Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Creative Destruction and the Entrepreneur

As you probably know, Bill Gates is no-longer heading up Microsoft. He has retired from the company he helped found and led for over 30 years in order to spend his time overseeing the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This transition from for-profit to not-for-profit executive by one of the 20th-century's most successful entrepreneurs has been grist for the media mill. Some of the better articles (imho) appeared in The Economist.

The first (and shorter) of two articles explores The Meaning of Bill Gates. It clearly portrays him as an innovator and business leader - an entrepreneur. He saw a demand, he had a product and had a vision for it. He pushed new innovation when he could and he pragmatically adopted (some would say co-opted) other ideas when he saw value he could not duplicate, folding them
into his own products. As an example of what a true entrepreneur does and should do, this article provides a short, thorough description using Gates as an abbreviated case-study.

The second article, After Bill, spends more time discussing the impact of his departure on his corporate legacy, Microsoft. It examines the obstacles (self-imposed and competitor-imposed) and opportunities that confront Microsoft at the time of Mr. Gates departure. While reading it, one considers whether the entrepreneurial culture will continue at that firm, allowing it to grow as a result of continuing innovation or to eventually stagnate into a niche player - granted a very large one.

And while these articles are interesting on their own, this post has another objective. There is a new blog that is worth your time to investigate. Creative Capitalism is an on-line conversation among a number of leading economists, business leaders, and other thinkers. The purpose is to produce a book that will be "a collection of essays and commentary on capitalism, philanthropy, and global development." The idea arose as a result of a speech given by Mr. Gates (and reviewed on this blog back in January, 2008) where he used the term "creative capitalism." I, along with others, took Mr. Gates to task because capitalism is, by its very nature, creative. To imply otherwise is to demean the process.

The essays posted so far (the blog's first entry was on June 26, 2008) have been impressive. The discussion is informed and interesting. When reading Gate's speech that introduced the term "creative capitalism", one senses that he wasn't decrying the lack of creativity in capitalism; rather he was calling for the inherent creativity to be unleashed to solve the world's larger problems. He is asking the business community to apply resources and methods which are either lacking or foreign to government, in order to find new ways to serve the underserved of the world.

Mr. Gates seems to applying the idea of creative destruction to the paradigms that have settled in place. He sees a need for business and business leaders to recommit themselves to an understanding, appreciation and adoption of the long-term over the short-term. There needs to be a willingness to look at the variety of problems, to apply resources in an efficient manner, and to bring more of the world into the marketplace where their wants can be fulfilled.

I think you'll find the discussion a valuable source of information and discussion for your classroom. I look forward to your comments.

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