|A few of us at Autodesk are piloting a service called getAbstract. The service provides compressed knowledge by providing summaries of books and articles. I thought I would give it a try by reading a 5 page condensation of The Corporation by Joel Bakan.|
The getAbstract web site makes it really simple in that it even lays out what it calls Take-Aways at the start of the synopsis. For The Corporation, the take-aways included:
- Corporations play a crucial role in deciding what people eat, wear, read and watch.
- The rise of the corporation began in the late nineteenth century, with the introduction of limited liability for corporate shareholders. The thinking was "Why should someone who only invested $100 in a company lose his house when the company did something wrong?"
- In the early twentieth century, a court ruled that Ford Motor Company had a legal duty to maximize profits for shareholders at the expense of all other concerns. The Dodge brothers, investors in Ford, disagreed with Henry Ford who lowered the price of cars because he felt guilty about how much money the company was making.
- As a result of that court ruling, corporations have become similar to exploitative "psychopathic" personalities. In their single-minded pursuit of lucre, in their quest to exploit any weakness and cast off regulatory oversight, corporations have become psychopathic organizations.
- Corporations pursue profit but ignore their actions' environmental and social costs. For example, they pass the costs of pollution and unsafe products on to the rest of society.
- In recent years, corporations have taken pains to appear socially responsible; however, this lip service to philanthropy is aimed at maximizing profits.
Though I have no doubt what is expressed is true for many corporations, at Autodesk we have a different perspective. Our approach to philanthropy is not at odds with our quest for profits.
- Autodesk employees regularly volunteer their time at local organizations. For example, Autodesk allows up to 4 paid hours per month for parents to help out at their children's schools. This flexibility allows employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance and probably be more productive when they are at work instead of worrying about how their children are doing in school. Many of us are salaried employees so we easily work more than 44 hours a week, let alone 4 extra hours in a month.
- Autodesk makes its design applications free to students. Yes this is a blessing for educators and students alike who do not have the means to purchase suites of design applications to learn how to design automobiles, buildings, bridges, or the next TV commercial. On the other hand when these students enter the workforce and need software for their professional lives, which design applications will the choose? Hopefully ones that they are already familiar with.
- In these tough economic times, Autodesk has extended the use of free student versions to the unemployed. When these displaced workers reenter the workforce, they will become users of our design applications. With time on their hands that they can put towards self-betterment, having access to design applications is a win for both the person and Autodesk.
- Autodesk is committed to sustainability. We pay attention to how much energy our computers use. We watch how much we travel. Our second floor at One Market (where I work) has a LEED Platinum certification for commercial interior renovation. Our office in Singapore also earned LEED Platinum certification yesterday. Yes we do all that, but we also make software that allows our customers to analyze and visualize the sustainability of the designs they create. Being familiar with sustainability ourselves helps us make and sell better products.
So although the getAbstract The Corporation summary appears to do this topic justice, all corporations cannot be tarred with the same brush. The getAbstract site gave this book a 6 out of 10 rating: "getAbstract.com recommends this study to those who would like to explore corporate behavior and its impact on society, albeit from a contrarian’s point of view." My next test of getAbstract will be to read a summary of a book I have actually read already and compare that to my recollection of what is in the book.
Speed reading is alive in the lab.