Fast Company

Last Questions

A Spy in the House of Work

I'm writing to you today not from my furniture-outlet desk in Darth's mom's garage (the former world headquarters of e-conjob -- the last profitable dotcom) but from under a palapa on a white-sand beach far, far away. This is all I can tell you, and I'm terribly sorry about that, since for a good half-decade, I've made it my business to tell you all that I know -- and much that I just made up.

I can tell you that the reason I cannot tell you is that it would violate my agreement with the Spy Protection Program. That's the federal agency that has paid for my one-way ticket, changed my name, and provided a modest allowance for plastic surgery and Botox treatments. Why am I here? As Sherron Watkins can tell you, nobody likes a whistle-blower. For years now, I've taken my share of abuse for pointing out the various truths that I've undercovered as the Spy in the House of Work. My motto: Speak truth to power! Power's motto: Shut up!

It didn't matter. The stock market was cruising. IPOs made me, if not a rich guy, at least a richer guy. Then the bubble burst, and people lost their sense of humor. That's when the death threats started. Soon, word got out that in addition to my duties at e-conjob, I was both analyzing companies and selling their stock. Then Eliot Spitzer started investigating me. Me! Didn't the doofus know that I was a double agent?

I made my phone call. I wanted to come in from the cold. So in what may be my last service to you, I am going to empty my notebook. I don't have answers, but I do have the deep, imponderable questions that plague the world of business.

I'm going to get myself a pina colada now. It's time that you learned to think for yourself. After all, there's a little bit of The Spy in all of us. Here goes:

Jeff Bezos: idiot savant or just plain idiot?

Why did the federal government bail out the airline industry after September 11, but not the arts and music programs in the nation's public schools?

What does Jack Welch see in Suzy Wetlaufer?

Now that Wal-Mart is the largest company on earth, can someone please tell me who shops there?

To be the CEO of a major American company, do you have to be a sociopath, or will just being a schmuck do?

Bill Gates is the wealthiest man in America. Can you tell me one interesting thing that he has ever said?

Why do big studios make big pictures that suck and small studios make small pictures that rock?

What did Jacques Nasser ever see in Suzy Wetlaufer?

Kenneth Lay: Jedi master or Darth Vader manqué?

What is it that CEOs do that explains why they make 116 times more money than the average worker? Can I learn how to do it too?

What's the deal with Jennifer Lopez's permanent spot on AOL's startup page? Is her life that fascinating, or does Steve Case have a thing for her?

What do they teach you in business school?

How do they measure productivity?

Is it true that Suzy Wetlaufer makes the best pot roast in business today?

Should we all be learning Chinese?

Who was General Gau? And was he really a chicken?

When will the economy recover?

Why do I look fatter on business-casual days than when I wear a coat and tie?

The Spy: smart cookie or fruitcake? You make the call.

This is the last episode (for now ...) in The Spy's saga, "Working Behind Enemy Lines." You can find the entire Spy chronicles on the Web (www.askthespy.com).

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