“I love conflict.” -Ed Freeman
In his talk this evening, Ed Freeman presented the notion of conflict and how it can be positive for businesses. He asserts that conflict is an opportunity to create additional value and it should be embraced rather than avoided. Apple has a conflict with respect to the working conditions in its factories, as well as issues with transparency and deception; by now, we recognize this fact. These conflicts are especially apparent in Bucknell’s rendition of The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. The interview with Jobs in which he consistently skirts around Apple’s sketchy manufacturing process illustrates the company’s half-hearted efforts to ease public tensions. Should Apple continue to sweep its problems under the rug, or should it take a stand? Freeman would condemn Apple. He would argue that the company should tackle the issue head on.
How can Apple turn this conflict into value?
First of all, we need to reintroduce Apple as we know it. This is a company that is notorious for questionable business ethics, but still has a cult-like following. Do they really need to make a stand? Could they possibly create more value than they already have? I would argue that they can. Apple’s actions can sway the entire industry. This relates back to the Spiderman quote: With great power, comes great responsibility. Currently, Apple and all of its stakeholders like Foxconn, the Chinese Government, other companies within its supply chain, etc. largely ignore their responsibilities in an effort to maximize market share. Can you imagine if this changed? What if Apple tackled this problem head-on?
If Apple owned up to its responsibilities, it would garner considerable support from the public. Apple would then become a responsible company with all the power. Accordingly, the industry would follow suit and perhaps we would finally have a technology manufacturing system that is at least respectable. Apple would see immense value added in the form of public respect and leadership in an incredibly difficult issue. Yet, we haven’t seen any signs of Apple moving in this direction. For now, we can only imagine.