Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Whole New Mind: From The Information Age to the Conceptual Age

Daniel Pink's latest book seems to be out in both paperback and hardcover with slightly different titles. The hardcover version is A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. The paperback version is a tad more recent and has a more sensationalistic title: A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers will Rule the Future. The best place to go to learn more information about the book is Dan Pink's website (and blog).
From what I can tell, much of what Pink concludes is a result of the same sort of things that Thomas Friedman (The World is Flat) and Peter Fingar (Extreme Competition) and John Hagel and John Seely Brown (The Only Sustainable Edge) discuss in their respective books:

In the new "flattened world" of Globalization 3.0 the only way to get ahead and stay ahead is to innovate faster than your competition. And the keys to rapid business innovation are to "connect and collaborate!"
So those who have the skills to see the big picture, connect with others, effect collaborative synergy, foster creativity and innovation (or innovate and be creative) are the skills that will be in highest demand (and commanding the "cushiest" employment arrangements.

Pink claims we are in the process of moving from the Information Age, where we have access to, are driven by, and overloaded with hoards of information vying for our attention, into the Conceptual Age where we put it all together and figure out what it means in the smaller and larger context of our lives and our interconnected personal and professional networks. The essential skills needed to survive and thrive in the Conceptual Age are: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play and Meaning. The book then describes in more detail what those are and how we can try to develop and hone them for ourselves.

An excerpt from 800ceoread.com summarizes the book:
A Whole New Mind looks at the right brain/left brain differences and shows how those historical issues are radically changing. As I learned during a weekend in Vermont with Tom Peters, Dan Pink also believes that: "The MFA is the new MBA." Pink points out that design and traditional "right brain" thinking will be the course of the future. The first part of the book gives a primer on how the brain works with great stories from Pink on how his brain was scanned and stimulated and how the different parts of his brain responded. He then goes into pages and pages of supporting stories and examples from his extensive research. Excellent reading!

Pink states that we are entering the Conceptual Age and to prepare for it we need to improve six essential abilities. They are: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play and Meaning. These abilities are the chapter heading for the final six chapters. At the end of each of the chapters, Pink has a Portfolio which is a combination of tools, exercises, and further reading culled from his research and travels that can help you sharpen each sense.
If that piques your mind for more of Pink's "Whole New Mind," here is an excerpt from the Introduction to the book:
The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind – computer programmers who could crank code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBAs who could crunch numbers. But the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind – creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning makers. These people – artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers – will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys.

This book describes a seismic – though as yet undetected – shift now underway in much of the advanced world. We are moving from an economy and a society built on the logical, linear, computer-like capabilities of the Information Age to an economy and a society built on the inventive, empathic, big picture capabilities of what’s rising in its place, the Conceptual Age. A Whole New Mind is for anyone who wants to survive and thrive in this emerging world – people uneasy in their careers and dissatisfied with their lives, entrepreneurs and business leaders eager to stay ahead of the next wave, parents who want to equip their children for the future, and the legions of emotionally astute and creatively adroit people whose distinctive abilities the Information Age has often overlooked and undervalued.

In this book, you will learn the six essential aptitudes — what I call “the six senses”—on which professional success and personal satisfaction increasingly will depend. Design. Story. Symphony. Empathy. Play. Meaning. These are fundamentally human aptitudes that everyone can master—and helping you do that is my goal.


A change of such magnitude is complex. But the argument at the heart of this book is simple. For nearly a century, western society in general, and American society in particular, has been dominated by a form of thinking and an approach to life that is narrowly reductive and deeply analytical. Ours has been the age of the “knowledge worker,” the well-educated manipulator of information and deployer of expertise. But that is changing. Thanks to an array of forces—material abundance that is deepening our nonmaterial yearnings, globalization that is shipping white-collar work overseas, and powerful technologies that are eliminating certain kinds of work altogether—we are entering a new age. It is an age animated by a different form of thinking and a new approach to life—one that prizes aptitudes that I call “high concept” and “high touch.” High concept involves the capacity to detect patterns and opportunities, to create artistic and emotional beauty, to craft a satisfying narrative, and to combine seemingly unrelated ideas into something new. High touch involves the ability to empathize with others, to understand the subtleties of human interaction, to find joy in one’s self and to elicit it in others, and to stretch beyond the quotidian in pursuit of purpose and meaning.

