||Jon Pittman is our VP of Corporate Strategy and Engagement - reporting to the CTO. He has a BS in Architecture from the University of Cincinnati, a MS in Computer Graphics from Cornell University, and an MBA from the University of Cincinnati. In addition to working at Autodesk, Jon is a Lecturer at the Haas School of Business of the University of California at Berkeley. Jon recently reviewed Standing on the Sun by Christopher Meyer with Julia Kirby and gave me permission to share his review on my blog.|
Chris Meyer is an entrepreneur, executive, consultant, author, and the leader of a think tank. In addition to Standing on the Sun, He has published three books about adaptive enterprise and network-based innovation, including the BusinessWeek Best Seller Blur: The Speed of Change in the Connected Economy, Future Wealth, and It's Alive: The Coming Convergence of Information, Biology and Business. He blogs on the Harvard Business Review site, and has contributed to publications including Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review, Fast Company, TIME, The Wall Street Journal, and BusinessWeek. source: ChrisMeyer.com
I first met Chris Meyer at the ID Design Strategy conference in Chicago in 2011. He did an intriguing talk which he followed up with this recently published book. Standing on the Sun is a reference to Copernicus -- who was able to better understand the solar system by assuming he was standing not on the earth, but on the sun. Prior astronomers had assumed that the earth was the center of the solar system. As they developed more powerful tools to observe the universe, they found more and more complexity, and their explanations of how the solar system worked got more and more convoluted. But when Copernicus switched his perspective and imagined himself standing on the sun -- therefore shifting his frame of reference -- all of a sudden he was able to see the solar system in a new way, and the previous complexity fell away. Meyer uses this metaphor to describe how he thinks we could look at capitalism. He asserts that capitalism is not a static, fixed system, but one that evolves over time. It was born during the industrial revolution in England, then moved to the United States for its center, and is now shifting to the emerging markets of Asia. He contends that by maintaining a US-centric frame of reference, we may not be seeing or understanding the shifts taking place in capitalism. He suggests that we look at capitalism from an emerging markets perspective, which will allow us to see it differently than we do now.
Among the adaptations he sees in capitalism are:
Moving beyond the singular focus on shareholder value. This is a discussion that is going on among many economic and business theorists. There is a growing sense that the singular focus on shareholder value (a "black and white" perspective) is a driving factor behind some of our current business pathologies (including the financial crisis), and that a more balanced view of the essential purpose of the corporation is needed ("color").
Embracing externalities. Businesses now do everything they can to shift costs externally; moving forward, they will operate more as closed-look systems, incorporating things that were previously externalities.
Pseudo-competition. Competition has traditionally (and theoretically) been about winning a zero-sum game against a fixed set of static competitors. But the real competition is against innovations that threaten your business, and could even make it obsolete down the line. Your real competition is unlikely to come from a traditional competitor, but rather from someone who solves a customer problem in a new way, or brings the customer something that they never expected, but now can't live without. It is about making the pie bigger through innovation rather than fighting over a static pie.
Collaborative production. Production will no longer be vertically integrated, but will operate in a more networked fashion, providing greater opportunities for collaboration than in the past.
Meyer postulates the following rules:
|Rule||Old Formulation||New Formulation|
|Learn to see results in color||Measure financial returns to shareholders||Measure the real value sought by stakeholders|
|Internalize externalities||Externalize every cost you can||Own your impact, negative and positive|
|Enjoy the evolution||Gain the market power to extract "monopoly rents" in a zero-sum game||Create new value through meaningful innovation|
|Give it away until you charge for it||Focus on your particular value-added capability and outsource the rest||Pursue collaborative gains through invisible handshakes|
|Operate for benefit||Compartmentalize any support of social goals from the for-profit work of companies||Accept that every company produces a mix of financial and other value types, and design your model to optimize it|
In general, I liked the book, although I do have a couple of criticisms. I expected more focus on emerging markets. Chris did use emerging markets as a way to focus the discussion, but many of his examples are from more developed economies. I would have preferred a more direct linkage to emerging markets. I do think his ideas and observations are good, but the conclusions are a bit diffuse. I liked the book but felt disappointed that its conclusions were not as focused as I would have liked. Nevertheless, Chris’s ideas are provocative, and I look forward to seeing how he develops them.
Earth gazing is alive in the lab.