Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Whence Our Soul

In a day of melodramatic news and oversimplified analysis of today's situation, it was delightful to discover this wickedly insightful article by Sean Gallagher about the future of Hewlett-Packard with the reins in the hand of new CEO Meg Whitman.

The major players in Silicon Valley have changed since I first arrived in 1987, but a few of the old pillar players remain and their fate impacts the jobs of many and the fortunes of the region as a whole.

The interesting bits of this article address the fate of the PC division (which for HP, sells numerically more computers than anyone else in the game) and the other business units they control (many of whom employ good friends of mine).

More than that though, it points to a principle that I once thought was healthy and wholesome, and now I see as destructive and bankrupt. That is the principle that stock price, and the idea that all employees would be personally invested in seeing it rise, is a good idea.

Maybe it's just my mind that works this way, but I often consider modern practices in light of the forces at the dawn of civilization that game them rise. For instance, when I think about the marketplace, I think of how it reflects the practices of mankind's first cities and the open air bazaar. When I think about insurance, I think of a pre-dustbowl midwest town where people come for breakfast and to discuss the weather with other farmers, blacksmiths, and shopkeepers.

And when I think of big business, I think of companies that grew strong by starting with the premise that if they built something that consumers genuinely wanted, they would thrive in the marketplace.

I realize this is my own simplemindedness and a my own brand of wistful vision of simpler times, but I also know one thing for certain. Some corporations still adhere to a principle that brings value to the marketplace -- and some corporations obsess over short-term earnings, market share, and employ tactics that are designed to limit the value presented in the marketplace except where they can directly profit from it.

I'm here to say - the marketplace has awakened. We can see what corporations are doing. And I believe that I'm not alone in a newfound passion for rewarding the marketplace players who provide value - and in dismissing the players who attempt to poison and destroy my marketplace.

Which path will you take Meg?

Will HP rise again?