Book Reviews: Future Trends

The Company of the Future: How the Communications Revolution is Changing Management, by Francis Cairncross. Harvard Business School Press.
Inspired by a survey conducted by the Economist, the author sees the Internet as being as potent a force in reshaping companies in the twenty-first century as electricity and mass production. The book paints a sweeping portrayal of the way that change, driven by communication technology, is transforming organization and management. The subject areas discussed cover the spectrum of organizational topics: the nature of work; decision making; knowledge management; connections with customers, suppliers and employees; innovation; brands; recruiting, retaining and training; communities and corporate culture; purchasing; strategic suppliers; organizational structure; and leading and managing. This is an important and insightful book that is sure to stimulate thinking about the shape of tomorrow's companies. 229 pp. 2002.

The Elephant and the Flea: Reflections of a Reluctant Capitalist, by Charles Handy. Harvard Business School Press.
Using his own history from childhood onward, Handy takes us on a tour de force of the economy as it has evolved from elephantine bureaucracies moving in slow motion to a world populated by a new species of elephant with flea-like creatures moving from job to job, latching on to the big beasts at times but also flying independently—from corporate worker to free agent. The book is a combination of personal reflection, memoir, and a sweeping historical portrait of the transformation of capitalism. His observations encompass the economy, organizations, and the role of the individual, but are rooted in his personal experiences. Absorbing, nostalgic and very thought-provoking. 256 pp. 2002.

The Invisible Continent: Four Strategic Imperatives of the New Economy, by Kenichi Ohmae. HarperBusiness.
The author identifies and examines, in detail, four dimensions that are driving the new global economy and which successful companies are mastering to make their key decisions. These are: (1) the visible dimension consisting of all aspects of the traditional, "old," or visible economy; (2) the borderless dimension characterized by free trade, international companies, and the declining influence of nation-states; (3) the cyber dimension involving computer communication technologies; and (4) the dimension of high multiples, referring to the unprecedented leverage afforded by valuations that are no longer tied to any particular visible dimension criteria. This well written book gives great insights into the New Economy and to leading firms such as Dell, Cisco and Microsoft. It is filled with details and provides lots to think about regarding business strategy and organization planning. Outstanding. 262 pp. 2000.

It's Alive: The Coming Convergence of Information, Biology, and Business, by Christopher Meyer and Stan Davis. Crown Publishers, Random House.
The authors portray a rapidly unfolding future shaped by the convergence of information and molecular technologies (biotechnology, nanotechnology, materials science). The information economy is maturing just as the molecular economy is taking off. These conditions are bringing about connectivity and accelerating change, demanding adaptation, driving major changes in management and organization. The authors provide a model of the economy's future evolution, show how it will behave more like a living system, and delve into the nature of the an Adaptive Enterprise. They profile the concept of Adaptive Management, which translates the dynamics of evolution into six principles for the Adaptive Enterprise. Four case studies ground the book in current realities. The book concludes with a look toward 2013. This is a captivating, exhilarating, forward-looking view of macro trends and emerging possibilities in economics and organization. 2003.

What's Next? Exploring the New Terrain for Business, by Eamonn Kelly and Peter Leyden. Perseus Books.
Explores a broad range of ideas about the future through interviews with 50 leading thinkers. Each was asked to engage in an expansive conversation about their fields and the state of the world in the next 10 years. The key subject areas used to organize the content are: economics and finance; geopolitics and governance; cultures and societies; values and belief systems; civilization and infrastructure; environment and sustainability; science; and technology. Captures today's key trends for strategic thinking and business planning. This is a work of extraordinary breadth and insight. 360 pp. 2002.