Disgraced WorldCom chief Bernie Ebbers wants out of the clink, and is looking for a presidential pardon. Forget the merits of whether or not he should get it, but could he have picked a worse time? America’s ire is focused squarely on Liddy, Rubin, Mozilo and other corner office execs asleep at the switch. With Bush’s approval ratings lower than holiday spirits and Eric Holder’s AG nomination dredging up Marc Rich-like memories of pardons past, Ebbers’s chances are dead on arrival. But it got me thinking – once again – of the last time we went through this (by that I mean a bubble burst, because we’ve really never gone through something quite like this).
Like many others, I’ve taken to reading old magazines and newspapers for telltale signs of what was to come; sort of like backdating a hypothetical, but without the numbers. Came across “Innovation: The classic traps” by Rosabeth Moss Kanter in Harvard Business Review. She notes that America thrives on technology innovations that spring from market disruptions, while other countries (specifically China) thrive from copying and improving upon existing technologies. In other words, when it all blows up, we come out the better. Except this time around we’re prolonging the explosion (implosion?) by begging for bailouts. Better to let the market work, clear the decks and start again. Maybe then, and only then, will lessons be learned and the innovation on which we thrive begin anew.