Occupy Wall Street addressing a social problem, not a business one

“We have people in our society who have played by the rules and are not being allowed to participate in our economy,” says Lynn business professor

Published Oct. 24, 2011

John_Cipolla“I’m surprised something similar didn’t happen sooner,” said John Cipolla, associate professor of management in Lynn University’s College of Business and Management, in reference to the Occupy Wall Street movement that has “Occupy Together Meetups” in more than 2,000 cities around the world.

“We have a significant number of people in our society who, in their own estimation, have played by the rules, paid their dues and are not being allowed to participate in our economy,” said Cipolla. “These people include those who had been working but were laid off as companies cut expenses in the face of declining sales, recent college graduates who cannot find the first rung on their career ladder, high school graduates who cannot afford or do not desire a college education and find themselves unemployable, and many others.”

Cipolla, who completed his Ph.D. dissertation on organizational change, has first-hand experience consulting with major organizations – especially those that underwent a major crisis – on the importance of anticipating a crisis and crisis management techniques. However, Cipolla doesn’t believe Occupy Wall Street is addressing a business problem; it’s really a social one.

“Corporations are not likely to deal with these people,” said Cipolla. "The protestors have little money to buy products or services, and the corporations have little to no incentive to hire them. To the extent that this is an economic issue it may affect business, but currently the stock markets (and corporate profitability) are doing quite well.”

“It’s not that there is less money in the economy,” said Cipolla. “It’s just that the money is distributed differently than was the case a few years ago.”

The future of Occupy Wall Street

“There is no quick resolution,” said Cipolla. “This situation has taken decades to build, one short-sighted decision after another.”

According to Cipolla, inadequate education (including practical and academic training) of America’s youth, combined with rewarding those who have devised ways to concentrate wealth (as opposed to creating wealth), have formed the perfect storm for this Occupy Wall Street movement.

“With government and private policies that favor what economists call a ‘zero sum game,’ there is now a large gulf between the ‘winners’ and the ‘losers,’” said Cipolla. “It is unlikely that the ‘winners’ – other than the Warren Buffetts of the world – would allow any of those poor decisions to be reversed.”

Although Cipolla is unsure how the Occupy Wall Street movement will affect the futures and the cultures of American businesses, he doesn’t think our current course is sustainable. In addition, he believes the movement will have a major impact on college graduates getting jobs.

“As Americans, we have a deeply held belief that success is possible with hard work and diligence,” said Cipolla. “Current conditions put the lie to that. By and large, students in the United States go to college with the expectation that it will lead to a rewarding career. What we’re seeing is that there is less social mobility in the U.S. that in most of Europe – that is, if you come from money you will make money, if not, education will not help that much.”

More on Cipolla

John Cipolla, associate professor of management in Lynn University’s College of Business, completed his Ph.D. dissertation on organizational change. He has first-hand experience consulting with major organizations – especially those that underwent a major crisis – on the importance of anticipating a crisis and crisis management techniques. In August 2008, Lynn business professors Cipolla and Mike Petroski traveled to Cambridge, England, to present their paper, “The Role of Knowledge and Culture in Organizational Crises – Managing and Planning in ‘Interesting’ Times.”

Cipolla’s research has centered on ethical business practices and crisis leadership. In this role, Cipolla can speak to the media regarding effects of Occupy Wall Street on students and businesses, the changing focus of business education, the impact crises can have (or not have) on corporate businesses, and marketing techniques used in successful new product development, among other topics.

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