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Leadership for the 21st Century
October 22, 2008 7:56 AM   Subscribe

Leadership for the 21st Century Harvard Business School hosts moderator Charlie Rose in a roundtable discussion concerning the credit crisis, housing, American leadership and foreign affairs. Participants are the 2008 HBS Alumni Achievement Award recipients, including eBay (and McCain advisor) CEO Meg Whitman, GE CEO Jeff Immelt, Venture Capitalist extrordinaire John Doerr, Indian business juggernaut Anand G. Mahindra, and former World Bank president James D. Wolfensohn. This aired on PBS last night and it was some of the most honest, intelligent, and inspiring discussion I have heard in some time. While the only transcript I could find is a paid one here, this 100 minute video should be required viewing for anyone working in a fortune 500 company, or those interested in politics, environmentalism, technology, foreign policy or the election.

I only caught the tail end of last night's airing, (and I'm watching the whole thing as I post this) but a couple of things that really stood out for me: Mahindra's statements regarding the schizophrenia of India toward America; Doerr's excitement on the potential for future innovation around climate change technology and call for the restoration of DARPA; and the general optimism of the participants, especially that of Immelt, whose company's stock is at a 50 year low.

If the last half hour of this could light a fire under my butt, then I would love to see what the whole thing does to the Mefite population.
posted by daHIFI (18 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yeah, if you were a billionaire, why wouldn't you be optimistic?
posted by delmoi at 8:34 AM on October 22, 2008


American leadership abroad & the dollars strength rest partially on the wealthy foreigners being educated here. Such soft power can be increased only by improving universities and letting good/wealthy students get visas, i.e. undoing he changes after Bush.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:47 AM on October 22, 2008


Looking over the schedule posted for the Summit, I'm glad I don't work on HBS campus anymore. They do programs/summits/conferences like these every year, and every year the entire place turns into a madhouse*. This one, with so many VIPs circulating around would have been even crazier, possibly even Commencement Day level insane**.

* Several years ago, I almost crushed Michael Bloomberg's balls with an automatic security gate when he came into the library to see the reading room he helped pay for.

** I opened the window to the bathroom I was making poop in while the then President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, gave her Commencement speech on the lawn below. One minute later, the Secret Service bust into my stall while I was mid-wipe.

posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:47 AM on October 22, 2008 [8 favorites]


So... do we get to hear from anyone who doesn't think capitalism is a shining beacon and that market logic is a sustaining force?
posted by yonation at 8:48 AM on October 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Charlie Rose (via his PBS show) has lost every scrap of cred (IMHO) with his almost-constant pity-party for poor Wall Street. Night-after-night, we've been inundated with power-player after power-player (all, amazingly, good friends with Rose) waxing-on about how Wall Street should be given whatever it wants. Any mention of the needs, concerns and economic difficulties of simple consumers down in the "real" economy routinely get dismissed away with a mere sweep of Rose's hand. His wide-eyed incredulity of "Don't they get it?" when taxpayer resistance to the $700B bailout was mentioned was particularly telling.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:16 AM on October 22, 2008


Thorzdad, the "real" economy and Wall Street are not separate. If Wall Street tanks, so go all boats. Lets not go overboard on the anti-capitalism shtick. Capitalism works, it just needs more regulation, which used to be in place, but was torn asunder by the free market raider ideologues over the past 30 years or so. This tension between free market and regulation has gone back and forth for 500+ years, a dialectic improving with time, but the fundamental baby of capitalism is still sound.
posted by stbalbach at 10:21 AM on October 22, 2008


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posted by blue_beetle at 11:34 AM on October 22, 2008


No, Wall St.'s problems need not translate into real economic problems. Any sector of the economy is "disposable" when they screw up badly enough. If you save everyone all the time then you risk far far worse collapse later.

We've sent the Army to run American coal mines when the miners were on strike. We should have saved the commercial paper market by creating new Fed backed banks, using some mix of experienced bankers and loaned NSA personnel.

We all know investors & depositors would have flocked to capitalize fresh new untainted banks. Yes, that would burry those Wall St. banks even deeper, fine.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:41 AM on October 22, 2008


Thorzdad, the "real" economy and Wall Street are not separate.
No one said they weren't.

Lets not go overboard on the anti-capitalism shtick.
I wasn't.
Sorry if criticism of Rose's one-sided take on our current economic woes translates in your mind as anti-capitalism. I had no idea he was such a sacred cow to you.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:05 PM on October 22, 2008


Lets not go overboard on the anti-capitalism shtick..

ok, because you said so, i guess.
posted by yonation at 12:49 PM on October 22, 2008


Well I'm disappointed to say that this isn't quite the response I was hoping for; when I posted this I was looking forward to some interesting discussion on what the panel had to say, not the snark fest that I was met with in the opening comments.

I know that a lot of people here despise HBS and the damage that it's graduates may have done to the world in the last 20 years, but I didn't get the sense that anyone here was touting the perfection of capitalism or unbridled consumerism. On the contrary, what I heard for the most part was a acknowledgment of the failures of these two things. As I listened to the broadcast while cooking dinner last night I first thought that they were speaking at a beltway liberal arts college, especially gauging from the audience's applause at certain points.

What I heard was an acceptance that things would have to change from the 'spend more than you earn' paradigm that's run rampant in this country during most of my adult life. Here you have 5 of some of the most powerful people on the planet talking in a way that I haven't seen on TV or anywhere in some time.

