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February 24, 2009

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The problem is that this cop-out of blaming the system and not taking personal responsibility is endemic.

We're seeing it in the credit crunch down south, where the bankers are still walking away with multi-million dollar 'bonuses'.

We're seeing it daily in the Dzienkanski inquiry, where everyone did their jobs and followed orders, but the man still died.

Just about the only person I can remember actually admitting he made a mistake and taking responsibility for it lately has been Barack Obama, but no one seems to be following his example.

I really don't know what the answer is. It's become too easy to wipe your hands, and blame "the system".

Hey Rick

I wonder what your take is on Steve Jobs in regard to your post. I think he has been widely reported in the media to be an egomaniac, someone who would shake his employees to the core, be insulting, etc etc. I saw the movie 'Pirates of Silicon Valley' and he was depicted similarly in that as well. At his headquarters in Cupertino, CA, there have been several pics taken of his convertible merc parked in the handicap parking spot. He just doesn't care.

Yet, a lot of folks love and admire him. He built great companies, ushered in various revolutions and has been a role model to many; but on personal characteristics as reported in the press, one can say he has been a 'jerk'. The tone in Apple has been pretty clear - its all about Steve.

It seems that being a jerk has no effect on the success of a startup, as Steve and Apple are good examples. Infact the lessons are opposite - a more congenial geek like Woz gets sidelined while a more aggressive Jobs takes the limelight.

Is there really any lesson for startups here then, and isn't it all about winning at the end of the day ? A lot of these folks who were widely regarded as 'bad' / 'jerks' while building their companies, like Bill Gates, have gone on to donate their wealth to great causes, while the folks being 'good/nice' in building Linux etc can only offer their wishes, and not concrete support. Isn't the bottomline the real metric then to judge someone/some company ?

Love the rant, and agree wholeheartedly that culture is very important. Sometimes its very difficult to find those organizations more like the start-ups you invest in vs the Microsoft. It seems as organizations grow, the tendency to treat employees less like humans and more like things. Obviously, even in larger organizations, if you get a leader with the qualities/values, then it's less of an issue.

Daisy

Just about the only person I can remember actually admitting he made a mistake and taking responsibility for it lately has been Barack Obama, but no one seems to be following his example.

I really don't know what the answer is. It's become too easy to wipe your hands, and blame "the system".

I'd pull the rant up to 50,000 feet and lay this directly on Ballmer's take no prisoners management style. The operative word is arrogance that leads to believing what you want to believe rather than acknowledging reality. This happens when management doesn't think through the human effects of any business decision.
As for Jobs, there is a fundamental difference: he is obsessed with the user experience. He may not be a role model vis a vis attitude but he is a champion of getting things right. At MS they are more concerned with proving they are right even when it is obvious they are not. Zune, Vista, disparaging early comments about iPhone, etc, etc,etc.

By the way that Internet marketing comment is comment spam.

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