Monday, March 9, 2009

Innovation and the Change Averse Society: Part I

My apologies for being away for a few days.  We've had two funerals in five days.  Yes, four of the last five days of wakes, funeral, church, cemeteries.  The first death was "unexpected"; although we all die sometime, but most of us hope for later than sooner.  A very young grandfather (69 years old) and long time neighbor of my wife growing up.  He was a great person and I'll always remember our conversations once we both discovered (accidentally) that we love to read and discuss philosophy.  The second death was expected (only because I talk to my dad a lot now that he is retired and willing to pick up the phone).  My grandmother passed at 90.5 years of age.  Both of our family members who died did so in their sleep, painlessly, with their children and family around them.  If someone tells you that is how "you're going to go/check out/start dirt surfing"; I think most of us would sign up for that.  Hopefully, closer to 90 years of age (average life expectancy in the USA is 78 for women and 74 for men; women tend to take better care of themselves due to "plumbing" and men hold more stress in general).  Live longer than 78 or 74 and you're ahead of the average.

We, as a culture, don't like change.  We say we believe in heaven but if we do believe why are we sad when one of our family or friends "make it home"?  Well...mainly, because we lose their company here.    

Parting with our family and friends until we "go home" is sad temporarily.  "They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction.  But they are in peace."  - The Bible, Book of Wisdom 3:1-6-9   I view death a bit differently.  I think of the family members who have passed before and try to think of my newly departed and what they might be doing with those who passed before who were their friends and family.  I'll stop the "philosophising" to quote White Goodman from Dodgeball.  This is a triathlon blog after all.  Today, I seem to be writing in the style of Herman Melville.

Change is not accepted well here in the United States and it may be our worst enemy.  Look at how we react to when our family members go to heaven.  Is this rational?  Where sad that we won't see them here on Earth, isn't it a happy time they are in heaven?  

Today, we hear the President say that CEOs of failing companies will be limited to a salary of $500k. (No mention of "other compensation" which is my favorite kind.) Why should a failing CEO get any salary?  Why should they have a job?  Shouldn't they move aside for fresh ideas and innovation to take over?  These huge salaries are "the street's" over reaction to the potential loss of "talent" at the C-level executives.  (See Jack Welch's book, Where Have All the Leaders Gone.) Times, they are a changin'.  Why should Tom Wilson of Allstate make $54 million dollars a year in salary?  Let's call his salary an even $1M a week.  Seem excessive to you?  Yeah.  I thought so.  Our current economic situation is creating a need for innovation and innovative thinking.  Where I have some issues with how it is being done, I agree with the limiting of some of these salaries.

I am currently reading America's Corporate Brain Drain by Babs Ryan.  I really like this book.  It got me thinking about new possibilities with my career and in my training.  Her premise is that top people in many big companies are politicians versus really skilled, smart people.  Gotta agree there.  Its not about what you know, its who you know (or what you know about their Facebook.com page.)  

In triathlon, the first change was the ability to run, then bike.  Now, bike with power and then run and promote yourself in the media.  You could be an average athlete but if you are cute, sexy, cool or connected you would get opportunity.

Change is going to be forced on us.  In triathlon.  In economics.  In how we live.

Part two tomorrow.

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