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The Only Sustainable Edge: Why Business Strategy Depends On Productive Friction And Dynamic Specialization Hardcover – May 2, 2005

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The Only Sustainable Edge: Why Business Strategy Depends On Productive Friction And Dynamic Specialization + Strategic Management in the Innovation Economy: Strategic Approaches and Tools for Dynamic Innovation Capabilities + Service Management and Marketing: Customer Management in Service Competition
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 218 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (May 2, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591397200
  • ISBN-13: 978-1599040660
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #920,903 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"...check out [this] smart new book by the strategists John Hagel III and John Seely Brown." -- Thomas Friedman, The New York Times, April 29th, 2005

From the Inside Flap

"Hagel and Brown’s vision of new innovation processes is compelling—and quite frightening. These disruptive forces will create exciting growth opportunities for the firms that harness them and will ruin those that ignore them."
—Clayton M. Christensen, Robert and Jane Cizik Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School and author, The Innovator’s Dilemma and The Innovator’s Solution

"As a practitioner working with global supply chains, I find this book captures the essence of our efforts to orchestrate loosely coupled networks on a global basis. This book is a must-read for all executives seeking to improve the performance of their global supply chain."
—Victor Fung, Group Chairman, Li & Fung

"Intensifying competition in global markets calls for an effective business strategy. This book introduces fascinating views on how to renew strategic thinking with valuable insights on how to spur innovation and talent development."
—Pekka Ala-Pietilä, President, Nokia Corporation

"The two great theorists of information technology, John Hagel and John Seely Brown, show the importance of talent development, specialization, connectivity, and coordination. This indispensable book is an absolutely fascinating guide for business leaders."
—Walter Isaacson, President, the Aspen Institute and author, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

"The authors brilliantly challenge conventional thinking with a penetrating analysis of the forces shaping the current business environment. This book is both intellectually powerful and downright practical, with straightforward questions and guidelines for business success in the global economy. It will force more than a few executives to rethink their strategies."
—Robert D. Hormats, Vice Chairman, Goldman Sachs International

"In a rapidly evolving global capitalist system, this book is the shortest path to survival and success – it is a bible for the new connected age. It is an absorbing narrative, an acute assessment of the environment, and a must-read for everyone."
—Vinod Khosla, General Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

"The authors document the impact of globalization and provide a roadmap for competitive success through continual cultivation of distinctive capabilities. Their compelling message is relevant for those developing strategies for institutional survival in the private and the public sectors."
—William H. Janeway, Vice Chairman, Warburg Pincus LLC

"Hagel and Brown brilliantly articulate the stages of evolution for organizations and construct a framework for creating sustainable value through accelerated capability building. This book offers a valuable guide for organizations seeking answers for operating effectively in a borderless world."
—K. V. Kamath, Managing Director and CEO, ICICI Bank

Customer Reviews

In a globalized world, boundaries are points of connections as well as separation.
Emily Levine
Hagel and Brown have written an amazing book - it is hard to capture its full richness because it covers so many themes in interesting and thought-provoking ways.
Although they provide an abundance of specifics throughout their brilliant book, they always have the so-called Big Picture in mind.
Robert Morris

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Fred G. Sanford on August 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you feel that you miss (...), Enron and the other excesses of the the late 90's, please buy this book. Otherwise, don't.

Hagel and Brown are two well pedigreed authors, and they attempt to explain their view on what is the next frontier in corporate strategy. The answer is that value of the firm lies not inside the firm but at its edge. The edge is a broad metaphor for geography (India, China and Brazil), maturity (old econ and new economy), physical edge (inside the firm as well the partners outside).

The key insights from this book are

- Two types of forces have converged to squeeze margins -Informational technology, and Public policy shifts. Try telling this to the 500,000 people who have lost their jobs in the valley.

- Three key elements of the new model for business strategy are
- A. Reconveive sources of strategic advantages by accelerated capability building across boundaries. This implies - Dynamic specialization, Connection and Coordination of 3rd parties and Leveraged capability building. Elaborated using the Li & Fung, Hong Kong retailer example.
- B. Master new mechanisms to build advantages - This implies focusing on efficiency as well as effectiveness, process outsourcing and offshoring, loose coupling of extended business processes and production friction
- C. Adopt new approaches for developing strategy

- Given this framework, conduct a diagnostic that inventories the key initiatives for the last 12 months, as well as the proposed initiatives for the next 5 years. At the end of this diagnostic, you should be able to identify what activities you can offshore and outsource and therefore you can dynamically specialize.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Previously, I read and then reviewed three books co-authored by Hagel which I greatly admire. Specifically, Net Worth, Net Gain, and Out of the Box. In this most recently published volume, Hagel and Brown assert that effective business strategy "depends on productive friction and dynamic specialization." As I began to read this book, I was curious to observe how Hagel and Brown formulate and then present what they call a "compelling case [for reshaping] the business landscape -- where and how value and profit get created -- to create a scalable catalyst for broader institutional and policy changes."

For them, "edge" has several dimensions. "First, we mean the edge of the enterprise, where one company interfaces or interacts with another economic entity and where it currently generates marginal revenues rather than the core of its profits. Second, the edge refers to the boundaries of mature markets as well as industries, where they may overlap, collapse, or converge...[Third], geographic edges, especially those of such emerging economies as China and India, where consumers of all kinds crave Western goods and services that will ease their burdens and improve their lives. Finally, we refer to the edges between generations, where younger consumers and employees, shaped by pervasive information technology, are learning, consuming, and collaborating with each other and where baby boomers are preparing to retire or switch careers over the next decade."

Hagel and Brown explain how to build a sustainable competitive advantage by focusing on three broad strategic imperatives: dynamic specialization, connectivity and coordination, and leveraged capability building.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Emily Levine on September 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Full disclosure: I don't have an MBA. I've never been to business school. When I hear the word "metrics", my eyes tend to glaze over like those of the rabbits that hang upside down outside butcher shops in certain parts of New York City. But business books are where forward-looking thinkers are incorporating key insights from Chaos Theory and complexity to create new models - that's why I read them. And John Hagel and John Seely Brown are the most forward-looking - and up-, down- and side-ways looking - of all those I've read.

The authors also demonstrate unusual depth. On the surface, "The Only Sustainable Edge" is your passport to a globalized world: the authors take you to China, India and other locales normally seen as far-off places to which we off-shore and/or out-source (the authors nicely distinguish between those two practices) and show us, instead, the specific conditions and cultural traits in those countries that create innovative practices we could learn from. But what gives this book such deep resonance is its underlying vision of a globalized world and the shift in theory and practice its operating principles demand. Because the tropes the authors use are brilliantly complex - they encode so much information - you can't help but grasp the implications. Take just these three examples:

"DYNAMIC SPECIALIZATION": The pre-globalized world world was divided into what Isaiah Berlin called "hedgehogs" - generalists, who know a little about a lot of things; and "foxes" - specialists, who know a lot about one thing. In a globalized world, the specialist is neither fox nor hedgehog: the specialist must know a lot about one thing...and how it works in many, many different contexts.
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