Former VP describes 'Microsoft's creative destruction'

An insightful look from an insider? Or sour grapes? Decide for yourself.

For a scathing account of what's wrong with Microsoft, do not miss reading this op-ed piece in the New York Times that was written by Dick Brass, a former Microsoft vice president. Here's a taste:

Internal competition is common at great companies. It can be wisely encouraged to force ideas to compete. The problem comes when the competition becomes uncontrolled and destructive. At Microsoft, it has created a dysfunctional corporate culture in which the big established groups are allowed to prey upon emerging teams, belittle their efforts, compete unfairly against them for resources, and over time hector them out of existence. It's not an accident that almost all the executives in charge of Microsoft's music, e-books, phone, online, search and tablet efforts over the past decade have left.

As a result, while the company has had a truly amazing past and an enviably prosperous present, unless it regains its creative spark, it's an open question whether it has much of a future.

Brass says he wishes his former employer nothing but success, so this is some tough love.

Dick Brass

(Update: A little bit of background about Brass from CNNMoney.com writer Philip Elmer-DeWitt: "Part of the answer, Brass writes, is that Microsoft put too much faith in people like him, a former tabloid journalist and serial entrepreneur who wrote speeches for Oracle's Larry Ellison before coming to Redmond to head the division that built the Tablet PC. ... But mostly, he says, it's because of internecine warfare among Microsoft's established divisions and a 'dysfunctional' corporate culture that squashes innovation.

Elmer-DeWitt reaches a conclusion similar to mine regarding the diatribe: might be sour grapes, but a must-read nonetheless)

(Update 2: Computerworld's Preston Gralla sees a warning sign for Microsoft: "I'd bet that there's more than a little score-settling going on in Brass's account. But there's likely a good deal of truth as well. His conclusion is devastating ... If he's even close to being right, Microsoft clearly needs to do something to foster innovation, not squash it. With Bing, it's shown that it is clearly capable of innovation --- now it needs to do something to encourage that company-wide.")

(Update 3: Came across the picture of Brass above in which he's holding a Kindle. Too funny. He also looks the part of a former newspaper editor if ever I've seen one, and I've seen more than my share.)

(Update 4: Microsoft responds: "Measuring Our Work By Its Broad Impact.")

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