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June 22, 2002

Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - The Strategy Machine

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 9:33 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

The Strategy Machine: Winning the Information Revolution One Day at a Time by Larry Downes, HarperBusiness, 236 Pages, $26.95 Hardcover, June 2002, ISBN 0066211298
You only have to read the Preface of Larry Downes new book The Strategy Machine to know that this is going to be a good read. Titled, Strange Tales of the New Economy, the writing in this preface is fresh and entertaining. Heres a snapshot: Like Captain Louis Renault, the character played by Claude Rains in Casablanca, investors were shocked, shocked to discover that they had.given their money to kids who knew nothing about technology, let alone operating a business larger than a paper route. Through this summarization of the rise and fall of the dot.coms, Downes sets the scene for his warning call. He writes: This is a book about the real revolution, an Information Revolution, that continues indeed accelerates beyond the meltdown of stock prices and the failure of foolish investments. It is a story of managers in a range of industries using information technology strategically. Downes then offers you the method for becoming one of these managers, someone with the opportunity to take what the dot.com innovators learned and profit from their mistakes.
Downes predicts an Information Revolution where information itself will make you a profit. Where are the rumblings of such a change, you may ask? Well, the Internet is a loud one. What is the Internet but a font of information by which folks can make money? And magazines, such as TV Guide or Style. What are they but providers of information, whether the info is about tv shows, motorcycles or handbags? But what will be the newest incarnation? Essentially, Downes tells us, information will come with everything. Everything will have a disposable computer, including toothpaste. Toothpaste? Just think, a package of toothpaste can inform its maker or distributor of just about anything where it is, how often it is used, all kinds of data. Talk about the end of customer surveys! This may seem dismissable, but think of it in terms of prescription drugs and you can sense an increased vitality to the possibilities.
The change will happen in 3 stages: Efficiency, Exchange and Emergence, and will, Downes declares, destroy the Supply Chain as we know it. Think of Enron (before the collapse), think of Napster. What will replace it? He says, new supply chains that tie the entire process together from purchasing raw materials to consumption.Its a strategy that might have the motto, We make it. We sell it. We deliver it. We service it. There is inherent value in such efficiency. To respond to this change, to meet the challenge of all 3 stages, Downes suggests creating a strategy portfolio, a series of plans from which you will be able to create your strategy machine. At this point, Downes invites you to follow him down a new path to creating a new company as efficient and innovative as the Revolution itself.
In all ways, The Strategy Machine is a bold book with a bold look into the future. Downes offers examples of companies who missed the boat in recreating itself (Xerox) when the market demanded it, and he tells stories of those who successfully met the challenge. And then there are the tales of those like those who have slowly begun the revolutionary process, who are ever so slowly dipping into the waters of change. Read The Strategy Machine and it just might get you to jump in.

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.