Friday, October 14, 2011

David Korten message to the Occupy Wall Street movement

David Korten, an economist, author, and former Professor of the Harvard Business School, was asked why the Occupy Wall Street movement is striking such a strong chord with such a broad base of our society.  He replied with some verysobering words "The problem is deeply structural.  There's not going to be an economic recovery, and the politicians are not going to take the actions that are necessary.   The leadership is only going to come from the people".  To the protesters he would like to say "The future depends on you.  Have the courage, the world is watching"

He also points out that the income of the middle class has been declining for some time.  We should note that this has been masked for the last two decades by the rise of two income families and a huge increase in personal debt.  These coping mechanisms have reached their limit though, which suggests that we are not going to return to the way things used to be.  Perhaps some people are beginning to realize this.  For others, this goes against their economic ideology and that makes it very hard to accept. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Let's End the Hero Worship of Steve Jobs

Roles models can be a good thing to have. Hero worship can be problematic though. Now that the hero worship of Steve Jobs has died down, let me offer a different perspective. In reality, Steve Jobs sometimes acted like a jerk in his personal life, he abused and mistreated his fellow employees, and he has no public record of ever donating any of his massive wealth to charity. He didn’t invent much of what Apple is known for. The mouse, graphic interface, MP3 song player, smart phone, and tablet computer were all first introduced by other companies. Steve Jobs – no, make that the engineers at Apple, took those innovations and produced better versions of them. Steve Jobs never embraced the open source movement, and Apple remains one of the prime examples of complete corporate control over anything having to do with their products.

As far as Steve Jobs changing the world – really? In any way that qualifies as important? When the long term history of the computer industry is written, his impact will be much small than someone like Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web and then refused to patent it so that it could be more widely shared in an open manner by everyone. Or what about another serious role model who recently died, Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai. She was personally responsible for starting major environmental and women’s rights movements in Africa, movements that have been causing major improvements in the lives of people all over Africa. When CEOs become more idolized then these people, you again have to question the priorities of our culture.

The fact that Steve Jobs’ death was announced by Apple Corp., and not by his family or friends, should be something that strikes people as strange and a little sad.