Tuesday, July 19, 2011

driven off the road

An essay from Time Magazine by Dana Foroohar, Driven off the Road by M.B.A.s, describes how the rise of MBAs paralleled the decline of American manufacturing. Another article on CNN describes how social networking has created the laziest of generations. What do you think? Through our neglect of hands-on learning, hands-on making, have we have set a path toward relentless decline?

Blog reader John Grossbohlin had described how IBM's former CEO Tom Watson, Jr. had gathered his tool and die makers in a meeting and informed them that THEY were the future of IBM. My, how times have changed. Some American companies have not done so well with the MBAs in charge.

Today in the wood shop, I continue making boxes, and will begin inlaying lids. I will also begin preparing for next week's box making class with the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

Make, fix and create.

5 comments:

Michael said...

I do think that the "social media" is an effect of "laziest of generations", not the other way around.

Not a big fan of social media myself, I do prefer to "socialize" around a workbench with like-minded galoots and actually do something constructive.

Talking of which... I need to go back to my bench.

Doug Stowe said...

One way or the other, if the purpose of technology is to make things easier for us. Laziness seems to be the result. I, too, need to go back to my work at the table saw. I am resawing spalted maple into thin wide strips to use as inlay on boxes.

Can it be that the workbench was the first social media? Where galoots young and old gather to share hands-on learning?

David Bley said...

I think that the first social media was FIRE, where everyone gathered around the fire to be safe(er) and warmer and to cook they days kill, share a meal and share stories and tales.

I am not one who has any particular credentials to have an opinion regarding this issue but I see fundamental changes in our industries. It is my belief that the purpose of an economic system is to increase the efficiency of creating wealth and to provide for the interchange of skills. I don't believe that the greater part of our economic activity is involved in wealth creation. It is mostly involved in the concentration of wealth. In years past, someone had an idea for a product or service and started a company to produce it. In time, the founder(s) of the company built on that and the company grew and prospered. The founder knew the customers, employees, products and processes that were a part of that business. They had a stake in that business and as long as they were able to pay the bills, put some away for lean times and have some to invest in the future, they were good. Now we have hired guns that come in to run companies whose mandate is to increase profits by 25% a year. They are only interested in the short term and generate the increase by running the company in starvation mode. I have watched it with my own eyes. That is why first our production (hands) and now our engineering (hands) is going away.

I guess I could write a book about it.

David Bley said...

I think that the first social media was FIRE, where everyone gathered around the fire to be safe(er) and warmer and to cook they days kill, share a meal and share stories and tales.

I am not one who has any particular credentials to have an opinion regarding this issue but I see fundamental changes in our industries. It is my belief that the purpose of an economic system is to increase the efficiency of creating wealth and to provide for the interchange of skills. I don't believe that the greater part of our economic activity is involved in wealth creation. It is mostly involved in the concentration of wealth. In years past, someone had an idea for a product or service and started a company to produce it. In time, the founder(s) of the company built on that and the company grew and prospered. The founder knew the customers, employees, products and processes that were a part of that business. They had a stake in that business and as long as they were able to pay the bills, put some away for lean times and have some to invest in the future, they were good. Now we have hired guns that come in to run companies whose mandate is to increase profits by 25% a year. They are only interested in the short term and generate the increase by running the company in starvation mode. I have watched it with my own eyes. That is why first our production (hands) and now our engineering (hands) is going away.

I guess I could write a book about it.

Michael said...

Doug,

I think the current "laziest of generations" has more to do with their parents having treated their education as a "hands off" deal.

I was born on the edge of what you would consider the "lazy generation before the laziest of generations". What saved me was that my parents got involved in my education instead of outsourcing it to school and TV. My dad was also not the kind of guy to outsource any task at home so I got used to seeing to seeing plumbing, electricity, electronics fixed in-house. Looking back, I do realize I was lucky.

Judging by the guys I work and/or studied with: If you removed the "social media", this generation would drink beer in the sofa while watching sports on TV. If you removed the TV, they would drink beer while watching sport at the stadium. If you removed the stadium, they would drink beer at the pub while discussing the weirdness of the people actually doing something with their hands. They grew up with parents convinced that you don't make or fix things, you buy new things instead. They do that because that's what they saw their parents doing and because their parents were too busy "keeping up with the Joneses" to actually get involved in their education.

My own opinion, 0.02 tax included and a pinch of salt recommended by the surgeon general.

David,

that's exactly what happened at two of my previous employers.

First one was fine and dandy, then they got convinced they needed to be publicly traded to become bigger. Instead of saving money for the bad days when the business was strong, they spent that money buying other companies without thinking about the long term. Rule of thumb: if you can buy another company for a song and a dance, that company tends to be in a very bad shape. The company went Chapter 11 a few weeks after I left (2000), they ended up splitting up two years ago.

The other company also went the publicly traded route, then spent $3.5bn to buy a "competitor" in order to remove it from the market. At the same time, they were reducing the workforce every quarter as it was the easiest way to increase the profit to please the investors. They ended up being bought by a competitor last year.

Both companies used to be engineering-led until the MBA takeover of business. It's almost like there was a pattern there.