Teaching with Technology

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    Enjoying David Pogue's NY Times Postings about...
    blog entry posted December 30, 2011 by Richard E Lillie, last edited December 30, 2011, tagged technology 
    Enjoying David Pogue's NY Times Postings about Technology -- Great Stuff
    intro text:

    I'm a big fan of David Pogue (New York Times technologiy columnist).  I really enjoyed reading David's December 15, 2011 blog posting titled The Year of C.E.O. Failures Explained.  In this post, David wrote about three big-time blunders by tech CEOs (HP's Leo Aoptheker, Netflix's Reed Hastings, and Cisco's John Chambers).

    While Pogue's comments about CEO blunders were interesting, what intrigued me more were comments by students in a class Pogue taught at the Columbia Business School called "What Makes a Hit a Hit--and a Flop a Flop."  During one of his lectures, David said he focused on products that were rushed to market when they were full of bugs--and the company knew it.  He said his hope was to "instill some sense of Doing What's Right before they became corrupted by the corporate world."

    David said students quickly responded that "there's a solid business case for shipping half-finished software.  You get the revenue flowing.  You don't want to let your investors down, Right?  You can always fix the software later."

    Students felt it is OK to use customers as beta testers without their consent.  I found this logic rather unsettling.  I would have loved to hear arguments supporting this type of behavior as a solid business case.

    David suggested that the "ignore the customer approach" had not worked so well for HP, Netflix, or Cisco.  He found it interesting that students did not seem to be bothered by all of this.

    It is one thing to knowingly use beta test software.  This way the user accepts the fact up front that software may not fully ready for primetime use (i.e., most likely there are bugs and design problems).  I do this all the time and incorporate beta test software into my course designs.  I explain limitations to students.  The advantage is exposure and use of software that includes unique new features.

    It is another thing to knowingly not disclose that software is not ready for primetime use.  In my mind, this constitutes deliberate intent by management to deceive the customer.  Isn't this the same thing as fraud?

    In my opinion, if business students think this is OK behavior, we're in trouble!  I suggest that learning this type of strategy be balanced with required reading of That Used to be Us -- How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We can Come Back by Friedman and Mandelbaum.  Perhaps, Friedman and Mendelbaum can give students insight to what made American business great.  I am sure this would NOT include a solid business case for knowingly cheating the customer.

    In addition to David Pogue's New York Times column, I suggest the Techmeme blog as a great place to learn about what is happening in the technology world.

    I wish you a Happy and Prosperous 2012.


    Rick Lillie (Cal State, San Bernardino)