Funky Business

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Jonas Ridderstråle and Kjell Nortstrőm
Prentice Hall
2002
0273659073
Alistair Schofield, Managing Director, Extensor Limited


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I have owned a copy of Funky Business for several years but had not read it as I had been put off by the title.  I rarely read for pleasure so I didn’t want to waste my time on something that ran the risk of simply being trendy hype. 
How wrong could I be?  Far from being trendy, I believe the purpose of the title is to shock the world of business into realising that the future is already here and that the world will never be the same again – wake up and smell the roses!
To make the point, the book provides numerous examples of how the nature of business has changed, how the differentiators that created margin and profits in the past will not continue to do so in the future and how our work practices and organisational structures will need to adapt to this changed world.

I have read many books during the last few years that make similar points but what makes Funky Business even more impressive is that it was first published in 2000, eight years ago!

However, the fact that it is a relatively old book raises the question as to whether its predictions have come true, and in that I do have some concerns.  The fact is that the world described by Ridderstråle and Nortstrőm is the same as the world we live in today with the vast majority of businesses, as then, living in the past with out-of-date strategies, structures and work practices – but they are surviving.

However, the conclusion I draw from this is not that Ridderstråle and Nortstrőm were wrong, but that they, along with almost every other business commentator, underestimated both the intransigence of businesses and their ability to survive. 

For example, the authors point out that Carl Marx’s predictions have come true, that power has shifted from those with the capital to those with the competence, in Western businesses we are no longer hiring people for their brawn but for their brains.   But this has not led to a wholesale rethink of employment practices amongst companies; it has simply resulted in higher wages for the talented, a globalised workforce and higher attrition rates.

But the fact that organisations are adapting does not undermine the book’s conclusions.  It is an excellent book that is well researched, entertainingly written and required reading for all senior managers and business leaders.  For those who do read it, I am sure that they will gain insights that will benefit them and their organisations.

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