Vanity Fair just published a funny little article about the downfall of Microsoft.
The unnamed author mocks the company for being too rigid; he makes fun of the company’s short-sided, Windows-driven view of the world; and he identifies a forced-ranking program as the single biggest innovation-killer in the organization’s history.
In short, everybody still hates HR.
The funniest line of the article comes from a former employee who says, “I see Microsoft as technology’s answer to Sears. In the 40s, 50s, and 60s, Sears had it nailed. It was top-notch, but now it’s just a barren wasteland. And that’s Microsoft. The company just isn’t cool anymore.”
I laughed for 20 minutes at that paragraph.
All companies in ‘new market segments’ seem cool. Remember when computers were once new? Search was once new. Mobile devices — including your shitty Blackberry — was once new. Even department stores like Sears, Macy’s and Lord & Taylor were once new.
Every company is once new. Then growth stops and you actually have to do the hard work of innovating on top of existing innovative ideas. A brilliant idea is fabulous. Give me seven brilliant ideas and then maybe I can meet a payroll and provide a decent place to work.
A company like Apple isn’t as cool as it seems. Their store employees generate nearly a half-million dollars in revenue and they earn a little more than an employee at Costco. What about Google? You have to answer a bunch of bullshit interview questions that don’t correlate to performance and then they monitor behavioral and workforce analytics to craft your employment experience into a modern-day factory of ideas. That’s not innovation. That is creepy.
The grass is always greener on the other side. Microsoft may be the Sears of technology but it’s a company and a job. Microsoft helps to pays the bills, puts a generation of kids through college and generates enough revenue to help stop polio and malaria.
If you can do better than Microsoft in your life and your career, go for it.
But don’t be so smug about participating in the iLife (that was created by Taiwanese workers who kill themselves) and enjoying your eReader (shipped from a human oven) while drinking a faux fair trade cup of coffee (that does more environmental harm than good).
You are just as much of a tool as the employees at Microsoft. They just earn more money than you do.