Does her Ph.D qualify Jill Lepore to talk about business?

That’s a bizarre thing to critique, as opposed to her thousands of words explaining how the foundations of the anecdotes and data Christensen used are flawed. How is it fluff when she provides citations, dates, analysis, and rebuttal? So you were put off by a couple of things she said in passing. That’s about < 1% of the article.


Demographically speaking, I suspect that the number of persons opining on the machinations of business management, finance, operations and economics in general who are also employed by one or another type of business who hold business degrees (BS, MBA, MSF, …) or advanced degrees in econ constitute a distinct minority among this cohort.

Lepore’s critique of Christensen is a robust, evidence-rich analysis that effectively harpoons the entrepreneurial “white whale” of our age. Lepore’s analysis dovetails with analyses demonstrating that the practice of rewarding executive and sr managers’ performance with options grants or actual shares creates incentives that cripple businesses long-term vitality. Taken together, the message is clear. It’s well past time for a top-to-bottom restructuring of business finance and compensation models. Without such reform, competitiveness, creativity and socio-economic stability will continue to erode.

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Well, it certainly doesn’t DISQUALIFY her if she presents a well reasoned argument.

I don’t have a degree at all and have to deal with all kinds of issues that are generally considered academic. I’ve never found the existence of a degree to be terribly indicative of value outside a specific field. . . everything else is in how the person uses their brain.

Well, the irrelevant personal stuff was at least 10%, not 1%, and pretty much all the dates and things about the disk drive business are just taken from the book she’s reviewing, not her own research or anything. I haven’t read Christiansen and it may well be that his book isn’t very good, but I’m not really seeing much to her critique of it even re-reading it. Honestly, the only place where she even actually makes a solid point is when she chides Christiansen for saying that “Nowhere in the history of business has there been an industry like disk drives” while using the disk drive industry as a model. That was a pretty clever jab, I’ll admit.

Well, she teaches at Harvard and was shortlisted for both the pulitzer and the national book award for some of her work, so there is that. But her focus was on early America, and she seems to have a general focus on American popular culture. It seems like she’s about to publish a book about the secret history of wonder woman. I’d say yes, but then again, I’m a phd candidate in history, so I’m probably predisposed to thinking that this qualifies her to have an opinion about things in America. Maybe Andreessen doesn’t understand what an American studies degree entails?

But some people think that a phd in anything except a STEM field means you are little more than a functioning idiot anyway. Or at least they don’t like it when your critical of something that has served them well. Or some people think that college in general is a waste of time, especially if it’s not a “practical” type degree. Other people will not a take a woman seriously, no matter how many letters follow her name, in whatever field. Who knows with Andreessen? I don’t know enough about him to say what pissed him off that he won’t take Lepore seriously…

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Since American studies actually American culture and capitalism is a huge part of that. So yes, she is actually qualfied to talk about American capitalism and the culture that it creates. This is right up her alley.

I agree with this, actually. I know lots of smart folks with phds who do write smart stuff that are well written and researched. But I know lots of smart people who have no degrees or only a BA, who write equally smart stuff. I think the only thing a phd actually does is jump through particular hoops. Doesn’t mean that you can’t get something out of it, but it’s not the only way to gain knowledge in this world. Just one of them.

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I mean, don’t get me wrong. I definitely respect academic achievement and there are plenty of people who used their time in college extremely well and have excellent minds to show for it!

But on the other hand, there are plenty of people who just don’t have that as an option. I was a single father at 21 and pursuing a college degree with my spare time never was going to take precedence over raising my child. Similarly there are lots of people out there who are excellent generalists, late bloomers, or just individuals who learn so differently that your typical academic environment was never going to bring the most out of them.

In my experience enthusiastic curiosity and optimistic skepticism seemed to be key traits in identifying people who’d thrive and provide value when dealing with complex topics well.

I think it could partially be said that institutions of learning tend to collect people with those traits more often than most, but it’s the traits that are key rather than the pedigree. Some people just place different values on using their brains well.

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I think you missed the point of the article! Because it’s a critique of the book, not having read the book means that you’re making a lot of assumptions. But even reading her article, she explains how he omits data which she provides — which would, in fact, not be in his book!

The whole bit about the various industries she cites: that’s her research. He mentions specific facts and ranges, but omits, for instance, the bankruptcy that occurred for one business; the fact that his cutoff dates are very convenient for analysis but don’t represent the full scope of what happened; etc.

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I got tired of reading Lepore’s article about 3/4 through - but Andreessen’s tweet never made any sense except as a petulant squeak over criticism of some deeply held belief.

Lepore’s article was interesting when it was expounding about how Disruptive (Innovation or Creation) was being used more as a buzz-word and being excessively applied. However, she lost my interest when she started giving examples of failed (or otherwise changed) companies were being used as examples of disruption without ever mentioning that Disruption (as applied to whole industries or categories of products or services) was not involved. (For instance, she discusses how the hard-drive industry has changed - but not that that the hard drive industry still exists - nor does she mention how SSDs are more of a threat to the spinning-rust industry than mergers and acquisitions.)

Lepore nearly - but not quite - makes the point that much that’s labeled “Disruptive” is just the normal process of market competition or fads. A great deal of change is really churn, change for faddish reasons or incremental change. New colors, slight changes to shape or size. Strange new educational theories, etc. Toyota didn’t introduce Disruptive change to the car market - although it did (somewhat) to the automotive suppliers market. But cars are still being made, and there are still automotive parts suppliers.

Disruptive change might be eliminating the local travel agent - although travel agency still exists as Kayak.Com, etc - and since can call it up from my laptop here in bed, it’s even more “local” than ever.

Basically, Lepore’s article is a screed against “Disruptive” as a buzz-word applicable to any situation where the incumbent faces failure or even inconvenience. Unfortunately, the screed gets lost in it’s own examples and becomes excessively verbose.

Was she paid by the word?

I don’t look down on people who don’t go to college or grad school, and people who do are obnoxious bores, frankly. But the same is true otherwise… I came late to academia and I’ve enjoyed it (for the most part). We’ll see what comes out of it at the end! Hopefully, a nice tenure track job and at least one book, if not more. And frankly, I’m not even sure if I care if they sell! :wink:

But, curiosity and skepticism lead to great things, no matter where you are situated in life.


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