Northern Europe Rules // The Price of Power



From the recently released 2005 Global Competitiveness Report, by the World Economic Forum (WEF), we learn the Finland tops the charts for the second consecutive year. The presence of several North-European countries in top ten disproves the thesis that high national tax rates obstruct countries from competing effectively in world markets, or from delivering to their respective populations some of the highest standards of living in the world. The Report is "suggesting that what is important is how well the government revenues are spent, rather than the tax burden per se."

The US continues to hold technological supremacy, and maintain the premiere pipeline of innovation in the world. The US companies are aggressive in adopting new technologies, and spend heavily on R&D. However, the US leadership in these areas is being moderated by its lower performance in other areas measured by the WEF composite index. Macroeconomic imbalances in the country, especially in the area of the public finances, keep the US on the second place. So, despite "overall technological supremacy" the US is downgraded by poor economic management and the perceived negative influence of business lobbies on government policy.


Global Competitive Index


GCI
GCI

Country
2005 Rank
2004 Rank
Changes 2004-2005
Finland
1
1
0
United States
2
2
0
Sweden
3
3
0
Denmark
4
5
1
Taiwan
5
4
-1
Singapore
6
7
1
Iceland
7
10
3
Switzerland
8
8
0
Norway
9
6
-3
Australia
10
14
4

Source: http://www.weforum.org/

It's fund-raising time!

It is again time for the publicly funded, American TV and radio stations to ask for money. Under the guise of providing local programming, in this rational day and age, we have to put up with such quarterly rituals.

The problem I have with "local" programming is that, except for offering ample opportunities for few local egos, they would be an interesting idea. Culture comes especially in its garden variety. Voices and faces are few and the same. A better name for these media would be communally-funded schemes of full-employment.

Today, unless one lives in one of the top FIVE metropolitan areas, chances are that most worth watching, and tuning in to, materials are not local. This situation makes, for the educated consumer of media, a very parochial landscape. There could not even be a comparison between our public media and the likes of BBC, ARTE, Canal+, Pro7. Moreover, when was the last time you watched a non-American/British film on PBS? Not even one from the Sundance Film Festival?

As alternative, I suggest that all the locally raised funds be pooled by NPR and PBS, which, in turn, can allocate them more efficiently. The result should consist of more programming and variety, higher quality programming (i.e culture and education), and fewer re-runs. Even in comparison to developing countries, the average American consumer of public media gets programming in less quantity, and of lower quality.

By pooling resources, the US public media could achieve higher levels in consumers satisfaction. For example, PBS could develop content for several channels, each channel targeting a major demographic. The classical music radio programming could also gain from consolidation by allocating adequate resources for interviews and music education. The American consumers of media would have more access to meaningful and real variety, not the current "variety" each category of media consumer gets so little of it.

On future & dollar

The future, the only currency that mattered more than the dollar...

Salman Rushdie, Shalimar The Clown

Keep some behind closed doors, in those corporate board-rooms!




Jack Welch, this fin-de-si├Ęcle icon of business management, has made some public appearances since he left the top position at GE. Unfortunately or not, most of these outings were revelatory of softer spots of a well clad person(a). Indeed, the details about his divorce, his efforts to put out some books (i.e. apologies for golf and tennis key-words, -people, -places), or his op-ed pieces, make for a portrait of a man who despite age is still lacking.

His most recent op-ed, The Five Stages of Crisis Management - Why Katrina will make us stronger, came out in WSJ-OpinionJournal on 09/14/2005. Mr. Welch takes five generic stages of crisis management and instantiates them, afterwards, to the events surrounding the Katrina catastrophe.

The first stage of that pattern is denial. The problem isn't that bad, the thinking usually goes, it can't be, because bad things don't happen here, to us. The second is containment. This is the stage where people, including perfectly capable leaders, try to make the problem disappear by giving it to someone else to solve. The third stage is shame-mongering, in which all parties with a stake in the problem enter into a frantic dance of self-defense, assigning blame and claiming credit. Fourth comes blood on the floor. In just about every crisis, a high profile person pays with his job, and sometimes he takes a crowd with him. In the fifth and final stage, the crisis gets fixed and, despite prophesies of permanent doom, life goes on, usually for the better.


The question now becomes: If it takes a PhD, top CEO of all times, and man in his old age, to come up with such writings at these moments, what is being left for the college student looking to score well on his/her homework? Probably, somebody should tell Jack it's high time he moved on!

On a larger scheme of things, it is quite astounding to reckon the price of success or how incomplete personalities success (of any type?) produces...

Very-long term view

One of our jobs is to optimize the surplus that we pass on, but not necessarily maximize it. I suppose the difference that I would put between optimization and maximization is a very-long term view.

Tony Hughes, financial director of All England Club, a private members club


Considering the health of an organization, it is imperative that its employees/resources be happy and not only its executives, customers, and shareholders. Hence the long term view on the life of a business. Should one think that long-termism is an exclusive feature of private concerns?

STEVE JOBS COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS




06/01/05, Stanford CA

"I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.
I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out? It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college. And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting. It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example: Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating. None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later. Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.
I was lucky - I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation - the Macintosh - a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating. I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me - I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over. I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life. During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I retuned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together. I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes. I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now. This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept: No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true. Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking.

Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and Polaroid cameras.

It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions. Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. Thank you all very much."

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