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Blur: The Speed of Change in the Connected Economy


In the new connected global economy, two experts offer a dynamic and insightful blueprint for conducting business and reveal who today's hottest innovators are and what tomorrow's winners will need.

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In the new connected global economy, two experts offer a dynamic and insightful blueprint for conducting business and reveal who today's hottest innovators are and what tomorrow's winners will need.

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Editorial Reviews

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The Barnes & Noble Review
Speed. Intangibles. Connectivity. As these three forces converge, every dimension of business behavior is being challenged to its core. If you think that business can be sustained by the old rules of mass production, segmented pricing, and stable organizations, you need to think again.

Welcome to the new economy, in which the rate of change is so fast, it's only a blur; in which the clear lines distinguishing buyer from seller, product from service, employee from entrepreneur are disappearing. To profit from these revolutionary patterns of business, you need a dynamic guide to the new economy. You need Blur.

In this groundbreaking book, Stan Davis and Christopher Meyer deliver more than a guided tour of these momentous shifts. They offer readers a working model to illustrate and help them benefit from the new rules of the connected economy, in which advantage is temporary and nothing is fixed in time or space. Showcasing the practices of dozens of enterprises exploring the new frontiers of business, from online merchants to DreamWorks SKG to MBNA America, Davis and Meyer build a new framework for delivering and capturing value, evaluating success, developing strategy, and managing organizations in an economic world no longer regulated by static measures of supply and demand.

Blur provides a lens for bringing into focus the emerging economic landscape — a world in which change is constant; knowledge and imagination are more valuable than physical capital; products and services are blended as "offers"; transactions give way to "exchanges"; and physical marketstakeon the characteristics of financial markets. This world rewards those who buck convention, like MCI, which has reorganized every six months to release creativity, or David Bowie, who has sold options on his future earnings as an artist. Adaptability is paramount, as more companies build permeable networks of business relationships with suppliers, distributors, employees, and even competitors, and individuals become "free agents," contracting their services to the highest bidders.

Blur challenges you to question every assumption you hold about how business is conducted and encourages you to experiment at the edges of business. Blur outlines nothing less than a revolution in business and consumer culture. Will you watch on the sidelines as the innovators overtake you, or are you ready to start discovering and playing by the rules of Blur?

Kirkus Reviews
A feel-good guide to doing business in the post-industrial age. A new economy is emerging, say the authors, every bit as world-changing as that created by the Industrial Revolution, and they call this new economy BLUR. Itþs characterized by Speed, Intangibles, and Connectivity. Speed is the shrinkage of time through near-instantaneous communication and computation. Connectivity is the shrinkage of space with the advent of the Web, E-mail, beepers, and other media of communication. Intangibles are values without mass, most importantly knowledge and its mobility, made possible through Speed and Connectivity. Throw away your business economic texts, say Davis and Meyerþthe world of BLUR makes them obsolete. Companies prosper by not owning vast amounts of productive capacity. Nike, for instance, is a sort of Seinfeld of the business world, making nothing, but prospers by selling image and design. In the world of BLUR, work and home become one; consumers sell and sellers buy; workers become entrepreneurs selling their skills temporarily to the highest bidder and then moving on; competitors cooperate. The only certainty is uncertainty, but if economies, companies, and individuals embrace this uncertainty, and think creatively about and within it, they will prosper. The authors are on to something here; they've seemingly caught the Zeitgeist. Yet in their enthusiasm they may overstate just how BLURred (as they say) the economy actually is. Yes, Nike sells image, but somebody is making those expensive sneakers, and they are not to be heard from here. Consumers sell information back to producers, which they in turn use to improve what they sell, but does that fundamentally changepatterns of concentrated economic control? And while we can buy groceries over the Internet, how many people do? (The book is devoid of statistical or quantitative analysis.) As a guide to surviving in the new business world, this is most intriguing and entertaining. As a careful analysis of what's really going on, it falls short. (illustrations, not seen)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446675338
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 4/21/2008
  • Edition description: WARNER BK
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 284
  • Sales rank: 1,443,419
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Stan Davis, a well-known visionary business thinker, is the author of eight influential books, including the bestselling Future Perfect, recipient of Tom Peters’ “Book of the Decade” Award. Formerly on the faculty of Harvard Business School, Columbia University, and Boston University, he’s now an independent consultant and research fellow at Ernst & Young’s Center for Business Innovation in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Christopher Meyer, a leading business consultant and lecturer, is director of Ernst and Young’s Center for Business Innovation. With over twenty years’ experience in general management and economic consulting, he is an authority on the evolution of the information economy and its impact on business.

