THE BUMBLING COLOSSUS  By Henry F. Field                                              
The Regulatory State vs. the Citizen; How Good Intentions Fail and the Example of Health Care;
                                  A New Progressive's Guide    
  (available at amazon.com)

On Business, Phil Knight

This is one of the best descriptions of what business is all about I have ever seen. 

Philip H. Knight, cofounder of NIKE, on business:

(Upon making a deal to produce shoes in China in 1980):

“Just before getting on the plane home we signed deals with two Chinese factories, and officially became the first American shoemaker in twenty-five years to be allowed to do business in China.

“It seems wrong to call it ‘business’. It seems wrong to throw all those hectic days and sleepless nights, all those magnificent triumphs and desperate struggles, under that bland, generic banner: business. What we were doing felt like so much more. Each new day brought fifty new problems, fifty tough decisions that needed to be made, right now, and we were always acutely aware that one rash move, one wrong decision could be the end. The margin for error was forever getting narrower, while the stakes were forever creeping higher – and none of us wavered in the belief that ‘stakes’ didn’t mean ‘money’. For some, I realize, business is the all-out-pursuit of profits, period, full stop, but for us business was no more about making money than being human is about making blood. Yes, the human body needs blood. It needs to manufacture red and white cells and platelets and redistribute them evenly, smoothly, to all the right places, on time, or else. But that day-to-day business of the human body isn’t our mission as human beings. It’s a basic process that enables our higher aims, and life always strives to transcend the basic processes of living – and at some point in the late 1970’s, I did, too. I redefined winning, expanded it beyond my original definition of not losing, of merely staying alive. That was no longer enough to sustain me, or my company. We wanted, as all great businesses do, to contribute, and we dared to say so aloud. When you make something, when you improve something, when you deliver something, when you add some new thing or service to the lives of strangers, making them happier, or healthier, or safer, or better, and when you do it all crisply and efficiently, smartly, the way everything should be done but so seldom is – you’re participating more fully in the whole grand human drama. More than simply alive, you’re helping others to live more fully, and if that’s business, all right, call me a businessman.

Maybe it will grow on me.”

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE, by Phil Knight 


Whether the business is a startup, as NIKE was in its early days, or a giant, as IBM is today for example, business is a constant revolution. Business has to change as markets, tastes, economics, competition, technology, innovation, information change. It is a continual revolution. The image of the corporate giant as rigid, immobile, immutable is an image of a company on the way down and out. 

It's the spirit, not the blood.

No one has put this better than Phil Knight.

See The Bumbling Colossus, Part B and Part C, amazon.com 

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