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Satellite Raves

You've penned the most definitive article on satellite radio I've read in several years as an investor in both XM and Sirius ("Written in the Stars," February). I've maintained that XM is better positioned for the future, especially under Hugh Panero. Now I can point my friends to your article, for you have put down in words what few are able to explain. Anything can happen and satellite radio could fail, but I'm willing to take the risk.

Russell W. Hooper
Private portfolio manager
R.W. Hooper Investments
Brentwood, Tennessee

I thoroughly enjoyed your article. When it comes to technology, my business partner describes me as more of an "early skeptic" than "early adopter." But once my 85-year-old uncle added XM Radio to his car, I became a convert. After installing a unit in my car, I jumped at the opportunity to be the first on my block to purchase an XM tuner for my office.

I do believe programming is the X factor that will spell success or failure for both companies. Rather than wasting money on personalities like Howard Stern, they need to tap into the free programming that already exists on the Internet: shows devoted to investing and hobbies. I became an XM customer because I was bored by the programming radio stations offered. Today, I listen to XM Radio a minimum of 10 hours a day, a number that will increase when baseball season kicks off and I can listen to every team's games.

I'll be following this story closely because I believe satellite radio has the opportunity to become a multibillion-dollar industry.

Mike Nikolich
CEO
Tech Image Ltd.
Buffalo Grove, Illinois

Thank you for your fine article. I have read about 50 articles on satellite radio since I started following these companies 18 months ago. Yours is the most balanced, and certainly the most informative and interesting. Thank you for telling me things I didn't know. Please keep tracking this and do an update now and then.

I honestly, prudently, calmly believe that satellite radio will become a major telecommunications infrastructure, well beyond a "radio broadcaster." I urge you to look beyond the music/talk/news content and look into the potential long-term impact of this infrastructure.

Name withheld

Stalk Answers

I just finished reading your article on George Stalk and wanted to commend you on a job well done ("The 10 Lives of George Stalk," February). Not only was it well written, it made me both admire Mr. Stalk's drive and contributions and mourn for his family as they watch him drive headlong out of their lives and into an early grave.

As a consultant and executive coach, I've observed this type of behavior in a number of clients and on occasion have visited their hospital beds after heart attacks or pneumonia resulted from the stress brought about by their drive. The fortunate ones at some point realize there is more to life and regain some balance. I hope this happens with Mr. Stalk; I greatly enjoyed Hardball: Are You Playing to Play or Playing to Win? and would hate to think it's his last book.

Mario Sikora
Executive director
Enneagram Consulting & Training Center
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

In Hardball, Stalk and Lachenauer present a clear vision of what it really takes to compete and win in the 21st century. It is a politically incorrect tour de force that is creating controversy among business intelligentsia because the authors have the audacity to suggest that enterprises should compete and compete hard.

Mike Smock
Managing director
vSente
San Francisco, California

I have read Fast Company for about five years and have often been inspired and moved by the insights and people found in your pages. However, this article didn't sit right with me.

George Stalk is a rare bird, a maniacal genius. He is a superintelligent individual with an all-consuming hunger to decode puzzles, break barriers, crush the competition, and succeed at all costs. It's irresponsible of you to present Stalk as an aspirational figure because your readers will more than likely never achieve the professional highs (and lows) of his lifetime. We can't even begin to understand a person like Stalk because we are not built the same way. FC readers need relatable characters, men and women who are three steps ahead of us, not aliens circling another galaxy light years away. We will always be inadequate next to Stalk. We're just not smart enough.

Stalk has no practical advice for ambitious businesspeople, just high-powered biz plans for monolithic corporations that can afford to hire him and implement his matrix-style infrastructure over years. The rest of us are left with a suitcase jam-packed with ideas and no plane ticket. FC is about ideas that work and thoughts that inspire action. Your profile on Stalk gives me thoughts that inspire only one action: tuning in to Desperate Housewives.

David Whiteman
Marketer
New York, New York

Debunking the Debunker

Rather than scouring the literature for "game theory," the logical approach is to look for applications of game theory ("You Got Game Theory!" February). A very common application is the reverse auction, conducted by hundreds of companies globally on a daily basis. Purchasing publications have carried articles on reverse auctions for years, and a number of companies offer consulting services and do-it-yourself software. Fast Company is one of my favorite publications, but the Consultant Debunking Unit got this one wrong.

Steve Smiley
Vice president of purchasing
Nellson Nutraceutical Inc.
Irwindale, California

Martin Kihn writes that all the major B-schools teach the "fun" subject of game theory but real businesses never use it. It is true that game-theory calculations almost never set a specific business decision, but that misunderstands its purpose.

Game theory is a way to understand some of the essentials of a competitive situation, a kind of generic knowledge that informs decisions without prescribing them. It also provides a foundation for applied parts of management education. Microeconomic theory, for one, has come to rely on it. Is the author saying, don't teach modern microeconomics to MBAs? Or don't teach the logic, just the conclusions? That would be dangerous.

Mr. Kihn emailed "a panel of 30 eminent game theorists around the world" and asked for a specific application in business. No example came back, he tells us, quoting an "expert member" of the panel who "admitted" that game theory does not really work. In fact, the individual named is a philosopher. He's not in a business school and has never written on game theory. "Admitted" is good rhetoric, but it's not accurate here.

Barry O'Neill
Professor of political science
University of California, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California

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