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Table of Contents

I Seeing the Blur
Ch. 1 Putting Blur in Focus 5
II The Blur of Desires
Ch. 2 The Offer 19
Ch. 3 The Exchange 51
III The Blur of Fulfillment
Ch. 4 The Economic Web 81
Ch. 5 The Organization Web 111
IV The Blur of Resources
Ch. 6 People 145
Ch. 7 Capital 175
V Living the Blur
Ch. 8 50 Ways to Blur Your Business and 10 Ways to Blur Yourself 213
Acknowledgments 247
Notes 249
Index 255
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Interviews & Essays

On Wednesday, April 15th, the live events Auditorium welcomed Christopher Meyer, who joined us to discuss BLUR. The business economy takes untraditional shapes and patterns in the new media era of fast change. We need all the direction we can get, and Christopher Meyer is here with answers.

Moderator: Welcome, Christopher Meyer. How does it feel to be online tonight? Are we part of the Blur?

Stan Davis: It's been an interesting day with one taped radio show, one live radio show with call-in, one TV show, part of which was taped for later release, and a lunch with a live audience, and now an online chat. So, the blur of connectivity seems complete.

Olli from Seattle, WA: When did you get the idea to write this book? I mean, it is almost impossible to ignore the dynamic your book describes, but how did you go about formulating a cohesive description of what you saw when it is changing so quickly?

Stan Davis: Great question. We started out to write about how the importance of knowledge in the economy today was changing the economy. We believe that the issue is not what has come to be called "knowledge management," but the idea of a business built on knowledge. That knowledge is what economists call a factor of production, like land, labor and capital. As we got into that discussion, we looked at the normal aspects of the business plan -- product, markets, strategy, structure, people, and capital, and we found that in each case, some of the boundaries that had helped us navigate were blurring into each other. So, products were no longer distinct from services, buyers from sellers, employees from entrepreneurs. One day, we were talking about these and said "What's the blur in this one," and we just looked at each other and said, "That's it! That's the book!" So, the book contains a chapter on what's driving the change -- Speed, Connectivity, and Intangibles -- and then six chapters on the standard subjects in a business plan and how they've been transformed. Finally, 50 ways to blur your business, and 10 ways to blur yourself.

Nevada from Phoenix, AZ: I am interested in getting my MBA in business, and I have just ordered your book. Do you think that the way business is taught will change dramatically in the next few years? How does one teach Blur? Is an MBA useless today?

Stan Davis: Dangerous. In the interest of full disclosure, you're listening to a Harvard MBA, so take the rest of this with a grain of salt. I think that the kind of sharp-penciled analytics taught in many business schools will have less importance to a career in business in the future. On the other hand, the skills required for adaptation -- such as the ability to decide based on imperfect information, or the social capacity to persuade the group, and above all, the experience of many situations that enables one to see patterns, will be crucial. I think this suggests an increase in case-based pedagogy, in field-based research, and a higher regard for the "soft" aspects of business than has been the case in the past 25 years. If the MBA that you get stresses these less analytical, more real-life aspects of business, then it should be valuable.

PJ Rawlingston from Oakland, CA: At what point -- or in what time period -- did the Blur described in your book begin? Is it due to the dawn of modern telecommunications? When would you say the blurring set in?

