David Pogue: "The Year of C.E.O. Failures Explained" and Why IT is so Bad

David Pogue is a prolific writer on IT, having written some of the most popular books on MacIntosh, e.g., the Mac Secrets series.

In an article in the Dec. 15, 2011 New York Times on "CEO's idiotic blunders" as he calls them, he reveals why IT generally, HIT included, may be so poorly done:

The Latest in Technology from David Pogue
The Year of CEO Failures Explained
New York Times
Dec. 15, 2011

... But it doesn’t seem like you’d need a business degree to appreciate that these [decisions by CEO's on making major changes to businesses] would be bad decisions. Whenever I see a company shooting itself in the foot like that, I always wonder: how could anyone be so stupid? When do people become so stupid?

Last spring, I taught a class at the Columbia Business School called “What Makes a Hit a Hit—and a Flop a Flop.” I focused on consumer-tech success stories and disasters.

I distinctly remember the day I focused on products that were rushed to market when they were full of bugs — and the company knew it (can you say “BlackBerry Storm?”). I sagely told my class full of twentysomethings that I was proud to talk to them now, when they were young and impressionable — that I hoped I could instill some sense of Doing What’s Right before they became corrupted by the corporate world.

But it was too late.

To my astonishment, hands shot up all over the room. These budding chief executives wound up telling me, politely, that I was wrong. That there’s a solid business case for shipping half-finished software. “You get the revenue flowing,” one young lady told me. “You don’t want to let your investors down, right? You can always fix the software later.”

You can always fix the software later. Wow.

That’s right. Use your customers as beta testers. Don’t worry about burning them. Don’t worry about souring them on your company name forever. There will always be more customers where those came from, right?

In health IT, beta-testing unregulated, experimental software medical devices on patients is commonplace. And patients do get burned. Literally.

That “ignore the customer” approach hasn’t worked out so well for Hewlett-Packard, Netflix and Cisco. All three suffered enormous public black eyes. All three looked like they had no idea what they were doing.

Maybe all of those M.B.A.’s pouring into the workplace know something we don’t. Maybe there’s actually a shrewd master plan that the common folk can’t even fathom.

Actually, no. If anything, IMO the MBA's suffer the Dunning-Kruger effect.

But maybe, too, there’s a solid business case to be made for factoring public reaction and the customer’s interest into big business decisions. And maybe, just maybe, that idea will become other C.E.O.s’ 2012 New Year’s resolution.

I doubt it.

In healthcare IT, it will take a few more years - and much more litigation - before the frankly immoral and nihilistic attitude of "we can fix the software later" becomes taboo.

It may also take some of those sage MBA's realizing that their loved ones have no "reset button" when they've been "burned" by faulty health IT, and that their loved ones - unlike software - cannot be "fixed later."

-- SS