A Fresh Voice
Challenging thinkers and controversy often go together. Indeed, the criticism Professor Zuboff has received is not unlike that aimed at other maverick management gurus. Jim Collins of Good to Great and Built to Last fame decamped from academia after seven years at Stanford, to become, as he told strategy+business in 2002, “a self-employed professor who endowed his own chair and granted himself tenure.” W. Edwards Deming directed the quality revolution — and his blistering attacks on the corporate establishment — largely from the basement of his home in Washington, D.C. He maintained no institutional affiliations during most of his career.
For her part, Professor Zuboff is unapologetic about her life decisions, especially her choice to stop teaching traditional core MBA courses. “Imagine,” she muses, “asking Galileo to teach that the sun revolves around the earth.”
She is also firm in her belief that she had to step away from teaching the old views of managerial capitalism to truly be of service to her students. “We should be rethinking every assumption behind our purpose, message, and methods,” she wrote in The Harvard Crimson in 2003, in an article squarely aimed at up-and-coming executives. “The time is ripe for leadership from a new generation willing to question the worn-out answers of its fathers.” John Byrne, editor of Fast Company, who signed Professor Zuboff on as a columnist after the publication of The Support Economy, concurs: “The field of management thinking and leadership is full of old, white males…[looking] through the same old lens.” Professor Zuboff, by contrast, is “a fresh voice,” says Mr. Byrne. “She is one of the sharpest, most unorthodox thinkers today.”
Reprint No. 04308
Andrea Gabor (AAGabor@aol.com) is the author of three books, most recently The Capitalist Philosophers: The Geniuses of Modern Business — Their Lives, Times, and Ideas (Times Business, 2000). She teaches business journalism at Baruch College at the City University of New York in Manhattan.