James Governor's Monkchips

Microsoft Matures as IBM once did

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It might annoy some at Microsoft to call out the comparison but when I read Scoble this morning I couldn’t help but think of Big Blue.

One of factors about IBM i always find impressive is seniority. Folks stay at IBM for a long long while–meeting folks with 20,30 years experience at the company is far from unusual. One big difference is that IBM’s Quarter Century Club was already extant in 1924!!! Today’s IBM long players are not in it for the money – they are in it for the culture and, yes, the status. These folks don’t change employer every 18 months just to get a raise–
satisfaction comes in friendships, customer successes, corporate innovation, community and patents (even in IBM’s darkest days it continued to deliver some very innovative technology). Having said all that IBM’s relationship with its longstanding employees is perhaps not always what it ought be.

So now Microsoft has its seniors too – Scoble points to Larry Osterman joining the Microsoft “20 year club”. Larry even laughs at his status – his blog is called Confessions of an Old Fogey. Not so many of the IBM alumni however would be explaining What IS Audio On A PC Anyway

What is my main point? That these wise heads will benefit the company going forward. Youth and IQ horsepower are one thing–but judgement is quite another. As the average age of Microsoft increases the company will behave increasingly responsibly.

I look to Stephen Johnson and some of his theories in Emergence, an all time favorite of mine, here. Teh theory i refer to is illustrated by looking at ant’s nests – which are more agressive when they are young. they get into more fights over resources, and quarrel with their neighbours – older ant nests dont behave like this, but work within resource constraints. i believe that corporations in some cases work in similar ways. this is not to say older corporations are always less aggressive than younger firms. but it seems a reasonable rule of thumb.

All in all Microsoft is growing up in lots of ways–with slowing share price growth and greater self awareness. The grey hairs will do a good job for Microsoft and the company should be proud to have become an employer that creates such strong ties with employers in age of change and lack of loyalty. Customers will benefit as Microsoft becomes less phrenetic and more settled.

Congratulations then Larry. My big question—will Scoble still be at Microsoft in 20 years?

One comment

  1. I’m with you right up until the “age breeds responsibility” argument. I’d argue that responsibility is more of a choice, and not one that comes easier easier with age. Age, it has been my experience, does not necessarily bring wisdom.

    But overall, comparison is quite apt.

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