Thursday, June 30, 2011

Modern Business: Flintstone or Jetson

Imagine getting off the train and lugging your suitcase without rollers. You are also lugging a locking latch briefcase with your monogram on it. It weighs about twenty pounds since it contains a field manual, your last project binder, a three-hole punch, box of colored pencils, case containing protractor and drafting tools, a sheaf of carbon paper, half a ream of lined paper, another half of white paper, a heavy duty stapler and staples, and reference material you have been toting along because you haven’t been home in three weeks.

You are looking for a payphone so you can “drop a dime” and make a three minute call to your office and you are lugging the newest and baddest gadget that transforms how you do your business as a traveling management consultant – the all new Remington Rand, full key-board electric adding machine. For $169.50 plus tax, this baby means you do not have to use your client’s equipment. It weighs a little, but the convenience is worth it. Your carry your portable manual typewriter in your suitcase for ease. You manually produce your spread sheets, pie charts and graphs.

The year is 1960. The average annual income is $5,600, according to the US Commerce Department, and you are making almost $10K after taxes. You travel by train because costs a lot less than air travel. For example, a round trip airline ticket cost about $75 to fly from Cleveland to Washington, D.C. That would be around $400 today. Your client got invoiced for it but they sure liked your electric machine.

In a world without apps, business had been expanding over the previous decade and saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average climb from just under 200 to knock at 700’s door, briefly. People, not programs, made investment decisions. Modern business was like passenger train service – 1960’s improvements to 1940’s technology.

People like George S. May realized that business was composed of algorithms. Ratios and percentages ruled decision making. That meant that newer and better technology was interesting but only in so far as it added convenience and expedience to decision making. The idea that business is business prevailed. Business did not care about anything except making and protecting profit. It is not that people were not important, they were. It is just that profit motive dominated business thinking.

Liberal minded humanists tended to resent the focus of the business community on profit over people. In every era they have raised their voices in objection to the perception that business exists only for profit and, in fact, they are correct. Successful business tends to be myopic because, as I say, business is business. That brings us to the latest breed of technical minded social networkers who see themselves as the new humanists and seek to transform the business community in modern ways.

So let’s consider Fred Flintstone and George Jetson. Brilliant creations of Hanna-Barbara, the characters are enamored of gadgetry in their respective gadget centric societies. They do their jobs working for companies run by bosses whose sole interest in making a profit. Business does not care about fads or gadgets. Just ask Fred or George.

Article first published as Modern Business: Fred Flintstone or George Jetson on Blogcritics.

No comments: