Enlightened management is better than anything but autocratic management -- This is one I suddenly realized while I was preparing my speech. I've long been a staunch advocate of enlightened management, of trusting in employees and all the other tenets of the legendary HP Way. And God knows we need more of it. But as I grow older and watch the success of companies like Oracle and Apple, I have also come to accept that a good old-fashioned corporate dictatorship can work just as well, especially in startups, when the time horizon is so short that there is no time for consensus. Do I like it? No. And I've hated working for autocratic companies. But they do succeed. A valley of family-oriented companies would soon grind to a halt; but conversely, a valley of corporate animals would tear itself apart in a Hobbesian nightmare. In the end, perhaps the answer is what the valley is today: dreaming of enlightenment but willing to fight with tooth and claw to survive.
Learning from the past is almost as good as forgetting the past -- This is hard for a Silicon Valley historian to swallow, but the fact that the valley has no memory is central to its success. Sure, you can learn from past mistakes. But just as often that memory is a drag on the future. In a place where everybody's resume is full of dead companies, dwelling on the past can be paralyzing. Moreover, when the odds against success are so great, pondering that fact can keep you from taking that big chance that changes the world. Spend too much time looking in the rearview mirror and you'll crash into the brick wall just ahead. Far better to leave history to the historians and get on with building the future.
You might think the enduring presence of these tensions would create a very brittle culture in Silicon Valley, one that could easily shatter if the balance shifted slightly in one direction or the other. And yet, just the opposite seems to be true, the booms and busts of the last 40 years, the perpetual transformation of the valley to adapt to the latest new technologies and markets, and the ongoing creation of hundreds of new companies each year suggest that this is a very resilient and robust business culture.
So, how long can it last? Well, I've predicted the imminent demise of Silicon Valley four different times over the last 25 years. I no longer make that prediction. Rather, having finally learned some of these lessons, I intend to just enjoy what we've got for as long as it lasts.
And I'll have a lot of time to ponder that decision while I sit in traffic.
This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.