As it happens, there’s a convenient metaphor that encapsulates the change I’m describing—and it’s right inside your head. Your brain is divided into two hemispheres. The left hemisphere is sequential, textual, and analytical. The right hemisphere is simultaneous, contextual, and synthetic. Of course, we enlist both halves of our brains for even the simplest tasks. And the respective traits of the two hemispheres have often been caricatured well beyond what the science actually reveals. But the legitimate scientific differences between the two hemispheres of the brain do yield a powerful metaphor for interpreting our present and guiding our future. Today, the defining skills of the previous era—the metaphorically “left brain” capabilities that powered the Information Age—are necessary but no longer sufficient. And the capabilities we once disdained or thought frivolous—the metaphorically “right brain” qualities of inventiveness, empathy, joyfulness, and meaning—increasingly will determine who flourishes and who flounders. For individuals, families, and organizations, professional success and personal fulfillment now require a whole new mind.

I wonder if I'm one of those "Right-Brainers" or not. Alas, I am right handed -- tho I swing a baseball bat, tennis racquet, and golf-club with a lefty grip. Of course one can have and/or hone these skills regardless of one's "handedness." My Meyers-Briggs type indicator is INTP. That is allegedly the "innate architect" type: Architects are highly analytical, but also somewhat artistic (i.e. creative) and need to see the bigger picture and how it all connects together; they can also narrow their focus too much on the "worlds of the mind" that they strive to create. If it helps any, I used to be a dancer in a previous life (my Mom was a dance teacher and I was classically trained since the age of 4 in modern, ballet, jazz, and several other forms of dance).

Perhaps there is yet hope for my future! All indications thus far are that my four-year-old daughter and two-year-old son are left-handed. :-)

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Only Sustainable Edge

The Only Sustainable Edge: Why Business Strategy Depend on Productive Friction and Dynamic Specialization, by John Hagel III (former senior advisor at McKinsey & Company) and John Seely Brown (former Chief Scientist at Xerox Corp.) is a book that builds on the conclusion of Peter Fingar's Extreme Competition. Like Fingar, Hagel and Seely Brown draw the same conclusions about the "flattened world" described in books by Thomas Friedman (The World is Flat), Barry Lynn (End of the Line), and Clyde Prestowitz (Three Billion New Capitalists) . . .

The new flattened world means that the only way to get and stay competitive is to continuously innovate at a pace that your competition cannot match, and utilize technology to that end. But where Fingar delves deply into the drivers and forces and forward looking solutions, The Only Sustainable Edge focuses on the process of how to achieve such continuous fast-paced innovation and what is necessary to create and sustain it.

From the book's website at www.edgeperspectives.com, the following areas are covered:
  • Developing New Business Strategies: Traditional approaches to strategy are broken and what must be done going forward
  • Understanding China and India: Contrary to popular perception, China and India are emerging as global centers of management innovation
  • Competing in a Flat World: As Tom Friedman suggests, the world is flattening, but companies can use pragmatic approaches to create powerful new sources of strategic advantage
  • Finding Innovation on the Edge: In pursuing innovation, shift attention from the core to the edge - the edges of business processes, the edges of enterprises, the edges of emerging economies and the edges of new generations of tech savvy consumers and workers
  • IT Matters More than Ever: New generations of technology are converging to create even more powerful sources of innovation and strategic advantage
  • Reassessing Public Policy: Public policy can amplify or undermine business strategies - business leaders must become catalysts for public policy change
The thesis of the book is that effective business strategy "depends on productive friction and dynamic specialization." They write of "the core" versus "the edge":
First, we mean the edge of the enterprise, where one company interfaces or interacts with another economic entity and where it currently generates marginal revenues rather than the core of its profits.

