Over the past week, I've been finishing my reading of the four books pictured on the right.
- Acting in an Uncertain World - An Essay on Technical Democracy by Michel Callon, Pierre Lascoumes, Yannick Barthe
- Doing Both - How Cisco Captures Today's profit and Drives Tomorrow's Growth by Inder Sidhu
- Sustainability by Design - A Subversive Strategy for Transforming Our Consumer Culture by John R. Ehrenfeld
- Sonic Boom - Globalization at Mach Speed by Gregg Easterbrook
Each is worthy of individual attention that I may provide soon, but I've been most captivated by the intersections between them. Sparks have been flying in my mind as I contemplated how these four books speak to each other. Together, they give us some wonderful clues about how the next economy will take shape. They're seeing the same trends through different lenses. Together they've increased my confidence in what I'm foreseeing as the sustainable replacement for the exploitative economy of the past three centuries.
Getting on speaking terms
The old economy takes for granted that we're not on speaking terms everywhere we turn. After all there is money to be made, work to be done and expansion to accomplish without idle chatter! So it has been business as usual for there to be disconnects between spokespersons and those spoken for, scientists and lay persons, manufacturers and resellers, product designers and customers, trend watchers and journalists, as well as employees and their top management. All four books show us ways to get on speaking terms with others throughout the next economy. The most radical version comes from John R. Ehrenfeld who was inspired by Bruno Latour's sense to dialogue with anything and everything. Ehrenfeld suggests how sustainability will come about by conversing with the thing we're about to consume. That will interrupt our automatic, thoughtless consumption with challenging questions for further exploration. The act of exploring our own interests as well as those of sustainable conduct will make us temporarily aware of the role we've been playing and another we could play out instead. Imagine how much more creative, collaborative, resourceful and responsive the economy will seem to everyone as result of replacing disconnects with dialogue.
Solving the right problem
The old economy has profited from solving the wrong problems without paying for the costly errors. The right problems don't appear as lucrative to solve until the beneficial side effects of a correct diagnosis are well understood. Each parochial interest has repeatedly gone into an exclusive silo, tried harder to do its thing and spun off troubles for others to handle. Now we know better than to ego-trip in our connected world. We can solve different problems with our access to information about who and what will get affected. We'll address the deeper nature of problems that spill over into others, blow back against misconstrued attempts at remedies, and escalate symptoms when addressed in isolation. We'll develop superior products, services, policies and programs to intervene where problems persist.
Hybridization of polarized opposites
The "tyranny of either/or" has ruled the old economy. As revealed by Collins and Porras in their 1994 classic: Built to Last, successful companies figure how to do both. Mutually exclusive pairs, stifling dilemmas and irreconcilable differences are all fodder for the mill of hybridization. There are paradoxes, balancing acts, meeting in the middle and winning combinations to be synthesized. Inder Sidhu's book applies hybridization to an amazing array of business issues. Callon, Lascoumes and Barthe apply it to the the collaborations between secluded professional researchers and the passionate "researchers in the wild". Easterbrook inventories inspiring synergies between opposing sides all over the globe. Ehrenfeld explores how the migration to sustainability calls for both the elimination of unsustainable practices and the embrace of approaches for flourishing in our lives.
Enrollment in roles
The old economy is rife with protestations about taking added initiative or responsibility. It's spoken as "it's not my job", "I gave at the office" or do I look like I care?". We've been compartmentalized and specialized in ways that undermine our cooperation, collaboration and reciprocation with others. The next economy has already begun to make us much more aware of others' pain, limitations, and forestalled possibilities. We're seeing many more ways to make a difference, lend a hand and show how much we care. It's something we'll do as the situation arises, not everyday like clockwork. We'll get enrolled by what we've discovered, how it understands us and what it asks of us. We'll play a role for the time being like we're playing a game or playing a part in a story. We'll have a sense of a space being created to enter inside, find others in there as well and together explore freely for the time being.
When one book makes a prediction about the future I'm thinking I'll wait and see. When four books perceive the same patterns emerging from such different viewpoints, I'm thinking I'll get onboard with lots of buy-in and eagerness to spread the word.