Americans Happy with Work if Advancement is Possible


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(p. A13) In “Gross National Happiness,” Mr. Brooks has assembled an array of statistics to measure the mood of America’s citizens and to discover the reasons they feel as they do. Most often he cites polls that ask for self-described happiness levels, matching up the answers with various beliefs, habits, life choices or experiences.
And what exactly is happiness? Who knows? The term might refer joy or contentment or moral self-approval or material well-being or appetitive pleasure – or some combination of them all. Mr. Brooks is aware of the problem. He says that Potter Stewart, the Supreme Court justice, could have been describing happiness when he said, of pornography, “I know it when I see it.”
. . .
He challenges those partial to tales about long-suffering Wal-Mart workers and surly burger flippers to rethink their victimology creed. The woe is not nearly as widespread as rumored: 89% of Americans who work more than 10 hours a week are very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their jobs while only 11% are not very satisfied or not at all satisfied. Most surprisingly, Mr. Brooks writes, there “is no difference at all in job satisfaction between those with below-average and above-average incomes.”
What really makes Americans hate their jobs is a perception that advancement is impossible. And while Mr. Brooks agrees that the nation’s income gap is growing, the national happiness level is steady. Just under one-third of American adults say that they are “very happy”; up to 15% are not too happy; and everyone else is somewhere in the middle. Those numbers have been roughly true since the early 1970s. More government spending doesn’t seem to raise happiness levels, though direct government assistance may diminish it. Charitable giving, Mr. Brooks adds, generally lifts the spirits; Americans do a lot of it.

For the full review, see:
DAVE SHIFLETT. “Bookshelf; How to Be of Good Cheer.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., May 12, 2008): A13.
(Note: ellipsis added.)

McCraw Identifies Schumpeter’s “Signature Legacy”

McCraw is correct in identifying Schumpeter’s “signature legacy”:

(p. 495) Schumpeter’s signature legacy is his insight that innovation in the form of creative destruction is the driving force not only of capitalism but of material progress in general.

McCraw, Thomas K. Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 2007.
(Note: italics in original.)

New Entrepreneurs Are Encouraged by Good Examples


Source of graphic: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. B7) One day during Trip Adler’s sophomore year at Harvard University, he saw fellow undergraduates Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz outside their dormitory with suitcases and boxes. When Mr. Adler asked what the two — who happened to be Facebook Inc.’s co-founders — were doing, Mr. Moskovitz lightly replied that they were moving from Cambridge, Mass., to Silicon Valley “to make Facebook big.”
“I was so jealous,” recalls Mr.Adler, now 23 years old. “I thought, ‘I’ve got to find an idea and drop out of Harvard.'”
Mr. Adler didn’t leave school, but after graduating in 2006, he did start an online document-sharing company. San Francisco-based Scribd Inc., employs 12 people and attracts 11.1 million monthly visitors, according to Web-tracking company comScore Inc. It has raised nearly $3.9 million from Redpoint Ventures and other venture-capital and individual investors.
Mr. Adler is just one of the Harvard students who have caught start-up fever since Facebook, founded when Mr. Zuckerberg was at Harvard in 2004, exploded in popularity. Other recent Harvard-born start-ups include Internet companies Kirkland North Inc., Inc. and Labmeeting Inc. And Facebook has become a model for these start-ups on many fronts, from the look of company Web sites to their corporate strategies.

For the full story, see:
VAUHINI VARA. “ENTERPRISE; Facebook Ignites Entrepreneurial Spirit at Harvard Students, Graduates Start Firms, Using The Site as a Model.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., May 20, 2008): B7.

Venter’s Use of ESTs “Leapfrogged” his X-Chromosome Proposal

(p. 82) Venter dubbed the fragments “expressed sequence tags,” or ESTs for short.
. . .
Venter was ecstatic. He had veered wildly off course from his approved plan of research, but the risk had paid off. While the Human Genome Project grant committee was still dragging its feet over his X-chromosome proposal, he had already leapfrogged ahead of that idea and found a way to go forward even faster, using his ESTs. Venter wrote Watson to let him know what he was up to, hoping to win his approval and some funding to continue the EST project.

Reference to book:
Shreeve, James. The Genome War: How Craig Venter Tried to Capture the Code of Life and Save the World. 1st ed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.
(Note: ellipsis added.)