Second, the edge refers to the boundaries of mature markets as well as industries, where they may overlap, collapse, or converge...

[Third], geographic edges, especially those of such emerging economies as China and India, where consumers of all kinds crave Western goods and services that will ease their burdens and improve their lives.

Finally, we refer to the edges between generations, where younger consumers and employees, shaped by pervasive information technology, are learning, consuming, and collaborating with each other and where baby boomers are preparing to retire or switch careers over the next decade.
The authors focus on three strategic imperatives in order to build and sustain this strategic competitive advantage: dynamic specialization, connectivity and coordination, and leveraged capability building. Some key excerpts from reviewer comments at Amazon.com:

Fred G. Sanford:
Hagel and Brown are two well pedigreed authors, and they attempt to explain their view on what is the next frontier in corporate strategy. The answer is that value of the firm lies not inside the firm but at its edge. The edge is a broad metaphor for geography (India, China and Brazil), maturity (old econ and new economy), physical edge (inside the firm as well the partners outside). The key insights from this book are:
  • Two types of forces have converged to squeeze margins -Informational technology, and Public policy shifts. Try telling this to the 500,000 people who have lost their jobs in the valley.
  • Three key elements of the new model for business strategy are:
    1. Reconceive sources of strategic advantages by accelerated capability building across boundaries. This implies - Dynamic specialization, Connection and Coordination of 3rd parties and Leveraged capability building. Elaborated using the Li & Fung, Hong Kong retailer example.
    2. Master new mechanisms to build advantages - This implies focusing on efficiency as well as effectiveness, process outsourcing and offshoring, loose coupling of extended business processes and production friction
    3. Adopt new approaches for developing strategy
  • Given this framework, conduct a diagnostic that inventories the key initiatives for the last 12 months, as well as the proposed initiatives for the next 5 years. At the end of this diagnostic, you should be able to identify what activities you can offshore and outsource and therefore you can dynamically specialize.
  • Process networks are predicated on loose coupling of processes and Productive friction. Productive friction can be decomposed into four factors, Performance Metrics, People, Prototypes, and Pattern Recognition.
  • Process networks are enabled by performance fabrics and IT is critical in achieving a solid performance fabric. Web services is critical in implementing this new fabric.
Laurence Stybel:
The current fad is to talk about business models organized along industry lines. The authors argue that industry focus is insufficient for a proper conversation about strategy. Within that industry-focused model, there needs to be a second strategic focus. They see this new strategic focus along three dimensions:
  1. Infrastructure Management. Financial services, pharmaceuticals, and the computer industry are already structured in significant ways along these lines. State Street Corporation is an example of a company that services the financial services industry but its value clearly revolves around infrastructure management. UPS revolves around infrastructure management of logistics. An infrastructure management theme works well for relatively routine, high volume business activities.
  2. Product Innovation. Specialized biotech companies are taking on more of R&D activities so that large pharmaceutical companies can focus on scale intensive manufacturing and distribution. There are specialty design shops that serve the fashion industry. There are specialty semiconductor design shops that serve the electronics industry.
  3. Customer Relationship. These firms concentrate on identifying target customer segments, getting to know that segment very well, and using its resources to mobilize third party products and services to address the needs of their customers. Physicians who practice general medicine, financial planners, real estate agents, and attorneys all provide this framework. Accenture is a company with this type of framework.
Emily Levine:
Dynamic Specialization:
The pre-globalized world world was divided into what Isaiah Berlin called "hedgehogs" - generalists, who know a little about a lot of things; and "foxes" - specialists, who know a lot about one thing. In a globalized world, the specialist is neither fox nor hedgehog: the specialist must know a lot about one thing...and how it works in many, many different contexts. To grok the specialist as a boundary-crosser, moving laterally across a broad spectrum, is also to understand the shift from a vertical to a horizontal focus (what Thomas Friedman calls "flattening"). Likewise, the transcendence of the fox/hedgehog paradigm suggests that oppositional constructs themselves may be passé. Indeed, throughout the book, the authors look to maintain the tension between opposites rather than resolve the tension either one way or the other. (Thus, unlike the early enthusiasts of chaos theory, who replaced "things" with "flow", Hagel and JSB have a healthy respect for both.)

