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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Are the Leaders of “The Four” Truly Happy?

Written by: on November 28, 2018

Scott Galloway writes a provocative expose on the most powerful companies in the world called The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. What an interesting read, not just because I’m a tech nerd, but also because he had a very causal, easy-to-read style to his writing that kept me turning more pages than I really had time for. I was captivated by the enormity of the impact these companies are having on America, and a little nervous at the same time. It was disturbing to read how Amazon is eliminating thousands of jobs each year with robots, but refreshing to also read how other companies are investing in people and experts who can be available when people walk into a store. The author raised the question of which strategy will emerge victorious. He goes on to speculate…“Or will they somehow accommodate each other and carve out a separate peace? The answer will not only decide the fate of companies, but millions of workers and households as well. What’s clear is that we need business leaders who envision, and enact, a future with more jobs—not billionaires who want the government to fund, with taxes they avoid, social programs for people to sit on their couches and watch Netflix all day. Jeff, show some real f—ing vision.”[1] This is the provocative part of the book I was talking about, where the author calls a spade a spade and is not afraid to call the leaders of these companies on the carpet. Although I don’t appreciate his unprofessional language, I do appreciate his boldness and I couldn’t agree more with his above statement about Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.

 

The lack of focus on people (the ones most of us minister to or work with on a daily basis) or on philanthropic efforts was sad to me. It felt like this book was a window into the extreme greed and materialistic nature of our country. I would love to see more companies around the world invest in truly making this world a better place. I love the fact that Bill & Melinda Gates have decided to invest their millions in a foundation that is trying to make sure all lives on the planet have equal value. They are doing this through initiatives such as: Survive and Thrive, Empower the Poorest, Combat Infectious Diseases, Inspire People to Take Action…very inspiring![2] I love Galloway’s idea for Apple…“The cocktail of low-cost product and premium prices has landed Apple with a cash pile greater than the GDP of Denmark, the Russian stock market, and the market cap of Boeing, Airbus, and Nike combined. At some point, does Apple have an obligation to spend its cash? If yes, then how? My suggestion: Apple should launch the world’s largest tuition-free university.”[3] Education should not be just for the elite. I think it is a tragedy how universities have been allowed to continue to raise tuition costs 1,000% over the course of 30 years as opposed to inflation rising only 200% for that same period.[4] This is hurting all of our pocketbooks if we are wanting to better ourselves (don’t we all know this :-).

 

Facebook has done many interesting things to transform our culture, and the aspect it cultivates the most is the reality that human relationships make us happier people. It was interesting that the author included the following famous study to reiterate this fact: “The legendary Grant Study at Harvard Medical School has borne this out. The study—the largest longitudinal study of human beings to date—began tracking 268 Harvard male sophomores between 1938 and 1944. In an effort to determine what factors contribute most strongly to “human flourishing,” the study followed these men for seventy-five years, measuring an astonishing range of psychological, anthropological, and physical traits—from personality type to IQ to drinking habits to family relationships to “hanging length of his scrotum.” The study found that the depth and meaningfulness of a person’s relationships is the strongest indicator of level of happiness. Seventy-five years and $20 million in research funds, to arrive at a three-word conclusion: “Happiness is love.” Love is a function of intimacy and the depth and number of interactions we have with people.”[5] It was unfortunate this study only involved men, but that seems to be how they did research back then. Yes, I know what you are thinking, not very gender-balanced was it? In dealing with relationships on a daily basis, I see this research conclusion affirmed over and over. The most depressed people are the ones who are isolated and have no meaningful relationships. Facebook is all about relationships, in fact, changing your “relationship status” has become something that most people are careful to update and everyone tends to notice, including the nerds at Facebook. “The Facebook machine tracks this and runs it through a process called “sentiment analysis”—categorizing positive and negative opinions, in words and photos, of each person’s level of happiness. And as you might expect, coupling (being in a relationship) significantly increases happiness (though there appears to be a dip following the initial euphoria).”[6]

 

The author also highlights another provocative topic in America, this idea of “fake news”, made popular by our very own President Trump. Many of us have a hard time trusting much of the news that is reported on today’s media outlets due to the extreme bias oozing from each and every story broadcasted. It feels like we have all been lulled to sleep by this because it has been going on for years and the truth continues to slowly erode…Galloway shows great concern for this. He says, “The greatest threats to modern civilization have come from people and movements who had one thing in common: controlling and perverting the media to their own devices in the absence of a fourth estate that was protected from intimidation and expected to pursue the truth. A disturbing aspect of today’s media duopoly, Facebook and Google, is their “Don’t call us media, we’re a platform” stance. This abdication from social responsibility, enabling authoritarians and hostile actors to deftly use fake news, risks that the next big medium may, again, be cave walls.”[7] Once again, the author has a way of just cutting to the chase and calling things like they are. This is probably what I appreciated most about the book, although his own bias, he was not afraid to call the issues out and he seemed to challenge us to explore what greater purpose we are using our brain power for.

___________________________

            [1] Scott Galloway, The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, (Penguin Publishing Group) Kindle Edition, 62.

            [2] https://www.gatesfoundation.org

            [3] Scott Galloway, The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, (Penguin Publishing Group) Kindle Edition, 93.

            [4] Ibid., 93.

            [5] Ibid., 100.

            [6] Ibid., 102.

            [7] Ibid., 125.

About the Author

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Jake Dean-Hill

Currently a Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice. Ordained minister with 10 years of prior full-time church ministry experience and currently volunteering with a local church plant. Also working with companies as a Corporate Leadership Coach.

10 responses to “Are the Leaders of “The Four” Truly Happy?”

