Should ‘Social Entrepreneurship’ Mean ‘Creating Jobs for Average Workers’?

By Leslie Brokaw
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An annual event called “Silicon Valley Comes to Oxford,” which took place earlier this month, featured a debate at the Oxford Union on this motion:

“This house believes that the average worker is being left behind by advances in technology.”

The concept of “Silicon Valley community” is a geographically loose one, because helping make the argument were MIT Sloan’s Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the MIT Center for Digital Business, and Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at the center.

It was logical that the two were invited: their new book, Race Against the Machine (Digital Frontier Press, 2011), is on exactly that theme. (Here’s our blog post about the book.)

McAfee’s opening statement, which he posted at his blog, includes this challenge for how we might rethink the meaning of “corporate responsibility”:

It’s also time to change our minds and broaden our definition of ‘social entrepreneurship.’ When we hear that term at present, we think of sustainability, or clean or green tech, or improving the lots and lives of people in the developing world. All of these are worthwhile and wonderful things to do. Here’s another one: create jobs for average workers. Because there aren’t enough of them right now. The greatest scarcity in our economies now is a scarcity not of resources or even of good new ideas, but of opportunity — of chances to let people realize the American Dream, and the English Dream, the Indian and Chinese and Mexican dream. Seguir leyendo “Should ‘Social Entrepreneurship’ Mean ‘Creating Jobs for Average Workers’?”

Quick Takes: Why Is Customer Service So Bad?

Andrew McAfee’s plea about customer service
“How can it still be the case, in 2010, that really well-understood technologies (telephony, voice prompts, etc.) are still detracting from customer service, rather than improving it, at some of the largest companies in the world?”

That’s MIT Sloan research scientist Andrew McAfee, wondering in his blog why the American Express Travel Services phone service offers such poor service. None of the possibilities make sense. Leaders aren’t aware? All they have to do is dial their number. They’re aware, but not bothered? “How could they not be?” McAfee asks. “They run a customer service business — it’s all they do — and they just released a study showing that, as their headline put it, ‘Americans Will Spend 9% More With Companies That Provide Excellent Service.’”

McAfee’s third possibility is the most intriguing: Leaders know about the problems, are concerned about the problems, but aren’t planning on doing anything about the problems.

“Maybe they don’t feel like they have the budget, the expertise, or the managerial bandwidth to take on a tech-heavy project now,” McAfee says. “Maybe the issues I experienced only crop up in the particular segment of Amex Travel I was dealing with, or when call volumes are particularly heavy, and so the company is willing to live with them for the time being. But I’m a heavy traveler, the kind of customer they probably want to attract and retain, and I’m sufficiently struck by this lousy tech leading to lousy customer service that I’m sitting around blogging about it.” Seguir leyendo “Quick Takes: Why Is Customer Service So Bad?”

Two Common Mistakes of Millennials at Work

A tag cloud (a typical Web 2.0 phenomenon in i...
Image via Wikipedia

Andrew McAfee


The first is simple oversharing. I wrote before how narrating your work is a very smart strategy because it lets you be helpful to others, and also increases the chances that they can help you. But narrating your every opinion, emotion, lunch, happy hour, hangover, etc. on your company‘s emergent social software platforms is just narcissistic clutter.

One of the knocks against Generation Y is that they’ve been encouraged to believe that everything they say and think is interesting, and should be aired and shared. This is simply not true for anyone, no matter what reality TV producers would have us believe. Periodically sharing bits of personal information is valuable because it humanizes you, lets others know what kind of person you are, and facilitates socialization and trust-building. But oversharing in the workplace just makes you annoying and immature.

The second not-so-smart practice of a digital native is to act as if all employees are equals, and equally interested in airing the truth. Seguir leyendo “Two Common Mistakes of Millennials at Work”