Bookshelf: Diamonds are Forever, Computers are Not
offers Kellogg professor's eclectic take on technology
other professor, Shane
Greenstein spends a lot of time thinking about his favorite
the Elinor and Wendell Hobbs Distinguished Professor of Management
and Strategy, that includes the rollicking world of high-tech
markets and the often-curious ways consumers react in an environment
of constant change.
his insights evolve into papers that find their way into academic
journals. Many do not.
than allow those notions to evaporate into the realm of lost
ideas, Greenstein has discovered another format for his musings.
For the past 10 years, he has contributed to Micro
magazine, writing about issues that range from technological
convergence to the Microsoft antitrust trial to the Internet
boom and bust.
in an anthology titled, Diamonds Are Forever, Computers
Are Not: Economic and Strategic Management in Computing Markets
(Imperial College Press), the essays offer Greenstein's unique
perspective on the economics of technology.
very different from my academic writing," says Greenstein,
the current chair of the Kellogg School Management
& Strategy Department. "Many of these are topics you can't
put into an academic journal, but I felt they are useful for
students and managers, so they ought to get out there."
of the essays were inspired by Kellogg classroom discussions,
where students would raise deceptively simple questions such
as, "Why did the Internet bubble burst?" Recognizing that
the topic warranted a deeper explanation, Greenstein drafted
an essay, "Explaining Booms, Busts and Errors," dissecting
the bad assumptions underlying the high-tech stock market
crash in 2000.
essays, such as, "Uncertainty, Prediction and the Unexpected"
and "Forecasting Commercial Change," were also written in
part to address students' concerns.
gotten much more interested in subjects like managing a firm
in the face of uncertainty, because our students are telling
us that this is what they're facing," Greenstein says. "I
learn a lot from them about what's missing in the existing
expecting a sober academic tone in Diamonds will have
to look elsewhere. The essays are driven by Greenstein's ironic
observations as he explores the economics and management of
title essay, Greenstein discusses the rapid pace of obsolescence
in the personal computer industry. Regardless of how recently
the last innovation was introduced, he notes, consumers still
seem willing to pay the price of a diamond ring for a new
budget is tight, it is a choice between marital bliss and
a new computer," he writes.
essay, "Bill, Act Like a Mensch!", Greenstein urges Microsoft
Chairman Bill Gates to revamp both his personality and his
corporate culture for the good of the PC industry.
do not take offense, Bill, but nobody has ever said you or
your company possesses uncommon wisdom, warmth or character,"
Greenstein writes. "And, yet, to be fair, you seem capable.
Moreover, the PC industry will be in deep trouble if you do
not acquire some of these qualities. That should at least
motivate you to try."
professor wrote the article during the 1999 Microsoft antitrust
trial after receiving a note from a senior Microsoft manager
who, Greenstein says, "sincerely could not understand why
his firm was being subjected to scrutiny."
who had been commenting publicly on the case, thought the
tongue-in-cheek essay could help the government and the company
to understand each other's point of view. His chief contention:
that Gates and Microsoft needed to be less confrontational
and more sensitive to political realities.
know if they read the essay, and I never did hear back from
the guy after I wrote it," Greenstein says. "But the funny
thing is that whether they read it or not, Microsoft has since
done a lot of the things suggested in the article."
book is available in the Kellogg