"X Marks The Spot"

Those of you who are regulars to my blog know we skipped last week.  It was an extremely busy week and writing the blog slipped from consciousness.  Bova Enterprises is in the midst of exploring some new alliances, and new entrepreneurial ventures.  Personally I’ve just taken on a new board position. I’m always amazed at people who are extremely well read.  Those that read the NY Times from cover to cover daily, or are regulars reading The New Yorker Magazine, or the Economist in their entirety each week.  I just never seem to have the time to do that.  However last week I did treat myself by reading the New Yorker cover to cover.  The edition with Osama Bin laden’s face “rubbed out”.  For those of you who haven’t seen it I think it’s a must.  There are some really great articles in it. http://www.newyorker.com

I was particularly intrigued with Malcolm Gladwell’s piece The Creation Myth and the article about the reinvention of PepsiCo, Snacks For A Fat Planet. Gladwell writes about how Steve Jobs as a young entrepreneur visited Xerox’s PARC and saw the original concept of the mouse and icons on the screen.  The trade off was Xerox could buy shares in Apple before the IPO, for allowing Jobs to see the small computer they were working on.  He built on the idea and totally shifted the direction in which his company was going, resulting in the creation of the Macintosh.  Apparently this is a well-known story in certain circles but it was new to me.

I am fascinated by the parallel tracks of the evolution of an idea or new product, and the trajectory a company then takes.  After a brief foray Xerox went out of the personal computer business and into the laser printer business and Apple created the out of the box MAC.

As I ponder this evolution of two companies American icons, we have Jobs resigning from leadership of his company after a power struggle with his Board in 1984.  He goes off to create a new company, which in turn gets purchased by Apple in 1996 bringing him back to Apple.  In the interim he creates Pixar, sells it to Disney and becomes the largest individual shareholder of Disney.  Since 1997 he’s CEO of Apple and has overseen the transformation of the music industry through iTunes and smartphones through the iPhone.  You probably realize by now I am a huge Apple fan.  I have never owned a PC.

Granted I follow Apple a bit more because I am one of its loyal customers and shareholders.  But I think it’s important to look at Xerox.  It was established in 1906 and has reinvented itself a few times in its 105 year-old history as an employer. Go to http://www.xerox.com for a treasure trove of facts on a page.  A few things stand out for me about Xerox.  One the name of the company has become synonymous with making a copy of a document.  Secondly it  was one of the first Fortune 100 companies to have a woman CEO Anne Mulcahy in 2001.  It now has the distinction of being the only major publicly traded corporation worldwide to have successive women CEO’s and Chairs in the selection of Ursula burns to follow Mulcahy.

Innovation and creativity repeatedly show up in these two American corporate icons.