Robert Moffat, senior vice president of IBM systems and technology group, was recently arrested by the FBI for conspiracy involving insider trading. The arrest sent shock ways through Wall Street exposing illicit, back channel dealings between prominent high tech executives and hedge fund managers. My information comes directly from Fortune Magazine, also seemingly shocked by it all, and reminding me of the policeman character in Casablanca played by Claude Rains who closes Rick’s Café by telling Humphrey Bogart, “I’m shocked, shocked to find out that gambling is going on here.”
Robert Moffat apparently was a hard working and respected executive considered a potential successor for CEO at IBM. The Fortune article describes him as a numbers cruncher, former Eagle Scout, and a man weighing in at 6-foot-2 and 265 pounds – a solid guy on all fronts. He had become sexually involved with a woman who worked for a hedge fund and she was quoted saying that trading business information was for her “like an orgasm.” The tale becomes more complicated as she was in love with her married hedge fund boss but it didn’t work out. Shocking.
One of Moffat’s attorney colleagues summed it up best: “There was no planet on which I could have understood what was being said about Bob. I just shut down.”
So we have insider trading among millionaires and billionaires, an Eagle Scout who seems to have it all risking everything, a woman who finds stimulation rubbing shoulders (at least) with powerful men, and another man who simply cannot comprehend how a straight shooter like Bob could go wrong. Well, there certainly is a lot to be shocked about. What we have here is a collective collapse. Most disturbing to me is the notion expressed by Bob’s colleague that he knows of no planet to understand what happened?
SEARCHING FOR NEW PLANETS
To be simply less shocked is not an answer to collective collapse but instead an even more cynical and destructive position. Following the lead of Bob’s attorney friend, I propose we look for new planets in which this behavior can be understood. We must also look for planets in which terms such as business ethics and collective wisdom are real practices as opposed to oxymorons.
PLANET INNER GALLEON (named after a hedge fund, Galleon Group, involved in the scandal):
On planet Inner Galleon, people are acutely aware of self-deception and self justification. Business schools take seriously the Arbinger Institute’s caution that “Over time, as we betray ourselves, we come to see ourselves in certain self justifying ways.” People on this planet have become comfortable acknowledging that collective folly is always a possibility in groups and that while we are capable of extraordinary acts of grace and kindness, we are also capable of acts of cruelty and deception. People on this planet embrace this paradox and thereby become more capable of wisdom.
They are also acutely aware that unlike the mythic view of the alpha male protecting the troops, spearheading the hunts, being exemplars, and keeping order among the group, the top ranking males are closer to their baboon ancestors in looking after themselves, seeking access to females, and always scouting for the highest and safest spot in the tree to protect themselves. This collective self knowledge allows them to speak intelligently about rules and regulation for the group and for choosing wisely those people who will administer the regulations. Even more critical, an ethic of doing what is right is reinforced constantly among the members of the group who deal directly with power and money because everyone recognizes its seductive influences. The community realizes that self deception and collective folly do not happen overnight but build slowly within a community and take root when no one seems to notice or care.
PLANET SAVATTHI (named after an ancient city in India)
On planet Savatthi, there is great regard for community and a deep understanding that all of us can get caught up in addictions of alcohol, drugs, gambling, and careless sexuality. There is a belief that guides them that these addictions represent an inner suffering and must be addressed by finding the proper antidotes within a loving community, including prayer, meditation, and healthy conversations. The people of Savatthi pay great attention to their physical and emotional environment, always cultivating beauty and reverence mixed with earthy humor and outright irreverence. On this planet, looking out for oneself or just your immediate friends and relatives is considered selfish. Both the community and planet itself is viewed as medicine, if taken properly.
On planet Savatthi, people take seriously that to lead a happy life one has to live in the company of wise and caring friends and that a community should honor those who truly contribute to the greater good of the whole. They understand one must constantly practice speaking generously from the heart and that words and deeds must be aligned.
To seek happiness on this planet means to live a simple life and to constantly marvel and delight in small things. To remain humble is understood as the greatest asset and that to pretend humility is an act of serious insincerity. Children are taught that when they speak, they should not hope that no-one disagrees with them, because without disagreement, self righteousness can flourish.
To persevere and to be open to change is considered the greatest gift and the greatest challenge. Everyone is asked to contribute their particular talent or gift and everyone is expected to cultivate their talents and apply them to a craft or profession.
PIERCING THE VEIL
No doubt these planets are obscured by heavy mist and clouds, but we are capable of knowing they are there just as we would not forget the moon exists because of a cloudy evening. We can and must look beyond our current world or we will shut down, caught in confusion and disbelief. We are explorers by nature; let us travel together in wisdom.
Dangerous Liaisons AT IBM: Fortune Magazine, July 26th, 2010
Two Treasures by Thich Nhat Hanh, including his explanation of the Mangala Sutta
Pure Water: Poetry of Rumi, Coleman Barks – mp3 found on i-tunes