The best and the worst of 2007
Bill Gates "rocks" CES

Bill Gates: Never surrender to complexity

Bill_harvard On this website, and even a wee bit in the book, I have compared Bill Gates's PowerPoint presentations with Steve Jobs's presentations to underscore the relative ineffectiveness of Bill Gate's presentations with slides. But make no mistake: Bill Gates is a remarkable man and a great philanthropist. And when he is not presenting to a deck of slides filled with bullet points, he is a pretty darn good communicator as well. While looking for some recent video of Bill Gates today I ran across this June, 2007 speech by Bill Gates. Technically, this is not the best speech ever by any means, but considering who Bill Gates is and his incredible accomplishments, wealth, and position, I think this is a great speech. Bill did a wonderful job and his message is an important one. (Why wasn't more made of this speech when it occurred last summer? Was the message lost on the audience that day at Harvard? Did the important content touch too few there? I have no idea, but thank God for YouTube.) I hope more people—especially young people—will hear this important message by Bill Gates. Below is part 3 to give you a feel for the speech.

You can see the entire speech and read the transcripts on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation website. You can also see the video in five parts on YouTube. I like the content. Bill reminds us that seeing—really seeing—is the first step. First step: see the problem. Second step: Cut through the complexity to find a solution. Below are a few of my favorite lines from Bill's Harvard speech:

"The barrier to change is not too little caring; it is too much complexity."

"To turn caring into action, we need to see a problem, see a solution, and see the impact. But complexity blocks all three steps."

"If you want to inspire people to participate, you have to show more than numbers; you have to convey the human impact of the work—so people can feel what saving a life means to the families affected."

Yes, Bill is not the most charismatic figure in the world, and judging from the crowd—and the woman behind him who kept yawning—maybe the speech could have been a bit shorter. But I think he did a pretty good job as far as speeches go. And for a university commencement speech, I'd say this was outstanding. I hope his message resonates with a new generation of entrepreneurs.

Another good speech
Here's my favorite college commencement speech. A different but complementary message to Bill's.


Warren Miller

Bill Gates lecturing about complexity is like Jack the Ripper lecturing about the treatment of women. Gates's Garbageware is the most absurd, convoluted, needlessly complex suite of products that was ever foisted on markets. It is Garbageware because it comes from a monopoly that was constituted through tying, which, as taught in Antitrust 101, is illegal. Unfortunately, the feds don't understand this, or are afraid of Gates, so they surrendered. We're all paying the price for that by having to content with an overpriced, rotten group of products about whose purchase we have no practical choice.

Andy Sernovitz

This is the secret to it all: "The barrier to change is not too little caring; it is too much complexity."

Charity, management, whatever ... we all want to do good. We all want to make it better.

Effective leaders get it down to "here's how you can make a difference" and inspire people with the possibility of their own success.

Andy Sernovitz
Author, Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking (


Warren, I dont care if you dont like Microsoft or not. But saying the software is crap because they were a monopoly is like saying Beckmill Research is crap because Warren Miller is a jerk.

Both might actualy be true, but they dont relate that way.

Warren Miller

Andy, MS software IS crap. And it's crap primarily because MS is a monopoly. Obviously you're economics-challenged, so let me try to enlighten you. It's a tall order, I know, but I'll try anyway.

Monopolists, free of competitive pressure, have no incentive to improve their product. Think of your local electric utility. Better yet, think of the U.S. Postal Disservice.

Then think of MS and name me one (1) other software company that holds its customers in such total contempt that it would release garbageware such as Office 2007 that is NOT COMPATIBLE with previous versions of Office. THAT, sir, is crap. If I ran my business like that, I'd be OUT of business. The MS monopoly is one of the few situations where the Europeans get it, and we don't.

Long, long ago MS should have been broken up (I'm a right-of-center, pro-competition guy, incidentally). But when DOJ went after Gates, it was the first time I'd rooted for the Feds since the Civil War. In terms of a stranglehold on a market, Gates makes Rockefeller look like a piker.

There should be at least four separate companies from MS: one each for Office, Windows, Internet, and everything else. And Gates could be active and own shares in only one of them. If the Feds understood antitrust, that's what would happen. And if that makes me a jerk, so be it. At least I'm not an economics-challenged ignoramus.

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