Performance Fabric:
Pre-globalization, growth was measured size and/or efficiency. In a globalized world, growth is measured by complexity. You grow by deepening and broadening your connections, forming new partnerships, entering into new collaborations, growing one's skills across many more contexts. That tapestry of connections is what Hagel and JSB call "a performance fabric". I'd be tempted to say that the richer the tapestry, the richer the company and its shareholders, but now I'm thinking "tapestry" doesn't do justice to the elasticity of the performance fabric. Perhaps "trampoline" would be better - it gives you that added bounce you need to vault into a higher stratosphere, a higher level of complexity. (Perhaps it could be said that in a globalized world, companies have to grow up.)

Productive Friction:
Pre-globalization, boundaries were thought to be hard and fast, built like moats around a castle to protect one's enterprise against competitors, predators (or pirates) and/or regulatory bodies. In a globalized world, boundaries are points of connections as well as separation. Companies and individuals have to collaborate with competitors. Those working in and with countries that have different ideas of property and the boundaries we create to protect property, need to negotiate boundaries rather than impose them. Rubbing up against each other in this way creates friction, but, as anyone who's ever watched "Survivor" knows, rubbing two sticks together produces fire. Likewise, productive friction sparks new ideas and new solutions.

Next, I will look at a
Whole New Mind, by Dan Pink (also see Dan Pink's blog)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Coming IT Flip-Flop

As a follow-up to my previous blog-entry about Peter Fingar's book Extreme Competition, a related article by Fingar called "The Coming IT Flip-Flop" (also available in a BPM Trends article) builds on the same trend, and talks of the increasing need for Human Interaction Management, and tools that try to facilitate that INSTEAD of trying to do more workflow/process automation (see related book of the same name). Some relevant excerpts:
It won't be just the satellite/fiber networks that drive the continued globalization of highly skilled white-collar workers, it will be the ability to create virtual work spaces where far flung teams can work together in real time. As globalization continues, the demand for a new generation of technology support for work accomplished by geographically dispersed teams becomes clear.
. . .
And the answer isn't workflow... Such capabilities are needed to help a company put it's "house in order" with application integration. But they don't directly support the way people actually accomplish their work.

What's needed is dedicated support for dynamic human-to-human interactions that cannot be preordained or pre-programmed the way system-to-system interactions are. Further, it's the human-driven business processes that are the very heart of business process management and project management. A New Category of Business Technology.
. . .
The Old IT applied automation to information; the New IT applies automation to relationships. The Old IT was about keeping records and transmitting data; the New IT is about "connecting and collaborating" to get work done--now that productivity doesn't require proximity.
. . .
It's not enough to organize human activities around information; it must be organized around the work itself. In the Industrial Age, human activities were organized around the assembly line; and in the Information Age, human activities are organized around information (the raison d'etre for functional management). In the emerging Process Age, where a company's business processes are key to effectiveness, it's now time to organize human activities around the work itself. That means fusing traditional collaboration and information tools and extending them with a complete theory of human work iif we are to build systems that can support the way people actually work, versus treating them as cogs in an information machine.
. . .
Xerox's former Chief Scientist John Seely Brown, is correct: "Processes don't do work, people do."
These are subjects near and dear to agility (supporting "people and interactions over processes and tools").

I'll talk about a recent book from John Seely Brown and John Hagel in my next blog-entry.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Extreme Competition: Innovation And the Great 21st Century Business Reformation

For a "hot off the presses" view of what one of the experts in the BPM and IT communities thinks about how the new "flattened" global economy will impact our industry, take a look at Peter Fingar's recent book "Extreme Competiton: Innovation and the Great 21st Century Business Reformation" (see the provocatively illustrated Executive Summary).

