Memory Lane:
Long Time Comin’

During the heydays of In Search of Excellence, a Stanford economics professor under whom I'd studied invited me to a business economists' seminar—my one and only visit to a forum of professional economists.

I have only one memory. Namely, a GM staff economist, red-faced (literally), accosting my prof to castigate him for inviting me. During the prior couple of years, or prior 5 or 6 years (?), GM's market share had dropped from 45% to 36%. I had said that GM had "lost 20% of its market share in the last X years"—obviously accurate. (That is: 9/45 = .20.) This guy went on and on (and on!) about having "only" lost 9%. He was right in absolute terms—obviously. (Yes, 45 – 36 = 9.) And I was obviously right in relative terms.

The memory this morning is of this little-trivial "moment of denial" (dear god, 9% is awful) which, alas, has been characteristic of the last 30 years of GM's history. The depth of the GM malaise, of course, is why we the taxpayers are highly unlikely to get much or any of our $50 billion plus back that we are about to "invest."

(I know why we're doing what we're doing and concede it's probably necessary; but, at age 66, having just flown around the world in one week and eight hours, it is annoying to realize that a few minutes of those grueling hours will have been devoted to generating tax dollars going to GM to extend their public agony; I'd rather have said tax $$, which I don't begrudge Uncle Sam, going to, say, university biotech research—i.e., tomorrow rather than yesterday.)

I chose this morning to think about Cisco and Apple and Oracle and Google and Walmart and Whole Foods and Starbucks and Amgen and Medtronic and Basement Systems and all the other great American companies that now define us. And the unknown wee companies, founded yesterday or the day before, that will knock off the Starbucks and Ciscos—long live creative destruction, the true engine of longterm prosperity.

Tom Peters posted this on June 1, 2009, in Excellence.
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