One of the things I like about the social media is electronic serendipity, especially when it comes to finding new books and articles to read.
Before the rise of Twitter, Google+ and Facebook I was a frequent visitor to bookstores where I could browse the titles, pick them up and read a few paragraphs or pages according to the patience or generosity of the shop staff.
I would also take recommendations from book reviews and frequently from colleagues and friends. Finding a hidden treasure was both rare and pleasurable. Which is why I have to thank the social network for introducing me to The New Instability by Peter Evans-Greenwood.
One day I just happened to catch a conversation on Twitter between two enterprise architecture mavens, one I knew and admired and the other a complete unknown who had recently published his first book. The discussion was about whether enterprise architecture would be needed in the evolving world of virtual services, globalization and crowd sourcing. I was unable refrain from entering the conversation. One week later Amazon delivered Peter’s book.
“The New Instability” is an important contribution to our embryonic understanding of the challenges to industry and the changes necessary to compete in the new world of ubiquitous connectivity, virtual services and social activity.
It is unlike books like Nicholas Carr ‘s “The Shallows” and Thomas Friedman & Michael Mandelbaum‘s “That Used to Be Us” which have gently and persuasively indicated the path on which we are traveling, where we have come from, our current position, the perils that surround us, and our likely destination. Such tomes have identified the challenges and behaviors that this new world order evokes.
Evans-Greenwood goes much further. His book challenges the scalability and structure of the current industrial model, based as it is on an imbalanced focus on asset ownership and process improvement through extreme measurement (the current though Victorian approach to manufacturing efficiency devised by Frederick W. Taylor). In order to survive and grow these concepts have to be more than just revised, they have to be rejected. Businesses will have to be deconstructed with many of the functions distributed and externally resourced. “The New Instability” provides grist for the mill, it forces the reader to think as the author confronts established wisdom and illustrates its redundancy.
But the author is more than just a detractor of modern practices, he also suggests the nature of successful navigation in the developing new business environment. This is not a silver bullet, they simply don’t exist, or even a recipe that can be easily followed. It is a paradigm that is evocative and immediately understandable, based on the experiences and keen insight of an American pilot by the name of John Boyd.
Boyd offered a bet that he could beat any other pilot in a dogfight in less than 40 seconds, even with the other pilot sitting close on his tail. He never lost that bet. According to Boyd “…success in a rapidly changing environment depends on your ability to orient yourself and decide on and execute a course of action, faster than the environment (or your competition) is changing.”
“The New Instability” explains what this means and what it infers for both individuals and organizations. Evans-Greenwood devotes a chapter to the topic of Labor, starting with how technology has enable workers to address and execute greater complexity. His model is equally applicable to knowledge and knowledge working, since the ability to manage information complexity may well provide the greatest competitive advantage. Equally importantly he understands the nature of the new work environment with its close similarities to Massive Player Online Role-Playing Games (MPORG) such as the World of Warcraft.
“The New Instability” is a challenging book, not in the sense that it is hard to read or comprehend, but challenging to one’s preconceptions and understanding of structure and stability.
It is a book that should be read slowly, because its value lies beyond the page within the mind and cogitations of the reader. There are many points that cry out for discussion and progression and some that prompt resistance, all commendable especially if they compel others to online debate. It is a brave book and one that deserves an appreciative and responsive audience. May serendipity lead you there too.