In August 2008 I started to notice a surge of profit warnings. The banking giant HSBC said profits fell 28 percent to $10.2 billion as it was forced to write off $14 billion from bad debts in the United States. Societe Generale declared a drop of 63 percent. Lloyds TSB announced a fall of 70 percent. It wasn't restricted to the banks. Toyota fell 28 percent, Nissan 41 percent, and even BMW 44 percent. The Financial Times talked of a global tempest. The BBC talked about slower economic growth.

Something was happening—something radical. Each morning I'd check my RSS feeds for the latest stories on Reuters and the BBC. Week after week it was more doom and gloom. It got to the point where organizations failed to report the percentage drop—they ...

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