Yesterday, someone asked me if it was more fun writing books, or talking about them afterwards. I love writing, but on a week like this, the talks offer some serious competition. This week, I had three highly enjoyable events related to Fixing the Game in New York.
The first was a talk I gave at the HSM World Innovation Forum on June 7 at Broadway’s Best Buy Theater, with Q&A by Diane Brady of Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Diane is a terrific discussion partner and like the great journalist she is, always coaxes out of me something that I should not say. In this case, it was the opinion that ‘SOX is a veritable orgy of reliability,’ which was rocketing around the Twitterverse long before our discussion was over. I love working with Diane who is as bright and humorous as they come!
Then it was on to the Thomson Reuters headquarters in Times Square for the New York launch of Fixing the Game, hosted by my TR friends. It was a panel discussion, moderated by the clever Chrystia Freeland of Thomson Reuters, and featuring her colleague, Felix Salmon, financial blogger extraordinaire, and Sebastian Mallaby, author of the rollicking best-seller More Money than God.
It was a wide-ranging discussion. We got a first glimpse at the theme of Chrystia’s next book, which will be about the new global oligarchs. Sebastian offered up a spirited defense of hedge funds and contrasted them favorably to the too-big-to-fail banks. In response to my suggestion that CEOs weren’t actually nearly as motivated by incentive compensation as commentators think and my observation that the incentives actually make their lives miserable, Felix offered up the idea that instead for good performance we should give them a puppy. I countered that perhaps a cat or budgie would be a good alternative. This exchange spurred an interesting conversation, led by Felix, about whether we actually need monetary incentive compensation at all.
It was terrific and the audience seemed to have as much fun as I did. I was awed by the brainpower of my three fellow-panelists. One clever audience member noted to me afterwards that it was interesting that we had four foreigners (Canada: Chrystia and me; UK: Sebastian and Felix) opining about US capitalism. I hadn’t thought about it since three of the four are denizens of NYC; but he was indeed correct. The panel is now up on the Thomson Reuters network here.
The next morning it was a book club event at the Yale Club hosted by my friends at the Aspen Institute – in particular the lovely and talented head of Aspen’s Business and Society Program, Judy Samuelson. This time the format was an interview by Andrew Ross Sorkin, the brilliant NYT columnist and author of Too Big to Fail. It was a great chat and Andrew extended my NFL analogy in a clever way that I had never considered. We were lamenting the Delaware Court’s narrowing of the role of directors to the point that they and the companies they govern fall right into the hands of the shortest-term shareholders and Andrew queried whether that made the Delaware Court the equivalent of a lax and weak NFL commissioner. Absolutely right! I told Andrew that I would use his analogy repeatedly, but that I would credit it to him – as I am now!
I was gratified to see my friend Paul Volcker attend the Aspen breakfast. He was a fellow attendee of the Ditchley Conference in 2003 at which I came up with the NFL analogy and has encouraged me to write about it ever since. Offered the last word at the Aspen breakfast, he admonished me and other business school Deans to keep pushing the pace of innovation in MBA education. And as always, I listen carefully to Paul! He is like Drucker – rarely wrong over decades and decades of opinions.
All in all, it was a terrific couple of days. With friends and colleagues like Diane, Chrystia, Sebastian, Felix, Judy, Andrew and Paul, a person cannot help but have an energizing and stimulating time. Thanks to each one of them.