Friday, October 21, 2016

Heros and process

A week and change ago a couple of stories were juxtaposed on the pages of the Wall Street Journal which spoke volumes about what we value as a society.  On one side was yet another chapter in the continuing clusterfuck of a story around Theranos, the poster child unicorn with a Steve Jobs clone/wannabe founder, the transformational value proposition ("all your blood testing from a finger prick") the gold-plated board and advisory team (Henry Kissinger, Bill Frist, Richard Kovacevich, David Boies, Sam Nunn, George Schultz), and the most ignominious crash and burn since Enron and Arthur Anderson fell to earth at once. Theranos is the Lance Armstrong of corporations, and, as such, calls to question the general ethos of hero-worship to which we have devolved as a society, the extent to which we are dependent on larger than life figures (Obama, Elon Musk, Warren Buffett) to help us figure out how to do the right thing.

On the other page, a story about the seeming success of grid hardening, lots of money being spent over years of gruelling, slow, thankless process improvement and project management to reduce the amount of power outages caused by weather events and other disruptions. As someone who was first in Manhattan on 9/11, and then in Albany -- hundreds of miles away from an 8-month pregnant Mary -- when the power went out up and down the East Coast in August of 2003 (and yes, we all thought it was terrorism at the time), I appreciate the effort of all the slide-rule and pocket-protector types who made this happen, and totally applauded this story.  It is difficult to pay attention to this kind of work, but it is big, and we all benefit from it, and the government is the only stakeholder that can begin to make it happen.

So let's just keep this in mind, and to hell with all the charismatic shysters like Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos. It don't always happen like that.

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