Magazine

Who's Innovative And Who Isn't


In my view, building "organizations that are capable of sustained innovation" is not what's needed ("25 Most Innovative Companies," Special Report, May 14). The organization is built to produce current products reliably and efficiently while continually improving its quality, reducing its cost, and incrementally advancing its design. You don't want your workers, hired and trained to do that, distracted from their duties.

Conceiving the seed of a radical innovation happens in a flash. As Poincar?? said: "What the mind of one man can conceive...others can bring to pass." Developing and preparing to produce and market a new product line takes years, so the organization can stomach only very few "seeds" at any given time. Therefore, it doesn't make sense to hire and keep on the payroll a lot of people to perform that function; it pays to fish for the original idea outside the organization??nd only when the organization needs the next breakthrough innovation.

Fred Buggie

Strategic Innovations International Inc.

Lake Wylie, S.C.

It took five years' worth of of Microsoft's (MSFT) fat research-and-development budget to shrink-wrap Windows Vista, yet the operating system offers not one innovative or groundbreaking feature that is relevant or not plagiarized. So I hardly think it justifies Microsoft's appearance on your list based, as you put it, on "creations that help ensure Windows and Office hegemony."

In the context of innovation, how can hegemony be a worthy measure? It seems more appropriate in describing out-of-date knights defending a medieval castle while the competition is zipping around in tanks.

As for last holiday season's "iPod killer," Microsoft's Zune remains as non-innovative and market-irrelevant as if it had never happened. Name one innovative thing the company has done, and I might reluctantly grant Microsoft a place in your top 25, but position No. 5?

Please pull the other leg??nd please leave Microsoft foundering in its large but decaying castle.

Malcolm Ross

Annandale, Va.

As a professor who sits on my business school's academic-conduct committee, I, along with my colleagues, deal with these issues when the situation arises??hankfully, not often ("Cheating??r postmodern learning?" News & Insights, May 14). We have found that the acid test for cheating is transparency. If the Duke University students had willingly come forward and informed their professors that they had worked together on the exam, one might reasonably assume that the required independence for exam-taking had not been clearly understood. However, if the students were not forthcoming about their joint work on the exam, then it must be assumed that they chose to engage in rule-breaking in the hopes that it would not be uncovered.

In response to your excuse for the students' behavior, that the business world has changed, what with teamwork, open sourcing, copying and pasting, and so on, I would suggest that it certainly has not changed that much: Right is still right, and cheating is still wrong.

Roberta N. Clarke

Boston University

Boston

Your commentary on the Duke B-school cheating scandal stated that collaborative learning and "the new culture of shared information" have muddied the ethical waters. Not so. Cheating remains what it has always been: lying. It's not collaboration that muddies the waters, it's pretending that you performed the work yourself. If the B-schoolers had acknowledged that they'd traded questions and answers, their professor would have the information needed to assess the value of their work. They didn't, and thus they implied that their work was their own. It wasn't. They lied. They cheated. Completely clear.

Hampden H. Smith III

Washington and Lee University

Lexington, Va.

The only people shocked about the Duke MBA scandal are those who have never completed a semester in an MBA program. Your commentary merely skims the surface of the problems at B-schools. However, I do not believe the students are the problem; rather, it's the system that's broken. Schools must provide an environment that is not conducive to unethical academic behavior.

Has Duke lived up to its responsibility to provide an atmosphere that is not conducive to unethical academic behavior? Do the faculty and staff at Duke honestly believe that students will not collaborate on a take-home exam? Are the faculty shocked that the students did? If the answers to these questions are anything but no, yes, and yes (respectively), then someone needs to lose his or her job.

The Duke MBA students did exactly what prominent business leaders have said for years should be done to achieve personal success: "Surround yourself with people who are brighter and smarter than you because, in the end, they will make you look better." In the business world, that's called competitive advantage.

Scott A. Ferguson

University of Tennessee

Knoxville, Tenn.

I'm very excited about the companies channel ("A powerful online innovation," Special Report, May 14). I've used it for only an hour, but I'm certain it will be my go-to spot for stock info.

I've been a subscriber forever (well, since the 1960s), and this feature may well be worth all those years of alternately agreeing with your articles or throwing the magazine at the wall. It is a dramatically good tool??nd surprisingly easy for us older, less technically adept info-seekers. It would be nice, however, if you would include a tutorial with the chart function that is so powerful. I'm certain I'm not getting the full benefit.

Thank you so much for this great new service, though I may write again at some future point to condemn you for all the time I spend at the site.

Richard L. Cox

Billings, Mont.


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