3D systems and “The Prince” by Niccolo Machiavelli

The book “The Prince” by Niccolo Machiavelli described how the prince ruled the country. The book suggests that affective truth is preferable to ideal realities. It conflicted with policies of the catholic Roman society that dominated in Italy during the time of Niccolo Machiavelli. Niccolo uses the word “state” to describe all organisational forms of political power – princely or republican (Garver, 1980). Machiavelli suggests that there are two types of new states: pure states and mixed new states. He also argues that new prince who has just acquired a province should establish his own colonies and seek support from the members of his colony. He should also indulge lesser powers of the province and restrain any increase of their power. Furthermore, a new prince should put down powerful people and ensure that no    foreigner is accorded any respect in the kingdom by the people.

Machiavelli suggests that princes who climb the ladder of power by virtue (using their knowledge and skills) often find it difficult to rise to power, but when they get there they become secure in that position (Machiavelli & Adams, 1977). This is because princes defeat their opponents and earn respect from other people. They are self-sufficient and stronger; hence they make little compromises over their allies.

According to Machiavelli, it is not only difficult but also dangerous for them to reform an old order because human beings are always resisting change. People who benefit from old regimes tend to oppose change very strongly. This is because the new system is uncertain, and they do not know whether it will sustain them like the old regime. In this regard, a prince should force his followers to support him even when they start losing trust in him; otherwise he may lose his/her power. Using the example of Moses in the Bible, Machiavelli suggests that only armed leaders can bring lasting change.

Machiavelli also suggests that if a prince seeks to gain a position of higher power through the will of a powerful figure, he will get to the top very easily. However, it is difficult for such a prince to maintain the top position because his power depends on the goodwill of his benefactor. The armies may not accord him the necessary respect; hence it is easy for him to be overthrown by another person with his own virtues and prudence. However, this is not always the case. There are isolated situations whereby leaders entered into power in an easy way by being blessed by powerful figures, and they still maintain their power. For instance, Cesare Borgia was made to become a powerful leader of the army by his father (Garver, 1980). He used political maneuvers to maintain his power.

Regarding duty on military matters, Machiavelli suggests that prince should be perfect in the art of war. This will enable the prince to protect his kingdom. A prince should understand military matters in order to gain loyalty from his armies. Princes are ought to know the physical boundaries and features of their territories, and study events of their militaries. Machiavelli also proposes that princess should not be idle. He also suggests that princes should maintain a good reputation by pursuing effectual truth rather than relying on imaginations (Machiavelli & Runger, 1987). According to him, ruling by virtue is important, but virtues should be abandoned if they are considered unnecessary.

Machiavelli also recommends princes to possess both good and bad qualities because good people are rare in the world (Machiavelli & Runger, 1987). A bad reputation should be avoided, but it is important for princes to possess one. Machiavelli also holds that an overly generous prince is not likely to be appreciated. Instead, he causes greed for more. Furthermore, being generous as a prince is not economical because it leads to exhaustion of resources. It causes high taxes and brings stress to the prince. Therefore, a prince should guard himself against hatred than to build up reputation for generosity because it is importation to gain reputation through lack of generosity than to be hated for trying to be generous.

These ways of behaviour by the prince can be used to analyse 3D Systems Company (DDD). 3D Company is a leading provider of 3D content-to-print solutions across various countries of the world. The 3D printing solutions provided by the company include: print materials, 3D printers, and 3D authoring solutions for consumers and professionals and on-demand custom parts services (3D Systems Corporation, 2012). 3D Systems Corporation is incorporated in Delaware and operates through subsidiaries in United States, Asia-Pacific region, and Europe. It distributes its products in those markets and other international markets. The main sales and marketing strategy of 3D Systems Company is to provide an integrative approach directed to enhancement of 3D content-to-print services and solutions to meet a wide range of customer needs.

In relation to the behavior of “The Prince” as written by Machiavelli, 3D Company and its management and employees can be taken as the prince, while the customers and the international markets and communities can be considered as the Kingdom led by the prince. In this case, if Machiavelli was to provide the roles and responsibilities of the company he would suggest that the company use its virtues, but it should not be overly virtuous.

As a business, the primary role of 3D Company is to make profits. In order to achieve that, the company should earn customer loyalty and build a good public image because doing that will increase sales and profitability. The company has also developed growth initiatives through the management in order to provide the best products. As the company enhances its growth through its growth initiatives, it focuses on the brand loyalty of customers. In order to promote the effectiveness of these initiatives, it is necessary for the company to manage its activities effectively. The company uses its competencies, especially knowledge and skills to deliver the above growth initiatives. The most important aspect is the company’s management. The management guides its employees prudently to ensure that the growth initiatives are achieved under all costs.

