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epic fail newspaperHow do good companies keep making bad decisions that seem so obvious?

Blame it on the pending Mayan Apocalypse, but it seems like December is the “month of stupid decisions” by a number of otherwise impressive companies. Now, we admit to nothing more than our impressions – and a lot of feedback from our sphere of 10,000 or so friends and subscribers online – but we can’t seem to figure out just how these obviously bad decisions made it past the drawing board – and into the marketplace.

Take, for starters, take Apple’s decision to update the iTunes software. I don’t need a software engineer or a research specialist to decide if the upgrade was successful. I simply have to look at my wife throwing her hands in the air and sighing that she can’t figure out how to do anything with her iPod any more. Apple, the company supposedly dedicated to putting people first, must have skipped the part about asking people who don’t want to “figure out” the latest updates in order to keep using their beloved products. We expect those kinds of shenanigans from Microsoft, but Apple? When you start losing the iPod users – never mind iPhone or iPad – then you’re really screwing up.

Outside of the tech world, we can point to last month’s infamous self-destruction of 15,000 jobs at the hands of the  Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union at Hostess Brands. Even if we accept that the management team at Hostess did a lousy job of running the company for quite some time, and that innovation had stagnated for longer than the shelf-life of a Twinkie, the BCTGM’s stand “to the bitter end” certainly won the battle, but lost them the war. Rather than having 85% of something, they (plus thousands of employees they didn’t represent) now have 100% of nothing. Seems like a pretty dumb approach to job security to us.

Finally, we return to the tech world today for the “dumbest of the dumb” moves by Facebook, who now owns Instagram. In the “mother of all terms-of-use changes,” Instagram announced changes to their usage policy that reserved the right to resell users photos to third parties, without permission or compensation. In other words, your baby, cat and Las Vegas trip photos could suddenly adorn marketing pamphlets, blogs or magazine covers. It could be cool, certainly, if National Geographic picked up your safari shots, but what happens when your bad hair day makes the cover of Maxim magazine? Why a company that relies upon voluntary participation of users would possibly snub its loyal fans this way boggles the mind. There had to be a dozen better ways to roll this out, such as offering a simple “opt out” feature for die-hard users who cared enough about it. It was heavy-handed, caused needless complaints across multiple social networks, and bad reviews by media pundits. Even if Instagram only loses a small proportion of its users, it was entirely unnecessary.

Certainly there were more dumb mistakes made this week, none of which may matter after the 21st (:>) but most of which seem like even the armchair CEOs of the world could have predicted the bad outcomes. It just goes to show that no amount of revenue, history or cutting-edge technology can compensate for good judgement when it comes to making business decisions that make sense.