America’s CEOs Are Lemmings!
Looking forward is looking at the rear end of the person just aheadOctober 22, 2013 By Denny Hatch
They are little arctic rodents that multiply quickly and destroy their habitats by overeating, over-breeding and over-excreting. In desperation, they try to swim to a new location. They are legendary for blindly following each other over cliffs and into water where—if the distance is too great—they drown. Some call it mass suicide.
Memories of the Lemming-less 1940s
I grew up during World War II. In 1945, the automobile industry stopped making tanks and planes and went back to making cars in earnest. And what splendid vehicles they were!
A car in the late 1940s was a thrilling statement of individuality. Created by an imaginative designer, a post-war automobile was produced by a gutsy CEO willing to take a risk. When a consumer bought one of these gorgeous babies, it was a personal statement to the world. "This is me! I love it!"
Fast-forward 65 Years
At some point car manufacturers became lemmings. They tested the teardrop design. The aerodynamics, we were told, causes steadiness on the road and lessens wind resistance. This in turn saves money on gas.
Automotive CEOs fear failure and stockholder wrath. Like lemmings, they blindly followed each other until by 1995 the teardrop design became universal. No individuality and no breakthroughs were possible. But the teardrop was safe, because everyone was driving it. For nearly 20 years these dreary things have been shoved down our throats and into our garages. [See the second image in the media player at right for a sampling of the old and the new.]
Bill Munro's Dictum
Many years ago, I was barbequing chicken with W. Carroll (Bill) Munro. The author of two novels in the early 1950s, Munro went from an advertising "Mad man" to become vice president of marketing at PepsiCo.
Munro was an iconoclastic bear of a man who loved to drop wonderful verbal bombs. That night we got into a discussion of why all cars started looking alike and why the car industry was run by copycats. Munro tossed off an aphorism worthy of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations:
Imitation is the sincerest form of collective stupidity.
What triggered this piece was an Inquirer story about Bubble tea shops—the newest fad in the Asian youth community. From Jeff Gammage's story: