More Belushi, Less Bezos

Ali KImprovhan is a corporate ninja. He has a black belt in Lean Six Sigma, an amalgam of two hyper-methodical management systems developed by Toyota and Motorola. Khan is all in. To get his belt, he had to pass 13 exams proving he could read a Pareto chart and use Kanban analysis. As a director at Sun Life Financial in Toronto, he teaches the stuff. But he recently had his mind blown by another, more unusual corporate tool: improvisational theater.

One Word: “Compliance”

ComplianceTo hear Jamie Dimon tell it, regulation and the cost of compliance are becoming a threat to the American dream. “In the old days, you dealt with one regulator when you had an issue, maybe two,” the JPMorgan Chase CEO said in January. “Now, it’s five or six. It makes it very difficult and very complicated. You all should ask the question about how American that is.” Several tax brackets down from Dimon, Justin “the Compliance Guru” Hall is betting that Dimon’s scourge will, by contrast, ensure his own upward mobility. Hall, 28, is a compliance officer at Charles Schwab Corp.’s retail bank.

Death Becomes Them

Elvis PreJackson_Thumbnailsley boasts 12.4 million “likes” on Facebook and 187,000 followers on Twitter. He just released a duet with Barbra Streisand. And that’s just the beginning for the King of Rock ’n’ Roll and other long-dead celebrities. Reviving a corpse from a cryogenic deep freeze is still the stuff of science fiction — and even Madonna is unlikely to be entombed like Lenin when she dies — but every other promotion is possible. Jamie Salter, the branding guru who owns a majority of Elvis’s estate, is planning a “live” show in Las Vegas with Presley appearing as a hologram.

Your Career as a Loss Leader

Talk_Ain't_CheapThe day after Belgium defeated the U.S. in the World Cup in July, the losing team’s 35-year-old goalie dominated the news, heralded as a hero for his record-breaking 16 saves. Carlton Sedgeley, who has represented paid public speakers for almost five decades at his New York-based Royce Carlton Inc., watched Tim Howard on TV that day and had one thought: The footballer could ride his 120 minutes of valor to lucrative speaking gigs for the next 12 months. In an unexpected twist in this age of digital dominance, folks are willing to pay big bucks for analog, human contact.

Go Ahead, Add that $40,000 Jeff Koons to Your Cart

Amazon_ThumbnailSo, you’re ready to replace that poster from the Montreal Jazz Fest but hate the idea of going into a gallery hawking “the next Andy Warhol”? Jeff Bezos has the answer: Amazon Art. You can pick pieces by artist, price and even, God forbid, color.

Little Bear, Money Quarterback

Little_BearThe University of Alabama opened a new football-training center last February. Any professional team would be happy to have it. The amenities include a $9 million weight room, a hydrotherapy pool with a Club Med–style cascade of hot water and an anti-gravity treadmill that’s more NASA than Nautilus. Coach Nick Saban goes over the finer points of football with his team in a 212-seat theater. The son of Bear Bryant, a demigod in Alabama, made it all possible.

Wal-Mart Fights the Unions

Walmart_ThumbAs a supervisor of the cashiers in Wal-Mart store number 589 in Hillview, Kentucky, Brent Rummage, 27, was required to report to his manager any mention of labor unions. He did so until his mother, who worked in the women’s clothing department, ventured that unions weren’t as bad as Wal- Mart said. “I wasn’t going to report my mother,” he says.

Citigroup, Unhedged

PanditVikram Pandit knows one way to make big money in hedge funds: sell them. In July 2007, Pandit sold Old Lane Partners LP to Citigroup Inc. for $800 million and pocketed $165 million for his stake. Then he took over the bank’s in-house hedge-fund group. He became chief executive officer of the whole company just five months later. For Pandit, the hedge-fund business was a sprint to riches. For Citigroup, it’s been a slog.