John McCann

Archive for the ‘Globalization’ Category

Global intellectual economy

In Globalization, Media involvement, ParticipationWeb on December 22, 2006 at 11:25 pm

2006 is ending with Time magazine naming its person of the year to be those who participate in the global intellectual economy. After describing how millions of people use blogs, podcasts, and videos to describe their lives, document events and express opinions, author Lev Grossman concludes that we have joined an economy that was previously reserved for those with access to the various printing presses and radio & TV stations.

“We’re looking at an explosion of productivity and innovation, and it’s just getting started, as millions of minds that would otherwise have drowned in obscurity get backhauled into the global intellectual economy.”

As a university professor who writes books & articles and makes speeches all over the world, I have long been a participant in this global intellectual economy. I now welcome and celebrate the millions who have joined me. However, I find that my reaction may not be the norm as I read pieces in the traditional media that pan the contributions of the amateurs and promote the material produced by themselves.

Just this morning I read a column by George Will in which he says that magazines such as Time have “what 99.9 percent of the Web’s content lacks: seriousness.” This guy is threatened by you, and he has reacted by belittling your contributions. He says that all it takes is a glance at YouTube’s most popular videos to see that you are not in the same league as the traditional media.

I imagine that such glances are all the research that he did for his column. He clearly read the Time article and accompanying editorial because his column is peppered with quotes from the magazine. But he simply could not have spent much time researching the blogosphere. If he had, he would have found thousands, if not millions, of blogs that are as serious as his columns. As a columnist, he writes his opinions about topics of his choice. That is exactly what millions of bloggers do on a daily basis. But he clearly believes that his opinions are more serious than 99.9% of yours. Such a belief can only come from being isolated from the very topic he is writing about. His column is not informed by reality; only by a glance.

My response to George Will: are you kidding me? Get serious, man.

Don’t disparage the youth!

In Content business, Content workers, Early Predictions, Globalization on May 9, 2006 at 5:12 pm

In his keynote address at Telcom 95 in Geneva, Switzerland, Andy Grove, then the CEO of Intel, talked about one of his favorite topics: the Strategic Inflection Point (SIP). He said that all organizations, sooner or later, will face a Strategic Inflection Point because of technology, deregulation and competition. Here is my depiction of a chart that he used in his address:


The blue curve denotes the organization's growth, which is rapid at first, then slows and eventually plateau's at its SIP when it encounters the three forces of digital technologies, deregulation and competition. Depending upon its actions, it will either enter a new growth path or go into decline.

He talked about the "mother of all Strategic Inflection Points" that firms were facing in 1995:

"In the future, with a medium of hundreds of millions pushing onto a billion connected computers available for commerce as well as for other tasks. Transactions, business will be connected not face to face but stream to stream. And I think this will be the mother of all strategic inflection points because it's going to change the way those of us in the information technology industry do our business but even more importantly, it is going to change the way everybody in commerce does their daily business. As with strategic inflection points there are two paths. There's a path of ascent and a path to descent. And which path you are going to be ending up on depends on the decisions and the plans and the implementation of those plans that begin at the time of that inflection point which I submit to you is today."

A couple of years later, Lou Gerstner, then the IBM CEO, appeared on the PBS Nightly Business Report in a segment titled Net Effects. He had this to say about the nature of the coming business world.

“The network world is going to change the world the way man flight changed the world, the way the electric light changed the world. It is going to fundamentally alter every institution in our society and it will change the way we work, the way we communicate, and the way we relate to each other. It will have implications for the nation-state, for the way we organize around the world. It is a powerful force and it evolve over the next two decades into something that we will look back and say that was a quaint world in the 1980s. I’m talking about a revolution that I think will take several decades in terms of its impacts on all of society. But every single quarter some other industry will see its basic competitive landscape change because of this network.”

When I started this blog, I had been using these remarks (along with hundreds of others that I collected in the 1990s) to help me explain the nature of the networked world and why it was so important. Only in the last few weeks have I been able to recognize that one implication of the trends is that a large fraction of the workers in the developed world are content workers.

Each of us (if you are reading this blog post, you are surely a content worker) is in the content business. And as I explained in my piece on globalization, we operate in a world of real time relationships among dispersed individuals and organizations. We use and distribute content to all corners of the globe through our conversations, emails, web pages, blogs, etc.

Both content workers of the digital age and factory workers of the industrial age have faced or will face their Strategic Inflection Point as their livelihood is impacted by digital technologies, competition and deregulation. Those impacts are associated with many words and phrases that have come into vogue in the past two decades: lay-offs, downsizing, right sizing, out sourcing, home sourcing, etc.

