It's Obvious! Not!

Perversely, it's sometimes (very, very) obvious. Unless: (1) You are very close to the action. (2) You are very smart-clever.

I had a long-ish talk with a petroleum company executive in California. He's very experienced! Very savvy! Brilliant!

And: He was perfectly able to explain the appropriateness of oil-company profits last quarter. ($9 BILLION at ExxonMobil alone, recall.)

And he was irate (understatement) at my highly intellectual rejoinder, "It sucks. It's an insult, an outrage to 98% of your adult fellow Americans—including me. We go to Iraq over oil, we suffer an ungodly deadly hurricane ... and you get a humongous bonus for being in the right place at the right time. At least be contrite, for God's sake."

(End of conversation.)

We are not likely to conserve our way out of slavery to the Middle East. I do not favor a windfall profits tax. I want, in fact, sky-high energy prices to spur hydrocarbon discovery, refinery construction, conservation, and alternative energy-source development.

But I want my friend ... at this moment in time ... simply ... to feel my/our pain. Not to give me an intellectually brilliant argument along the lines of, "Some years are good, some years are bad." ("Screw you!")

In 1973-74 I worked on drug control issues in, yes, the Nixon White House. My office, #424 Old Executive Office Building, was about 75 yards from the fabled West Wing and, moreover, I had a coveted pass to the Senior White House Mess. (I got to sit near the likes of Chuck Colson ... before he went to jail.) All of America knew RMN was about to be ridden out of town on a rail ... or on a Big Jet Plane. That is, all of America knew it except, it seemed, a few hundred of us "best and brightest" who lived in the immediate vicinity (measured in yards) of Mr I-Am-Not-A-Crook.

My cohorts and I didn't know Nixon had a half-life measured in hours. Mr Oil didn't know we-the-people were unimpressed by a Gaggle of Old White Guys on Capitol Hill telling us $9,000,000,000+ in profits was no more than fair pay for 90 days' work.

There is legal "inside information" of incredible value. No doubt of it. But there is also inside insularity that does incredible harm to enterprises. And, perversely in my experience, the higher up they are and the smarter they are (smart = excellent at intellectually stunning rationalizations), the more likely they are to be dangerously out of touch with everyman.

Beware. If it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck ...

Tom Peters posted this on December 2, 2005, in News.
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