Sunday, May 25, 2008

Wii not so fit

Shigeru Miyamoto, long-time Nintendo employee and creative force behind Mario, Donkey Kong, the Wii, and now Wii Fit is profiled in today's Times. In short, he is the man most responsible for the success of the company.

It is an interesting article in that it explores somewhat the nature of creativity, but I couldn't help but notice this nugget:

Nintendo has become one of the most valuable companies in Japan. With a net worth of around $8 billion, Nintendo’s former chairman, Hiroshi Yamauchi, is now the richest man in Japan, according to Forbes magazine. (Nintendo does not disclose Mr. Miyamoto’s compensation, but it appears that he has not joined the ranks of the superrich.)

I've been around a few CEO's and although they may very well be nice, extremely competent people, my experience suggests that a company's success is much more dependent on those who actually create the products the company sells than on any kind of management genius. Sure, bad management can wreck a company, but good management mostly listens to the best people and otherwise stays out of the way. Sounds like Mr. Miyamoto's erstwhile boss at Nintendo had that kind of sense.

Yet, these days, those who are most responsible for a company's success are lucky to get a 3 percent cost of living raise while the The chief executive and other top management are obscenely over-compensated.

The contradictions inherent in this system will eventually bring it down, but why wait for that? We need tax policies that encourage spreading the wealth much better among those who create the wealth rather than concentrating it in the brokerage accounts of those who have attained enough power to simply take it for themselves.

Nothing wrong with incentive, but the difference between being super-rich and being doubly or triply supper-rich is merely one of ego. Its pursuit is a pathology. The result is a sick society. The solution is to make it very, very difficult.