The prudency and virtues required of the management to deliver the growth initiatives effectively can be compared to the role of prince of Italy as explained by Machiavelli. According to him, a prince gains honour by completing great feats. Similarly, managers of 3D also aim at making great achievements in driving the company’s growth initiatives through effective leadership. According to Machiavelli, a prince should always choose a side instead of being neutral (Machiavelli & Runger, 1987). He asserts that if a prince’s allies win, the prince benefits whether he is powerful or not. An effective management in the company should also partner with various stakeholders in order to succeed in its growth initiatives. Furthermore, the strategic alliance between 3D Company and Delaware reflects the position of Machiavelli; that a prince should work with allies in order to succeed in power.

Machiavelli also suggests that a prince should avoid contempt and hatred. He should gain respect through good conduct. In the same way, 3D company is committed to social responsibility and sustainability as a way of earning respect from the community. Machiavelli also argues that a prince who is respected by the people is unlikely to face internal problems. 3D also attempts to gain respect from stakeholders and the society in order to minimize problems in its internal control system. Furthermore, princes should keep the people satisfied. In the same way, 3D keeps its customers satisfied by offering quality 3D printers and solutions.

Following Machiavelli’s assertions about prudence and virtue, it is important for 3D to develop the virtue of being able to identify the best ventures that can be most rewarding and then pursuing them courageously and prudently. The managers of 3D have acted according to this proposition by developing the five initiatives of growth of the company. The company also pursues those initiatives prudently and courageously by carrying out various operations in favour of the initiatives. For instance, the company has pursued the initiative of building global custom parts and services by launching on-demand parts and services in 2009 (3D Systems Corporation, 2012). This led to revenue of $18.3 million from the on-demand parts services in 2010. This revenue increased to $58.8 million and $79.2 in 2011 and 2012 respectively. In this case, virtues or knowledge and skills of employees are connected with financial strength of the company. If the employees work with good virtues, then the financial strength of the company will improve and lead to effective implementation of its initiatives of growth.

In chapter 22 of his book, Machiavelli suggests that one of the successful duties of princes in ruling a country is to select good servants. He argues that a prince can be able to select good servants if he is intelligent. The loyalty of the servants also depends on the intelligence of the prince. 3D Systems Company also selects its employees intelligently through the Human Resource department. 3D Systems Corporation (2012) suggests that there were about 1,010 employees in the company. The company has not experienced any material work stoppage. This shows that the managers of the company have been dealing with its employees intelligently as suggested by Machiavelli. Therefore, the book supports the section of the thesis which that requires knowledge and skills of employees in order for the company to succeed.

Through its commitment to sustainability, 3D Systems Corporation values diversity in its workforce. It also rewards good performance and provides a safe and healthy working environment (3D Systems Corporation, 2013). This reflects a high level of intelligence in trying to win the loyalty of employees as postulated by Machiavelli. Furthermore, the company believes that its relationship with the employees is satisfactory. Therefore, the company receives loyalty from the employees because it relates with them effectively. This is a reflection of the behaviour of princes as suggested by Machiavelli.

Although there are many situations in which the management and operations of 3D systems Corporation agree with the propositions of Machiavelli, it is also clear that there are situations in which the company differs with Machiavelli’s assertions. For instance, the company pursues a sustainability program whereby it manages and eliminates usage of toxic materials throughout its supply chain in order to enhance clean air and water and contribute to a sustainable environment (3D Systems Corporation, 2013). This is costly to pursue, but the company does it because it is virtuous to do so. However, Machiavelli suggests that some level of virtue is necessary but it is also important not to have some virtues.

3D Systems maintains its virtue towards sustainability even if it will cost some money, but Machiavelli suggested that princes should not use some virtues if it does not give them satisfaction. Therefore, the company should attempt to provide a sustainable environment while at the same time ensuring that it makes profits. If environmental conservation incurs more costs than benefits, then it should avoid any concerns with the environment.

In conclusion, it is clear that Machiavelli’s propositions are exceptionally applicable to modern management; most importantly to 3D Systems. As suggested by Machiavelli, 3D has regard for both present and future problems facing the company. It uses the virtues inherent in its competencies; knowledge and skills of employees, good financial base, and strategic management to develop and implement effective initiatives of growth. The company should also be virtuous but not overly virtuous so that it can achieve its primary objectives in a way that is acceptable by its stakeholders.

3D Systems Company has growth initiatives synonymous to the choices of princes of Italy that make them powerful. It also uses some level of intelligence like those of princes of Italy to select its workforce who propel the company’s goals and objectives. However, the company should not be overly virtuous because it may be costly for it to do so.

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