Let me take a moment for a “commercial.” This blog is a place to learn information, a place to be challenged, a place to think about ideas for effective business ideas and strategies. But occasionally, I would like to share a little about what we do.
Karl Krayer and I have spoken monthly at the First Friday Book Synopsis for over 12 years. We are book readers, thinkers, consultants. We also offer training in a number of areas: writing skills, presentation skills, leadership, time and energy management, among others. (Read our bios here).
In addition, we provide book synopsis/book briefing presentations to companies and organizations. You can choose from any of the books we have presented, or we can custom prepare any book for your organization.
To contact us for any of these programs, visit our web site here, or send me an e-mail: . Contact us, and Karl Krayer or I will get back to you.
We have recently upgraded our companion website, 15minutebusinessbooks.com. We have been “behind,” but we are catching up with the synopses of many of the books we have presented at the First Friday Book Synopsis. For example, we have just uploaded our presentations of these books:
The New Experts
The Post American World
Others are on the way soon. And from this point forward, we should have the two books from the most recent First Friday Book Synopsis within a couple of weeks after each event.
Note: it is important to read the faq’s before you make your first purchase. These address many of your questions (read the faq’s here). Each presentation comes with the handout plus the audio of our presentation. The handout is intended to be used with the audio. The vast majority of the recordings are from our presentations at the First Friday Book Synopsis, but not all.
Some people purchase these, and listen on their own (in their car; in their iPod/MP3 while they exercise). Others listen, following along with the handout. (This is probably the way to get the most out of each presentations).
And we have some who play the audio for a group, then lead a discussion of the implications and applications. Great idea!
You can purchase at two price points: $9.99 per synopsis, or a yearly subscription, with full access to all of the archives plus the 24 new presentations a year. A bargain!
Browse titles with the catalog, and make individual synopsis purchases, here.
Sign up for the annual subscription, get instant and full access to all the presentations already up on the web site, and access all new presentations for the next 12 months, here.
I hope you will give our services a try. Either bring us into your company or organization, or purchase our book synopsis presentations through our web site. These will provide valuable content and useful help as you build your future.
Note: Karl Krayer and I work together in Creative Communication Network. In addition, we have blogging team members who work independently..
Our blogging team partner, Bob Morris, is available as a consultant. He is an invaluable resource for an array of business issues and problems. He is also a master interviewer (just browse through his interviews!), and can provide custom interviews to fit the needs of your company or organization. You can contact Bob directly at .
And our other blogging team partners, Cheryl Jensen and Sara Smith of C&S Knowledge Company provide valuable services. Visit their web site here, where you can also find their contact information.
Atoms are the New Bits — The Next New, New Insight from Chris Anderson
Bob Morris told me about this a few days ago. (I don’t know how I had missed it. Thanks, Bob).
Chris Anderson is at it again, explaining the way the world is changing. Anderson introduced us to The Long Tail, and then argued for the arrival of Free. (I’ve presented both of these books at the First Friday Book Synopsis). Now he says that the industrial revolution is upon us in a whole new form. The article is: In the Next Industrial Revolution, Atoms Are the New Bits and it basically says that big is going to lose to small, and small is definitely the future.
Here quite a few excerpts, with a couple of my observations at the end. (the full article is definitely worth reading).
Here’s the history of two decades in one sentence: If the past 10 years have been about discovering post-institutional social models on the Web, then the next 10 years will be about applying them to the real world.
This story is about the next 10 years.
Transformative change happens when industries democratize, when they’re ripped from the sole domain of companies, governments, and other institutions and handed over to regular folks. The Internet democratized publishing, broadcasting, and communications, and the consequence was a massive increase in the range of both participation and participants in everything digital — the long tail of bits.
Now the same is happening to manufacturing — the long tail of things.
The tools of factory production, from electronics assembly to 3-D printing, are now available to individuals, in batches as small as a single unit. Anybody with an idea and a little expertise can set assembly lines in China into motion with nothing more than some keystrokes on their laptop.
Today, micro-factories make everything from cars to bike components to bespoke furniture in any design you can imagine. The collective potential of a million garage tinkerers is about to be unleashed on the global markets, as ideas go straight into production, no financing or tooling required. “Three guys with laptops” used to describe a Web startup. Now it describes a hardware company, too.
