Pensions create bleak future for cool jobs. Even Harvard grads worry.

Doing the right thing, is the wrong thing for most investors. That’s a surprising admission from the gold standard for MBAs.  But Clay Christensen and Derek van Bever of Harvard Business School have a more important admonition — not changing the standard could mean their students won’t find the exciting jobs they want.

In writing The Capitalist’s Dilemma, Christensen and van Bever crowd-sourced information from 150 alumni. And they point out financial measures like internal rate of return (IRR) and return on invested capital (ROIC) were designed when financial capital was scarce. But, capital is no longer scarce.

A recent Bain & Company concludes we have entered a new environment of “capital superabundance.” Bain estimates that total financial assets are today almost 10 times the value of the global output of all goods and services. And Christensen and van Bever think we are awash in capital, and should not fear scarcity.

More importantly, continuing to adhere to these measures will force corporations to focus on efficiency improvements which eliminate jobs, rather than market-creating innovations, which generate them. And worse yet, even pension funds, who should have a longer term view, suffer from the same nearsightedness.

So if a company pursued both purpose and profit, what would it look like? Google. They exemplify what it means to pursue both purpose and profit.


Photo licensed under Creative Commons from grmisiti on flickr

His friends call him “gook”. And you should be ok with this?

Civil War re-enactors diligently remain true to character, some would say maniacally so. But what about Vietnam War re-enactors? What happens when “true to character” means re-creating abuses that led to atrocities like My Lai? What if the people wearing rice paddy hats and playing the Viet Cong aren’t Vietnamese? What if they’re not even Asian?

In a recent documentary, a white, college-age male gets asked why he’s playing a Viet Cong and he says, “to put it blunt, you can’t play cowboys and Indians, without Indians. You know what I mean?”

A few minutes later, US troop re-enactors liberally hurl racial slurs when they capture and abuse Vietnamese re-enactors. When challenged about the summary execution of Vietnamese, without a trial, a clear violation of the Geneva convention, a US Army re-enactor says , “I think we’re doing a good job here. Did you see how the f**king gooks got up and ran!?”

Shocking? Consider this, about half of the re-enactors were on active duty in Vietnam. And there’s a concerted effort to ensure nothing recreated tarnishes the reputation of those who served. Yet despite the patriotism, surprisingly, there’s no attempt to cover up the fact that this was not the US Army’s proudest moment.

Why does it matter? At first, I thought this was a bunch of southern red necks running around in tobacco fields, in a delusional re-telling of events from a different continent, mocking Asian accents and yelling pain inducing slurs, in what they thought was a “fun” weekend playing war. In fact, it was a harsh and realistic portrayal of the impacts of imperialism and racism. Most importantly, it reminded me how easy it is to be closed-minded. And how people like me, who consider themselves very open-minded, can fall into that trap as well.



Kevin Owyang is a Creative Director in Seattle