At Pixar, “Storytelling is More Important Than Graphics”


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(p. A19) One of Mr. Catmull’s other inspirations was to hire computer animator John Lasseter after he was fired by Walt Disney Co. in 1983. (He had apparently stepped on one too many toes in the company’s sprawling management structure.) Then again, as Mr. Price reports, in the world of computer animators, workplace comings and goings seemed to be part of the job. Mr. Lasseter himself had already quit Disney and then returned before being fired. In the creative ferment of computer animation in the late 1970s and early 1980s, what mattered most was the work itself: Never mind who signs the paychecks – what project are you working on now?
. . .
One of Pixar’s first projects revealed a truth that would point the way to success: Storytelling is more important than graphics firepower. The company created a short film, directed by Mr. Lasseter, called “Tin Toy,” about a mechanical one-man band fleeing the terrors of a baby who wants to play with it. “Tin Toy” made audiences laugh in part because it turned established themes on their heads. The story was told from the toy’s-eye view, close to the floor. The baby, doing what babies do, seemed like a gigantic, capricious monster. “Tin Toy” won the 1988 Academy Award for animated short film.
The upside-down “Tin Toy” point of view seems to fit much of what happened at Pixar afterward. The company made a deal with Disney in 1991: The little animation outfit would produce three movies, and the entertainment behemoth would distribute and market them. With the outsize success of the first movie in the deal, “Toy Story” – it grossed $355 million world-wide – Pixar and Disney were perhaps on an inevitable collision course over control and profits. Mr. Price adroitly depicts the clashes between Mr. Jobs and his nemesis at Disney, chief executive Michael Eisner, and captures the sweet vindication of Mr. Lasseter as the projects he guides outstrip the animation efforts of his former employer.
The sweetest moment in the Pixar saga came two years ago, when Disney bought the company for $7.4 billion in an all-stock deal – one that gave Pixar executives enormous power at their new home. Mr. Jobs sits on the Disney board and is the company’s largest shareholder. (Mr. Eisner left in 2005.) And Mr. Lasseter became the chief creative officer for the combined Disney and Pixar animation studios, where Mr. Catmull serves as president.
The day after the sale was announced, Mr. Lasseter and Mr. Catmull flew to Burbank, Calif., to address a crowd of about 500 animation staffers on a Disney soundstage. “Applause built as they made their way to the front,” Mr. Price reports, “and then erupted again in force” when the two men were introduced. “Lasseter was welcomed as a rescuer of the studio from which he had been fired some twenty-two years before.” In one of their first moves, Mr. Price says, Messrs. Lasseter and Catmull “brought back a handful of Disney animation standouts who had only recently been laid off.” Redemption, after all, is essential to any story well told.

For the full review, see:

PAUL BOUTIN. “Bookshelf, An Industry Gets Animated.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., May 14, 2008): A19.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

Schumpeter’s Final Thoughts on the Importance of the Individual Entrepreneur

Here is McCraw discussing and quoting Schumpeter’s notes for the Walgreen Lectures that he was preparing to deliver just before he died.

(p. 475) In notes he prepared in 1949 for the prestigious Walgreen Lectures, Schumpeter headed one entire section “The Personal Element and the Element of Chance: A Principle of Indeterminateness.” Here, he wrote that the time had come for economists to face a problem they had long tried to dodge:

the problem of the influence that may be exerted by exceptional individuals, a problem that has hardly ever been treated without the most blatant preconceptions. Without committing ourselves either to hero worship or to its hardly less absurd opposite, we have got to realize that, since the emergence of exceptional indi-(p. 476)viduals does not lend itself to scientific generalization, there is here an element that, together with the element of random occurrences with which it may be amalgamated, seriously limits our ability to forecast the future. That is what is meant here by “a principle of indeterminateness.” To put it somewhat differently: social determinism, where it is nonoperational, is a creed like any other and entirely unscientific.

McCraw, Thomas K. Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 2007.

McCain Proposes Prize to “Leapfrog” Battery Technology

McCainBatteryPrize.jpg “Campaigning Monday in Fresno, Calif., Senator John McCain said, if elected, he would offer $300 million to anyone who could build a more efficient car battery.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. A15) FRESNO, Calif. — In the 18th century the British offered a £20,000 prize to anyone who figured out how to calculate longitude. More recently, Netflix offered a million dollars for improving movie recommendations on its Web site. Now Senator John McCain is suggesting a new national prize: He said here Monday that if elected president he would offer $300 million to anyone who could build a better car battery.
. . .
“I further propose we inspire the ingenuity and resolve of the American people,” Mr. McCain said, “by offering a $300 million prize for the development of a battery package that has the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars.”
He said the winner should deliver power at 30 percent of current costs. “That’s one dollar, one dollar, for every man, woman and child in the U.S. — a small price to pay for helping to break the back of our oil dependency,” he said.

