Sunday, February 19, 2012

Why do smart people do stupid things

There's something about the corporate world that makes smart and decent people do incredibly stupid things. Maybe its the anonymity of being part of a company. Maybe its the pressure generated to perform. Maybe its the brutal focus on the ends and not the means. Don't know what .

Why else would some British honcho in Sony decide to raise the price of Whitney Houston's albums on her tragic death. There was surely going to be a memorial upsurge in sales of her records. But what sort of a decision is that to raise the prices then ? Predictably there was a huge outcry; Sony had to back down and I'm sure the guy who did it has egg on his face.

Similar is the decision by some Starbucks Manager near the World Trade Centre to raise the prices of water on that fateful day in 2001. Or the decision by the Chairmen of the auto giants to fly by private jet to Washington to plead with Congress for a bailout. Or the insistence by Jack Welch to award himself retirement benefits that included an apartment in New York and free food and wine - chicken&^%$ in comparison to his personal wealth.

Why does this happen. Unfortunately  corporate environments seem to be dangerous grounds where a decent person's normal human values have every risk of being left at the door. Perhaps there is something dehumanising about the seemingly dog eat dog environment. Perhaps people are blinkered, or even blinded, by the single minded focus on the rat race.

There is a lesson for us all here. Every action we take must be viewed through the prism of two criteria - will we squirm with embarassment if the decision were to be dissected on Breakfast TV or come in the front page of the newspaper. And secondly would we squirm if we have to explain it in the barest detail to our mothers.