We are a nation and an industry curled up in the fetal position.
There, I said it. I can think of no better way to describe the state of malaise that seems to be pervading this nation, maybe even the world, in reaction to the current economy. I call this condition the "Complacency Cycle," which is caused both by thefear to take any action and the hope that others will either fail or barely maintain status quo while you wait it out.
The Complacency Cycle has gotten so bad that even businesses in a supposedly free-market economy have basically outsourced all of our thinking and risk-taking to the government. I have to say, that scares me to death. What happened to the America I know, the nation of risk takers and entrepreneurs that has led the world for decades with innovative ideas and bold action?
Worse yet, the complacent like to punish those of us who are actually willing to take risks and action. Take the case of our company. As part of our long-term business strategy, or what we call a "playbook", we have made a number of moves in the last couple of years that admittedly included calculated risks. One, we recognized that we needed to expand our businesses into new market segments, so we made a number of acquisitions including Foundry Networks. Two, we understood that it was in our best interests to reinvest in our local economy, so we are building a state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly campus here in San Jose. Three, we know that fortune favors the bold, so we dared to take on the major incumbent in networking toe-to-toe, on their own turf, after successfully holding them off and beating them when they encroached into our space a few years back.
But naysayers are wary of companies doing anything with positive momentum during this economy. They would rather champion companies who eliminate jobs, apply for government bailouts and stop research and development until things get better. I have a different opinion: We cannot save our way out of this mess through pure cost-cutting and other belt-tightening measures. The only real solution is for companies to stay the course in their long-term strategies (when they have them, as surprisingly few actually do) and innovate themselves back into prosperity. Thankfully, my view is shared by a few counterparts and partners in our industry who have confidently predicted that their companies will continue to grow and thrive through this downturn and come out of it a stronger company. I feel the same way, and I believe the same for Brocade.
So what to do? In my opinion, this nation, the businesses and even individuals must take to heart a few operating principles, as we would say in the tech industry:
Understand that you yourself are responsible for your future and do not leave it to others (including the government) to make critical decisions for you;
Don’t be afraid to fail and don't be afraid to take risks;
Take ownership, accountability and pride in your work;
Hold yourself and others accountable to deadlines and commitments;
Offer creative solutions to problems and don’t go along with the crowd if you believe it is the wrong answer…speak up!.
And last, as I always tell my employees, “Don’t read the newspapers!” All respect to that industry, it’s a guaranteed downer on any given day.
In fact, there may be only two truths in the world today. One, that change is the only constant, and, two, that the “news,” as presented by today’s media will almost always be bad.
Bottom line: TAKE ACTION. If you don't do anything, you shouldn't expect anything. And if that happens, this Complacency Cycle will keep going and we'll be stuck in this downturn for much longer than we need to be.