|New Strategy for Enterprise Competitiveness
Christopher S. RollysonStrategy | Marketing | Innovation | Knowledge | Technology
Resources/Reviews: Books, Journals and Magazines
A partial reading list, along with each book's USP (Unique Selling Proposition) in my eyes as well as its URL at Amazon. Although there is extensive crossover, I've tried to categorize into these sections; however, this is very loose:
Tom Ashbrook, The Leap ("a memoir of love and madness in the internet gold rush"), Houghton Mifflin, 2000
The Internet phenomenon has injected significant uncertainty into almost everyone's life because it has redrawn maps. Formerly highly desirable positions in management, consulting, finance, etc. were playing second fiddle to life in startups. This is an excellent account of one man's journey from an editorial position at a respected newspaper to the founder of a startup (homeportfolio.com). It's made even more realistic because the author relates his experience in light of being a husband and father, as well as his personal ambitions on the career side. There's also a clear 40s crisis element as well. It's poignant and, above all, very human.
John L. Nesheim, High Tech Startup: the Complete Handbook, Revised and Updated, Free Press, 2000
This is the best book on the subject that I've read. If you want to understand the process behind what it takes to create a venture-backed startup, this will go a long way in explaining it. Good descriptions of processes, timing, funding, etc. Plenty of war stories. Also key are his statistics and "Personal Rewards and Costs." The author has obviously worked with many entrepreneurs, and it's clear that he is trying to impart his wisdom in this book.
Randy Komisar, The Monk and the Riddle, the Education of a Silicon Valley Entrepreneur, Harvard Business School Press, 2000
The author is a well established player in the Valley, and this is a story about how he "educates" an unlikely startup hopeful (and maybe the reader by proxy). A quick read.
Ruthann Quindlen, Confessions of a Venture Capitalist, Warner, 2000
This is really structured as "confessions" in that it's a collection of anecdotal stories that deal with the author's clients over the years. Provides some insight into how VCs work and to the culture. One of the most interesting things about the book was the author's comments on succeeding in the environment as a woman and special challenges that women face, although this is just one of the cultural facets of the world that she describes.
Emanuel Rosen, The Anatomy of Buzz, Doubleday, 2000
The Anatomy of Buzz is a refreshing and readable book, which is useful on several levels: business people can learn a new way to think about how products and services succeed or fail; students of human behavior can enjoy learning what people talk about and why; and anyone interested in networking can glean many useful ideas. The book describes how people talk among themselves about products and services, producing "buzz," what influences the spread of buzz and how a company can integrate buzz into its other marketing activities. Its first two parts, "How Buzz Spreads" and "Success in the Networks," are concerned with defining buzz, how it travels (and how it doesn't!) as well as aspects of human interaction that cause people to communicate how they do. As an active observer of the human nature, I found the book as fascinating as it was useful: just think about it, Rosen is making explicit key implicit aspects of our behavior that are immediately relevant to how we talk about (usually) new products or services. What people talk about is not easy to get one's arms around because it's such a part of us, and Rosen succeeds admirably in explaining it almost anecdotally. He illustrates his ideas through numerous stories about consumer products, software, books and athletic shoes, so the book is imminently readable. The third part, "Stimulating Buzz," is just shy of half the book, and its focus is on working with networks of people, "seeding" networks with ideas, telling a good story and viral marketing. Rosen also treats advertising and working with (product) distribution networks. The last two chapters, "Putting It Together" and "Buzz Workshop," make the ideas actionable by giving concrete techniques for stimulating buzz. I read them first before reading the whole book and found that useful. Also, "Buzz" is very fun to read. I got the feeling that Rosen, while a marketer for a software company, fell in love with the subject by happenstance. His fascination and earnestness are infectious. The book is well researched and includes a glossary, ample notes and a great bibliography for further reading.
Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Little, Brown, 2000
This is a fascinating book that gets to the heart of a cornerstone of the adoption of new things: habits, procedures and (maybe) technologies. It's an engaging account of the author's discovery of how people in complex groups/organizations/systems behave and how they change. The author offers a thought provoking hypothesis: that complex groups of people are "configured" in states of equilibrium, and if one can figure out the equilibrium, one can cause widespread change by exploiting the "tipping points." One case study that I can't resist referencing is New York City's struggle with crime. This is a seemingly intractable problem that certainly would require extreme force to solve, one might assume. He leads us through this, showing how (seemingly) "little" things had a huge impact on the situation because they acted on the tipping point. Also of interest are the descriptions of influencers, people who have an inordinate impact on the adoption of new things. These are practical and can be put to work by anyone trying to make change happen.