When Peter Fingar spoke at the October 2005 ABPMP meeting (which was hosted at the Galvin Center) he described his new book as trying to be a "wake-up call" for the US. With the new global economy, the US will no longer be at the head of the pack in the new knowledge economy of knowledge workers and the continuing dearth of interest in the US among younger folks to go into the software/knowledge engineering field will quickly put the US economy behind the pack.

This book tries to explain what the effects of Friedman's "flattened global economy" mean for our industry and how that all adds up to extreme competition and innovation engineering, with extreme globalization and extreme mass-supply chains making it possible for even the small shops to compete, and (from Clyde Prestowitz' book) the three billion new capitalists from the emerging markets in China, India and the former Soviet Union ready to take advantage of them.
So, what strikes fear in the hearts of business leaders these days? Globalization and Commoditization. We are not on the brink of a new world economic order, we've already cross that threshhold.
Fingar predicts that even what we today call innovation and "agility" won't be enough -- we'll need the "second derivative" of that, which is being able to quickly respond to change by continuously innovating and reinventing ourselves and our business processes (think of "extreme refactoring" and "continuous integration" but of an entire enterprise's business processes and supporting technology infrastructure).

We will need to focus on extreme collaboration and enabling human interaction in the customer experience as we involve the customer in our efforts. Tools and technologies to both involve/enable our customers and to enable our businesses will need to provide advanced and innovative human interaction management in order to allow us to globally and adaptively collaborate with agile responsiveness. In the era of the "always on, wired world", how can companies compete?
Operational innovation-where you forge new relationships across to globe to form extreme supply chains, pursue extreme innovation and collaborate with extreme specialists-is the next true source of competitive advantage.
. . .
Innovation is the new "holy grail" of business because with the whole world now a source of supply, your company must innovate to avoid becoming a commodity player that cannot make margins.
Fingar uses "connect and collaborate" as the catch phrase for how this new operational innovation will be accomplished. Being innovative isnt enough. To compete and dominate, you have to set the pace of innovation, and and connect and collaborate with such operational efficacy that your competitors simply cannot keep up with the pace of your "continuous innovation."
Then there is that matter of the scarcest resource, the most valuable resource--time. If you want to succeed today, you must become a time-based competitor. ... Being a time-based competitor allows you to earn solid margins be being responsive to your customers. Customers love responsiveness and, in turn, will reward you with loyalty and increased business. Being a time-based competitor allows you to be first-to-market where you earn the greatest premiums, and allows you to set the pace of innovations in your industry.
Fingar also notes that the kinds of innovations needed will be more service-focused rather than product-focused, centered on how you operate, how you deliver services to your customer, to create a "customer experience", and how you empower your customer with information to be "in control" of the whole process to demand what they want when, and at what price.

I'll be blogging more next month on various aspects of this book and some of the strong tie-ins to CM and Agility.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Three Billion New Capitalists: The Great Shift of Wealth and Power to the East

Next up on my continuing theme of globalization and collaboration is Clyde Prestowitz' book Three Billion New Capitalists: The Great Shift of Wealth and Power to the East...

Peter Fingar, in his book Extreme Competition refers to Prestowitz' book quite a bit. I haven't read Prestowitz' book myself, but from reading about from others and seeing the reviews of it on Amazon.com, I think one can get the basic idea. Some quotes there of interest ...