“Hardware is becoming much more like software,” as MIT professor Eric von Hippel puts it. That’s not just because there’s so much software in hardware these days, with products becoming little more than intellectual property wrapped in commodity materials…
We’ve seen this picture before: It’s what happens just before monolithic industries fragment in the face of countless small entrants, from the music industry to newspapers. Lower the barriers to entry and the crowd pours in.
The result has allowed online innovation to extend to the real world. As Cory Doctorow puts it in his new book, Makers, “The days of companies with names like ‘General Electric’ and ‘General Mills’ and ‘General Motors’ are over. The money on the table is like krill: a billion little entrepreneurial opportunities that can be discovered and exploited by smart, creative people.”
Peer production, open source, crowdsourcing, user-generated content — all these digital trends have begun to play out in the world of atoms, too. The Web was just the proof of concept. Now the revolution hits the real world.
In short, atoms are the new bits. (emphasis added).
This means that one-person enterprises can get things made in a factory the way only big companies could before.
Everybody’s garage is a potential high tech factory. Marx would be pleased.
Bill Joy, one of the cofounders of Sun Microsystems, revealed the flaw in Coase’s model. “No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else,” he rightly observed… With the Internet, you didn’t have to settle for the next cubicle. You could tap the best person out there, even if they were in Dakar.
Not all US manufacturing is shrinking, however — just the large part.
It’s the ultimate virtual manufacturing company: Aliph makes bits and its partners make atoms, and together they can take on Sony.
Welcome to the next Industrial Revolution.
In the article, Anderson tells the story of the man who invented the intermittent windshield wiper (an idea that Ford stole – he ultimately was awarded nearly $30 million). Today, he could have turned the idea into product on his “own,” much more quickly.
As I pondered this article, these were some lessons that I saw about the new future that has arrived/is arriving
1) Collaboration has always been about collaborating with the best/smartest/cutting edge people. Now, the tools of the era allow us to collaborate with those people regardless of where they work or live. It will be collaborate with the best, or die.
2) The future will be owned by individuals – “you (whoever you are) will own you.” Your ideas, your innovations, your concepts, will increasingly be owned by the individual who came up with them. And that individual will find the workers to turn the ideas into products on his or her own. The idea person will not have to build a factory.
3) The changes will keep coming. This new chapter in the industrial revolution is only that – the new chapter, the latest chapter. There will be others to follow.
What are they? We don’t know.
I am currently tackling Free by Chris Anderson for the next First Friday Book Synopsis. And I am making presentations on books related to non-profits for two conferences this month. But I still try to read a little that is not on my “assignments” list. I hope you do the same.
Here’s my latest find. It is a big, thick, terrific compilation of great speeches. The compiler is William Safire, now retired columnist for the New York Times. (He was the Pulitzer prize winning, conservative columnist for the Times). The book’s title is wonderful: “Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History” – selected and introduced by William Safire. His introductions to each speech add greatly to your understanding. The selection is comprehensive, diverse, and covers speeches for all time. (He starts with Pericles).
A speech is a perfect “short read.” You can read one in one short sitting, and a good speech can really get you to thinking.
I most recently read “The Easy Way,” by Walter Lippman. The speech was delivered in 1940, at the thirtieth reunion of the graduating class from Harvard. Think of the context: the aftermath of World War I had not gone well, and dark clouds were clearly looming. The entire speech is utterly quotable, and it sounds as though it could have been given this week. (And there are clearly implications for business in this speech). Consider these few excerpts:
• For it is doubt and uncertainty of purpose and confusion of values which unnerves men.
• For every good that you wish to preserve, you will have to sacrifice your comforts and your ease. There is nothing for nothing any longer.
• It was hard to make a good and magnanimous peace. It was easier to make a bad and unworkable peace. We took the easiest way… It was too hard to, it was too much trouble to keep on trying. We gave up. We took the easy way, the way that required us to do nothing.
• So we are where we are today. We are where we are because whenever we had a choice to make, we have chosen the alternative that required the least effort at the moment.
• I like to think – in fact, I intend to go away from here thinking – that having remembered the past we shall not falter, having seen one another again, we shall not flinch.
The book is filled with great speeches. I commend it to you as a “free-time, non-assignment” reading pleasure.
I bought it used from Amazon.com for not much. It was worth the price.
(Current best price — $6.00 plus shipping. Here is the Amazon link).
My favorite book of the last few years is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. (and I also enjoyed Blink and his first, The Tipping Point). One of my favorite blogs is Seth Godin’s blog. I very much liked The Long Tail by Chris Anderson, and already have scheduled “Free” by Chris Anderson in the fall for the First Friday Book Synopsis. So — what a delicious surprise that they are in a spat.
