Patrick Byrne: What do you do?
Patrick M. Byrne is the CEO of the Internet retailer Overstock.com. Byrne received his B.A. from Dartmouth, studied at Cambridge University as a Marshall Scholar, and earned a PhD in Philosophy from Stanford University. He co-founded Overstock.com in 1997 and became CEO in 1999. In 2005, Byrne initiated a controversial campaign against "naked short selling" in which he accused a "Sith Lord" and various financial firms of sabotaging Overstock's share price. Byrne also serves as head of First Class Education, an education lobbying group that seeks to require that 65% of all educational spending be spent "in the classroom." A strong proponent of school vouchers, Byrne spent almost four million dollars in advertising for a bill that would have given Utah residents who enroll their children in private schools taxpayer-supported subsidies. The bill lost, 62-38%.
Patrick Byrne: Well I think of my role very much as being like a teacher, like a professor. I used to be an academic, and I’m not. It could be that I just interpret my current role that way, but you really can’t get very far just being the boss like from the Jetsons cartoon and, you know . . . Spacely Sprockets, shouting at people and giving them orders and stuff. It’s really a question of how quickly can you teach them and how quickly can they learn. And stepping back and giving people a lot of room to grow . . . In fact that’s, say, the difference between, in my view, middle management and upper management, is a middle manager is suffocating to his people. He may get a lot done, but he’s suffocating. And sometimes you have to accept a tradeoff that you’re going to be less suffocating and things might not be done as well or as quickly; but more people will learn. And the idea is to build a learning organization. I think of it almost as being like a college president, and we’re trying to build a learning organization. And there are times when I step in and . . . times when I step in to screw things up, and times when I step in and make things marginally better. I hope a few more of the latter than the former. But it’s really not about giving orders so much as creating the environment and the people who are gonna be able to carry on. Recorded on: 10/29/07
Byrne explains how he sees his role as entrepreneur.
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Vaccines have done their job so well that anti-vax parents have forgotten the horror of contagious disease.
- "Autism is caused by a lot of factors that we don't fully understand," says epidemiologist Dr Larry Brilliant, "but vaccines are not one of those factors."
- Vaccines have saved hundreds of millions of children's lives—they have eradicated smallpox, nearly eradicated polio, and they have reduced the population explosion. How? Thanks to vaccinations, parents no longer expect 50% of their children to die from disease, so they have less children.
- Vaccines have protected the lives of children so effectively that anti-vax parents—who only have their children's best interests at heart—have lost sight of how critical vaccines are. When polio was rampant in the U.S., parents waited in line for hours and hours to have their children vaccinated. Safety changes our mental calculus, but vaccinations must continue to ensure that safety lasts.