The Face Off
These companies all began as disruptive and innovative powers: Google did something no one else had ever thought of; Apple did marketing unlike any other company; Facebook built a revolutionary network; and Amazon did for e-tail what Walmart did for retail ("The Great Tech War of 2012"). Now, these four are fighting over patents, TV content, apps, data, and wallet share. As a result, they are losing their most holy attribute: uniqueness. They are in a rush to beat each other, to imitate each other. This will result in a loss of creative energy. When you copy or compete with someone else, you cannot be all you can be. I do not see this as a harbinger of good things to come.
New Delhi, India
I think this experiment [Choate Rosemary Hall's student-run energy-efficient dorm] is a terrible misuse of $20 million ("Power Games"). A simpler and more effective way to teach students about energy use would be to have two groups of students live in two separate homes, competing for the lowest electric and water bills. The homes could be solar powered, have a garden, and a live-in observer could track recycling. This is closer to the idea of "real world" learning—the kids might actually learn to reduce their energy usage. I'm sure many other ideas similar to this can be applied—for a fraction of the cost—to achieve the same purpose of energy-conscious living.
Santa Clara, California
I've been a recruiter for 19 years, and it frustrates me when a hiring manager chooses pedigree over ability ("Lookin' for Hires in All the New Places"). I often find myself fighting for the candidate who may not be an aesthetic fit but can blow the socks off the hiring manager with their skills. If we hire quality over pedigree, we can put more people back to work and stimulate the economy. By choosing a person from a top-notch school, hiring managers are contributing to the bidding war some claim exists in Silicon Valley. Those people are not in it for the long term—they mostly enjoy the thrill of being pursued and are always looking for that bigger, better position. Come down from that high horse, Silicon Valley, and hire people who are not only talented but also loyal.
Most of the moves in "Risk, Survive, Repeat" are being made by some of the richest companies in the world, so in that sense, I don't think they're risky at all. If something fails, it is not a problem for them; if it succeeds, great news. But I tend to agree with how Apple does it: If there is nothing worth investing in, hang on to your cash reserves.
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A version of this article appeared in the February 2012 issue of Fast Company magazine.