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商业 - 科技

2019年,科技巨头要面临这五大挑战

Bill George 2019年01月28日

十几年来,一些科技巨头占据了整个商业世界。但在去年,这些大型科技公司遇到了各种困难,对它们来说,2019年只会更具挑战。

2018年11月27日,伦敦,一位抗议者头上戴着Facebook首席执行官马克·扎克伯格的头套向媒体摆造型。Facebook、谷歌、苹果和亚马逊等科技巨头要解决公众日渐担心的问题,要么就得接受政府更严格的监管。图片来源:Jack Taylor—Getty Images
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过去十多年,Facebook、谷歌、苹果、亚马逊、微软、特斯拉和Uber等科技巨头占据了整个商业世界。仅在去年,相关股票看起来还能保持无限涨势。

但今后不会持续了。

去年大型科技公司遇到各种困难,2019年只会更具挑战。新一年里,随着特别检察官罗伯特·穆勒的调查持续,将出现更多关于俄罗斯间谍利用Facebook广告系统影响美国大选的报道。联邦贸易委员会可能对谷歌、Facebook和亚马逊掌控数字广告收入采取反垄断措施。

此外,参议院商业委员会主席约翰·图恩告诉科技业领头的公司,联邦隐私保护法已经“获得两党大力支持”。

技术时代的先驱能否跟上公共政策问题的步伐,还是并未察觉?进入2019年,科技公司面临五大必须解决的问题,如果处置不力,结果可能是政府和公众帮着它们解决:

1. 隐私

2. 反垄断

3. 员工抗议

4. 电子产品上瘾

5. 领导力和治理

隐私

Facebook面临一系列丑闻:俄罗斯情报机构利用Facebook广告影响选举,再加上Facebook有争议的数据合作关系和隐私政策。去年春天,英国《卫报》曝出剑桥分析公司利用Facebook网站获取用户数据,包括连接到相关网站的Facebook好友数据,从而影响2016年美国大选,也在政界和媒体圈引发严重的反应。

马克·扎克伯格如何回应?他躲了五天,Facebook的常规员工会议上还派副总法律顾问代替。等他真正出现在公共场合,又把所有问题推给剑桥分析。六个月后,扎克伯格仍未解决实际问题,新问题出现则继续辩解。由于他处置不力,引发各界对Facebook批评声不断,媒体也越挖越深。Facebook回应的方式则是,聘请攻击型公关公司对付批评者。

Facebook真正的问题可不只是剑桥分析公司。这是一家已经积累了21亿用户的免费网站。大多数用户没有意识到Facebook会利用私人信息创建非常详细的用户档案,然后卖给广告主。

解决隐私问题很简单,可以让用户选择允许或不允许Facebook收集信息,如果选择不许就每月缴纳费用。然而Facebook并未解决问题,说明扎克伯格更主要的动力是追逐收入和利润增长,而不是保护用户隐私。

苹果公司的首席执行官蒂姆·库克不太看好Facebook的做法。他认为数据隐ag亚游在线登陆|注册私是一项人权。至于监管方面,他指出,“不得不承认有时自由市场起不了作用……存在一定程度的监管不可避免。”

2018年5月,欧盟启动了《通用数据保护条例》(GDPR),其中大部分条款可能加入美国法律。如果GDPR要求用户明确选择允许或拒绝信息收集,Facebook的用户数量可能下滑。

反垄断

反垄断当局正加大力度,调查科技巨头有没有控制市场。去年夏天,欧盟判定谷歌滥用安卓操作系统,罚款51亿美元。特朗普总统在2018年11月表示,政府“非常认真地”考虑针对亚马逊、谷歌和Facebook提起反垄断诉讼。连亚马逊的首席执行官杰夫·贝佐斯也承认公司存在漏洞,员工表示政府监管是可能影响公司前景的重大问题。

员工抗议

大型科技公司的员工正发挥强大的影响力,迫使领导者适应新环境。2017年,谷歌工程师詹姆斯·达莫尔攻击了公司的平权计划,遭首席执行官桑达尔·皮查伊解雇。2018年11月,超过20,000名谷歌员工罢工,抗议公司处理性骚扰不力。

Facebook一系列高管叛逃,至少10名高级管理人员宣布离职,其中包括Instagram的联合创始人凯文·斯特罗姆和麦克·克雷格。Uber的创始人特拉维斯·卡兰尼克被迫离职之后,继任者达拉·科斯罗萨西重新调整了高管团队和公司文化,应对性骚扰事件,缓和Uber犀利的文化。