For the full story, see:

MICHAEL COOPER. “McCain Proposes a $300 Million Prize for a Next-Generation Car Battery.” The New York Times (Tues., June 24, 2008): A15 & A20
(Note: ellipsis added.)

“Leapfrog-type Competition”

Below is the abstract of a paper that mentions “leapfrog-type competition.” Appendix 2 of the paper (pp. 143-144) attempts to set down a mathematical model of leapfrog competition.

(p. 135) This paper examines competition patterns and competitive strategies when technology changes continually. It first discusses optimal behavior for investment in technology. It is argued that although technological innovations supersede existing technologies, there are economically justifiable barriers to investing in the new technologies. These economic barriers, coupled with continuous technological change, have implications for certain aspects of strategy, such as entry by means of new technologies, timing of entry, leapfrog-type competition, vertical integration, the productivity dilemma, and escalating commitment. Finally, the industrial transformation of the steel industry is used as an example to illustrate these implications.

The reference for the paper is:
Tang, Ming-Je, and S. Zannetos Zenon. “Competition under Continuous Technological Change.” Managerial and Decision Economics 13, no. 2 (Mar.-Apr. 1992): 135-48.

Harvard Professor Doriot Used Venture Capital to Finance the Digital Equipment Corporation


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Doriot taught at Harvard during the whole time that Joseph Schumpeter taught at Harvard. Given that their interests apparently overlapped, it is surprising that there are no references to Schumpeter or to “creative destruction” in Ante’s book.
There are also no references to Doriot in McCraw’s recent comprehensive intellectual biography of Schumpeter.
(Scherer in his essay “An Accidental Schumpeterian” mentions taking a useful course from Doriot, but does not illuminate the relationship, if any, between Doriot and Schumpeter.)

(p. A17) Before Sand Hill Road near Stanford University became the center of the venture-capital universe – before Google and – the modern market for financing risky startup companies took shape far from Silicon Valley in the years after World War II.

ARD was the first to raise what was then known as “risk capital” from outsiders at a time when investors’ wounds were still fresh from the stock-market crash of 1929 and the Depression of the 1930s. The high failure rate of start-ups had generally precluded raising money from average investors. And so ARD’s chief competitors in the postwar years were the Rockefellers and another old-money operation, J.H. Whitney & Co.
. . .
The company would hardly merit attention except for its one grand slam, Digital Equipment Corp., which helped establish the East Coast high-tech stronghold along Route 128 outside Boston.
Digital, a minicomputer maker co-founded by former Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineer Ken Olsen, received $70,000 from ARD in 1957 in return for a 70% stake, which eventually grew in value to hundreds of millions of dollars. Mr. Ante calculates the investment’s return at 70,000%.
. . .
Doriot, who taught at Harvard for 40 years, beginning in 1926, offered a popular class that was ostensibly about manufacturing but was more a seminar in his business philosophy. “He stressed common sense themes such as self-improvement, teamwork, and contributing to society,” Mr. Ante writes. Doriot was known for “spicing up his philosophy with practical and pithy words of advice.” Among them: “Always remember that someone somewhere is making a product that will make your product obsolete.”

For the full review, see:

RANDALL SMITH. “Bookshelf; Money to Make Things New.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., May 21, 2008): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)

Reference to the biography of Doriot:
Ante, Spencer E. Creative Capital: Georges Doriot and the Birth of Venture Capital. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2008.

Schumpeter Saw that the “Demand for Teaching Produces Teaching and Not Necessarily Scientific Achievement”

From McCraw’s summary of Schumpeter’s History of Economic Analysis:

(p. 453) During the mid-nineteenth century, universities were beginning to teach economics, but “the demand for courses and textbooks produced courses and textbooks and not much else. Does this not show that there is something to one of the theses of this book, namely, that need is not the necessary and sufficient condition of analytic advance and that demand for teaching produces teaching and not necessarily scientific achievement?”

McCraw, Thomas K. Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 2007.