Monday, August 31, 2009

Where Have You Gone, Bell Labs? - BusinessWeek

Where Have You Gone, Bell Labs? - BusinessWeek: "America needs good jobs, soon. We need 6.7 million just to replace losses from the current recession, then another 10 million to spark demand over the next decade. That's 15 million to 17 million new jobs. In the 1990s, the U.S. economy created a net 22 million jobs (a rate of 2.2 million per year), so we know it can be done. Between 2000 and the end of 2007 (the beginning of the current recession), however, the economy created new jobs at a rate of 900,000 a year, so we know it isn't doing it now. The pipeline is dry because the U.S. business model is broken. Our growth engine has run out of a key source of fuel—critical mass, basic scientific research."

Actually, I was just wondering about this. How come there are so few big announcements of major scientific breakthroughs anymore? Who is doing any basic research anymore? LHC notwithstanding it seems very few people are doing anything even remotely basic, and barely any are doing even tactical level research, outside of the current war. Universities had generally gone to a research model focused on practical application. Who thought that was a good idea?

Basic research is something that pays off 20+ years down the line, if ever. This is a timeline far outside a typical CEOs management lifespan, much less next quarters bottom line. Who came up with that rule?

And I am not just talking about here in the US but around the world. India is still trying to move its people out of general poverty and China, while generally having a long view, seems more focused on securing natural resources, oil, metals, &etc. Generally ignoring or strip mining their human resources.

ht Slashdot with some great comments for once.

Bell labs, IBM labs, and others were destroyed, seemingly as collateral damage in bringing down big monopoly businesses. The destruction of innovation has been so thorough that I have to wonder if it was deliberate.

How about a couple of examples that seem to bare this out: First HP, when Carly was elected as CEO she even said she hated the company as it was. So she radically changed it. She spun off the test equipment devision, killed R&D and even the calculator division. They went from being the top of the calculator market to a joke with TI taking over.
It went from a company doing a lot of basic research into a commodity PC reseller who didn't even make the products they sold anymore. How bad must it be when the CEO leaves that the employees break out the champagne and the stock price shoots up. It will take a couple of decades to rebuild that capability if ever.

Apple is another classic example, The founder Steve Jobs was forced out because he wasn't management-ey enough. So it got handed off to a sugar-water salesman, Apple didn't do so well after that, until the founder came back and gave soul back to the company. Even then it took years to get back, but now Apple is doing amazing things. I fear for Apple when Steve finally leaves.

Something very strange is going on I am not sure why these rules have been put in place or even who but they are bad for everyone and need to be removed.

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