Stan Davis: Overall, we're probably in the first quarter of it. The story of how it starts is this -- where it's commonplace to say that we are in the middle of the Information Revolution, and parallel it with the Industrial Revolution, just as in the Industrial Revolution, we moved from a first stage powered by steam and moving on rails to a second stage powered by electricity and internal combustion, and moving on roads and in the air, we have moved from the crunching stage to the connecting stage of the Information Revolution. This means that we're getting away from the technology -- this means that the killer apps of spreadsheet, word-processing, and stand-alone crunching are being overshadowed by connecting applications like email, electronic data interchange, and of course the Internet. As everything gets connected to everything else, it drives the desire for speed. Now, when you read an ad in the magazine with an 800 number, you think that you will get a response whether it's two o'clock in the morning on a Sunday or not. This is even truer if it's a URL instead of an 800 number. So, connectivity has led to an expectation of speed. All these networks in turn make the delivery of intangible value much easier than in the past, relative to tangible products and services. That is, the utility of time and place provided by groceries through Peapod, or books through, is as valuable as the book itself. So, we call Speed, Intangibles, and Connectivity the trinity of the Blur, and the interaction of the three has taken off with the arrival online of millions of consumers through the Internet.

Ben B. from Bronx, NY: Do you think we will adapt on our own from exposure to the world and the new ways in which business is conducted, or do we need to take steps to change our perspective?

Stan Davis: There will be a spectrum of reactions from those who seize the Blur as an opportunity, and feel it naturally, to those who need to take conscious steps, to those who will resist these changes. An example of a change that we can all profitably make is to acknowledge that we should not expect the world to be stable. The metaphor for the industrial world was a clock. Not just business, but the universe was thought to operate by mechanical principles. But machines don't grow, and we expect our economy to grow. One of the changes we can make is to orient ourselves to systems that grow, that is the biosphere. If we can take a perspective that says that everything -- company and industry, even a theory -- has a life cycle, one that includes death, we will be better prepared to evolve ourselves in partnership with our surroundings. Among the 10 ways to blur yourself at the end of the book is "seek novelty forever." This is a way of saying, if you are not exposing yourself to new ideas, allowing old ideas to die, you will be overtaken by the Blur. There will be those who strongly resist this notion. They, too, represent a business opportunity, just as Web-TV has evolved to serve those who don't want to maintain their own computer system. Businesses will evolve that help those who don't want to change with this society to survive.

Ursula from Bangor, ME: I read on your web site that your book also provides 10 ways to blur yourself. How do people become blurred?

Stan Davis: Number 6 dictates that you let the market, not the company, determine your worth. This means that whether you are an employee or an entrepreneur, you are managing your own economic life. Imagine you got a call from a headhunter every day. This flow of information would give you a good sense of what the market for your services looked like. If your employer wants to attract and retain the best talent, it will imagine the same interest in you, and ensure that it, in turn, is making you the best offer so that it doesn't lose access to your capabilities. So, one of the things you can do to blur yourself is to acquire information about the opportunities available to you, and make sure your employer is aware of them. The net of this is that your employer is disciplined about making the most of your talents, and you will understand the options available to you. The really good news is that if this process proceeds, or becomes widespread, every one of us will end up with a better chance of doing just those things that we want to do and are best at.

Betsy K. Ackerman from Iowa City, IA: Your theorem, so to speak, in BLUR is Speed x Connectivity x Intangibles = Blur. Could you go into this in some depth? What are each of these factors?

Stan Davis: In 1987, Stan Davis wrote a book called FUTURE PERFECT, which included the following syllogism: The universe consists of time, space and mass; your business is part of the universe; ergo: your business is affected by the relationship between time, space and mass. Ten years ago, this was pretty abstract, but today, you can translate these: Time becomes the imperative to value speed over size; space becomes the imperative to overcome distance through connectivity; and mass becomes the decreasing importance of physical goods and services compared to their intangible value. An example: The General Motors OnStar System works this way -- if the air bag in your car deploys, a message is sent to OnStar telling it that the air bag has gone off, and because OnStar includes navigation systems tied to the global positioning satellites, wherever your car is OnStar calls your cell phone. If either you or your car are so banged up that you can't answer, OnStar sends an emergency vehicle. I like this example because it includes speed, by increasing the speed in response to your accident; connectivity, using the cell phone and the GPS system; and intangible value -- what you are paying for is not improved transportation but improved security and peace of mind. The value of the silicon and software in your automobile already dwarfs the value of the steel. The automobile has blurred from a highly tangible product into an offer that combines attributes of product and service. The next phase may be even stranger. There are 10 times as many microcontrollers embedded in our thermostats, appliances, electronic devices, and elsewhere, as there are microprocessors in PCs. When they add the third leg of the triangle of speed, intangibles, and connectivity by connecting, we will begin to live in a world that does our bidding without our asking or intervening, that senses, anticipate our needs, and that also gets into unforeseeable states causing nonlinear reactions, like the 1963 Northeast power blackout the result of interconnected circuit breakers or the 1987 stock market crash the result of interconnected trading instructions.

