Living in the Corporate Zoo

Reviewed by: 
Richard Scase
Capstone Publishing Limited
Alistair Schofield, Managing Director, Extensor Limited

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In ‘Living in the Corporate Zoo’, Professor Richard Scase tackles a broad range of issues from the structure of corporations to the competitive differences between nations; from different models of employment to our changing work-life balance.  In doing so he attempts to paint a picture of a new world of work, or ‘corporate zoo’ that will exist by 2010.

The book focuses on the social and economic impacts of change and is primarily aimed at senior and middle corporate leaders who have to tackle the many human challenges associated with large-scale corporate changes. 
The book is unusual in that it is not designed to be read from cover to cover, but rather dipped into a topic at a time.  While this has the benefit of making it very easy to read, it does make it rather like a series of ‘soundbites’ that are expected to stand on their own without being substantiated by further analysis of evidence.

The book is divided into six sections, each broken down into sub-sections that examine specific aspects of the main topic.  The six sections of the book examine: Global life, balancing work and personal life, personal and corporate success, lifestyles, life in re-invented corporations and citizenship. 

A central theme of the book is the impact that developments in information and communication technologies are having on driving globalisation.  For example, the Internet enables us to share news and information almost instantaneously, but it also provides the potential for a computer virus developed in one place to cause global havoc within the space of a day.

Another paradox identified in the book is that of a global community in never ending contact, versus the growing need for individuality and localised communities.  The seamlessness of the communication technologies that enable us to move from the workplace to working from the car or from home also pose problems both from a management point of view, and also from the viewpoint of the employees, who may see themselves as never being able to get away from their work.

Despite these trends towards greater globalisation, the irony is that we are becoming more individual.  As Scase puts it “We may be global citizens using similar technologies at work. In our every day lives we may admire the same celebrities, but we are not all the same. Globalisation has created, strangely enough, greater individuality and cultural diversity. We exercise greater choices in our spending patterns, personal relations and our lifestyles. The paradox is that as we become more the same, we also become more different from each other.”

The real difficulty is that our ability to capitalise on the opportunities offered by these changes is dependent on our access to wealth and knowledge, which in turn is driven by the capitalist model of demand and supply.  If we want everyone to succeed, it may well be that we need to make changes to this model.  Scace therefore argues that we need to ensure that every individual has access to knowledge and information and that we should perhaps look to a model which sets as its goals: 'perspective, social inclusion and quality of life as the endgame', rather than simply economic advancement.

The book is a fascinating read and succeeds in weaving together a complex and disparate number of subjects.  My only criticism is that it doesn’t go into sufficient detail on any subject to really substantiate the views of the author, nor does it try to support the various points by suggesting further reading.  The book can therefore only be considered as one person’s view of how the future may look – but it is still a very readable, interesting and thought-provoking book

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