Collaboration, production, transparency, networks…

Shoshana Zuboff in BusinessWeek:

I spent a quarter-century as a professor at the Harvard Business School, including 15 years teaching in the MBA program. I have come to believe that much of what my colleagues and I taught has caused real suffering, suppressed wealth creation, destabilized the world economy, and accelerated the demise of the 20th century capitalism in which the U.S. played the leading role.

…a return to real prosperity and long-term growth [will] require a rebirth of business based on new rules for a new era. The old rules that most B-schools have preached were invented a century ago for supplying mass consumers with affordable goods and services. They are poorly suited to the values of today’s new consumers, who want help to live their lives as they choose, with personal control, voice, and a practical sense of connection.

She proposes three rules:

1. Race to I-Space. Operate from the perspective of the individual consumer – not the product, and certainly not the company. [She notes that business school students are trained in the “administrative point of view.” The manager’s job was to oversee and control what was inside organization space, or what they were trained to view as “my company” – a world of boundaries and adversarial relationships.

2. Advocate, Don’t Alienate. Speak not of your products and selling them to your customers, but ask your customers what they need and how you can help.

3. Collaborate and Federate to Compete. Collaborating and “federating” means learning to manage what you don’t control or own, in other words, building economies of trust. You cannot serve individuals on their own because these needs don’t conform to existing boundaries. “The emphasis shifts from contracts and legal sanctions to trust and transparency as companies work together, aligned with their customers’ interests—sharing core values, business practices, infrastructure, and systems.”

Paul Krugman in Friday’s NYT re Goldman’s record quarterly profits :

Goldman is very good at what it does. Unfortunately, what it does is bad for America. … Let’s start by talking about how Goldman makes money. … The business of moving money around, of slicing, dicing and repackaging financial claims, has soared in importance compared with the actual production of useful stuff.

Tracing both ends of the supply chain, from forest to landfill.

Helveta … is tracking a million trees in southeast Asia, Africa, and South America … gives every tree in a plantation above a certain size its own barcode. When a tree is chopped down, workers use a handheld computer to scan processing and export data into Helveta’s database. Helveta’s system can’t stop determined criminals from selling illegal timber on the black market, but it does make it more difficult for them to sell or export the wood, as any timber processed without tags is considered illegal.

MIT’s Trash Track program … will use electronic tags to track waste in its trip through the disposal systems of New York and Seattle. The initial goal isn’t to track every piece of waste that passes through–it’s to raise awareness of urban disposal costs and the impact of trash on the planet.

As the economy becomes more highly networked, it must also become more transparent in order to remain resilient, says an article on networks of trust on NESTA’s website:

…connections between financial, health, government, education and other institutions have always existed but there has been little transparency about these relationships. She cites the recent financial meltdown as a clear consequence of the highly networked but non-transparent economy.

… the challenge of creating a new transparent networked economy [is] “a gargantuan problem”… the answer won’t be found by looking to the past. “Organisations are connected and interconnected in ways for which there is no precedent in human history. The solution has to come from people on the ground. It certainly won’t come from academics – the disciplines haven’t even been created for the problems we’re now facing.”

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