"The obvious benefit in using mobile computers is that, by being with you, they can assist you in the context of your other activities."
- Peter Merholz, March 24, 2001
Michael Wolff riffs on the idea of new economy companies as cults in this quarter's Forbes ASAP. He's right. But, he's way off in trying to make it appear that it's something new or even limited to technology companies. Some people use the word culture rather than cult to describe a corporation's belief system. The head of a company (CEO in modern parlance) as visionary leader has been a standard concept in American business for most of the country's history. Examples: Samuel Slater, King Gillette, David Sarnoff, Fred Smith, Thomas Watson (IMHO Microsoft models their culture more on 1960's IBM than 1980's Apple) and Sam Walton . To survive, large companies must have a recognizable culture that employees can embrace (or reject, in which case they usually leave) and use as a basis for decision making. Without a strong corporate culture a company would fail once it got to a size where the leadership of the company could no longer make and control all decisions.
The question is not as much whether tech companies are cult-like, but at what point does culture (a good thing) become cult (a bad thing). At what point do the white lies necessary for a strong culture become the foundations of fraud?