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The call to arms during the American Revolution was, "The British are coming! The British are coming!" Now, Gary Hamel contends, we are in the midst of a business revolution whose battle cry is, "Change has changed! Change has changed!" More specifically, Hamel says in the 21st century innovations in business markets will no longer be incremental. Instead, they'll be "discontinuous, abrupt and seditious." This groundbreaking work from the coauthor of the bestselling Competing for the Future explores why the nature of change has changed, and offers an inspiring "manifesto and manual" for profiting from that shift.
- Recounts how "the advantages of incumbency" -- global distribution, respected brands, a deep pool of talent, cash flow -- once gave companies the luxury of time to adjust to changes in their markets. But in today's world of discontinuous change, "a company that misses a critical bend in the road may never catch up ... Never has incumbency been worth less."
- Argues that "radical, nonlinear innovation is the only way to escape the ruthless hypercompetition that has been hammering down margins in industry after industry. Nonlinear innovation requires a company to escape the shackles of precedent and imagine entirely novel solutions to customer needs."
- Identifies "inventing new whats" as a key competitive strategy. A CEO crystallized that concept for Hamel when he told him, "I used to spend all my time worrying about the how -- how we did things, how we operated, how efficient we were. Now I spend much of my time worryingabout the what -- what opportunities to pursue, what partnerships to form, what technologies to back, what experiments to start."
- Offers this explanation for why Silicon Valley played such a central role in changing the way business is being done: "The real story of the Silicon Valley is not 'e,' but 'i,' not electronic commerce but innovation and imagination ... It is the power of 'i', rather than 'e,' that separates the winners from the losers in the 21st century economy."
- Hamel's writing is authoritative and accessible. He is clearly in command of his material, deftly interweaving his suggested strategies with the real-world events they are drawn from.
- Like revolutionaries of all eras, Hamel is passionate about his cause. His enthusiasm for turning radical innovation into "a deeply embedded corporate capability" virtually leaps off the page. In the introduction, Hamel notes that his book is aimed at those "who are tired of playing it safe" and "those who are unwilling to sacrifice their dreams on the altar of accepted wisdom."
Hamel isn't the only one to conclude we are living in revolutionary times. The director of the Aspen Institute Internet Policy Project looks at how online technology is causing major power shifts throughout society in The Control Revolution: How the Internet is Putting Individuals in Charge and Changing the World We Know. And in You Say You Want a Revolution: A Story of Information Age Politics, an ex-chairman of the FCC recounts how the U.S. government grappled to come up with a regulatory policy for the information sector. While Hamel is an admirer of Silicon Valley and its entrepreneurial ethos, a less-charitable view of America's high-tech mecca is detailed in Cyberselfish: A Critical Romp Through the Terribly Libertarian Culture of High-Tech.
Reviewed by MH - July 25, 2000