Unintended Consequences LFNY May 4, 2009

Letter From New York
May 2, 2009

Unintended Consequences…

Letter From New York
May 2, 2009

Unintended Consequences…

For the last several years, I have consulted several of the companies in the LEI Group. For the last year I have been working on the distribution side, starting out with launching Internet TV channels. After that, I became the Utility Player doing everything from negotiating agreements to…whatever needed to be done. On Friday, the Great Recession claimed that part of the Enterprises Group – all the others are just fine but Distribution found itself caught up in a “perfect storm” of events and went under. Other companies in the Group are fine; distribution only has gone.

After the announcement, I spent the day phoning people who were in business with the company letting them know what was happening, listening to both dismay and concern and some anger. Gratifyingly, everyone was concerned for my well being, which was okay as I have had another company take me on as a consultant to develop a New Media Strategy. However, as I said good-bye to the people from that group with whom I have worked, I found myself feeling sad and depressed. It was a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, which meant the company was being liquidated. Between the phone calls and the good-byes, it was one of the most draining days of my life.

What surprised me was the depth of the “survivor’s guilt” I felt. All of a sudden people were on the street and I was not – and I felt guilty. I felt something profound and unexpected. Grateful and, yes, a bit ashamed – how did I get to be the lucky one?

This was an unintended consequence of the bankruptcy – my sense of dislocation in the universe and the pain of having to make those phone calls, all of them difficult. At best people were inconvenienced and at worst, lost money – a couple were very significant amounts. In one company there is a young man who thinks he may have ruined his career by doing a deal with LPD, which has cost his employers a small fortune.

What I realize is that this is being repeated daily across the United States and the world. It is just not the people who lose their jobs who are affected; it is also those who remain. It is the people at other companies who work with the companies that disappear.

May 1st was a Red Letter Day in American history; Chrysler declared bankruptcy. As carefully orchestrated as it is, it is a moment in American history that will not be forgotten and which will, in years to come, be considered a marking point in our nation. The old industrial base of the United States has eroded and is falling in on itself. There have been a thousand steps to this moment and the history of American industry is written in those steps. The industrial base of the country, the manufacturing base, has become lost in another era. It has worn down and been overtaken by others in other countries. Interestingly, the same cycle seems to be happening with them – Toyota, Honda, Nissan are all reeling. The system that made them successful is now threatening them also.

Out of this will come a new world economic order and it will not be based on industrial prowess but intellectual power.

One of the reasons India could be the winner in the race with China is that they know how to manipulate the digital world well. China, recognizing that is racing to catch up. The U.S.? As a result of 9/11 we’re keeping the best and the brightest out of the U.S. and pushing them toward other countries. Ahhh…

It is all complicated and it is all about the future. It is being created right now, in the midst of this economic crisis. The future will be about the new technologies, about green technologies, about nanotechnology. It is all about that — a new world is coming upon us and we had better get used to it. The past, as Pinter said, is a foreign country – they do things differently there.

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