Friday, January 23, 2009

(轉貼)時勢造英雄

  三國時代,英雄輩出。究竟是時勢造英雄?還是英雄造時勢呢?這是個雞和蛋的問題,永遠也沒有答案。不過,最近有一本暢銷書《Outliers:The Story of Success》中傳達的一個有趣信息,就是一個人若生不逢時,他縱有天大本領也不容易成功。

  作者 Malcolm Gladwell 列舉歷史上世界最富有的七十五個人物,由股神巴菲特至三千年前的埃及法老王,由蓋茨到李嘉誠等。在幾千年的財富榜中,竟有百分之二十的超級富豪來自同一個年代,且是來自同一個國家。他們都是在一八三一至一八四○年在美國出生的。

  原來,在他們出生後的二三十年,美國經濟產生了翻天覆地的變化。鐵路基建縮短了美國東西岸的交通,華爾街興起,令工業革命得到巨大資金支持。這批人趕上了美國經濟起飛的頭班車。如果一個人生於一八五○年以後,他未必趕得及那個黃金歲月;如果他早於一八二○年前出生,他亦可能沒有那份開拓事業的雄心壯志。

  作者再以電腦時代為例。他說一九七五年一月,美國雜誌《Popular Electronics》刊登了一個封面故事,介紹一部超級機器 Altair 8800。這雜誌是當年電腦界的聖經。七五年一月的雜誌代表電腦時代的來臨。而適逢其會的科技人才卻有個相同之處。作者發現微軟的蓋茨、Paul Allen 和 Steve Ballmer;蘋果的 Steve Jobs;Novell 的 Eric Schmidt 和 Sun Microsystems 的三個高層,竟同時都是在一九五三至五六年出生。

  他們到一九七五年時,剛好是二十歲出頭的年輕伙子。如果一個生於四五年的人,他的科技知識亦很豐厚,可能正在 IBM 工作。但在七五年時他可能已結婚生子,不輕易放棄工作和家庭,不眠不休地去開發軟件。如果他生於六五年,他亦可能失去這個機會;而他亦會錯過二千年前後的科網熱潮。

  可以說時勢造就了他們。

(原文轉貼自1月23日經濟日報副刊,作者方思捷)

***

正如我經常向朋友們解畫,從淺到深,我的書(《創業2.0 科網六子蕩寇誌》)共有三個元素:Web2.0、創業、第四代香港人。
其中我一直嘮嘮叨叨講得不夠好和不夠成熟的,是最後、也是最重要的一個概念--人和時代的關係,一個時代如何成就一批英雄。
我試圖利用首尾兩章,探討香港是不是準備進入新的科網時代:他們(六位受訪者)在差不多的時間,幹著差不多(笨)的事,這當中除了偶然以外,是否還有一些客觀因素,值得挖掘呢?
可惜寫得不夠力。
如今只好借別人的書來解解畫了。

(說來也是巧合,我的碩士論文,也受到Malcolm Gladwell的啟發,用了他的書作主要參考之一;就是那本成名作Tipping Point)

相關舊文:我地舊時咁咁咁

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Happy "Niu" Year!
:)

13 comments:

Winson Lai said...

曾經聽過一位舊同事說,想創業就要在30歲前.主要原因是:輸得起,沒有太大負擔.

以此文而言,20-30歲時假如剛巧是時代機遇的話,就像是有了"天時"吧.

回顧香港,每年的大學生畢業,當年的經濟環境也很影響他們的出路及待遇,早一年或遲一年,可能已經相差很遠(正如上年及今年),情況有點相近,只是比較微觀罷了.

hevangel said...

咦~ 點解你的碩士論文可以用流行讀物作參考﹖參考資料不是一定要用其他學術論文的嗎﹖

加燦 said...

First of all, Gladwell has an audio book version of Outliers read by him. It is worth buying or borrowing from the library to have a listen while taking the MTR or driving. He is a good story teller and I quite enjoyed the audio book.

Now, there are always exceptions to the rule. For one McD's Ray Kroc started the process of turning the tiny McD into an mass production food empire when he was over 60s. I submit that, on top of age, the willingness of the individuals to take risk also play an important role. Sure, younger people has less to lose but they also have less resources to leverage and take risk on.

