Do the Right Thing Well

Writing in The Atlantic in 2012, in "What Happened to Silicon Values?" Bill Davidow contrasts recent attitudes with what he recalls in the 1960s and 70s:

The company was focused on delivering advanced technology of great value, then servicing and supporting the customer to make sure he derived value from what he bought. Customers trusted Hewlett-Packard. I remember one customer who so trusted the salesman who took care of his account that he let the sales rep purchase what he needed. That period of trust went on for a long time. The salesman told me his secret: He never bought anything for the customer that the customer did not really need.

At both Hewlett-Packard and Intel, where I next worked, money was important — but it wasn't the top priority. The goal was to do the right thing and do it well. If you did that, over time, rewards followed and shareholders supported your efforts. ...

Many other things have changed in the valley over the past five decades. I've become increasingly concerned about one thing that is seldom discussed: the valley is no longer as concerned about serving the customer, and even sees great opportunity in exploitation. We are beginning to act like the bankers who sold subprime mortgages to naïve consumers. In such an environment, we are less likely to create the role models of the past who guided the valley to its future.

David muses about selfishness and lock-in, power and control, and the people who seem proud to wield these elements as their strategy. He concludes with:

When corporate leaders pursue wealth in the winner-take-all Internet environment, companies dance on the edge of acceptable behavior. If they don't take it to the limit, a competitor will. That competitor will become the dominant supplier — one monopoly will replace another. And when you engage in these activities you get a different set of Valley values: the values of customer exploitation.

... which applies far beyond the high-tech world of the San Francisco Bay area. There's selfish taking-advantage of The Other in big defense contractors working for the government, in large and small businesses selling to individuals, and even in intimate personal interactions. Perhaps it has always been there. That doesn't make it right, or worthy.

So sad, so small, so short-sighted ...

(cf. Universal Flourishing (2001-12-25), How To Succeed (2005-03-11), Big Ideas (2012-05-20), Wingman (2013-03-01), Mantra - For Us (2015-11-18), ...) - ^z - 2016-01-12