From Publisher's Weekly:
While China and India focus on trade and industrial policies and turn out competent workers who put in long hours at a fraction of American wages, the U.S., Preston argues, struggles with crushing trade and budget deficits, a zero savings rate, failing schools, dwindling investments in scientific training and research, a collapsing dollar and a debt-dependent economy that will face an "economic 9/11" once foreign creditors bail out... and argues cogently that the research and development apparatus and high-tech entrepreneurship that is supposed to save America's economy is likely instead to follow the manufacturing base offshore. It's a lucid and sobering forecast.
From BookList's Mary Whaley:
Prestowitz, economic trend-spotter, reports, "Over the past two decades . . . China, India and the former Soviet Union all decided to leave their respective socialist workers paradise and drive their 3 billion citizens along the once despised capitalist road." These new capitalists symbolize the threats to end 600 years of Western economic domination as America's lead role in invention and technological innovation lessens and the Internet allows jobs to be performed anywhere. The author foresees the possibility of an "economic 9/11," which won't kill but will cause great hardship. To prevent what he sees as an accident waiting to happen, Prestowitz offers a wide range of solutions relating to the dollar's role in today's global marketplace, addressing the reality that Americans consume too much and Asians save too much, and facing energy challenges in the U.S and problems confronting our educational system. The author offers valuable insight into these important topics currently being debated in government and corporate circles.
From Robert D. Steele:
His most important point is made in one line: America does not have a strategy. America does not have a strategy for winning the global war on terror, it does not have an energy strategy, it does not have an education strategy, it does not have an economic or competitiveness strategy. The government is being run on assertion and ideology rather than evidence and thought--a media cartoon has captured the situation perfectly: as the VP tells the President that we are "turning the corner" the two walls behind them are labeled Incompetence and Fantasy. As a moderate Republican and a trained intelligence professional with two books on the latter topic, I have to say that this book by this author, a Reaganite businessman and senior appointee in the Department of Commerce is right on target. We *are* out of touch with reality, and we do not appreciate, at any level from White House to School House, the tsunami that is about to hit us.

The author makes two important points early on in the books: first, that information is the currency of this age, replacing money, labor, and physical resources; and second, that the best innovation comes from the right mix of sound education across the board, heavy investment in research & development, and a co-located manufacturing bases that can tinker with R&D and have a back and forth effect. America lacks all three of the latter, and is not yet serious about investing in global coverage of all languages, 24/7.
The book goes into a lot more depth and detail about the Asian culture and economy, and chapter 12 has the author's list of recommendations for what the US needs to do (Steele says chapter 12 alone worth the price of the book).

This indeed seems to be an interesting book, and an interesting lead-in to the one I'll discuss next, Peter Fingar's Extreme Competition, which is another sort of call to arms for the business and software industries, and gives even more emphasis to collaboration and human interaction management.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

End of the Line: The Rise and Coming Fall of the Global Corporation

Continuing the theme of globalization started in the previous blog-entry on Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat and how the internet & wireless technologies + mass accessibility gives us the 5th dimension that transcends time & space to give us the "virtual inverse of teleportation" ...

Barry Lynn's End of the Line : The Rise and Coming Fall of the Global Corporation picks up where Friedman left off and goes into more depth. He takes a somewhat alarmist view. He argues that with all this extra social and technical connectivity comes greater and more thoroughly enmeshed dependencies of businesses and economies upon increasingly more fragile and rigid "weak links" and little or no sufficient security (both in terms of computer security, and financial and economic security).

One example, an 1999 earthquake in Taiwan that registered 7.6 on the Richter scale and had a death toll of 2,400 was barely known to most Americans. But it "took out" two of Xilinx's semiconductor factories, and within days thousands of assembly-line workers located from California to Texas, were temporarily laid off. Wall street responded and shares of computer-makers like Dell, HP and Apple took a downward spike, and by Christmas "American shoppers were scurrying to avoid the shortages of laptop computers, Barbie cash registers and Furby dolls." (quoted from a reviewer at Amazon.com)

Lynn writes: "We must never forget that the germ of our global economy was the desire of the postwar governments to foster peace by forging cooperation."

He talks about transnational partnerships as a way of bolstering national security, and talks about supply chains, single-source risk, and logistics. In many ways it is about risk management (and its associated dependencies) and what that means in the flattened world of such delicate social and technical dependency networks, and how forging partnerships and collaboration helps safeguard against security threats.

The collaboration and trustworthiness themes should ring a familiar tune with many agilists, as should risk management. The dependency network being dealt with here is not the architectural dependencies of a software system design, but the sociotechnical network dependencies and economic risks. And diversity, single-sourced (localized/encapsulated) risks, redundant failover, and other strategies can be used.

