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Re: Internet in India:TS-Adyar

Sep 13, 1999 04:20 PM
by JRC

>> *HEALTHY* organizations (indeed, even healthy governments) not only
>>  provide avenues and forums for their critics, but even see such
>>  voices as a principle means of *maintaining* their health. Their
>>  *understand* they will have to be accountable.

>OOO, wow, yep, sounds like Microsoft and Bill Gates!

Actually, while I suspect that comment was meant to be sarcastic, I have
several friends that work for Microsoft (in fact was at a party with a few
last week) - and while Gates is certainly a slave-driver, and definately
does have some undesireable traits, he also hires extremely smart people,
and their internal email system *is* wide open. To give credit where credit
is due, he *does* understand that you don't hire Harvard MBA's and MIT
Ph.D's, and then tell them to keep their opinions to themselves. Every MS
employee I know feels as though they have a *personal* vested interest in
the survival and growth of the company stock (especially because many of
them own a good amount of it), feels free to express him or herself -
*loudly* -  if they think something is wrong, or a new avenue isn't being
given attention.

This is not to say that Gates simply immediately acts on every idea an
employee has ... but he also doesn't boot people out the door who disagree
with him - in fact he pays a good deal of money to buy very expensive
talent, and he *expects* them to think for themselves. He surrounds himself
with *critics*, not butt-kissers ... and that's one of the reasons he's
survived and thrived in one of the most viscious and competative businesses
on earth. 5 years ago Gates personally thought the internet was a *fad* that
would appeal solely to geeks, but had limited, if any, commercial potential.
He was *persuaded* by the arguments of several employees to commit
significant resources to it - just as it was really starting to hit the big

If you brought up Gates as an attempt to argue against my assertion, you
wound up instead giving a case in point. Gates knows very little about
marketing (he's really, at heart, just a big geek), and hasn't himself
written a line of code in years. What he *is* capable of doing is
surrounding himself with extremely intelligent, powerful people, filling
them with the sense that when the company suceeds, *they* suceed, driving
them beyond their own limits, creating a culture in which the brains and
creativity he hires *AREN'T* penalized for disagreement.

He spoke to a conference of web developers I attended this summer (not
wealthy investors, mind you, but rather the people that *use* his
development and web server software) . Gave his speech and opened the floor
up to questions. He got *blasted* by several people. But I came away
undertstanding why he was so successful. Leave aside the fact that the CEO
of a multinational corporation, who is also the richest man on earth,
certainly has no need to appear in front a group of developers - let alone
open himself to facing intense and public criticism (hell, half the world's
CEO's make no public appearances at all - and half of those that do only do
so at the annual stockholder's meetings ...). A couple people leveled
intense criticism about some of the security glitches in the Windows NT
platform. Some of the issues he said were being resolved. One issue wound up
with the person being rather humiliated (because he *didn't know what he was
talking about* ... Gates has no tolerance for idiots). A couple of people,
however, also made very obscure technical points, and suggestions about what
they wanted, and after one of them (from a woman who started out with kind
of a nasty attitude) Gates actually scribbled something down, and *thanked*
her for the input. This man is willing to take fierce criticism, and is
*perpetually* open to new and intelligent ideas from *any* source. Dig that?
He *ignored the attitude, zeroed in on the idea, discovered it to be
something he and his NT development team hadn't thought of*, and I'd be
willing to bet some form of that idea will make its way into the final
release of Windows 2000.

I'm not saying I love everything MS does, in fact I'd never work for them
myself - but Gates and MS *are* worth looking at since you brought them up.
Gates *is* open, very open, to ideas very different from his own. He
*doesn't* think he can possibly have the intelligence and insight necessary
to adapt to a fast and complex world - but he does create a corporate
culture that clearly *can*. Not only does he not squash disagreement and
criticism, *HE GOES OUT OF HIS WAY TO SEEK IT*. My friends tell me the
company continually tries things - some from Gates, others from various
different departments. Some succeed, some fail - but Gates always pays
attention to *OBJECTIVE MEASURES*, not his own ideas. If a direction he
initiated is failing, he is as quick and brutal about shutting it down as he
would be to shut down a project he disagreed with. And if something
initiated by someone else begins to show success - even if he didn't think
it had much of a chance - he is as quick to feed it with further resources
as he would be if it were his own idea.

Fact is, Microsoft pays *way* more attention to the world around itself than
the TS does. Gates makes himself accessible to both employees as well as the
general public, and voluntarily and purposefully seeks to *LEARN* from his
critics, not shut their mouths. The result is a company full of people
filled with almost a religious fervor, deeply committed to objective
results, producing software used on 90% of the world's PC's, and continuing
to survive in an industry that every year sees small companies become huge,
and huge companies fail overnight.

Their *end* is to make money. Enormous amounts of money. And in that they
differ from Theosophy. But a number of lessons might be learned from their
*means*. Their employees have a committment, a fire, very similar to the
total committment the early *Theosophists* had. I can only imagine what it
would look like to see a modern day TS ... with a leadership that *cared*
about whether the TS was successful at *communicating* with  the human
society they are allegedly there to serve. That was deeply *disturbed* about
dramatic declines in membership. That was not only open to, but *sought* the
ideas of both its supporters and its harshest critics. That *DIDN'T* think
it knew better than "the masses" or other Theosophists, but instead focussed
on creating a culture that drew the best of the intellect, creativity, and
spiritual understanding out of its entire membership, and directed it
towards the larger goal of human service in the world. That was capable of
inspiring even a fraction of the committment HPB and the founders did.

Blast at Microsoft all you want - but it is as (*objectively*) successful as
it is (at least in part) *because* of the very principles I was claiming
healthy organizations in the modern world follow - and the TS is
(*objectively*) failing (at least in part) because it isn't. -JRC

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