Either I've been very busy, or I've gotten lazy, because it's time for a clip show. Actually, unlike sitcoms, this stuff is all new, just stuff I haven't written about yet, so think of it more like a Gag Reel on the DVD extras.
Still, since I'm nostalgic, we're going to stick with the clip show format. So here goes:
Remember the time I met the reporter from Business Week....
Tuesday, I met a reporter from Business Week (nice segue, right?).
Anyway, what was particularly interesting was her beat. Just in case you haven't seen "His Girl Friday" recently, I'll explain: reporters walk beats, just like Sean Connery in "The Untouchables." We have some subject or area that we are responsible for keeping tabs on.
Her beat: innovation. This is an odd beat for a reporter, but it's telling. Most beats at Business Week are things like Wall Street or U.S. manufacturing. But Business Week has realized that innovation is such a massive movement in all kinds of businesses that it is something they need to be reporting on anywhere it shows up.
Everyone is being disrupted, this reporter told me. And everyone needs to innovate to deal with that. But it's even bigger than that. All of a sudden, she said, China, India, and others can manufacture as well as we can and often better. They can build to the same quality for much less money. What does that leave us?
Innovation, she says. We have the most impressive higher education system in the world (of course, China and India are working on theirs). If any of us are going to stay ahead, it has got to be by coming up with new ideas.
Remember when I wrote about religious participation...
"'For most of the past 300 years, from 35 to 40 percent of the population (of the United States) has probably participated in congregations with some degree of 'regularity.' In either case, one reason for this resilience is that religion in America (unlike in most other advanced Western nations) has been pluralistic and constantly evolving, expressed in a kaleidoscopic series of revivals and awakenings rather than a single-state religion that could become ossified."
That paragraph, written by Robert Putnam in "Bowling Alone," summarizes the experience of religion over the last three centuries in the western world.
Competition, which stimulates constant evolution, is necessary for long-term success strike that, for long-term survival in any business.
Marx critiqued capitalism for its imperialistic nature. In the search for ever-expanding profits, he thought, the system would colonize the world. Once it ran out of new places to expand to, it would implode.
However, the reaction of consumers of religion to a religious industry that is stagnant versus their reaction to an industry that is in constant flux demonstrates that there's so much churn, even in a static market, that expanding really only allows us to stay in the same place. Industry must always expand, because it is always contracting somewhere else. We have to constantly innovate to create a new product or service because another will always be dying.
Remember when I read Warren Buffett's letter to the shareholders...
Warren Buffett, the Mick Jagger of high finance and the second richest man in the world, speaks once a year to the shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway. His letter to the shareholders is, at this point, the stuff of legend. For the first time this year, I actually read it. And it was great. It is downloadable from the Berkshire Hathaway Web site.
A fellow reporter, Matt Hutton, knew I was reading it, and later in the day he came over to my desk to tell me he could not believe how much I'd been laughing for the past hour reading an annual letter to the shareholders.
Buffett's letter is charming and erudite. It is down to earth and insightful. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in business in any way.