WORLDVIEW: Lessons from Josiah Wedgwood, the original Steve Jobs

Since the myth of the Fountain of Youth, and probably before then, humans have dreamed of immortality. We have searched for potions and spells and, more recently, medicines and technology to delay ageing and defy death.

But think what immortality would really mean. Mao Zedong, whose reign of terror in China led to between 30 and 60 million deaths, and Pol Pot, whose Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia killed 1 to 3 million people. In a world with no ageing and no natural deaths, these men may never have put down the mantle of power. Immortality would mean we would keep our poets, painters, and saints, but we would also keep our despots, murderers, and monsters.

Something similar is true of corporations. Creative destruction, whereby a company or industry that no longer adds economic value is destroyed and the workers who made up its core move into new areas of enterprise, is a crucial part of economic growth. While we may think back nostalgically on companies like Polaroid (the brand ...

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