Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Slow-Moving Target

In April I read The Dilbert Principle, a 1996 book by Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams that takes a critical look at corporate management practices. The really scary thing about reading this book is not how thoroughly a humorist can skewer the pretensions of the business world, but rather how accurate the critique remains nearly two decades later. The world may have turned upside down, but in the corporate world, not much has changed. Some of the office technology has evolved — for example, three-ring binders are not quite as common now, while cubicles have become ever smaller — but the changes haven’t been enough to change the way corporations function.

If twenty years have gone by and the changes are almost too small to see, that makes the corporate world a very slow-moving target for a potential competitor to hone in on. It can surely be out-maneuvered by anyone or anything. The fact that the corporate world’s share of the total economy has eroded by only a few percent in two decades should not be much consolation to those of us whose interests lie, in part, amid the sea of cubicles. It isn’t natural for anything of importance in the modern world to move this slow. When new faster-moving competition pops up — and it eventually will — the big, old, lumbering corporation won’t stand a chance.