Friday, September 23, 2011


I have nothing against Meg Whitman. I never jumped on the eBay phenomenon, never saw it as a way to make a living, a way to have fun, a way to rid my too-crowded closets of the crocheted toaster covers my Aunt Louise had "gifted me" with. Nevertheless, I think her purported ascent to the head of HP is evidence of an incestuous myopia the infects so much of our world.

Years ago I was a senior creative person at a once-venerable then shaky mid-sized agency. Of all the senior creatives, I was probably the most independent-minded and, for that reason, when both of the agency's new business people quit, the CEO called me into his office to discuss a replacement.

I recommended a young, bright Asian account person who was probably ten years and two levels junior to her predecessors.

The CEO looked aghast. She's so young. She's a she. How could we do such a thing.

I remarked that she couldn't do any worse than the last two guys and could potentially add some life to a moribund process.

Here's my point, when companies like HP go looking for new CEOs (or when IPG does for that matter) they pick from a small pool that is almost all dried out by the sun. A pool of candidates that are fundamentally just like the person they had before that left them in such dire straits. Essentially they act like a married couple who divorce only to marry each other again.

Like I said, I have nothing against Meg Whitman. Nothing against the person who will eventually take over from Michael Roth at IPG. But I do have something against incest.

Call me old fashioned.


Tore Claesson said...

I hope you don't mean that after a certain number of years of experience you're dried out by the sun, which implies you, and me, should no longer be considered viable for new jobs in our area of expertise?

george tannenbaum said...

No, Tore, what I meant was that there's a tiny pool of people (those who usually fail upward) who represent the safe choice. The human equivalent of "no one ever got fired for buying IBM." These are people in the "leadership bubble." They represent conventional solutions. That's what I'm barking about.

Anonymous said...

"Of all the senior creatives, I was probably the most independent-minded..."

Oh please.

Tore Claesson said...

George, yeah, i know, i was just teasing you....couldn't help myself
I actually think it's scandalous that CEOs who basically did nothing other than fire people to prop numbers up are paid millions of dollars in bonuses for it.
And even worse that total failures are allowed to sail out with multi million dollar parachutes. There is clearly a small incestious filthy rich circle of powerful people who basically hang out with each other and help each other at every turn. The rest of us don't count. They just laugh at how stupid we must be. Pawns at best.

Anonymous said...

As the lawyer and writer, Sir John Mortimer observed, "People will go to endless trouble to divorce one person and then marry someone who is exactly the same, except probably a bit poorer and a bit nastier. I don't think anybody learns anything."
Same with the corporate world.