Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - February 23, 2014

Brian Gongol

Podcast: Updated weekly in the wee hours of Sunday night/Monday morning. Subscribe on Stitcher, Spreaker, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or iHeartRadio

This week:

News Head of Mexican drug cartel captured
The sooner Mexico can break the backs of the drug cartels, the better

Business and Finance The disruption obsession
USA Today columnist Michael Wolff looks at the return of Bill Gates to a technical role at Microsoft as a case study in "a new kind of business distinction: the super cool and the woefully uncool". That's not quite the problem. What's really going on is that there are plenty of successful, profitable firms that have done a poor job of conveying their 30,000-foot view of the company's mission and the large goals they have along the way (the core of the "Built to Last" thesis), and at the same time, there are lots of popular stories being told about "disruptive" companies and projects that capture too much of the public's imagination. What's really the greater mission: Creating the software that makes modern commerce possible, or blowing through a bunch of venture capital in an effort to disrupt some niche market with no real path to profitability? To be sure, we need both evolutionary progress and revolutionary innovations. But just because someone can cobble together an app doesn't make them smarter than someone who can figure out real-world, hands-on problems that don't get them tweeted-about in the "silicon" tabloid circles.

Computers and the Internet Are those who delete their past condemned to repeat it?
US News deletes its online archives from before 2007. Apparently, they don't believe in the "long tail" effect.

Aviation News US Airways CEO makes a hefty profit on stock appreciation
The December merger of American and US Airways left him with a big profit on US Airways stock he bought on the open market in 2008.

Business and Finance Peugot is about to become one-third Chinese-owned
It's another example of the sale of Western assets to China, which is a trend that will continue and accelerate as long as Western countries continue to borrow more than they save and import more than they export. France has a large trade deficit, and that means, on net, they're exporting Euros...which are finding their way back to Europe in exchange for ownership stakes in European companies. ■ If that's a bad thing (and it may be or not, depending on whether you prefer consumption or ownership), then thoughtful people should do some thinking about how to change course. (It should be noted, by the way, that some net-exporter countries, like Germany and [sometimes] Japan, have themselves made big investments in the US, which is why Volkswagen has plants in Tennessee and Toyota has plants in Indiana. ■ Foreign ownership isn't necessarily a bad thing, at least not by definition. And it's a bad move to play politics with the export success of our allies, as the Obama Treasury Department has done with Germany.)

And then China takes over...

The USA Today column on "cool" companies got me to thinking: It's incontestible that there are plenty of people who care more about the appearance of coolness and success than in the actual achievement of real goals. We've talked before about the rather incredible amount of job title inflation that you can see all around. If it's indicative of anything, I'm afraid it's a signal of an obsessive short-term orientation (what's cool right now) versus a long-term perspective (the kind that brings us durable happiness). And that's a problem. Maintaining our infrastructure isn't cool. Education isn't really cool. Investing for the future isn't cool. But if you don't do those things and understand how those things matter to your future happiness, it's possible to coast for a while. But, whether we're talking about a family, a city, a state, or a country, you can coast only for a while -- and then it gets bad. Fast. And then China takes over.

I use "China" here more metaphorically than not -- but, for the time being, China is the 800-lb. gorilla of having lots of cash, and gobbling up enterprises and resources from places around the world that haven't been very judicious about looking to the future. That role may be held by others in the future, or shared by China and others, but the evidence of this happening is all around. Does it matter? That depends upon whether you prefer to be in control of your own destiny or not. If you want to control that destiny, then you have to own (literally and figuratively) the tools that will get you there.