Don Tapscott, The Digital Economy: Promise and Peril in the Age of Networked Intelligence, McGraw-Hill, 1996
Tapscott is obviously one of the forward thinkers on e-business and brings out many useful key concepts here such as the digital divide. People who "get it" and those who don't. It would be easy to dismiss these as simplistic, but they are vastly applicable to consulting engagements. Observing that organizations are comprised by large groups of people, that's a lot of mass of "getting it" or not. Certain traits of e-workers are simply incompatible with "traditional workers," which can be a thorny problem when implementing solutions that involve widespread adoption. This is one of the key reasons that BAMs are carving out/spinning off their e-businesses, to enable the people who "get it" to work at e-speed which others work at a more traditional pace.
Chuck Martin, Net Future, McGraw Hill, 1999
This is a fast read that has an in-your-face style and gets to many of the key issues of the impact of the electronic world. Don't be put off by the energy and hype; it's quite well thought out and presented.
Don Tapscott, Growing Up Digital, McGraw Hill, 1998
Excellent background on "the Net generation" and what it means to society in general as well as our business. Has some basis in research; however, Tapscott's enthusiasm for the Net overshadows his objectivity, I fear. For an antidote, see "High Tech Heretic" below.
Clifford Stoll, High Tech Heretic, Doubleday, 1999
This is a rather somber treatment of computers' impact on children. Stoll's style is very personal and emotional, as is Tapscott's. However, the latter doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve so much, and his personal investment in the subject isn't so obvious unless you've read another of his books. I think that the two books together make an excellent read; also, both read easily, especially if you've got kids or are otherwise especially interested on what kind of world is developing, from their eyes.
Marshall Blonsky, American Mythologies, Oxford University Press, 1992
This is one of the most powerful books I've ever read, up there with Camus' La Peste (The Plague) or Sartre's Les Jeux sont faits. Blonsky dissects modern culture at the philosophical level (he's a semiotician), and the book can change the way that you perceive yourself in the world. It goes beyond post modernism, which the Net totally is. Blonsky discusses speed and the impact on culture. The book is even more awesome when you consider that it was written before the Web. It shows how much of a genius he really is because the Web is totally a product and medium for the post post modern culture that he describes. He also discusses manipulation at a high level; yet the book is not overly critical, either. He's actually very excited and enthusiastic about the subjects. If you wax toward modern philosophy, you'll enjoy his personal relationships with Umberto Eco, Roland Barthes and other giants. Truly unforgettable.
Nicholas Negroponte, Being Digital, Random House, 1995
Classic philosophical work that investigates "what it all means." For example, what is the meaning of the difference between "bits" (matter) and "byes" (electronic knowledge/information)? Of course, this difference enables the widespread separation of "information about the use of a product/service" from the product/service itself and the concomitant shift in value within the value chain. May be overlooked by some as not "practical" but it contains many of the key postulates and theorems of the e-environment.
James Burke, The Day the Universe Changed, Little, Brown, 1985
This is a fascinating read for anyone who wants to explore at a more multifaceted level how humans adopt new inventions. While most articles with an e-business or Internet context use the data points of the industrial revolution, Burke goes back much farther, as if in a time machine, to visit mostly western European society as radical thoughts such as da Vinci's in the heliocentric universe and inventions such as the printing press came to alter how humans thought of themselves and the universe around them. These are profound changes about which we've had some time to reflect, and Burke is a master at finding the wonder and the facts around these changes.
Geoffrey Moore, Inside the Tornado, HarperCollins, (reprint) 1999
Billed as a treatise on high technology marketing, it offers amazing insight into e-business. The book is built around the concept of a "technology adoption curve," which simultaneously explains how people and businesses adopt new ways of doing things (i.e. doing business on the web). Reads like a novel, too.
John Hagel III and Marc Singer, Net Worth, Harvard Business School Press, 1999
Presents the case of the power shift to buyers, away from sellers.
Patricia B. Seybold(Contributor), et al, Customers.Com: How to Create a Profitable Business Strategy for the Internet and Beyond, Times Books, 1998
Good early case studies on how companies in diverse industries use web technology and ways of working to change how they do business. B2B and B2C examples. Also hooked into the customers.com website.
Henry C. Lucas, Jr., Information Technology and the Productivity Paradox, Oxford Univ. Press, 1999
In my mind, this gets to the soul of IT strategy. Broad discussion of the issues and how IT does÷or does not÷create business value. Also not very technical or overly abstruse.
David A. Taylor, Ph.D., Object Technology, A Manager's Guide, Second Edition, Addison Wesley, 1998
This is an unintimidating look under the hood of one of the web's key technologies, object oriented technology (Java is one object oriented language). It is a classic primer of object oriented technology (OOT) for the non-technologist. Although far too seldom stated, OOT is behind a large part of the speed and functionality of web applications, B2B and e-business. It is absolutely central to web applications' ability to interface with all other systems, and this book makes it approachable. The author uses anecdotes and simple diagrams to explain what's different about OOT and, by extension, the web.