电子产品上瘾

过去一年,媒体报道不断报道过度使用手机对用户产生的负面影响,甚至可能影响大脑。努力吸引用户使用的科技公司如何应对?举例来说,现在苹果每周向用户发送手机使用时间的情况。

领导和治理

科技巨头中的大多数公司仍然由创始人控制,董事会由创始人主导。采取两级股权制度可以保证创始人对公司及董事会的控制权。从表面上看,创始人的理由比较充足,因为他们希望专注于长期增长和投资,但权力过度集中可能让创始人感到无可匹敌。扎克伯格、卡兰尼克和特斯拉的埃隆·马斯克都需要明智的建议,但他们经常不愿听。

扎克伯格总说公司处于“战争状态”。到底是他自己,还是他的战争思维导致高管、员工和用户不断疏离?Uber的创始人卡兰尼克严格控制董事会,结果全公司都得疲于应付他火爆的风格。他从不接受公众和内部的批评,一直到股东最终强迫他辞去首席执行官职位。最近美国证券交易委员会提起证券欺诈指控后,才华满腹的埃隆·马斯克也被禁止担任特斯拉的主席。与此同时,马斯克反复无常的风格也导致几位高管辞职。

问题还出在董事会,现在董事会更像顾问,没怎么承担治理的职责。最近,一位曾经担任过Facebook主管的人士声称,创始人主导的公司确实不一样。“在普通的上市公司,董事会是老板。”他说,但Facebook董事会成员更多担任顾问的角色。不管由谁创立,只要是上市公司就需要强有力的治理。如果Facebook、Uber和特斯拉的董事会更认真地治理,就有可能在陷入危机前避免一些严重的问题。在Uber动荡中,董事会成员阿里安娜·赫芬顿主导了改组董事会,协商卡兰尼克离职,并寻找接任人选。

多年前,谷歌、苹果和微软等成熟的科技巨头决定成立强大的董事会,由首席执行官和经验丰富的高管组成,因此避免了其他公司遇到的许多问题。谷歌的创始人拉里·佩奇和谢尔盖·布林非常明智地招徕埃里克·施密特担任首席执行官,后来2015年施密特担任母公司Alphabet的董事会主席。

2019年科技行业将面临更严格的审查,科技公司高管普遍的傲慢态度可能迫使政府介入。一项提案建议对两级股权结构限制时间,而另一项提案则要求创始人控制的公司里设立独立的董事会主席。虽然创始人往往很想控制公司,但如果加强与利益相关者合作,借鉴各种观点打造更持久稳固的公司,成功的几率也会提升。

打造充满活力的创新型经济时,谷歌、微软、亚马逊、苹果和Facebook等科技公司都发挥着重要作用。希望各家公司首席执行官和董事会能加强治理,实现高效流程,并组建执行力强大的管理团队。(ag体育平台|官网)

比尔·乔治在哈佛商学院担任高级研究员,曾任美敦力的董事长兼首席执行官,还着有《真北——全球172位顶尖创新型领袖的真诚领导力告白》一书。

译者:冯丰

审校:夏林

For the past decade, the technology giants—Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Tesla, Uber—have dominated the business world. Just last year, their stock prices appeared to be on an endless upward trajectory.

No longer.

The past year presented the major technology companies with multiple difficulties, and 2019 promises to be even more challenging. Expect extensive news coverage of how Russian agents used Facebook advertising to influence the U.S. election as special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation continues. The Federal Trade Commission may take antitrust action as Google, Facebook, and Amazon dominate digital advertising revenue.

Additionally, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) has told leading technology companies that a federal privacy law “enjoys strong bipartisan support.”

Will the pioneers of this technology era keep pace, or remain oblivious to the public policy issues they are creating? Entering 2019, tech companies have five major issues they must address—or governments and the public will do it for them:

1. Privacy

2. Antitrust

3. Employee revolts

4. Device addiction

5. Leadership and governance

Privacy

Facebook faces a series of scandals: Russian agents using Facebook advertising to influence elections, its controversial data partnerships, and its privacy policies. Last spring, the Guardian broke stories on Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook sites to gain access to user data, including Facebook friends connected to these sites, to influence the 2016 U.S. election, triggering extreme political and media reactions.

Mark Zuckerberg’s response? He went into hiding for five days, even sending his associate general counsel to replace him at Facebook’s regular employee town hall. When he did appear in public, he tried to blame everything on Cambridge Analytica. Six months later, Zuckerberg still hasn’t addressed the real issues and continues to react defensively as new issues arise. His distortions and deflections incited Facebook’s critics and invited the media to dig deeper. In response, Facebook hired attack dog PR firms to go after its detractors.

