On a landscape that seems to be transforming itself with every new technology, marketing tactic, or investment strategy, businesses rush to embrace change by trading in their competencies or shifting their focus, altogether. All in the name of innovation.
But this endless worrying, wriggling, and trend-watching only alienates companies from whatever it is they really do best. In the midst of the headlong rush to think “outside the box,” the full engagement responsible for true innovation is lost. New consultants, new packaging, new marketing schemes or even new CEO’s are no substitute for the evolution of our own expertise, as individuals and as businesses.
Indeed, for all their talk about innovation, most companies today are still scared to death of it.
To Douglas Rushkoff, this disconnect is not only predictable, but welcome. It marks the happy end of a business cycle that began as long ago as the Renaissance, and ended with the renaissance in creativity and collaboration we’re going through today.
The age of mass production, mass media, and mass marketing may be over, but so, too, is the alienation it engendered between producers and consumers, managers and employees, executives and shareholders and, worst of all, businesses and their own core values and competencies.
American enterprise, in particular, is at a crossroads. Having for too long replaced innovation with acquisitions, tactics, efficiencies, and ad campaigns, many businesses have dangerously lost touch with the process – and fun – of discovery.
“American companies are obsessed with window dressing,” Rushkoff writes, “because they’re reluctant, no, afraid to look at whatever it is they really do and evaluate it from the inside out. When things are down, CEO’s look to consultants and marketers to rethink, re-brand or repackage whatever it is they are selling, when they should be getting back on the factory floor, into the stores, or out to the research labs where their product is actually made, sold, or conceived.”
Rushkoff backs up his arguments with a myriad of intriguing historical examples as well as familiar gut checks – from the dumbwaiter and open source to Volkswagen and The Gap – in this accessible, thought-provoking, and immediately applicable set of insights. Here’s all the help innovators of this era need to reconnect with their own core competencies as well as the passion fueling them.
“Rushkoff is damn smart. Most business books try to scare you into adopting lessons from other companies. His teaches you how to improve your core business from the inside. As someone who understood the digital revolution faster and better than almost anyone, he shows how the internet is a social transformer that should change the way your business culture operates.”
“Is fun the key to business success? Why compete for scarce resources when you can cooperate to make them abundant instead of scarce? What lies beyond “us” versus “them,” and how do you get there? Rushkoff asks the questions consultants and their clients never dare ask — and provides hundreds of real-world examples of how people and businesses have answered them creatively, passionately, collaboratively, playfully, and successfully.”