After last week’s article, Fiddling While Rome Burns, we got a reply from the Emperor himself. Thankfully, our amazing colleague, Michael Kannisto studies with the great mystics scattered around the New York Metropolitan area. He was miraculously able to channel Nero’s response. You should expect the conversation to continue. – John Sumser

Nero’s Reply

Mr. Sumser,

I’m not sure I was quite the awful leader you make me out to be.

In an era characterized by slow, steady growth, I was groomed for a Roman leadership position by my mother, who married into a dynastic family and thus ensured that a respectable successor assumed power. I was both a diplomat and a poet, dedicating myself to public works and making sure the wealthy paid their fair share of taxes. I was beloved by “The 99%” of my era, and according to one historian, I organized a relief program paid out of my own funds after the tragic fire that devastated the city.


Michael R. Kannisto, P.h.D, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board Contributor.

Life then was remarkably similar to life now. Lack of affordable housing was an issue in my time. Wealth and poverty were extreme. Crime was violent and commonplace. People with means could select from a number of occupations in politics or administration. Those without means served in the military or worked as laborers. At the time, my empire represented 25% of the known world population. Much like today the average citizen worked, paid taxes, and drank. Some worshipped in church, and others visited prostitutes.

And then one day (long after my watch) it all came crashing down. Why did it happen? Historians have proposed numerous theories, and many of them involve the “new” forces you referenced. During my administration, I did what all leaders do, which is make the best decisions available to me based on what I knew. And compared to you, I knew very little about my world – no “big data” for me.

“Kodak” has become the “Nero” of business books sold at the airport bookstore. Just as I allegedly fiddled while Rome was consumed by flames, so Kodak continued to pursue a dying technology while the world was consumed by digital. But just as I was born to rule Rome, so Kodak was born to bring a complicated technology to the masses.

Photography was inaccessible to the average person in the late 19th century; the introduction of roll film changed that. The company was designed from the ground up to develop paper photography, and a culture of employees grew to support that vision. Along the way,  there were competitors, alternative technologies, and many complex decisions that led the company to its present state. But make no mistake – the acceptance and widespread adoption of photography ironically led to the birth of digital. People wanted to take more pictures, and they did not want to wait for them.

Was Kodak a failure because they missed that particular opportunity after more than a century in business? Was I unsuccessful because I only ruled for 13 years? Only time can judge that.

There is one thing, however, upon which you can I can surely agree. Just as there were numerous external forces poised to alter life for everyone during my lifetime, the same still holds true today. I’m not sure how useful it would have been for me to try and predict which of the millions of possible combinations of these forces would ultimately prevail, but both Kodak and I could have certainly spent more time imagining multiple versions of the future as a way of preparing for change.

It might be of interest to you to know that when I took my own life the masses mourned me, and even fabricated a story that I would someday return to earth to govern again. This legend lasted hundreds of years. It seems that all empires – both political and corporate – have a hard time accepting what is gone and will never return.

Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus

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