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Evolve! : Succeeding in the Digital Culture of Tomorrow 1st Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1578514397
ISBN-10: 1578514398
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter is the Eartha Kitt of change-management gurus. Just when you think the grand dame has taken her final bow, she comes bounding back onto the scene with a new act that's as shrewd and insightful as anything any young kitten has to offer--but benefiting from decades of wisdom and experience that puts the whole litter to shame. Take, for instance, Evolve!, Kanter's latest in a string of highly influential books on organizational management (including Innovation, World Class, When Giants Learn to Dance, and The Change Masters). Yes, the ubiquitous dot (as in "com") after the E in "Evolve" on the book's cover may suggest to the cynical that this is another old-school change guru weighing in with the obligatory guide to making it on the Net--and months after e-commerce mania has subsided, to boot! And granted, the thumbnail keys to successful I-preneuring that form the book's structure--namely, a willingness to improvise, a desire to network aggressively with other sites, a readiness to create "integrated communities," and a commitment to creating a workplace culture that attracts and retains the best talent--aren't necessarily breakthrough insights, however cogently presented.

But Evolve! stands out among the vast spate of e-commerce how-tos of the past few years because of the meticulous, rigorous research on the part of Kanter and her legion of Harvard Business associates. Here, coupled with Kanter's always-keen prose, that research translates into perhaps the most vivid, probing, and instructive anthology of e-commerce success (and failure) stories yet to appear in one book. Kanter & Co. conducted over 300 interviews, plus surveys with nearly three times as many companies worldwide, to tease out their conclusions on what works and what doesn't when doing business online--with brash start-ups as well as brick-and-mortar giants. That serious-minded, Harvard-quality sleuthing is reflected in the long narratives that make up the meat of the book, detailing the complete online journeys of some of the world's most high-profile companies, from venerable offliners venturing online (among them, Arrow Electronics, Barnes & Noble, NBC, Hewlett-Packard, Honeywell, IBM, Williams-Sonoma, and Sun) to the Net-born (Amazon, eBay, Razorfish, EarthWeb, iXL, Renren.com, and Abuzz, which clearly emerges here as Kanter's pet model of how to do it right in entrepreneurial cyberspace). If you've followed the start-up scene with eagle eyes every day for the past five years, you might already be familiar with these companies' twisting, turning story lines. If, more likely, you haven't, you're in for some illuminating object lessons on what works (and what doesn't) on the precarious, often uncharted terrain of e-commerce--not to mention some really good reading.

Shortly before Evolve! went to press, Kanter added two new chapters to address the latest changes in the e-commerce market. That's a valuable update, but even if she'd skipped the postscript, Evolve! is blessedly free of reckless cybermania. And, unlike many such dot-com how-tos, it's wise enough to know that, far from having completely rewritten the rules of good business, the callow world of e-commerce has much to learn from the offline forbears it often scoffs at. For these reasons, the observations and advisories in Evolve! should transcend the inevitable fluctuations of the e-commerce market in the years to come. In other words, this is the real thing: smart, deeply researched advice from a pro whose talents are evident on every page. Well, except for the rap lyrics she's penned for "Evolve!--The Song," which kick off the book, and run along such lines: "You're not alone, so start placing your bet/On finding lots of partners throughout the Net!" Cole Porter she's not. Then again, maybe they wouldn't sound so lame if only we could get that other old pro, Eartha Kitt, to slip into her catsuit and purr her way through them. --Timothy Murphy

