The Fabric of Creativity
Alan Deutschman does one of the best jobs I've seen in describing what makes W.L. Gore such an innovative company ("The Fabric of Creativity," December 2004). I knew Bill Gore, and my research in recent years has focused on the self-managing or self-organizing system, of which the company that he built is the best example. Alan needs to be congratulated for making what takes place at Gore as understandable and meaningful as possible for an "outsider."
Professor of management emeritus
The Gore School of Business
Westminster College of Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City, Utah
Today, It Is a Fair Fight
I found Marshall Goldsmith's column ("It's Not a Fair Fight If You're the CEO," December) spot on, but slightly out of date. Today, employees, boards of directors, and even CEOs know that the role of chief executive has changed from one of an all-knowing and wise honcho to a coach, mentor, and caretaker of the company. Just look at W.L. Gore, elsewhere in the same issue. The atmosphere there is one that encourages mavericks and where management is unconventional and employees challenge everyone — including the boss. While we might be defining two ends of the spectrum, I believe most successful companies lean toward Gore's philosophy of open communication between employees and the CEO.
Why Microsoft Can't Innovate
You can liken Microsoft's situation ("What Money Can't Buy," December) to a race. Microsoft shot out in the lead very quickly. But instead of seeing how far it could go, it turned around to face its trailing competitors and tried to see how long it could hold them back. It's been spending so much time on battling upcoming threats — open source, for example — that it has let other things slip by, as you mentioned in the article. That's why it's losing popularity.
Willamette Education Service District
As a self-proclaimed "creative" person, "What Money Can't Buy" confirmed my belief that like love, you can't buy creativity. The pursuit of creativity with the primary goal of income or profit is a fool's endeavor. With all of its resources and apparently not much to lose at this point, Microsoft should pursue a bold experiment: Retire its entire R&D staff to a lifetime of paid leisure and recreation — with a long string attached. If they're truly creative individuals, they will, by innate drive, exercise their innate talents to satisfy their curiosity. If they attain some fortune, Microsoft would get 10%. I think Bill Gates and company would profit handsomely from the many Google-like successes that would likely result.
New York, New York
The Myths of Creativity
Teresa Amabile had me nodding in agreement ("The 6 Myths of Creativity," December) . . . up until her opening statement for number six, where she blames public-relations departments for the myth that downsizing and restructuring foster creativity. Having spent more than 12 years in corporate communications, I know that such a myth exists. Usually it comes out of the executive suite after its occupants have spent too much time with business gurus, cost accountants, human-resource consultants, middle managers, and myriad others who want business leaders to believe that downsizing doesn't have negative consequences.
Any public-relations counsel worth his or her salt, however, will tell the truth. As Amabile correctly points out, productivity usually takes a dive and creativity hits a wall. But downsizing doesn't have to disable an organization. A communication plan for a layoff can minimize the ill effects. By anticipating the issues — lower productivity because of worried employees, the proliferation of rumors, the possibility of a dip in customer-service quality — and then addressing them with clear, honest, and timely communication throughout the ordeal, executives can help lead employees to recuperation.
Robert J. Holland
Holland Communication Solutions LLC
In "Green Power" (December), you didn't mention the oldest form of fuel known to mankind: alcohol (ethanol). Ethanol is a direct substitute for petroleum-based gasoline, and it's made from renewable resources. Today, ethanol is being mixed with gasoline at rates as high as 10%. But it's possible to use ethanol in existing internal combustion engines at a mixture rate of 85% ethanol to 15% gasoline. With some modifications, the internal combustion engine can even run on 100% ethanol. There are several companies here in the United States and abroad that are working on this known, proven, state-of-the-art technology. Ethanol should have been included in your article.
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A version of this article appeared in the February 2005 issue of Fast Company magazine.