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Fiorina touts change as key to success

Does it sound like a candidate platform? Despite claims she wasn't making political statements, ousted HP exec takes on handling of Iraq, education system and ethics in speech Tuesday.

OAKLAND, Calif.--Former Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Carly Fiorina, in a long-scheduled presentation Tuesday night as part of a Bay Area lecture series, made no specific mention of her political aspirations.

For me, however, the indicator she's considering a future run for office was the way she kept qualifying her assertions with "this isn't a political statement," even if they were arguably political in nature.

Carly Fiorina
Carly Fiorina

Fiorina's speech, which took place the same day News Corp. announced she'd be an on-air commentator for its upcoming Fox Business Network, focused on the importance of change as it relates to success. Nations and companies "rise and fall," she said, depending upon how adaptive they are to change. That change needs to be done systematically, holistically and with clear methods for measuring progress and results, she said.

Things could have turned out much differently in Iraq if U.S. leaders had taken such an approach, Fiorina said. "We still don't know how to measure progress and results (there)."

"Google is to Microsoft, as al-Qaida is to the federal government."

She used Kodak as an example of a company that didn't adapt fast enough to market changes in digital photography. She also pointed to Dell, which she said had stopped innovating when it was surpassed by HP. And in response to an audience question about her new role as an advisory board member for the director of the CIA, she fired one at Microsoft.

It's been said that "Google is to Microsoft, as al-Qaida is to the federal government," she said, comparing al-Qaida's nimbleness and technological know-how to the U.S. government's entrenched bureaucracy, slowness and risk-aversion.

Fiorina didn't elaborate much on her own ousting from HP and instead pointed the packed room to her book for details. But she did clarify that despite the euphemisms often used, "I got fired. It's OK."

In another interesting response to an audience question about how to encourage higher ethical standards in business, she said there has to be more talk about morals. Amid Silicon Valley's stock options backdating uproar, everyone was talking about whether the practice was legal, not whether it was ethical she said, adding: "It was wrong." (No mention, however, of ethical issues relating to her former company's recent spying scandal.)

Also of note, Fiorina, who majored in medieval history and philosophy as an undergrad at Stanford University, said globalization and technological advances have put us in "a truly unique time in human history...never before has the human race been this unconstrained."

And she called this the "century of brain power," emphasizing the importance of competing to stay an economic power. That means "we've got to deal with our educational system," she said, encouraging the study of not just technology, science and math, but of subjects like history and philosophy that fuel our souls and foster virtues like good judgment, perspective and morality.

Sounds a bit like a campaign platform.