Top-Ten Stupid Statements by CEOs
How much do CEO’s really know about the economy or even their own business? Let’s take a look at their track record via a list of spectacular failed predictions by corporate leaders of our world, past and present.
The dazzling dopy delusions of CEOs, past to present
#10. The telephone has too many shortcomings to be considered as a means of communications. The device is inherently of no value to us. (from a Western Union internal memo, stating the company position in 1876)
#9. Everyone acquainted with the subject will recognize it as a conspicuous failure. (Henry Morton, President of the Stevens Institute of Technology, regarding Edison’s light bulb, 1880.)
#8. The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty. (President of Michigan Savings Bank, advising Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in Ford Motor Company in 1903.)
#7. I think there is a world market for maybe five computers. (Thomas Whatson, Chairman of IBM, 1943. What is IBM?)
#6. Television won’t last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night. (Darryl Zanuck, film producer at 20th Century Fox, 1946)
#5. Get your feet off my desk, get out of here, you stink, and we’re not going to buy your product. (Atari Computer’s CEO to Apple Founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, 1976)
#4. There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home. (Ken Olsen, president and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation at a 1977 World Future Society Meeting in Boston)
#3. At a national level these [housing] price increases largely reflect strong economic fundamentals… A moderate cooling in the housing market, should one occur, would not be inconsistent with the economy continuing to grow at or near its potential next year. (Ben Bernanke, chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, in testimony to Congress’s Joint Economic Committee, just prior to his 2005 nomination to chair the Federal Reserve.)
#2. Generally speaking, [derivatives] are very valuable… With respect to their safety, derivatives, for the most part, are traded among very sophisticated financial institutions and individuals who have considerable incentive to understand them and to use them properly. (Ben Bernanke at his 2005 confirmation hearing.)
#1. I do not expect insolvency or near insolvency among major financial institutions. (Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve at the Fed’s December 2007 meeting half a year before the economic collapse.)
I’ve come to the conclusion that the main reason people believe the economy is recovering is because they want to. A second reason they believe the economy is recovering is because the highest-paid people in the corporate world tell them what they want to hear. But what if the highest-paid creatures in the human genome also believe the economy is recovering because they want to? It’s not hard to see from the list above that highly paid leaders easily see what they want to see, believe what they want to believe and are dumbfoundingly dull about the most monumental world changes that stand right before them.
Many CEOs don’t know as much about their own business as the people who work beneath them. They got to their positions because they’re great schmoozers or excellent socializers or politically shrewd or born with a great pedigree or graduated from the right schools or have the right friends or have dominant personalities or some assortment of all of that. But, in fact, many of them are pretty stupid when you look at what they actually know about their own industry.
Ah, but hey, Ben Burn-the-Banky studied the Great Depression as his thesis, so if anyone could see such a thing coming or help us get out of one, it would be Gentle Ben. But, if you’re willing to test that hope, here’s a list of Ben Bernanke’s numerous failed prognostications. It’s a long list of things Gentle Ben didn’t see coming in his own specialty that were dancing right before his eyes.
Now, ask yourself, why do you keep trusting these people when they tell you the economy is recovering, the market is strong? Is it just because you believe what you want to believe?
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