Remember, creative destruction

I read (and enjoyed) Tom Peters' Re-imagine! but with hindsight, I'm seeing it more and more as a colourful synthesis (some of it from Peters' earlier works) than a real re-imagining of business.

Here are the key ideas I took away from it, and some pointers where you can read up on them on the web (warning: I have interpreted Peters' ideas and used references from the IT business, not reproduced the ideas 100%)

  • creative destruction - the idea that innovation (or creation) destroys existing ways of doing things by doing them better; disruptive technologies are one example of this, where a cheap, simple and initially only marginally effective solution steadily improves (crosses the chasm) to supplant a market leader; rather than taking the dramatic route of the mythical phoenix, an effective company can use creative destruction internally to enable it to adapt and innovate
  • acquisitions should merge the meme-DNA of a company, and not only it’s intellectual property - otherwise the parent company becomes only bigger, not better
  • product-based companies and even departments within companies need to evolve into professional service firms (PSFs), called "the intellect industry" by Mark C. Scott - I would add to this by highlighting that both the product and the total service that includes it should be a core competence developed in-house based on a deep understanding of the common aspects of customer problems and not only a custom solution or service
  • de-Dilbertisation - flatter organisations, intelligent automation (business events propagated in a service-oriented architecture monitored and responded to by expert systems) and knowledge workers who are empowered by information and authority (and who invest in developing and broadening their own core competencies) are the wave of the future-now

I missed one key concept which you can read in Michael Porter's work which for me still provides a basic model for creating the Wow and the "!" in Peters' book, provided it is applied to smaller units (virtual PSFs) within an organisation:

  • develop clear and dynamic models of the value-chain, both present and near-future, bridging from external and internal supply out to the customer acquisition, utilisation and customisation process; by understanding the creation of value, companies (and departments) can maximise their delivered benefit and trade-off the synergy of core competencies versus the cost effectiveness of outsourcing opportunities

I'll reproduce two of Peters' quotes directly, I think you'll recall one company's motto that might have inspired the first thought ;)

Was - Technology helps link parts of an organisation

Is - The Network is the Organisation

This second item is in a PDF on Peters' site.

Was - Great Design is "nice."

Is - Great Design is "necessary."

I also would highlight one compelling quote from another of Peters' books The Project 50 - Today companies are fluid, transformative, organized around temporary networks focused on the WOW! Project - a superbly executed, high-impact, piece of work with a beginning, an end, a Client, and specific deliverables, and an outcome you'll be bragging about 5(!).

I close with one perhaps rabidly Sun-promoting reference that is a clear demonstration of these themes - the Contrarian Minds archive is a look back at how the ability to value truly different ideas has been what continues to enable Sun to adapt and remain not only relevant, but central to information technology - but take a look and judge that finally for yourself.

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