As part of my research into the Connected Age, and why business needs to be more human, I came across Douglas Rushkoff’s “Life Inc: How Corporatism Conquered the World And How to Take It Back.”
This is an important, eye-opening book. Rushkoff is a akin to Neo in the Matrix, seeing through our societal behavior to the corporatism that undergirds everything.
There are two main things I appreciate about this book. The first is political. In 2000, I caught a lot of grief for having supported Nader. My point at the time is that the difference between Bush and Gore was negligible. Nader’s point was that corporate influence had rendered the two main political parties nearly identical. While perhaps an unpopular opinion, I still believe that to be true — just look at how many of Bush’s policies Obama carries on. And real solutions for our social, economic, health, and environmental challenges will be neglected or heavily compromised, because of corporatism.
The other is professional. As I discussed in my post addressing bureaucracies, the prevalent belief is that this is how things have always been, and so this is how things will inevitably be. Rushkoff points out that much of what we take for granted — corporations, centralized currencies, real estate — are fabrications, created by the powerful to maintain their influence and inhibit people from engaging directly with one another.
Sometimes this book feels like medicine — reading it is good for you, but not necessarily fun. Nevertheless, it’s worth the effort.
An article in today’s NY Times talks about how the man who was instrumental for growing Ticketmaster to be the value-draining behemoth we all hate is now spearheading a competitor that aims to return ticketing to the specific venues. Ticketmaster is most definitely a hanger-on from an earlier era, and it’s inevitable that startups will aim at bringing the values of the Connected Age to ticket sales. Honestly, I’m doubtful that this guy is the one to do it, but when your customers hate you as much as Ticketmaster’s does, once there’s a viable option, people will flock.
This article is about a month old, I know, but still worth pointing to: Salman Khan: The Messiah of Math. It’s an excellent example of how, when you engage in approaches that are suitable to the Connected Age, you can make serious inroads. Textbook publishers are among the most backwards businesses you can imagine, sadly clinging to an obviously outdated business model. If Craigslist can eviscerate the newspapers, can Khan Academy break us free from the stranglehold of the textbook publishers? (Even though in the article, Salman Khan says part of the magic of his efforts is that his is a non-profit, I don’t see any reason this couldn’t be a company, a la Craigslist — you don’t have to be rapacious to be successful!)
Steven Johnson tweeted this morning:
It’s remarkable how the defining brands of the decade (Twitter/FB/GOOG) reached that prominence with basically zero traditional advertising.
It made me think that a sure sign of a Connected Age company is one that succeeds without traditional advertising.