  1. Great post, Jake!

    I thought it was interesting that you found Amazon’s usage of AI to be a downside. You mention, “It was disturbing to read how Amazon is eliminating thousands of jobs each year with robots, but refreshing to also read how other companies are investing in people and experts who can be available when people walk into a store.” As I read Galloway, I couldn’t help but wonder how many jobs in tech, marketing and engineering had opened up because of Amazon’s integration of AI. Are jobs really being taken away or are new job opportunities being presented?

    Yes. It’s imperative that companies operate from a place of integrity and philanthropy; however, I couldn’t help but wonder if we should be holding secular organizations to the same standards as Christian organizations. For instance, years ago, Napster was viewed as a hub of piracy that sold-out musicians from gaining financial remuneration. However, most of us have thousands of free songs on our Spotify playlists and don’t view free music as problematic as in year’s past.

    As I read through Galloway’s book, The Four, I couldn’t help but wonder if the author was forcing his morality on the readers or asking us to evaluate organizations from an ethical standpoint.

    • Thanks Colleen for your thoughtful comments. You bring up some good points about the possible technology jobs being created. My concern is Bezos’ attitude regarding his desire for the government to take care of everyone so he doesn’t have to.

      I agree peoples attitudes have changed regarding music, but I guess having the option to listen to versus own the music is different and musicians should get what is due them. I do think companies should be held to a higher standard regarding their social responsibility and I wish more CEOs were concerned about making a positive impact on this planet. I think Microsoft is setting a good example. Jenn and I hope to meet Bill and Melinda someday, their vision for an equal world is inspiring. I also think it is interesting that currently Microsoft has a higher market cap than all of The Four. https://www.gatesfoundation.org/

  2. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    Jake,

    I too found this book both incredibly interesting and also a little bit frightening. I enjoyed his encouragement that each of the 4 find a way to positively impact the world and not just benefit from it financially. It is interesting that you highlight Bill Gates because when he was in the driver’s seat in the 90’s he was known as a ruthless, money hungry director, not interested in philanthropy at all. Maybe there is hope for change in the current top dogs.

    • Thanks Dan. Yes frightening and interesting are good descriptors of the book. I do wish more companies would focus their billions on doing more good, and yes, it is a good reminder of how Mr. Gates has been transformed and hopefully Bezos can change as well. Jenn and I hope to meet Bill and Melinda someday, their vision for an equal world is inspiring. I also think it is interesting that currently Microsoft has a higher market cap than all of The Four. https://www.gatesfoundation.org/

  3. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Jake!

    Glad to hear these two words in your closing paragraph, “social responsibility”! Thanks for sharing that. These past three weeks must have been a high point in reading for you in the program–two social theorists and now a techie nerd (grin).

    Social responsibility! I have a definition, but am sure big companies have a different one. I wondered what you thought of Apple locking out the government from investigating the criminal domestic terrorist?

    Jay

    • Yes Jay, I have enjoyed the last few books and they have been much easier for me to digest. I don’t think very many companies have the same definition of social responsibility as I do either…it is very disappointing. I actually did think it was Apple’s social responsibility to help unlock the phone, what about you?

      I think Microsoft is setting a good example. Jenn and I hope to meet Bill and Melinda someday, their vision for an equal world is inspiring. I also think it is interesting that currently Microsoft has a higher market cap than all of The Four. https://www.gatesfoundation.org/

  4. Jake,

    I agree with Jay above who highlights social responsibility. I think all business has a duty to CSR (corporate social responsibility) – it’s pretty much expected by all companies these days. One of the main problems of CSR as practiced in the corporate world is that much of what is celebrated as being charitable are interventions to benefit the organization’s own marketing and position in the marketplace.

    Amazon ranks in the 49th percentile on CSR. A very middling and unspectacular performance by this behemoth! https://www.csrhub.com/CSR_and_sustainability_information/Amazoncom-Inc
    The results and interventions of Amazon’s CSR are very thin… like Galloway says, “Jeff Bezos, show some real … vision!”

    In contrast, I have a positive impression of the Gates’ efforts and I wish Bezos would imitate them.

    • Thanks Mark for your comments. I am not surprised Amazon ranks in the 49th percentile especially with Bezos at the helm, and yes most companies have ulterior motives in their giving. Jenn and I hope to meet Bill and Melinda someday, their vision for an equal world is inspiring. I also think it is interesting that currently Microsoft has a higher market cap than all of The Four and ironically it ranks 99th. https://www.gatesfoundation.org/

  5. Dave Watermulder says:

    Thank you for this post, Jake!
    I said “Amen” when you wrote, “It felt like this book was a window into the extreme greed and materialistic nature of our country.” That’s how I felt as well. I think that Prof Galloway presents this whole world, the players involved, the scale and scope in a very compelling way. But I totally agree with you, in that for people who are not really motivated by wealth generation, and financial success primarily, that’s a big gap here. What’s always interesting to me about Silicon Valley, is that it was founded on the idea that technology would make our lives better–that social problems and ills would be addressed and handled through the smartest people around getting together to work on it. But instead, we have Angry Birds. Or the “Yo” app (look it up). Things that may make money, or be popular or whatever, but that certainly don’t have to do with helping real people live lives of dignity or meaning. One cool startup from a young woman from our church is called “Haven Connect”, it’s worth reading about on the Google machine, as an example of what was once part of the promise of the Valley of Silicon. End of rant 🙂

    • Thanks Dave, great minds think alike. I do wish more of these billion dollar companies would have a more people or social focus but greed seems to prevail at the moment. I think Microsoft is setting a good example. Jenn and I hope to meet Bill and Melinda someday, their vision for an equal world is inspiring. I also think it is interesting that currently Microsoft has a higher market cap than all of The Four. https://www.gatesfoundation.org/

      By the way, that Haven Connect site looks very cool and please tell her thank you from me for making a difference.

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