I think he's basically saying that the flattened connected world economy is a complex adaptive system that exhibits emergent behavior to create unexpected order out of unanticipated chaos (and vice-versa). It's not as optimistic as Friedman's work and paints a lot of scary scenarios.

I have an even scarier one that's been occurring to me while reading all of these works: Bird Flu Pandemic. It doesn't even have to happen. It just has to be feared enough of being imminent enough soon enough that enough people start eschewing real human contact and interaction within any close physical proximity.

What will we do to stay connected? We'll resort to technology in place of the "human touch" and face-to-face communication. We'll be reclusive, stay within our homes. Wear gloves and masks when we have to go outside, do more online shopping (especially delivery) with extra safety and sanitation precautions on the part of ourselves and delivery persons, well ... you get the picture.

Talk about being able to spread damage instantly across a wide "social" network in a busy, bustling flattened world ... even when/if we do have a vaccine, we cant produce and distribute it fast enough at high-enough volume. Now if it were software or some form of nano-bio-technology, we could distribute it digitally and wirelessly some how. But that's a bit of a pipe-dream.

Or is it? How do you fight a virus that deadly that quickly? Seems to me something that spreads so fast like that ... one would have to "fight fire with fire." I'm no medical professional, so I have no idea if it's possible, but what if we could somehow make a "good virus" that was highly "contagious" and could be transmitted upon contact or close proximity. Maybe it could mutate bird-flu into something harmless, or less harmful (without mutating again). But it seems to me the only hope of being able to produce and distribute something of the scale necessary to combat bird-flu would be something that can be (re)generated and (re)transmitted much the same way as the thing it's trying to combat.

What might be an "agile" approach for something like that, that could rely upon collaboration and cooperative development?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The World is 5-Dimensional: Globalization and Teleportation

This will be the first of several blog posts on the subject of globalization and my thoughts on what it portends for CM and Agility ...

For those of us who haven't read Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat, here are a few resources to familiarize yourself with the basic gist of the material in short-order time:The book is about globalization and how technology (and other "levelers") have "leveled the playing field" for so many others in (formerly) thirld-world countries to compete with "the big boys."

I think the book is, in part, saying that mass availability of technologies like the internet and Wireless connectivity, have provided us with the "inverse" of teleportation. The mass availability and accessibility of the internet and its pervasiveness into the everyday life of businesses and individuals is essentially the virtual inverse of teleportation: instead of being able to send ourselves anywhere, instantly, we have the ability to virtually summon anything from anywhere to wherever we are!

Okay, so we've only be able to do that digitally, with the mass commoditization of the internet and wireless technologies. We can do it with information and data, but not physical objects. But we can still connect with people anywhere instantly!

In terms of business, the world is "flat", but in terms of technology, we're basically saying The World is now 5-Dimensional!

The traditional 4 dimensions are the three spatial dimensions (height/length, width, depth) , and time. Friedman is saying that these "flatteners" have occured. Of course the world isnt really flat (we know it's round), but what I perceive him to be saying is that a new "dimension" has emerged that now allows us to come pretty darn close to bypassing the traditional constraints of time and space.

This 5th dimension is technology plus mass accessibility! Each of the "flatteners" Friedman describes is a form of technology that allows information, communication, and collaboration to transcend the traditonal time-and-space boundaries of the physical world. And the internet (the "virtual world") is a big part of that 5th dimension. But we did't make it to that 5th dimension right away. It wasnt until everyone and their mother in this country, and all the other countries we economically compete and partner with, had access to that technology (and used it!)

Friedman calls this Globalization 3.0. Whereas Globalization 2.0 was centered around business, the increased pervasiveness of the internet into daily lives and gadgets gas created Globalization 3.0, which centers around individuals. I wonder if globalization 4.0 might be achieved when we finally perfect virtual teleportation and have the ability to project our own virtual presence (not just a "holographic image" but many of our our five senses) to interact with that of others. (That sounds a little too much like the Matrix for my taste.)

Here some interesting reviews and commentary on Friedman's book:Over the coming weeks, I'll be musing more on what this might mean for the future of CM and Agility, and I'll be commenting on several related books on the topic: