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The economist Tyler Cowen recently asked if the tech companies could run everything better. He means the big tech companies, since tech companies in general fail at the same pace as any other small business. One argument he puts forward is "the major tech companies have developed new managerial technologies for hiring, handling, and motivating super-smart employees." Have they, though? If you have ever seen "The Fog of War," the documentary about Robert McNamara, you might recall that Ford Motor Co. used what were considered the latest "managerial technologies for hiring, handling, and motivating super-smart employees." And so did the other industrial titans of the day, such as AT&T and IBM. But I suspect that what really drew the employees to those companies back then and what draws the best and brightest to tech companies today is the same thing that draw Willie Sutton banks - that's where the money is. Would you rather work for a mature company like GM and engage in a death struggle with VW and Toyota? Or would you rather risk your future with companies like Facebook, Amazon and Google that have been shoring up their monopoly status in recent years? Cowen asks the question about tech companies because it is a view held by a number of people who should know, such as the folks on Wall Street. In Fortune’s recent forecast addition, one top stock picked said he sees no future for the existing auto manufacturers and expects companies like Apple to usher in the next generation of high-tech vehicles. Of course, as Elon Musk is finding, actually making cars is harder than it looks. But still, this is a current “big idea,” so you need to watch it. I would suggest you watch the rest of the aforementioned “Fog of War” and remember what happened when we let the best and brightest run projects outside their field of expertise.

Ted Craig

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