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The Competition Issue (AUG. 21/28) was the finest I can remember in the 50-plus years i have been a reader, and then a subscriber, to BusinessWeek. I could not put it down. It reminded me of reading a Peter Drucker book for the first time -- so much information and so many insights that i read it with the intention of immediately reading it again. I knew i could not have possibly grasped all it had to offer.
The nexus of competition and winning is innovation and creativity, both of which you showed in spades throughout the issue, including disciplines in and out of business.
The competition issue was intriguing and inspiring. The benefits of competition are thoroughly discussed in a positive way; however, there was only brief mention of the downside. The negative aspects of competition can result in scandals, wars, and other catastrophic man-made events. One only has to read the daily newspaper or watch the nightly TV news to see the manifestation of unbridled competition.
Will we compete ourselves into oblivion as governments, as well as corporate and individual winners, continue to reap the spoils of their victories at the expense of the greater good?
Dublin, N.H. Overall, I am in complete agreement with everything in The Competition Issue, especially the idea that "you are your own greatest competitor." However, I was saddened by the "The Poll," specifically question 19, which asked: "Which part of the company has the most competitive employees?"
Noticeably absent was information technology. Is this because IT employees were not polled, their competitive scale was so low that they did not make the cut, or because they are not considered to be part of the company?
As an IT executive, I feel the progress made in technology is driven by the nature of technologists to compete with themselves and their peers to create better products and to constantly improve.
Top competitors prepare with gusto and perform with virtuosity. They avoid the obnoxious behaviors in Business Week's survey.
Walnut Creek, Calif. I'm a managing director at D.E. Shaw, and I want to attempt to correct a few misunderstandings a reader might have on the basis of your article "The quintessential quant" (The Competition Issue, Aug. 21/28). While your focus is solely on our quantitative hiring practices, D.E. Shaw is an extremely active recruiter of extraordinary talent from nonquantitative fields as disparate as liberal arts, investment banking, accounting, and law. (I was an undergraduate Russian Studies major.) Our recruiting group is engaged in the pursuit of potential superstars, be they technical or otherwise.
Second, while standardized academic test results may be a consideration in D.E. Shaw's recruiting process, there is no particular minimum score required, as was suggested in your article. I landed a job here with a sub-800 math SAT.
Last and most important, although our interview process is indeed rigorous, we have consciously fostered a highly collegial work environment, an impression one might not have gotten from the (understandable) focus on recruiting. And the job interviews are not intended to be adversarial. Many candidates, even unsuccessful ones, have let us know that the interview process is enjoyable, a sentiment we would agree with.
D.E. Shaw & Co.
"Social awkwardness" and "unattractive presentation of self" appear to me to be quite common among rock stars, jocks, hippies, artists, lawyers, accountants, perhaps even surgeons, not to mention morticians, garbagemen, illegal immigrant dishwashers, riders of the New York subways, and certain journalists and authors. Why is it considered permissible to insult the mathematically gifted when it is not permissible to insult so many other groups, elite or otherwise? Do mathematicians need an anti-defamation league, too?
I enjoyed Catherine Arnst's "Selfish genes and mellow monkeys" (The Competition Issue, Aug. 21/28). Her conclusion that "culture can trump our genetic imperative to compete -- or at least get us to stop stealing each other's food" offers hope for all of us Type A personalities.
However, given that your survey placed "The Donald" at the top of the list of the most competitive businesspersons in America, do you think there is any possibility that our culture could someday "trump" Trump?
Dewey E. Ray
It is true that chimpanzees and baboons will make coordinated attacks on rival troops. However, your article failed to mention another animal group, besides man, that engages in organized warfare against its own kind: ants.
Thomas W. Culliney, Entomologist
U.S. Agriculture Dept.
As I examined the article "A boot camp for budding virtuosos" (The Competition Issue, Aug. 21/28), I realized there was no mention of these youngsters having any fun, as do their counterparts half a continent away at a similar rustic abode near Estes Park, Colo. Rocky Ridge Music Center provides opportunities galore for its 150 or so campers to practice music, interact, and commune with nature.
