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All About Meme's Avatar Jump to comment 10 by All About Meme

Comment 8 by Alexandreina

Alas, big business is proving far too spineless to take such risks and why shouldn't they be when they're making record profits sucking the life's blood from the human race the way they are doing now?

The moderators have made it very clear (in another thread) that they have a low tolerance for “capitalism-bashing”, so perhaps a low whisper of a response will suffice in this case (psssttt… I agree with you).

As a young single man in college, I learned rather quickly that handing in quality work on schedule was the sure-fire path to success. Many years later, much to my chagrin, I learned that this educational model was too simplistic to adequately describe the world of business. A short list of the main complicating factors follows:

Families. Imagine a man getting up during a 3-hour final exam and announcing to his professor that he has to pick up his sick child from school, and therefore cannot be expected to complete the closed-book test. Ten minutes later, imagine a woman excusing herself from the same test because her husband’s car broke down on his way to an important meeting with his boss. In the business world, family matters take priority over business matters, nearly 100% of the time.

Time estimates. College professors generally have a fairly good idea of how long assignments take to complete, based upon years of experience dealing with the same type of “average” student. In the business world, especially when it comes to researching and developing cutting-edge technologies, schedules are largely a matter of guesswork – and they can be off by factors of 2 or 3 or even more. The unpredictable nature of personal or family-related absences also makes scheduling difficult. The unexpected long-term absence of one or two key employees can literally devastate a project.

Measurable performance standards. There are very few objective ways to measure the on-the-job performance of business employees. It generally comes down to subjective opinions from management, opinions which are often based upon mostly irrelevant aspects of “personality” and politics. This can fracture an otherwise productive group and alienate certain ambitious and reward-driven high-performers.

Accommodations for off-hours. Why does everyone need to work from 9AM to 5PM? Progressive companies like Google, for instance, provide around the clock facilities for employees, including cafeterias and even sleeping arrangements to encourage off-hours activity. I personally guarantee no such thing exists in the defense or aerospace industries. And once again, family life complicates things.

As a student, I could do “all-nighters” to complete critical assignments that were due. If I was a single father and had an ill young daughter at home, very few things could motivate me to offload that responsibility onto someone else.

This post is already straying precipitously into the realm of capitalism-bashing, so I will end with my (still largely unsupported) conclusion that “nuclear household family life” in America is essentially at odds with the time-critical goals of corporate America. I’ll also offer up the somewhat radical (and unrealistically utopian) proposition that if everyone was effectively “single”, and if the responsibility of raising a child was off-loaded from the “parents” and placed squarely into the domain of long-term boarding schools filled with enlightened and brilliant professors like Richard Dawkins, then men and women would be free to “give their all” to business endeavors of great scientific importance like the James Webb Space Telescope. Of course, then this eliminates the need for single-family housing tracts and suburban neighborhoods and the automobile industry and, and, and...

Phew! See how I came back ‘round to the topic at the end? Nice, huh?

(Major caveat: I'm a man. The experience a woman has in raising a child is mostly foreign to me, genetically and otherwise. It isn't my place or intention to rank corporate business endeavors over the mother-child relationship. Most corporate endeavors are an utter waste of time IMO, but then we're right back to capitalism-bashing, aren't we...)

Wed, 27 Jul 2011 18:41:27 UTC | #854753