I look forward to seeing what people have to say after they have a chance to actually watch the video.

Doerr in particular had much to say on the contrast between entrepreneurs and the goverment. To paraphrase, he brings up how a government agency, DARPA, invented the internet and created the field of Computer Science as a discipline. He goes on to say that entrepreneurs are the best at doing a lot with little, and that a billion dollar investment in DARPA 20-30 years ago has turned into a significant return on investment for the entire world. He then goes on to say that the next president should restore DARPA's charter and focus on renewable energy programs, which I agree is probably the best chance for America's continuing success in the world.

I also liked Immelt's comments of government's role in business. Again, I paraphrase, "the idea that goverment has never been a catalyst for change in business is a false one." The reason I thought this was an important video was because of much of what this man had to say. I feel he probably had the most to say of the panel, and his statements give a lot of insight into the man running one of the oldest and most conservative companies in the country.

And as a liberal minded person who works for another of the oldest and most conservative firms in the nation, I can appreciate that he and the other panelist are saying. I am interested in leadership, and I think that listening to what these people were saying will give anyone a sense of the clear and honest discussion that needs to come about if we are to work through the problems of the coming years.

Radicals like to talk about revolution and the Right likes to demonize liberals as wanting to tear down the old and start over from scratch, and I feel that this election is the closest that I've seen in my 29 years to a revolution. Rather than wanting to scrap everything, I feel that the best way to change what's wrong is do do it from within an organization, for example trying to change company policies toward energy efficiency and more environmentally friendly policies, not standing outside it shouting that consumerism/capitalism is bad.

This was a conference on Leadership, not a capitalist pig pep rally. Like it or not. HBS and its graduates are the leaders of the worlds companies and their decisions will effect everyone of us. I would rather take solace in the fact that there are smart people out there and work with them to solve today's problems, not bemoan the mistakes of the past.

Thank you, carry on.
posted by daHIFI at 1:33 PM on October 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sorry, that should read:

"Like it or not, HBS and its graduates are the leaders of the world's companies and their decisions will effect every one of us."
posted by daHIFI at 1:35 PM on October 22, 2008


I can't believe anyone would still want meg "15 dollar" whitman on a stage. that woman has effectively run ebay into stagnation while that other company usually mentioned in the same sentence - amazon - has grown, morphed, expanded. whitman isn't a business leader with foresight, she is an apt liquidator.

charlie rose on the other hand has had a gangbuster month. hank paulson, sheila bair and warren buffet have all been on the show this month and allan greenspan and paul krugman are coming right on up.

and that's just the business crowd. his election coverage is primus inter pares, too.
posted by krautland at 1:36 PM on October 22, 2008


Sorry if criticism of Rose's one-sided take on our current economic woes translates in your mind as anti-capitalism. I had no idea he was such a sacred cow to you.

rose didn't present his own points of view, he asked questions. the panel was alumni of a school at that school. I doubt he had a hand in choosing them.
posted by krautland at 1:40 PM on October 22, 2008


Yeah, this chart might have something to do with why billionaires are feeling so optimistic these days, after all, the past 8 years have been great.
posted by delmoi at 3:47 PM on October 22, 2008


I'm about 25 minutes into the video, and I think the criticism in this thread is unwarranted.
Meg Whitman is discussing (and I'm paraphrasing here) the disparity between bailing out bankers while forgetting that "real people" are the other side of this, and not enough is being done to shore up that side of the equation. Immelt is saying "government always wins", and believes that fact is reassuring. Applause line (John Doerr): "We're borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Middle East, and then burning it." Another: "We can bail out the economy, but we can't bail out the environment."

It sounds like an Obama rally for crying out loud. Some people in this thread really missed the plot (or more likely, didn't WTFV.)

You've got titans of the business world ready to implement progressive ideas and commit capital to innovation. So, listen up, would-be champions of the working class -- quit raging against the machine for a fucking second and pay attention to the moment, or you'll miss the dramatic opportunity here.

Good post, thanks daHIFI.
posted by edverb at 5:50 PM on October 22, 2008


Here's what Harvard's president, historian of the American South and the Civil War Drew Gilpin Faust, had to say at the event.
posted by AwkwardPause at 7:32 PM on October 22, 2008


delmoi, my high school government teacher used to tell us that the richest 1% of the world's population controls 99% of the wealth. your chart isn't much better; things don't look much different.

No one here is disagreeing with you that the past 8 years haven't been the greatest in America's history. I for one am fortunate/lucky and feel optimistic even though I am not a billionaire. I would hope that others like edverb can feel some of the electricity in the air and help us come up with ways for us to make things better. Someone as outspoken as yourself should try to hold back some of the anger. You are one of the most recognizable voices here, please don't fight us.

I had thought that since we're all a bunch of geeks here we might band together behind behind a common interest and put all the snark/troll energy to good use. Maybe we could start a MeFi project to petition the restoration of DARPA and a charter to focus on renewable energy or something similar. I'm sure the bunch of us are smart enough that we could do something like that if we wanted.

I tried not to editorialize on this post but I feel like we are seeing a change in generational leadership. The media on all fronts have been publicizing this great crisis that we are experiencing, and if it's anywhere near the truth then it must be one of the greatest oppourtunities that I've ever seen.

I've been on the blue for many years and know firsthand the great minds that make their way here, and the influence we have on the interwebs. I look forward to seeing what further comments this post draws by morning.
posted by daHIFI at 9:34 PM on October 22, 2008


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