Insight into the Information EconomyBook Review:Blur: The Speed of Change in the Connected Economy
By Stan Davis and Christopher Meyer
$25.00 (US) $34.95 (Canada)
Reviewed by Denise Burch
This is not a book review. According to Stan Davis and Christopher Meyer, authors of Blur: The Speed of Change in the Connected Economy, their work is not a book at all, but "an artifact of an ongoing conversation, which has hardly reached its final word." With this introductory declaration, the two members of Ernst and Young's Center for Business Innovation had this reader hooked. It is the rare business writer who acknowledges the fluidity of economic reality in so profound a statement. They are willing to admit that (in not so many words) the communication that creates our world cannot be punctuated; it cannot be demarcated by a 250-page book nor volumes of economic theory. The economy and our conversations that create, sustain, or alter it are constant, and -- as the authors so succinctly put it -- these conversations and the resulting economic state are blurred, they are moving at a speed greater than ever before, they are connected by technology, and they comprise a new set of commodities: intangibles.
These three variables -- speed, intangibles, and connectivity -- provide the framework for Blur. Building on Davis' 1987/1996 work Future Perfect, which examines physics concepts of mass, time, and space in economic context, Blur takes the time to explain each of the connected-economy characteristics, their interrelatedness, and their relationship to everything from the expanding global marketplace to the initiation of a free-agent employee mindset.
One of the most appealing aspects of Blur -- next to its clarity in vision and presentation -- is the fact that it is broadly cross-disciplinary. Yes, its appeal to the economist will be somewhat different from that to a management trainee. But ultimately, in all the position-taking that may transpire as one opens the book, the overwhelming conclusion presented by Davis and Meyer is that today's economy is not about isolated issues in supply-and- demand or productivity or communication or technology; it is about all of these things in combination. The interrelatedness (or, as the authors might say, connectivity) is acknowledged to its fullest, resulting in utility far greater than any single perspective could afford -- an example of that too-seldom- realized business buzzword: synergy.
Of course, because of this more-comprehensive approach to presenting the complexity of today's economy, the authors do not speak to the direct effects of CMC (which as an isolated factor would not fit into the multidimensional, multidirectional Blur philosophy anyhow). However, within each of their postulates is the undeniable existence of CMC as a creating, sustaining, or altering factor. Blur could not exist without it, that's for sure.
Davis and Meyer provide timely, concrete examples of the changes brought forth by the Blur economy without going into in-depth, detail-heavy case studies that would serve only as unwanted tangents. A good example the authors provide is the success of Amazon.com, the online bookstore that feeds into and profits from the blur between buyers and sellers, and services and products. Amazon.com has buyers paying for books by writing reviews; it uses consumer data (intangible value) to provide a referral service that lists books bought by those with related interests; even this magazine could receive a kickback for providing a link to Amazon.com that results in a Blur sale. Who is the buyer or seller in that scenario? What is the product? Who is providing the service? It's blurry.
According to Meyer and Davis, today's business vocabulary just won't do. It is too clear and concise for the blurred economy; that is, mutually exclusive definitions limit the way we are able to think and talk about what business is all about today. They abandon traditional business terminology and adopt new terms for concepts unique to the connected economy. For example, they write, "'Buyer' and 'seller' just aren't descriptive enough of what's really going on. What we need to talk about instead is mutual exchange." The blendings of products and services are coined as "offers."
Those who view the world locally, with blinders in place, and who want a quick fix or business-innovation prescription will not profit from this book; the quick-fix type will ultimately fail in the economy as it's painted by Davis and Meyer -- the speed of change is too fast for those types to try to keep up. The two futurists do not tell us exactly how it should be done, but do, however, provide us with guidelines (50 ways to blur your business and 10 ways to blur yourself) and undoubtedly plenty of food for thought and conversation, which is sustained on their Web page www.blursight.com. The authors remain true to their position as they buy into the blur and use fast, connected technology to acquire intangibles (examples of blurred businesses and other reader insights) through various exchanges. Their Web page also includes a relatively detailed outline of the contents of the printed Blur.
Ultimately, Blur is a worthwhile read. It provides an entrypoint into economic understanding for those of us who are interested in big-picture thinking as opposed to solitary facts and figures. The book is well-written, well-researched, and well-presented. Its accompanying Web page adds value to the product -- or is it a service? In any case, the "offer" is one you shouldn't pass up.
Denise Burch, M.A.,(firstname.lastname@example.org)is a 1998 graduate of Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, where her research interests in the professional communication program included CMC and its effects on organizational communication.
Copyright © 1998 by Denise Burch. All Rights Reserved.