While most organizations are in search of Excellence, it is perhaps more instructive to learn from Stupidity. After all, it's the flameouts, snafus and 'Himalayan blunders' that make the difference between being on top and not.
Merrill Chapman's In Search of Stupidity: Over 20 Years of High-Tech Marketing Disasters anecdotally tells of high-tech marketing disasters, and in the telling, covers the fabulous history of information technology, from SoftRAM to WebVan.
Talking about "In Search Of Excellence", he notes that
Most of In Search of Excellence...functions as the corporate equivalent of the Kama Sutra...America's affair with excellence seems endless...Yet, despite all the talking, walking, and communicating, high-tech firms kept doing stupid things. Again and again and again. And everytime they did they paid a price. Again and again and again.
He also points out that the book was intended as a balm for the wounded American corporate ego after the Japanese successes of the 1980s, and featured only American companies, many of which later flamed out, although the obsession with excellence never did.
This book is intended as a riposte to Excellence, besides a personalized history of technology. Several ancedotes stand out, including why CP/M never made it as the operating system for the IBM PC (think pricing: $240 vs $40), the demise of the video gaming industry in the 1980s (E.T.) and
He goes looking for idiocy in high places, and finds it. He remembers the TI99/4A, a home computing system that
- Was shipped with no way to write software for it
- Threatened publishers who did figure out how to write software for it
- Hid the existence of a built-in language to write software
- Provided no storage system
- Lost $50 per unit shipped
The misadventures of MicroPro and the demise of WordStar are lovingly detailed, the author having been product manager at MicroPro, including the signal idiocy to provide two versions of the same software with the same name, yet different markets and probably the first use of 2000 in a product name with WordStar 2000 in 1984.