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 CEOs 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, CEOs look to consultants and marketers to rethink, rebrand, 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.
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Douglas Rushkoff is the author of 10 bestselling books on media and culture, including Cyberia, Media Virus!, Playing the Future, Coercion: Why We Listen to What "They" Say, and the novels Ecstasy Club and Exit Strategy.From Publishers Weekly:
By touting the value of thinking "outside the box," business experts have inspired an obsession with growth, competition and offbeat concepts, says Rushkoff (Cyberia; Coercion; etc.). In fact, he insists, the secret of success lies inside the box; businesses that focus on their core competencies, their customers' needs and their work environment come up with better innovations in the long run than those that rely on flashy ad campaigns, focus groups or off-site consultants. Smart businesses, he argues, hire employees who are deeply familiar with the company's core products and encourage innovation by cultivating a fun, collaborative work environment. Rushkoff's premise is solid, and he supports it with several convincing examples (Craig's List, XM radio and Saturn among them). In his effort to shuck the traditional case study model of business writing, however, Rushkoff often digresses into long passages of glib historical analogy. He's more entertaining, and more convincing, in the sections where he focuses on particular businesses and business people. Fortunately, there are enough of those sections to please Rushkoff's many fans. (Dec.)
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