These words represent the consequences of organizations responding to their SIPs. They find new ways to participate in their industries via new strategies and/or structures aimed at reducing their costs and/or expanding their revenue streams. More often than not, these changes involved new uses of digital technologies to improve individual, group and organizational productivity.

That is what organizations do. Too often, individuals in those organizations are the last to recognize that they are about to face their own SIPs. They may not be ready to operate in the new world, the one into which their organization is transitioning. They need to learn how to operate in a world of real time relationships among dispersed individuals and organizations.

But where do they turn for guidance? Where can they find a role model when most of their peers are in a similar situation? Just who does know how to operate in a world of real time relationships among dispersed individuals and organizations? Who are those people and where can they be found?

My answer: they are all around us. They may be in our own homes or next door at our neighbor's house. They may mow our grass, or drive around our neighborhood with music blasting from their cars. They may saunter around the mall in groups. They are today's youth.

What are they doing that is so important to us? They are playing multi-player online games, creating Facebook and MySpace profiles, blogging, sending short messages from their mobile phones, sharing digital pictures on Flickr & other photo services, walking around with their mobile phones glued to their ears, conversing in a half-dozen Instant Messaging (IM) windows on their computers at the same time, etc. They use those technologies and services to stay in continual contact with their friends, acquaintances, teachers, etc.

That is, they are managing real time relationships among dispersed individuals. They are global!! Being content workers is second nature to them.

We, the adults of the world, have to be careful when we advise them about their use of technologies. We may be too eager to focus on the articles about the negative consequences of the use of digital technologies. We need to recognize that they are global, and most of us are not. They grew up participating in real time relationships among dispersed individuals in ways that are far more advanced than our ways of relating to others.

We need to recognize that their work endeavors will be in an environment that is different from the ones in which we operate. We may be far more adept at operating in an organization that has not faced its SIP. They may be far more adept at operating in a post-SIP global organization because they were raised in the networked world.

Keep in mind what Gerstner said about that world: "It is going to fundamentally alter every institution in our society and it will change the way we work, the way we communicate, and the way we relate to each other." Perhaps we should each seek out a member of this generation and get him or her to mentor us on relating to other people through digital technologies.

But too many of us are not thinking this way. Too often we disparage their use of technology. We do not recognize that their behaviors are ones that we might want to emulate. We are very good at establishing and nurturing relationships with individuals we work along side. We have a lot to teach the youth about work ethics and social behaviors in our workplaces.

Those same youth are very good at establishing and nurturing relationships among dispersed individuals. I imagine they have a lot to teach us about how to operate in their world, which is much closer to the global business environment than most of our work environments.

Last winter, I taught a class titled "Technology and Life" at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Duke. During several of the class sessions, one person in the class would ask the same question: Aren't you worried about what the young people are doing? My answer was always "No, that does not worry me."

If I were asked that question today, I would say, "Yes, I do worry. But not about what the youth are doing with digital technologies. I worry about what adults are not doing with them."

What is globalization?

In Globalization on April 25, 2006 at 1:11 pm

In 1998, I was teaching a course titled Technology, Globalization and Competition in the Global Executive MBA program at the Fuqua School of Business. This was a very innovative program that made extensive use of technology to develop a premiere MBA program. And my course was entirely new. I had never taught it, it had never been taught at Duke, and as far as I could tell it had never been taught anywhere.

I had been teaching courses about the technologies, which included sessions on how technology enabled new competitors to enter and succeed in an industry when existing firms were not able or willing to successfully innovate. But I had never studied globalization and had to quickly come up to speed on the relevant concepts and models. As I read through the literature, I saw that the term "globalization" was used in many different ways and meant different things to many people. My next step was to develop my own definition of globalization, based upon the most promising approaches uncovered in my reading.

In 1998 I wrote a short paper titled "Globalization: Real Time Relationships Among Dispersed Individuals and Organizations" and used it in the course. I just added this paper as a Page which can be accessed from the link "What is globalization?" at the top of the right hand column of this blog. Or you can get to it by clicking on this link.

Note: WordPress, the software and hosting service for this blog, provides two ways to add information to a blog:

  1. Posts: the time-oriented entries of which this entry is an example.
  2. Pages: the more static entries that appear under the Pages heading at the top of the right hand column of this page. As of now, this blog has three pages: About, Resume and What is globalization?

I will be using Pages for my longer essays.