Here’s the story. Gladwell reviewed Anderson’s new book Free: The Future of a Radical Price for The New Yorker. (Read his review here). He takes issue with the ultimate outcome projected by Anderson – that the future for writers (and others) is in the realm of “free.” Godin fires: “Malcolm is Wrong.” (Read his post here). And then Chris Anderson weighs in with “Dear Malcolm: Why so threatened?” disagreeing with Gladwell’s conclusions. (Read his defense here).
So, who is right? They all are. And therein lies the problem.
Godin argues this:
The first argument that makes no sense is, “should we want free to be the future?” Who cares if we want it? It is. The second argument that makes no sense is, “how will this new business model support the world as we know it today?” Who cares if it does? It is. It’s happening. The world will change around it, because the world has no choice. I’m sorry if that’s inconvenient, but it’s true.
Of course, we prefer the content free. And once it is free, we do not want (will refuse to?) pay for it. And because so very many are now in the content producing business, there will be good content available to choose from.
But how will people make a living – you know, pay for living, like house payments and food costs? That is the question. One, by the way, that is revealed at the most basic level in this spat: Gladwell was paid for writing his review, which is available in the paid for copies of The New Yorker, but free on the web site, and Anderson makes money from the sales of his books touting “free” to all of his cash-paying readers. And though Godin’s blog is free, he uses that as a key piece of his “Hey, notice me, and hire me for something because of my expertise” marketing plan. (a plan I wholeheartedly endorse).
Somebody has to help folks pay the bills. Because, ultimately, there is some free, but not everything can be free.
Now Anderson argues (I think — I have not yet read the book) that free leads to income in some form or another. I hope so!
(Personal: as usual, Gladwell’s piece is the best written. What a writer! But — I don’t yet know how to really think about all of this. These are just my thoughts so far.)
The Long Tail is a great concept in our ever expanding, internet connected world. In this book (originally an article), Chris Anderson explained clearly that the market is now almost unending. Exhibit A was Amazon. The vast majority of what they sell (in books) is available at Border’s or Barnes&Noble. But, much can be made from the 20% or so that is not stocked in such physical bookstores. This “Long Tail” is the market available from the rest of the world who find you in other ways, especially the internet. (You can purchase my synopsis, audio + handout, of The Long Tail here).
His long awaited new book comes out in July: Free: The Future of a Radical Price. Here’s the summary from Amazon: “in Free, he makes the compelling case that in many instances businesses can profit more from giving things away than they can by charging for them. Far more than a promotional gimmick, Free is a business strategy that may well be essential to a company’s survival.” You can read the Wired article, Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business that launched his concept here.
The idea is simple enough. Give something away free, give a lot away free, and they will come back for more, and they will willingly pay for the more.
It makes sense. And I know that what we give away can spark interest, generate followership, and maybe produce a long-term relationship with a customer. But even before the book hits, the criticism has started. And the first question is blunt and to the point: if free is such a good idea, and if Chris Anderson is the editor of Wired, why doesn’t he give Wired away free? James Ledbetter provides this criticism in his Slate/The Big Money article: Free to Be Ignored.
Ledbetter is doubtful that the business model works. And he’s got a lot of reason to be so doubtful. We are reading nearly daily that the newspaper as we know it is in great jeopardy. The rumblings have begin that the Kindle, and unknown future such devices, might put “printed books” out of business. And if we think that alarm is too early, let’s remember that we have only had the internet 15 years — and it took just over a dozen years for people to realize that the free content of news was ultimately a threat to the news gathering business. (To put it simply, if news is free, who will pay the reporters to gather the stories and dig into the corners and crevices of our society — in other words, to practice journalism?) On-line music sites have greatly crushed the profits from what used to be called record sales. All of this proves that free works in one way — people like to get stuff free. But free may not bring in enough money on the back end.
(And, by the way, Wired does give much of its content away. I read Free for free on-line).
I write this with few answers— just questions. I really don’t know what will happen. I’m a firm believer in “free.” I have spoken for free, I have sent handouts to people for free, as have many who do what I do. But I can’t give it all away for free.
So where is free going? We all watch and wait.
(By the way, I’m certain that either Karl or I will present a synopsis of Free pretty soon after its publication – and yes, we will pay actual money for a hard copy of the book Free. Probably from Amazon.com).