After reading each story, thousands of words and hundreds of interviews on every aspect of competition in the special double issue, I realized there were only two passing references to fun: one related to evolution being "clever" enough to make eating fun and the other related to the value of fun urban centers. Frankly, I don't know whether I should laugh or cry at the virtual omission of fun's critical importance to competitive success. Sadly, it must reflect U.S. society, as well as competitive societies around the world.
Robert M. Berzok
Editor's note: The writer, retired director of corporate communications at Union Carbide Corp., is a member of the Rocky Ridge Music Center board of trustees. "Slicker cities" extolled the ambience of Portland, Ore., as a lure for young college graduates. Unfortunately, most of them will have to commute out of Portland and Multnomah County to Washington County, Clackamas County, and Vancouver, Wash., for well-paying jobs.
Why? Many old-line Portland businesses, such as Columbia Sportswear and Louisiana-Pacific, have left the city and county, and no new ones of any size are moving in. This is because of the area's high tax structure, well-known anti-business attitude, and incompetent government. Portland is truly an ephemeral city.
Forest Grove, Ore. In your article "'If we can take one big employer down..."' (News & Insights, Aug. 21/28), you mistook Dutch Farms Inc. for Cook County Cookers -- a company that has no relationship with Dutch Farms except that it is its neighbor. The Minutemen group did not protest Dutch Farms. Dutch Farms does not hire, and has never been accused of hiring, illegal workers. The Minutemen, working together with a local group, African Americans Against Illegal Immigration, directed their protest to Cook County Cookers. Dutch Farms actually facilitated a mediation session enabling the Minutemen group to voice their concerns face-to-face with Cook County Cookers' management. We appreciate BusinessWeek granting us the opportunity to set the record straight.
Brian Boomsma, President
Dutch Farms Inc.
Editor's note: The letter was also signed by Anthony Williams, a member of African Americans Against Illegal Immigration.
President George W. Bush and Border Angels founder Enrique Morones are wrong about the Minutemen being vigilantes. Vigilantes take the law into their own hands. Minutemen are not breaking the law -- they are asking the federal government to enforce it. Illegal aliens and those who hire them are breaking the law.
The way to deal with this situation is to deport anyone who is here illegally and fine and/or imprison those who hire them.
Randle C. Sink
Huntington Beach, Calif.
They call themselves Minutemen, but they act more like the Ku Klux Klan. What they claim is a patriotic desire to serve the best interests of our country is in fact an attempt to get the rest of us to subsidize their inability to compete with more cost-effective foreign labor.
It is in America's best interest to pay lower labor costs, thereby freeing up resources to use elsewhere in the economy. Day laborers come to our country to provide valuable services, and we should welcome that. The best solution to the large number of undocumented immigrant workers is simply to document them. They make businesses more efficient, so we should make it easier for them to obtain worker's permits. As for those employers whose businesses can't compete, they're the ones who will benefit most by being able to hire cheaper labor.
The reason illegals are in this country is because they are needed. The American consumer supports their employment with demands for low-cost goods and services. I dare say the entire housing boom, which has been the driving force of America's gross national product for the past several years, would not have been possible without illegal workers.
The situation is similar to our addiction to low-cost oil. Illegals are an integral part of the U.S. economy. The idea that Americans can fill all these manual labor jobs is not realistic.
As an employer, I would have no problem hiring hard-working, reliable illegal labor if faced with no labor. Other employers who cannot compete can be given the same sympathy as manufacturers that are run out of business by cheap Chinese labor -- and that isn't much.
Oklahoma City My hat's off to Stephon Marbury of the New York Knicks for showing kids that spending $200 for a pair of sneakers is not a wise buying decision ("Cheap chic," Up Front, Aug. 21/28).
Let's hope this is a first step in rolling back Madison Avenue and Hollywood's brainwashing of young consumers into wanting things they don't need and can't afford. Really smart kids will wear Marbury's $14.98 shoes and spend the money they save on food, rent...and a college education.
Chestnut Ridge, N.Y.
Let's hope others follow Marbury's lead. I'll gladly buy a pair simply to support him.