Back in the 1960s, they marched on the Capitol and burned their draft cards. Now, many of them accumulate capital and clutch American Express cards. But members of the '60s counterculture haven't disappeared. They have just changed their main address from Haight-Ashbury to Silicon Valley.
John Kao, an assistant professor at the Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration, dubs them "the corporate new wave." For his on-going study of the group, Kao has interviewed 100 entrepreneurs and visited about 30 companies. Some activists-turned-entrepreneurs, he finds, are creating businesses in their own images, stressing creativity and personal fulfillment.
As a result, the organizations they are founding" are looked upon as vehicles for transformation and growth, not just places for people to go between 9 o'clock and 5 o'clock," Kao says. To encourage personal development, he adds, these companies are offering health and fitness programs, career path counseling, financial support for education, and other incentives.
Many of these young executives celebrate the same values that they had when they held sit-ins in corporate lobbies. For instance, many Vietnam-era protesters mistrusted faceless institutions and called for "power to the people." In the '80s, many entrepreneurs seek to restore intimacy between workers and their tasks by rewarding exceptional efforts, Kao says. They recognize employees' contributions with such unusual rewards as featuring them in advertisements. The creativity valued by the "new wave" entrepreneurs, explains Kao, is an outgrowth of the "pervasive openness to new social forms and to new modes of experience" seen during the '60s.
Many rabble-rousers haven't lost interest in broader change, either. Some talk of entering politics to influence education and job creation. "Money," Kao concludes, "is the long hair of the '80s." Hey, now that's what we call groovy.