I am often asked, with a bevy of new and newer "new business" magazines out there, what to read to "keep up." Here I will essay a very limited list of things that I read and have heard about. As always, though, it all depends on what you're seeking, and there is considerable overlap in the "new economy" magazines. I will attempt to make the commentary more valuable by giving a USP for each.
Business 2.0==> http://www.business2.com
Business 2.0 (1.0 being bricks and mortar) is a "new economy" rag whose USP is its how-to guides. One example was " The Smart Way to Start" in March 2000, which explained a startup's journey at a high level. Good coverage from the startup's perspective and overall "new economy."
As one would suspect, CIO Magazine has good information from a technology manager's point of view. The articles and analyses are technical, but the point is to discuss technology from the business value viewpoint. Also includes special reports and surveys. Useful for coming up to speed rapidly on a technology type (i.e. CRM), its major players and vendors.
Now defunct, [Context] used to be published bimonthly by DiamondCluster, which has happily made all articles available on-line. [Context] offers several insightful articles and is definitely worth the read. It is more comparable to Strategy & Business and HBR than to the "magazines" listed here, although the focus is more deliberately on technology and new economy than either of the two. Not as dry as HBR can be. Can be quite philosophical as well, a breath of fresh air!
The Economist==> http://www.economist.com
First published in 1843, The Economist thinks of itself as a global newspaper, as the information is topical. Its focus is evenly balanced between micro- and macro-economics, clearly global and doesn't neglect politics. Perhaps most relevant to the researcher, however, is its Economist Intelligence Unit sister. The EIU conducts in-depth research on myriad topics, and this research is evident in The Economist's famous surveys. The business model is very useful: for $69 yearly, you gain access to all articles and archives, including surveys. The surveys are of industries, countries and technologies, and the point of view includes solid macroeconomic insights that are imminently readable.
Fast Company==> http://www.fastcompany.com
Targets startups ("fast companies"). Good coverage of VCs, managing startups and all around new economy issues (although they're one of the fattest books, which doesn't help the reader, it's a veritable catalog and *not* portable). Definitely catch their annual "Who's fast" issues in which they describe leaders and visionaries. FC also has a focus on "the people of the revolution," and it has a consistent "free agent" theme, and they have a real community concept, with group meetings in major cities and, of course, on-line communities.
Harvard Business Review==> http://www.hbsp.harvard.edu
A classic, to say the least. Excellent, searchable database of articles on business strategy topics regarding industry forces, major players within industries, international issues and technology through the eyes of business strategists. Very relevant and necessary to understand the deeper business issues. One of its best features is the business model: no membership or subscription necessary; you can download pdfs of most articles for $6 a shot. I have one gripe with them, though: subscribers to the print edition still have to pay!
The Industry Standard==> http://www.thestandard.com
Of course, this is dead now, and when it died in September 2001, it was one of those moments in which I realized that "it was really over." I'm not sure, but I think The Standard was the first "Internet newsmagazine," and it does a great job at Internet news. Also, don't overlook The Grok, a pullout magazine that The Standard billed as "special reports on the Internet economy" (thestandard.com/grok). Thankfully, the archives are up, so there's still extensive information that's very valuable; good search engine, too.
Line 56==> http://www.line56.com
Does a solid job of covering B2B and exchanges. It will give you a solid background of the technology and business players and trends in B2B. It's focused, the articles tend to be longer but not too dense, and it's a managable size to tuck in your briefcase. One of the ones I really read!
Mckinsey Quarterly==> http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com
Mckinsey's vaunted journal on-line, which offers several newsletters and access to nominal content. Excellent for in-depth analytical articles on companies, industries, globalization and business forces by the people who advise global enterprises. Some of the content is free, however, you'll soon discover that you'll need to upgrade to premier level for $150 yearly, after which you'll be able to search articles back to 1992.
The Red Herring==> http://www.redherring.com
The Herring has been around, and it has the corner on the "business creation" element of the "new economy." You'll find the best coverage of how technology companies are created and how they grow, as well as the players involved such as VCs, attorneys and PR agencies. Definitely read the Herring for the investment, funding and business creation side of things.
Strategy & Business==> http://www.strategy-business.com
Published by Booz Allen, it's not quite as dense as HBR, but offers at least 3/4 excellent articles every quarter. Free searchable articles that are in the same league as HBR's and Mckinsey's.
I have to admit, when Wired was bought by Condé Nast, I shuddered, and I still don´t know how it will survive in the long run. It was one of the first rags, around way before "new economy" was coined, and many of the others were modeled after it. I am pleased to say that it is in top form so far. I like to read Wired for the cultural aspect of the web, for thought provoking content and for a philosophical point of view. One cover, in April 2000, was " Why the Future Doesn´t Need Us" (written by Bill Joy, no less), which spoke about why machines can/will replace us. The great thing about it was that it was no sci-fi story; it was very realistic, from the heart and very matter of fact.