Books have changed my life, repeatedly. Books brought me out of the narrow life of the rural South, and books (Faulkner, Welty, O’Connor) helped to expand it. A book changed my views about capital punishment (John Grisham’s The Chamber) and a book opened my views about trust and transparency in business (Francis Fukuyama’s Trust: Social Virtues and Creation of Prosperity). The reason that good books are transformative is that they are also transcendent: in the thrall of reading, you float outside your mortal coil to experience a person or an idea that was created by the author. You taste, you smell, you feel what the author brings, and you are forever changed.
Brian Solis’ book, What's the Future of Business (cleverly and forever shortened to “WTF” in this post and everywhere else), is such a book. It will transform you, in ways that you were probably never transformed before. It is ambitious and heroic, and it is very stylish. If you are a member of what he calls “Generation C” (“c” for connected) or what we used to call The Digerati, you will have this book on your coffee table right next to the Apple TV remote.
Drawing largely from his online writing across various sites, slides from Altimeter and other analyst firms, Brian puts all this knowledge into one place and, here is the heroic part, gives it historical (and not just history since 2005) context. The book is sprinkled with quotes from Henry Adams to Publius Syrius, and he is constantly asking the question “What does all this change and disruption mean for you and your business?” He even ventures ever so slightly into what this means for us as humans, echoing much of what I’ve heard from Paul Greenberg and others about the humanization of the customer experience, from, paradoxically enough, the explosion of digital communication.
But what makes this book most interesting is that it is a product informed by the very thing he is covering, namely, social and the Internet. It may be one of the first books which is a product of “the internet of things,” in that clearly he has sorted through material from the enormous database of information about digital marketing, filtered through the enormous experience of a lifetime marketer.
It’s all here. If you have a staff, do them a favor. I’m giving a copy to each of my employees. They can bite off chapter by information-rich chapter while they’re waiting for lunch. It’s Rosetta-Stone-like in its digestible simplicity, and yet it is such a beautifully constructed object (hats-off to Wiley) that you will want to keep it visible and not just sitting in your iPad.
But what about this book is transformative? We are transformed when the author lets us know that we are not alone with our concerns, or our hopes. Brian closes his book with a couple of powerful chapters. The first of these, “Disruptive Technology and How to Compete for the Future,” advises the business person today to take a breath (“there is a gap that exists between current needs, evolving pains, and the myriad solutions hitting desktops….”). But also he or she has to learn how to restructure the mission away from “efficiencies” and towards an adaptive model. He acknowledges the near panic that many of the people we talk to are confronting with the digitization of their businesses and the challenge of social marketing, but he says, “Relax, you have (some) time.”
But he also inspires. Those business leaders who have learned and are committed to evolving are those he talks about in his closing chapter, “The Hero’s Journey.” We on the outside of big company leadership are tempted to be impatient with the obstinacy of some senior managers who are blocking out the new social/mobile/cloud reality. But the heroes are those who face it every day and are still incredibly effective. His fans and readers will join with him and fight another day.
Here is the "official" slide-share, by the way: http://www.slideshare.net/briansolis/official-slideshare-for-whats-the-future-of-business
Photo is from briansolis.com.