A sure fire way to get readers for a Forbes post is to trash a leading American company. Of course, you can also write about Apple, too – that’s always a good opti0n. But I hope I’m drawing attention to something that goes beyond the fanboy psychology of America’s relationship with corporations like Apple. The American business audience seems to have it in for companies like Microsoft, GE, CISCO and indeed GM. It’s the flip side of the coin to Apple-love.
Just last week Louis Woodhill attacked General Motors and attracted an audience of over 600,000.
But you can check back on some previous outings. Back in February Eric Jackson wrote a spectacularly successful article on spectacularly unsuccessful CEOs – it received over 2 million views. In May Adam Hartung had a stab at a few CEOs, too and scored an audience of over 400,000. Larry Downes’ dissection of Best Buy back in January garnered over 3 million readers
The point about these posts – and I say this as an observer of American culture, an outsider – is the scale of the audience. Quite apart from the merits of each post, the audiences are large to huge.
The abiding attraction, and fascination, of American culture to us outsiders, is its relentlessly positive outlook, something I’ve valued when working with Americans. The idea that no problem is insurmountable if you believe you can overcome it…. that type of thing. So I wanted to make the observation – this feels like vultures circling over head in the hope of spotting a corpse.
I doubt there is one culture anywhere that would not take a Microsoft, a GE, a CISCO, even a BestBuy, as a national champion.
The upside of these companies? Microsoft has established a spectacular monopoly in the modern enterprise and in productivity tools.I happen to think Microsoft’s business is finely balanced between these old monopolies and the new emotional capitalism represented by X-Box. And, sure, Steve Ballmer, is not a man for a more emotion-driven economy. But bridging these two eras would test any CEO. Gates would not have done it either.
GE is doing great things in reverse innovation. Its work in India and China sends a somewhat scary message to American business – your prices are vastly inflated and you have perhaps five years to change. On the inside, GE is looking for ways to reduce cost radically and to mold itself as an innovation pipeline for others.
Does it have problems? Clearly. But this is a transitional economy. It’s not a growth vs stagnation economy. It’s one where the fundamentals of business are changing and very few companies have cottoned on well enough and adapted. GE is trying to transition.
GM? People I’ve talked to in the auto-industry point to GM’s unassailable lead in global management expertise. Few companies around the world can do what GM does – manage suppliers, marketing and distribution, globally. It is a huge legacy advantage for the American economy – though a neglected topic. It’s what keeps Chinese competitors subdued. They simply do not have that expertise and it might take a decade or more to grow it.