Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Do Ping Pong Sales Predict Tech Downturns?

Source: Wall Street Journal
Zusha Elinson has written a fun and thought-provoking article in today's Wall Street Journal.  The article is titled, "Is the Tech Bubble Popping?  Ping Pong Offers an Answer."   Elinson found that ping pong table sales decreased 50% in the first three months of 2016.   Venture capital financing decreased by 25% in the same time period.  Elinson cites information from retailers and wholesales indicating that firms such as Twitter, Intel, and Yahoo have all reduced or stopped their purchases recently.  

Is there any truth to the theory that ping pong sales are a leading indicator?  Who knows?!  However, it's worth noting that many large companies have purchased ping pong tables (and other games) in recent years, in hopes of emulating the culture of start-ups in Silicon Valley.   They have learned a hard lesson.  Buying ping pong tables does not create an innovative culture.  In fact, it does nothing really unless you transform the fundamental attitudes, beliefs, and values of the organization.  In fact, you create a skepticism in many employees if you add ping pong tables, but fail to change the shared norms, expectations, reward systems, and leadership style of the organization.   They see the move for just what it is - a superficial attempt to influence employee satisfaction without an underlying shift in how work actually gets done.