Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Thursday, January 15, 2004day link 

 The Future of Business
picture Dave Pollard has a nice piece on The Future of Business.
Let's step back now from the perspective of the knowledge worker and look at how the business environment for corporations has changed in 2015. In the early 2000s, large corporations that were once hierarchical end-to-end business enterprises began shedding everything that was not deemed ‘core competency’, in some cases to the point where the only things left were business acumen, market knowledge, experience, decision-making ability, brand name, and aggregation skills. This 'hollowing out' allowed multinationals to achieve enormous leverage and margin. It also made them enormously vulnerable and potentially dispensable.

As outsourcing accelerated, some small companies discovered how to exploit this very vulnerability. When, for example, they identified North American manufacturers outsourcing domestic production to third world plants in the interest of 'increasing productivity', they went directly to the third world manufacturers, offered them a bit more, and then went directly to the North American retailers, and offered to charge them less. The expensive outsourcers quickly found themselves unnecessary middlemen. Now in 2015, the result is what Doc Searls and Dave Weinberger, two Internet experts, have called a World of Ends -- which in its business application means a disintermediated world where specialized businesses contract directly with each other to bring the benefits of globalization and the free market to consumers. The large corporations, having shed everything they thought was non 'core competency', learned to their chagrin that in the connected, information economy, the value of their core competency was much less than the inflated value of their stock, and they have lost much of their market share to new federations of small entrepreneurial businesses.
Various forward-looking management gurus, like Tom Peters have been talking about this kind of change in the business and job world for a while. Everything will become more loosely connected and changing faster. No lifetime position in a stable company. Everybody will need to be able to market themselves, and will be likely to work on a succession of projects in the form of virtual companies that come together ad hoc to deal with a certain opportunity and that might well disband right afterwards. The change goes all the way up and down. Everybody has to think like an entrepreneur, constantly learning and looking for new opportunities. Constantly working their network, keeping up their repuation.
- Your networks are critical: Your success will depend on who you know, but not necessarily who you know well. Because of a phenomenon known as 'the strength of weak links', your future employer, employees, customers and business partners are all likely to be two or three degrees of separation away from those you know personally. Who your associates know is probably more important, therefore, than who you know directly.

- You need to know how to run a business, from start-up to dissolution. Not the sheltered academic skills of large corporate administration, but the down-and-dirty skills of entrepreneurship, where every decision is make-or-break. Your network can help here, too. You're probably three times as likely to be self-employed or unemployed in 2015, as you are to be an employee of someone else, so you'll need these skills.
All of it is of course both scary and exciting. And there are other possibilities of course, but this is quite likely how the capitalistic society is evolving. So, unless something fundamental changes, we'll all have to pay attention. If you'll keep thinking like a good employee you'll be more likely to be expendable and unemployed. If you think like a business person, and you get together a package of goods that the world actually needs - it might all be great. You might have as much chance of succeeding as any multinational company.
[ | 2004-01-15 11:14 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 The Corporation
picture Several people have mentioned the new documentary "The Corporation". It was screened at the 2003 Vancouver International Film Festival. It is premiering in a few theatres in Candada around now. Read the review, it is very cool.
A lot of documentaries get a rise out of their audience. Some even invoke social change, or at the least some serious reflection upon our place in the world. But I can safely say I've never seen an audience so moved, en masse, to explore actual social activism on a grand scale as the audience who watched this three hour masterwork. The first standing ovation I've seen delivered at the Vancouver Film Festival was not only deserved, but also very long, and what followed the screening overshadowed even that outpouring of emotion.

The Corporation could never have been made in the USA. It took a Canadian team to put this work together, and it'll take far more than legal threats and intimidation to kill it. An almost three hour look at the past, present and future of corporations as a business entity, you'd be forgiven for rolling your eyes and giving the thing a miss if you only had a loose synopsis to go on.

But where this documentary matters is in the details - the nasty, disgusting, gory details of what the corporation has done to this world, what it's doing today, and what we can expect it to do tomorrow if we don't get our freaking act together.

The extreme right 'love it or leave it' crowd are no doubt already starting to yell "Lefty propaganda," but this isn't an Anti-Bush attack on all things capitalist. This isn't hippy rhetoric or new age spin or a call to the communes. It isn't hoity toity technospeak or boring talking-head PBS filler. What The Corporation is, is a healthy dose of well-researched, deeply explored, stunning information that can not possibly leave you, as an audience member, in any condition but stunned, dismayed, and outraged.

Maybe you know it all already. If you're like me, you read the papers, you know who's buying who and that the unstoppable bulldozer of globalization is hurting a lot of people. If you're like me, you're disgusted that TV news has become a wrestling match to decide which party has the best 'spin', and you might have even learned enough about global politics to be sick to death of what you're seeing in the world today.

But The Corporation will teach you things you never dreamed of. it will change you. It will ruin your day, but give you reason to get up in the morning - determined to make change.
I can't wait to see it, and I hope it somehow manages to get wide distribution, even in the U.S. I have no doubt it will play in the theatres here in France. Even Noam Chomsky shows in regular theatres here.

And for the record, I think corporations should be banned ASAP. Not business, not free enterprise, not groups of people doing things together, but the corporation as an artificial legal person.
[ | 2004-01-15 13:53 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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