P.S. I admire you did your Masters with a thesis compare to taking courses. And I am curious what was your topic and how did you use Tipping point? May be you can write an entry about it?

P.P.S. Horace, how come you are always so critical "咦~ 點解你的碩士論文可以用流行讀物作參考﹖"? (big smile) You need to learn from Pat to be more polite/diplomatic. :) Without reading Leona's Masters thesis, how can you tell how she used Tipping Point as her references and what other sources she might have used?

Leona said...

Winson:
說得對。
Outlier的「時勢造英雄」比較宏觀,而30歲前創業與否,是從個人的層面來看──的確,人越大,創業的opportunity cost便越大。

hevangel:
(1)當然只是參考之一。書裏有許多好例子(如 Paul Reevee's Ride),把大道理深入淺出,很適合在introduction裏面用。
(2)此外,該書雖是流行書藉,作者卻參考了大量social science的學術文獻。當中包括適合我用的Law of Diffusion等。

kempton:
Thesis已是幾十年前的事了,對我來說題目是什麼不重要,重要的是思考與解答的過程。既已從中得到進步,便沒必要再挖出來講。也不是什麼了不起的事。

何況題目是什麼我自己都記得不很清楚,用上的理論包括agenda setting, law of diffusion等。我想沒必要講下去,把其他人嚇跑,呵呵。

shizuoka2002 said...

Leona,

我想起Jared Diamond及Brian Fagan的大作,異曲同工~~~~~~:)

Daniel.

記號士 said...

Leona:
如果不是以財富為標準呢?

Horace:
原來是你。借此地多謝你N年前的網上基版圖書館。

袁彌明 Erica said...

Outliers is certainly an insightful book.

Leona said...

記號士:
財富明顯只是「時勢造英雄」的其中一個面向。
我在舊文裏提過,巴哈/貝多芬/莫札特為什麼可一不可再?李白/杜甫為什麼後無來者?這也和大時代有關。
有些東西,過了那樣的天時地利,也造不出那樣的人和。

Erica,
Certainly. Outliers is on my shelf right now. But I've read too many book reviews about it that I have little incentive to open it...
Besides I'm going to finish my 600-page Colin Powell biography first. Only 50 pages to go!

Happy CNY to you!

xiao zhu said...

祝牛年健康、快樂!

揚眉女子 said...

恭喜發財!

阿糖 said...

牛年快樂啊!

祝 Leona 這年好事齊齊來 :)

Leona said...

謝謝xiao zhu, 揚眉(喂,好久不見你了啊)和阿糖。
糖,你的博客難道不設留言嗎?
:)

也祝你們青春常駐,笑口常開!

加燦 said...

Leona,

I was just curious and you are right. The thesis topic and what exactly we learned from it is less important than the process itself. Knowledge comes and goes, and knowledge will go outdated (sometimes very quickly). While the process of investigation and thinking through a problem will stand the test of time a bit better.

While I understand we have limited time to read, I think it is still a weak replacement to try to learn from book reviews instead of the book. Unless the book is bad. I don't know, its just a habit a professor imprinted in my head. Why read things second hand (reviews) when the source and the master is available?? (smile)

Will you be so kind to write a few words after you finish Colin Powell's 600-page biography? I don't think I will read it. It is very unfortunate that his reputation got completely tarnished (in my mind) after his UN presentation which lead to the Iraq war. He served his country as the lone voice of reason in Bush 43rd's cabinet, too bad he got caught in a no-win situation.

P.S. Hope you don't mind, but I think your thoughts of "可一不可再" or "無來者" for the likes "巴哈/貝多芬/莫札特" may sound right but in fact be wrong. For one thing, we don't know what the future holds. Unless, we view each person as unique and, by definition, we have "可一不可再" automagically. We will have music, poems, writings, that are more appreciated in their times than the classics.

I personally avoid using "可一不可再" or "無來者" in my writings or thinking as thinking "無來者" is rather closed thinking. I think this is the scientist in me speaking. :)