society, began to aggressively target the urban community and hip hop culture. The company also recognized how the genre was shaping youth cultures in different parts of the world. When Hip-hop spoke, the young people of the world listened. The company began to sponsor star studded basketball tournaments in large cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami. Many of these cities were also seen as Hip-Hop Meccas (no coincidences there). They also became involved in youth leagues like the large AAU organization and created their own summer camps.

How They Did It
The strategy was to influence the urban underclass to buy a certain style and brand of shoe. Inner-city youth were seen as trend setters in the shoe industry. By doing this they created the seeds of influence that would spread to the rest of America’s youth culture. In the minority neighborhoods and ghettos shoes became a powerful status symbol. The more expensive your shoes were the more status you gained with your peers. I can attest to this effect personally. I started wearing Nikes in school and in my neighborhood to fill a need to belong and to reach a certain status. Children and teens that wore inexpensive, generic shoes were seen as un-cool and very poor. Parents were coaxed into buying them because they didn’t want their kids being teased at school.

Nike’s aggressive and effective marketing led to the creation of a whole separate youth culture devoted to their products alone. These shoes by Nike captured the imagination of hundreds of kids, especially kids living in impoverished areas. They did this by not advertising the shoe itself but on how the shoe can bring hope and make dreams reality. Nike managed to take a simple product like shoes and turn it into a way of life and a culture.

The Nike Cult
This takes the marketing concept of creating brand loyalty to new and potential dangerous heights. Today there are hundreds of websites and publications devoted to rating and discussing certain shoes and manufacturers. Many of these shoes have a cult following and have been used in popular culture, especially Hip-hop. Nelly did a whole song devoted to the Nike’s Air Force 1 model. This song caused the demand and price of Air Force 1s to skyrocket. Many adults today (especially from impoverished areas) still use shoes among other things as a symbol of self-worth. They are usually the most devoted followers and hardcore collectors. These same adults become parents and instill the value of worth based on material possessions (i.e. shoes) on to their children.

On part 3 of Hip-Hop: A Phenomenon 32 Years in the Making I explore how Nas’ Illmatic touched off the 90s Rap Renaissance and how hip hop started to fracture.

Austin Outpaces Houston in Economic Growth

By: Oscar L. Orias

A new study by the Brookings Institute ranks cities around the nation and world on how well they are recovering from the recession. Looks like this year Texas is a big winner, again. Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin made the top 15 in the nation in recovering. Austin led the pack by being the best city to recover in the US and 25th in the world. Houston made the list as the 61st in the world, lagging behind the rest of Texas. Houston has gained a reputation of being of the best recession proof cities but as the studies show it is behind the other major metropolises in the lone star state. It seems that for now Austin’s economy has come out pretty well.

Austin Booming
Austin for the last decade has remained one of the leading cities in growth and stable economy. It has gotten rid of it’s reputation as being just merely a home for the UT System, Texas government, and Dell headquarters. 7 companies from Austin made Delloitte’s list of fast growing companies. There are several reason for this rapid growth:

1) Stable Economy: the huge campus, UT-Austin and Texas government are stable employers that don’t lay-off huge numbers of employees. They can’t do things like outsource to India and China. Government and university jobs are also somewhat shielded from contractions that plague the finance, manufacturing, and constructions. Those two sectors also attract skilled workers and jobs. Skilled jobs tend to be more stable than unskilled labor.

2) Skill workforce: Austin is known as the intellectually capital of Texas. The biggest reason is that more than 50,000 students attend UT-Austin. With such a huge number of students, UT plays a major role in the culture and economy of Austin. The city itself has taken measure in becoming more than a college town and developing the city. These students are choosing to stay in the city because of the industries moving to the area and the infrastructure development. Many of these jobs that attract students are in technology sector, which traditionally relies on skilled domestic labor. These companies move to the metropolis mainly for low taxes, lower wages, and plentiful skill labor.

3) The suburbs: Suburbs around Austin have also done a tremendous job in attracting industry and jobs to the metro area. In fact the suburbs outpace the city of Austin in growth. The city is growing at 13% while the surrounding community experience growth at 62% from 1998-2006. Housing in the state is also very affordable compared to other states. These inexpensive houses and skilled jobs attract families from all over the country. This has softened the blow to the city’s real estate market.

4) The Fun factor: Austin is known worldwide for 6th Street. 6th Street brings tourism to Austin, which helps the city generate revenue and grow the economy. The entertainment and restaurant industry is a major player in Austin’s economy. It brings diversity to the municipality’s portfolio and more importantly it creates jobs. The local government also does great things like hold festivals on 6th Street and cater to tourists. It also entices students and young professionals to work, live, and play in Austin. Many of these young professionals later have families and move to a house in one of fast growing suburbs.

5) Texas attracts businesses: The state’s friendly tax policies and no state income tax entices businesses to move to Texas. The state also has lack laws in employee rights, union organization, and zoning laws. These make it very attractive to businesses to set up shop in Texas. The skilled and relatively inexpensive labor of Austin attracts high-tech industries that would normally go to places like Silicon Valley in California.

What Can Houston Learn from Austin
Unfortunately not much can be learn from Austin. Both cities attract different industries and people. Houston seen as an industrial city where oil and biotechnology reign supreme and to some extent this is true. Many companies that aren’t in oil or biotechnology depend on those industries in some sort of fashion. Here are some things that the city can do improve and strengthen the economy in the future:

1) Create a better relationship with the colleges: Houston has many big and great colleges within its metro area. This benefits the city by creating and keeping an educated labor force. Unfortunately the city has not done a great job working closer with these institutions and integrating them further into the fabric of the culture. It doesn’t have to work to the extent that Austin does with UT but needs to make the universities feel a part of the community. The relationship between the city and the University of Houston has appeared distant both their histories. The relationship has gotten better over the last 7 years but more can be done to bring these two organizations together. The same can be said about the other major research institute: Rice University.

2) Strengthening Infrastructure: Houston is growing and so are the needs of this huge metropolis. The city has the daunting task of trying to deliver services to such a large area. Houston will have to step up to the challenges of its size and rapid growth in the near future. Have a developed infrastructure will go a long way in delivering quality service to all citizens.

3) Smart growth: Houston throughout its boom period in the 80s and 90s was described by many at the time as organized chaos. Buildings and houses were appearing in strange parts of town and crime was high. Much of that disorganized growth was due to the lack of zoning laws. These same laws spared Houston much of the damage from the Great Recession. Houston is again described as a boom town but this time the cities growth should be more thought out and planned. I am not advocating zoning laws, just that city government must be smart in how they plan out growth. There are promising sign of smart growth with Centerpoint’s Smart Grid and the expansion of the Metrorail.




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