Vincent from Larchmont, NY: Mr. Meyer, How are valuable credentials earned in the world of new media -- or rather, what are valuable, desirable, and respected credentials in this new realm? Who are the people running it?

Stan Davis: Among the credentials are trust and reputation, and the people running it are the market. Let me explain. One of the consequences of the Information Revolution is what is often called information overload. But information has always been in glut -- we could never understand all the information that was available to us. What is true is that the "offense" has got the temporary advantage over the "defense," so we are feeling more besieged than before. This draws attention to what is truly the scarce resource: our attention. In Maslow's world, once we get past the necessities of food and shelter, we are trying to make the best use of our lives on our own terms. This in turn depends on what we pay attention to. What we think about, what relationships we maintain, how we spend our time. This is true of organizations as well as individuals. What can we do to make the most of our attention? One of the things we do is to learn to filter the information that comes to us, whether by bots that prioritize our email, or, for example, through trusting editors of magazines to select ideas to bring to our attention. The more blurred version of the latter is the FireFly software that uses to make recommendations to its customers. We delegate the choice of where to pay attention according to our level of trust. A similar phenomenon is celebrity. One way to think of a celebrity is as a person who has the power to transfer attention, so when we pay attention to a sneaker because Michael Jordan is wearing it, Michael Jordan is selling his ability to attract attention and transfer it to a product. That makes him a mogul of the blurred economy. Only the market can decide who is a celebrity and who is worthy of its trust.

Richard Coyle from Ann Arbor, MI: Is the modern-day technological revolution similar to the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s? How do the two compare?

Stan Davis: It is similar in structure, but of course different in its particulars. A simple model of the structure of these changes is to think of four quarters of a revolution: science, technology, business, and organization. In the first quarter of the Industrial Revolution, you have the science of Maxwell's equations electricity and chemistry. These lead to the technologies of steelmaking, petroleum cracking, and electrification that built the robber barons' fortunes. Once these infrastructure industries were in place, the way needs were met changed entirely. You could keep your food cold with a refrigerator plugged into the wall, rather than ice delivered in a horse-drawn cart. Finally, in the fourth quarter, organizations arise that are well adapted to these new industries, so General Motors developed the divisionalized corporation, with business functions such as finance, manufacturing, marketing, etc., needed to run a company of national scope. This time around, sciences are semiconductors and the mathematics of stored program control -- the famous Turing machine. Our robber barons are the builders of silicon foundries like Robert Noyce, and what Neil Stevenson calls the Software Cons of Seattle. BLUR is really a description of the third quarter, in which business adapts to this infrastructure, and an inkling of what is to come in the fourth. A useful pole star for making this comparison is that the driver of the Industrial Revolution was the motor, whether powered by steam, ethylene, or uranium. The central metaphor of the connected economy is the telecommunications switch -- whether referring, literally, to electronic connectivity, or more metaphorically, the webs of personal and economic relationships.

Moderator: Thanks for joining us tonight, Mr. Meyer. Any closing comments?

Stan Davis: I opened this afternoon by mentioning that I had been using many media today to get the ideas in BLUR across. It's interesting to me that the richest discussion has come from the distributed two-way medium of the Web -- one of the most powerful drivers of the current data blur.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2001

    Junk Lite

    Found the book to be very dull and laden with buzzwords---just nothing new. If somepne needs this to get ideas or learn about modern business, one is in real trouble.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2000

    It's certainly a blur.

    This book gives some great insight into the blurring of traditional business lines and how to accept the continuous change in the connected economy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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