LETTERS

LETTERSTHROTTLEDTo the Editor:We understand that the goal of the cover story on Janet Baker of Dragon Systems (November/December 1989) was [...]

April 1 1990 by Chief Executive


LETTERS

THROTTLED

To the Editor:

We understand that the goal of the cover story on Janet Baker of Dragon Systems (November/December 1989) was an upbeat profile of a CEO-not a survey of the field. Nevertheless, from your readership’s point of view, it’s regrettable that this cover story gave such a misleading and distorted account of the field of speech recognition, and that [Janet] Baker’s statements, in particular, contained so much misinformation. In a basic journalistic sense, you did not get the story you set out to cover: the commercial application of large-vocabulary speech recognition. The principal players [in speech recognition technology] are Dragon Systems and Kurzweil Applied Intelligence, not Dragon and IBM as stated in the story’s introduction and later by Baker herself. IBM’s technology has never left its laboratories.

While we salute CE’s clearsighted decision to cover Baker and her field, we must point out that the net result of your efforts has been woefully to misinform your readers on an important technological development.

Joe Donovan

Martin L. Schneider Associates

Brooklyn Heights, N.Y.

 

Ed note: Our introduction plainly states: “Both IBM and AT&T have had working prototypes of computers that respond instantly to voice command. The Voice Works Speech Processor devised by Kurzweil Applied Intelligence has been $15 million and almost 15 years in the making. Each can do impressive things, but most depend on massive processing power and are often speaker dependent.” Baker’s remarks are clearly made in this context only.

 

DEJA VU

To the Editor:

I’ve gone completely through my files looking for the quotation, “Customers come before shareholders, because without them there is no company and nothing shareholders have that’s worth sharing.”

I find that in 1975, Kenneth Dayton, then chairman and CEO of Dayton Hudson Co., said: “We are not in business to make maximum profit for our shareholders….Our commitment is to our customers, our employees, our shareholders and the communities. Profit is the common denominator of our commitment to all four of these constituencies, because without profit we could not serve any of them well.”

I do not think that this statement can be repeated too many times.

Robert Kahn

Robert Kahn and Associates

Lafayette, Cal.

Ed note: Mr. Kahn heard an echo when our editorial on Irrelevant Capitalists (September/October 1989) reiterated a remark made at our customer satisfaction roundtable by Brunswick CEO Jack Reichert: “The only reason we are in business is to serve customers….I believe fervently in serving customers. In every regard, in every respect, in everything you do, your obligation is to serve customers….The only way you can earn for the shareholder is to serve customers.”


Chief Executive welcomes letters from readers. Address letters for publication to the Editor, Chief Executive Magazine, 233 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003.

 

EDUCATION PARTNERSHIPS

 

To the Editor:

I want to emphasize two key precepts that governed our Roundtable discussion (March 1990) of the role of business in dealing with the education problem.

First, business must understand that education starts with the basic motivation of each individual child to want to learn and to go to school. Unless a child can be effectively motivated, systemic changes and improved facilities will not by themselves accomplish educational objectives.

Second, business should recognize its role, and determine what it has the ability to do well. Only then can it determine the way in which its support can be most effectively delivered-in cooperation with the educational system and other elements of the community. For a variety of reasons, visible corporate auspices are not likely to be ideal for serving the personal support needs of children.

Eugene M. Lang

Chairman and CEO

REFAC

New York 

To the Editor: What may be the most important point of all is that business-education partnerships in and of themselves simply aren’t going to solve the problem. Their focus is too narrow. If business is really going to make a difference, then businessmen must play a key role in building a consensus among all the elements whose cooperation is required to make a genuine change in the system.

We need to be willing to work with interest and with understanding, and to work with teachers, administrators, labor, voters, legislators, and parents in order to build agreement on goals and methods. Business trying to dictate to the rest of society or trying to “go it alone” simply isn’t going to get very far.

Business, with its natural interest in the long-term health of our society, has to step in and become the advocate and the leader aiming to build broad public support.

Owen Bradford Butler

Chairman, CED

Ret. Chmn., Procter & Gamble

Denver