The Case for Cautious Optimism

Sept. 15, 2008 will remain firmly etched in my mind. I was on my way to Moscow for meetings with SAP's customers and partners when I heard the news that Lehman Brothers had collapsed. By the time I reached the Russian capital and switched on my BlackBerry, I realized from the sheer number of incoming reports that this would trigger a worldwide domino effect. My meetings were interrupted again and again as the assistants of my business partners came in to deliver notes and whispered messages. Margin calls were coming in from brokers, and heavily leveraged businesses and people were in deep trouble. In the ashen faces of my business partners, I saw that their business plans were ruined as the credit markets seized up. By the end of the day, we had entered a new, starker world—a world of uncertainty, mistrust, and unpredictability, a world where optimism seemed in short supply.

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