Zoom

Zoom's Acceleration Isn't Slowed by Red Tape

4 min

Founder and current CEO emeritus of Visa, Inc., Dee Hock once said, "From no more than dreams, determination, and the liberty to try, quite ordinary people consistently do extraordinary things."

Yet in the fight against COVID-19, many "ordinary people" have been blocked from doing "extraordinary things."

Due to government regulations, too few people have been tested for the virus. Bureaucrats from the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "stopped private and academic diagnostic tests from being deployed."

For those with acute coronavirus illness, there may not be enough hospital beds. The "shortage of beds is often caused by 'state-level regulations—known as certificate of need' laws, or CON laws—that artificially limit the supply of medical equipment." Politically connected hospital chains lobby for these laws to "limit regional competition and inflate health care costs."

One newspaper summed up the issue with this headline: "How red tape has crippled America's coronavirus response."

Outside of regulated sectors, ordinary people are doing extraordinary things. Thanks to farmers, food manufacturers, truckers, and supermarket personnel, our supermarkets remain mostly stocked. There is no red tape crippling the food sector's response to COVID-19.

There is also no red tape at Zoom, a popular platform that facilitates online meetings. Zoom's response to increased demand has been nothing short of miraculous. Zoom's ability to meet the surge in demand has been a lifeline for many businesses and educational institutions.

Every day I hear the lovely lilt of my wife's voice as she teaches her undergraduate marketing classes from home via Zoom. There have been some pedagogical issues, but there has not been one hiccup in Zoom's service. Zoom is deftly handling an enormous new load of educational classes and business meetings.

Did Zoom expect a pandemic? Unlikely. Yet, Zoom had planned for how to respond if extraordinary, but unknown, circumstances placed extraordinary demands on their network.

To handle a potential surge, Zoom spokesperson Farshad Hashmatulla explained how "the company's policy long before the health crisis has been to make sure it can... have the ability to deploy tens of thousands of additional servers within hours if needed."

If you're a Zoom user, you're probably not too interested in the technical part of their business. You just want reliable service.

When Zoom staffers meet, do they talk about making excuses and arguing about which politician is to blame for their failure? Did they assign their media relations department the job of promising to do better next time? Most people would have understood if their servers couldn't have handled this load. Zoom could have just excused poor service by compiling data on the dramatic increase in their traffic.

"We are really focused on ensuring we continue to deliver a reliable, high-quality experience for all of our customers, prospects, schools — everybody that's relying on us," Zoom CFO Kelly Steckelberg said of Zoom's staff meetings:

Because Zoom continues to deliver, meetings and classes, charged with a peaceful vibrancy, are happening right now all over the world. This is a product of human cooperation, not the heavy, coercive hand of government.  

There is nothing unique about Zoom in this regard. For every company that is delivering during this crisis, the self-interest of the company creates a harmony of interests between the company and their customers. The success of these companies lies in putting others' needs first.

Dare we say that Zoom is showing love for their customers? Dennis Bakke, the former CEO of AES Corporation, defined love as "The unselfish and benevolent concern for the good of others."

Isn't that what politicians promise too, unselfish and benevolent concern for others? Yet their stated noble purposes quickly get hijacked by self-interested desires for power and expanding fiefdoms. Funding goes to politically correct and politically connected projects.

Consider that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) spends about $40 billion a year on medical studies. Yale University epidemiologist Michael Bracken estimates, "As much as 87.5% of biomedical research is wasted or inefficient."

Instead of preparing for extraordinary circumstances, as Zoom did, "The NIH spent millions on drunk monkeys, fat lesbians, television's effects in Vietnam, soap operas for people with HIV, and querying whether alcohol drives stupid gambling decisions."

Imagine the howls if Zoom failed during a crisis because it was spending money on research projects as questionable as those at NIH. Zoom's competitors, such as WebEx and GoToMeeting, would be seeing huge gains in their market shares during this crisis.

Zoom and other great organizations are teaching us Dee Hock's vital lesson: Competition, self-interest, and liberty allow "ordinary people" to do "extraordinary things."

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[Image Credit: Flickr-Cambodia4kids.org Beth Kanter, CC BY 2.0]

Barry Brownstein

Barry Brownstein

Barry Brownstein is professor emeritus of economics and leadership at the University of Baltimore. He is the author of The Inner-Work of Leadership. To receive Barry's essays subscribe at Mindset Shifts.

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