Facebook’s problems are much deeper than Cambridge Analytica. It has amassed 2.1 billion users with the offer of a free site. But users are largely unaware that Facebook takes their private information to create highly detailed user profiles to sell to advertisers.

The privacy issue can be easily overcome by requiring users to opt in or opt out of permitting Facebook to profile their information, and charging monthly fees for opting out. Facebook’s failure to address this issue suggests Zuckerberg is driven more by revenue and profit growth than by protecting users’ privacy.

Apple CEO Tim Cook takes a dim view of Facebook’s approach. He believes data privacy is a human right. Regarding regulations, he notes, “We have to admit when the free market is not working…It’s inevitable that there will be some level of regulation.”

In May 2018, the European Union launched the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the bulk of which may find its way into U.S. law. When GDPR required users to explicitly opt in or out, Facebook saw declines in its user base.

Antitrust

Antitrust authorities are ramping up investigations of the tech giants for market dominance. Last summer, the European Union fined Google $5.1 billion in an antitrust action for misusing its Android operating system. In November 2018, President Trump said his administration is “very seriously” considering antitrust action against Amazon, Google, and Facebook. Even Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos acknowledged his company’s vulnerabilities, as his staff say government regulation is a major concern for the company’s outlook.

Employee revolts

Employees at the big tech companies are exerting strong influences of their own, forcing leaders to adjust to the new environment. In 2017, Google engineer James Damore attacked the company’s affirmative action program and was dismissed by Google CEO Sundar Pichai. In November 2018, more than 20,000 Google employees staged a walkout to protest the company’s handling of sexual harassment cases.

Facebook has faced a series of high-level executive defections, with at least 10 senior executives announcing their departures, including Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. Following Uber founder Travis Kalanick’s forced departure, his successor Dara Khosrowshahi revamped his executive team and company culture to address outrage at sexual harassment incidents and Uber’s sharp-elbowed culture.

Device addiction

In the past year, media coverage has relentlessly detailed the ways that excessive phone usage negatively impacts users—perhaps even rewiring the brain. How will tech companies, which all work hard to keep users on site, respond? Apple, for instance, now sends users weekly updates of their device time.

Leadership and governance

Most of these tech giants are still controlled by their founders and have founder-dominated boards. Creating two classes of stock has enabled their founders to retain control of the company and their boards. On the surface, their rationale—to focus on long-term growth and investment—appears sound, but the concentration of power can lead founders to feel invincible. Zuckerberg, Kalanick, and Tesla’s Elon Musk have needed wise counsel, and they haven’t always listened.

Zuckerberg says his company is at “war.” Is he really, or is his wartime mindset responsible for alienating executives, employees, and users? Uber founder Kalanick controlled his company’s board, which struggled to tame his abrasive style. He remained impervious to public and internal criticism until shareholders finally forced him to resign as CEO. The talented Elon Musk was recently banned from chairing Tesla after the Securities and Exchange Commission pressed securities fraud charges against him. Meanwhile, Musk’s erratic style has caused scores of Tesla’s top executives to resign.

The problem also resides with their boards, who serve more as advisers than as governors. Recently, a former Facebook director claimed that founder-led companies are different. “At an ordinary public company, the board is ag亚游在线登陆|注册the boss,” he said, while noting that Facebook’s board members play more of an advisory role. Public companies—regardless of who founded them—require strong and effective governance. If the boards of Facebook, Uber, and Tesla had taken governance more seriously, they could have averted some serious problems before they turned into crises. In Uber’s case, Arianna Huffington stepped up to transform its board, negotiate Kalanick’s departure, and recruit his successor.

The more mature tech giants like Google, Apple, and Microsoft decided years ago to build strong boards filled with CEOs and experienced executives, which has enabled them to avoid many of the problems experienced by others. Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin had the wisdom to recruit Eric Schmidt as CEO until he became board chair of parent company Alphabet in 2015.

As the tech industry faces even greater scrutiny in 2019, hubris among technology executives may force the government to step in. One proposal would impose time limits on two-class ownership structures, while another would require independent board chairs of founder-led companies. While founders feel the need to control their companies, they increase their odds of success when they engage other stakeholders who bring different perspectives to help create more durable, long-term enterprises.

Tech companies like Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook play an important role in building a dynamic, innovative economy. Let’s hope their CEOs and boards step up to establish strong governance, effective processes, and aligned executive teams.

Bill George is a senior fellow at Harvard Business School, former chairman and CEO of Medtronic, and the author of Discover Your True North.

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