Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Can We Stop Throwing Stones?

I'm a glass half full kind of guy and an eternal optimist.   I glorify progress and quickly forget defeat.

Often I feel that I'm in the minority.  Bad news sells.  Criticism has a Schadenfreude attraction - the apparent failure of others makes some feel more successful.

 Monday Morning Quarterback commentary frustrates me.

1.  Steve Jobs would have never allowed Apple maps to launch on the iPhone 5 and thus Apple is past its prime. 

In the business world, every company has its peaks and troughs.  I think of the greatness some Massachusetts companies like Polaroid, Digital Equipment Corp, and Wang Computer had in their day.   Today, there are empty buildings or construction sites where those once great companies used to be.

For those in operational roles, we all know how hard it is to keep the trains running on time while managing change and trying to innovate.   It's like changing the wings on a 747 while its flying.

At the moment, Apple is the most valuable company on the planet and the iPhone 5 sold five million units in 3 days.  

Yet, instead of stories (which I would personally find interesting) about how you manage a supply chain to deliver five million high tech products to customers in a weekend, the stories are about analysts expecting six million or more weekend sales and the earth shattering question about first generation Apple mapping software signifying the downfall of the company.  My comment - engineer an innovative product with minimal defects at multi-million scale.  After you've done that, write an article that incorporates your operational experience in the evaluation of vendors.

2.  Last week I bought a Prius C, trading in my 2005 original Prius with 150,000 miles.   The Prius C a joy to drive, with nimble steering, a very comfortable cabin, and 60+ miles per gallon  (mixed city/highway commuting).   I'm not sure what car Consumer Reports was driving when the put the Prius C on the "do not recommend list".    Increased visibility, a smaller size that makes it very maneuverable in traffic, and intuitive controls make the Prius C a winner.   My only guess is that the Consumer Reports writer owns a Ferrari or a Hummer and was evaluating the Prius C based on an inappropriate set of requirements.    I would like to see an automotive engineer describe the tradeoffs of weight, power, and gas mileage, then objectively evaluate all the hybrids on the market.

Bottom line - I welcome operational people  in the trenches sharing the good and the bad of their own experiences.    In a world of naysayers looking to take potshots at success, I have little tolerance for those who throw stones at those who are trying their best to make the world a better place.


Joseph Sucher, MD FACS said...

I will count this as my uplifting post of the day.


Unknown said...

Wait, the titles is "Can We Stop Throwing Stones" and then you lob one at Consumer Reports for undervaluing the Prius C by suggesting their writer owns a Ferrari or a Hummer and inferring he or she had a biased perspective based on an inappropriate set of requirements. What??? C'mon John, you're better that that!

Randall Sanborn said...

I don't mean to belittle Jobs, but he wasn't perfect (see iCloud, iPhone 4 antenna issues, etc). That's important, for him and us. We all make mistakes. The companies that do well learn from them, fix them, and move on. The companies that fail tend to focus too heavily on the issues, and blame, and not on the solutions and moving past them.

Mark S. said...

Much as enjoy your blog, I have to take issue with the idea that somehow companies like Apple are simply "trying to make the world a better place". Yes Apple is the most valuable company on the planet, but they got to that lofty financial position by utilizing the low cost, horrible working conditions of places like Foxconn. The news reports of what goes on there to get the shiny new iphone and other gadgets into the hands of consumers is quite frankly, appalling.

There was a quote in the UK Telegraph which i think sums it up nicely: "When you buy a product, you either endorse the values of the manufacturer or you take the view that the manufacturer's actions and attitudes are less important than your desire to consume."

When it comes to advancing technology, Apple does lots to admire, and yes new technology can be very helpful through out the world. But you cannot simply seperate out the parts of Apple you like from the way the company operates as a whole.

The ironic part to me is that NY Times article you linked to really IS a monday morning quaterbacking piece of schadenfreude. There are legit complaints about apple - that article is not one of them...

Anonymous said...

I don't think Apple has much to compalin about when it comes to media coverage. They have been very good at managing coverage. The usual complaint is that the media gush uncritically over practically everything they do, good or bad.

And in this instance they deserve to take a hit on the map app. They had a perfectly good app--and mapping is a key function on a smart phone--and replaced it with one that has numerous problems. And, speaking of "stone throwing", this mainly seems to be because Apple has this vindictive thing against all things Google. A lot of their customers are mad, with good reason because this sure isn't about serving their customers' needs.

That "Apple is the most valuable company on the planet" is a marketing problem for the company, especially given the lawyering up over dubious patents in a no-compromise "I’m willing to go thermonuclear war" way. They are starting to look more like the pigs on Animal Farm than the young woman in their famous "1984" ad.

Anonymous said...

"Criticism has a Schadenfreude attraction - the apparent failure of others makes some feel more successful." Schadenfreude is a great description of a rampant phenomenon that is in the news world, but unfortunately can be found in the healthcare work place.

"Innovation" is the buzzword, but I believe can only authentically be reached by an "in the trenches" spirit. Sometimes that value is difficult to explain or not appreciated by others.

Sharing healthcare stories, experiences, essentially our lessons learned, and then taking a leap is what will facilitate authentic innovation. Fortunately there are always folks that will walk away from a situation clouded by schadenfreude and apparent complexity and think-- "hey I have an idea, maybe this would work...!"
- Sharon Wentz RN

Medical Quack said...

Agree and the song "Dirty Laundry" comes to mind here in reading your post:) You are correct in the mention of having to keep reinventing as some can do it and some don't do it as well as others and it is difficult. I had the opportunity last week to ride in a Prius and it's a fabulous car and hybrids are the way to go.

When the price of gas goes up, so does the demand for hybrid cars too as a friend in the business told me:) The way the entire car is engineered is wonderful and using electricity when you can with batteries is great. I love the auto switch to gas when driving as well.

The only thing about Apple that I think about sometimes though as a negative would be regarding their philanthropy efforts as I don't see much of it in the news so I wonder is it minimal or does it just not get mentioned? Recently we had the CEO of Intel and a few others join the Giving Pledge and thought of Apple in this respect. Microsoft is the 2nd largest producer of software for Apple being Apple itself is the first of course, and that being said I thought of the Giving Pledge here with the Gates' efforts..so again I would like to hear more myself about their philanthropy efforts.

Paul G. said...

John, Where's the vitriol at consumer reports coming from?

Go to their website, don't just take Autoblog's interpretation of the review. You'll see that CR is full of data driven "operational people" with vast experience testing cars. They provide the data from their review as well as historical owner satisfaction data as a 3rd party review.

You don't have to agree with them but I wouldn't simply accuse them of being "naysayers taking potshots"? You last bought a car 7 years ago. I would understand your annoyance if they reviewed meaningful use stage 2 rules but car reviews, positive and negative, they pretty much have down pat.

Roger W. Lutz said...

"It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all who profit from the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit from the new."

– Author Unknown

Alex I said...


You've done so much good for everyone who is trying to be successful in the Meaningful Use world. No good deed goes unpunished unfortunately. I agree with Dr. Sucher and have no tolerance for Unknown postings. Even though the post is not MU related, it is related to the fact that success breeds criticism and "what have you done for me lately?"

Unknown said...

Hi John,

You might this interesting your supply chain comment reminded me of it.


If the Coca-Cola company can deliver a bottle of soda to a village deep in the African countryside on a daily basis, why can’t governments and nonprofits figure out how to do the same with life-saving pharmaceuticals?

Hope the new dogs are working out for you!