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|A popular way to write a book is to summarize known information for one
hundred and fifty pages or so before adding one or two bits of new thinking.
After reading the first few chapters of Blur I was afraid it would
fall into that pattern; thankfully it didn't. What seemed at first glance to
be simply new jargon for familiar terms developed into an interesting new
take on how the Internet is changing commerce.
That said, the first few chapters of Blur are familiar territory. Authors Stan Davis and Christopher Meyer, both of whom are affiliated with Ernst & Young's Center for Business Innovation, describe the "blurred" economy as a mix of connectivity, speed, and intangibles. The latter term is further subdivided into four forms: services, information, the service component of products, and emotions. As with the authors of other books like Net Gain and The Economics of Electronic Commerce (both reviewed elsewhere on this site), Davis and Meyer note the disappearing distinction between products and services, the ability of consumers to exchange information as easily as businesses do, and the role of intellectual property in capital formation. The canonical example of the latter is Dreamworks SKG, founded by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen. Dreamworks didn't have a studio or even an active production when investors drove the company's capitalization to two billion dollars based on the principals' credentials alone.
The authors' new thinking hits in Chapter 6: People. Just as organizations will need to stay flexible and adapt quickly in the marketplace, so will individuals. As Davis and Meyer note, the distinction between the individual as labor and capitalist is vanishing. Companies are using more temps, but more workers are choosing the life of the independent contractor as well. Extending the idea, the authors predict that agents will begin representing skilled workers in technology fields, much as in the writing and acting industries. I thought the idea a bit ludicrous as first, at least in the short term, but within minutes of finishing the book I visited C-Net's site and, sure enough, there was an article on an agent representing video game developers.
If there were ever a book positioned as "airplane" reading for senior executives, this is it. Blur is mostly written in a breezy, "popular" style; I say "mostly" because, when the authors were discussing concrete topics and not motivating readers to buy into their underlying concept, their use of language changed considerably. Sentences became shorter, verbs and adjectives grew stronger, and tables and graphs appeared as if by magic.
I don't hold the book's style against it, though. Blur's analysis of the online economy and its implications for both businesses and employees provides a compelling argument for the authors' views, though much of the background information will be familiar to the reader.
Curtis D. Frye (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the editor and chief reviewer of Technology and Society Book Reviews. He worked for four years as a defense industry analyst at The MITRE Corporation in McLean, VA, and is the author of Privacy-Enhanced Business, from Quorum Books.