From Publishers Weekly

In this engaging but uneven book, Kanter (When Giants Learn to Dance; The Change Masters), a Harvard Business School professor and organizational change expert, predicts how the Internet will alter the way we work in the future. Business strategy for Web-dependent companies, she argues, should be like improvisational theater, with the CEO in the director's chair setting a direction for the firm and guiding the action based on market conditions. Kanter argues convincingly that the biggest obstacles to change are management and employee attitudes, not the technological tools they employ, adding that the best employees consider internal change a way of life and see the creative possibilities that can arise from conflict. Unfortunately, Kanter's case rests on anecdotes from well-known companies, such as Sun Microsystems, and draws on old Harvard Business School case studies on well-documented firms such as eBay. Despite her assertion that the book is based on new research, one gets the feeling many of the examples were selected from the obvious specimens she featured while speaking and consulting. But the biggest flaw is that some of Kanter's key observations have been overtaken by events in the market (e.g., it is no longer true that "unprofitable [Internet businesses] get high stock market evaluations"). E-book already available in MS Reader and Glassbook editions. (Mar. 1)Forecasts: Though this effort isn't as deeply insightful as Kanter's best work, which has been pitched to v-ps and senior managers, a first serial excerpt in Inc. magazine, a major advertising campaign in national and niche periodicals and a 15-city author tour may bring it to the attention of middle managers who are new to her thinking.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; 1 edition (February 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1578514398
  • ISBN-13: 978-1578514397
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,060,851 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on February 23, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Rosabeth Moss Kanter is one of our finest thinkers about organizational change. In Evolve!, she has taken on a very large challenge. She attempts to help the young and the old, the e-hip and the offline, the techies and the nontechies, and those in new economy and old economy companies understand one another better so they can cooperate for greater results through using the Internet as an enabling medium. She also takes a look at beneficial cultures separately from the perspectives of pure dot com companies, dotcom-enablers (like Sun Microsystems), and wannadots (already-established companies seeking to add the Internet to their businesses). In the process, she provides lots of helpful examples of what NOT TO DO, as well as what TO DO both in terms of what kind of organization to create and how to get there. I found that the book added a great deal to my storehouse of case histories about what has been working and what has not as companies have sought to develop and improve Internet-based business models. Unlike most books about the Internet, this one was primarily based on lots of research with people at companies rather than lots of experience in using cool Web sites.
The book is divided into three parts. The first section looks at how the Internet affects every business and person, the role of young people to date in advancing the changes, and why companies have to do more than just open a web site to be effective. Basically, the Internet means a fundamental change in at least part of every company's business model. For some companies, this is a complete change. For others, it is a partial, but significant change. Cisco Systems provides a good example. You can be a major provider of high technology products while having very little manufacturing youself.
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Format: Hardcover
I found Evolve! by Rosabeth Moss Kanter to be a fascinating look at how the Internet has changed the business world. As someone in his mid-20's working at a company that is stumbling into the Internet age, I know that Kanter's insights are right on target.
The best part of the book is its case studies. Kanter's extensive research enables her to give the reader behind-the-scenes stories of businesses struggling to succeed (as well as businesses struggling with success). These stories are fun and easy to digest -- I seriously couldn't put it down once I started reading it. The stories are woven together seamlessly, and each one is just as fascinating as the last. They uncover the inner-workings of business, which makes an understanding of familiar companies like E-Bay, IBM, BarnesandNoble.com, and Sun Microsystems much richer.
This book is also particularly good because it reveals the benefits and drawbacks of the "dot-com style." We have all been attracted to this type of work environment (no dress code, cool office spaces) and Kanter understands this -- but she has a fresh perspective on the extent to which this style can enhance or cramp an organization. She also explains the demands that the Internet has placed on businesses to be quick to move, network, improvise, and take chances.
As an employee myself, I found one of the best lessons to be that there are ways of making your job more meaningful, and there are ways of making your company feel more like a community. Some of it involves peppering the "dot-com style" around the company, but that is just a tool -- it has more to do with communication and teamwork.
Overall, this book is a great source of insights all told in Kanter's enthusiastic, animated narrative.
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Format: Hardcover
As a long-time strategy consultant who has worked with hundreds of companies and now as an entrepreneur establishing a new company in Asia, utilizing the Internet, I find Evolve! to be packed with extremely useful ideas and powerful lessons. I recently spoke at a forum on the major challenges facing businesses in Greater China over the next ten years. Having just read Evolve!, I centered my talk around the new environment, new culture and new rules affecting businesses throughout the world, as a result of the Internet. These changes and their implications are certainly revolutionary, but they are also evolutionary. The attendees unanimously agreed that mastering this topic is a key success factor for their businesses.
Evolve! provides excellent perspectives on how the web acts both as a stimulus for new organizational culture and as a facilitator for change -- allowing this culture to change in an orderly and timely manner.
The extensive research done for this book provides fascinating case studies, anecdotes and insights for those readers who already have considerable experience with the Internet world. For readers who have less firsthand exposure to the key elements of the Internet and all that it implies the book provides, in an easy to relate to manner, excellent insights into understanding how the workplace of today needs to evolve in the future.
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By A Customer on May 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Moss Kanter's book is over-hyped from the cover onward. Three problems: 1) the book starts with the obligatory writing of 2 sections filled with gross generalizations with little data to support many of the statements (despite professing to have major data to support her conclusions), 2) The book was clearly started back during the Internet Hype days before the bubble burst. I will admit that there do appear a few last minute editorial insertions referencing the March 2000 start of the meltdown but her praise of companies without substantive business models betrays the age of the text. 3) I know it is bad to spoil the endings of books but I have got to, Moss Kanter finally, in the last third of the book, gets to the point of outlining how dumb organizations can evolve in this way cool internet era. However, if you look at her recipe endnote you will see that she is digging up a basic organizational change model that she introduced in the early 1990's and has simply churned it through Internet start-up war stories. E-volving? Hardly. New and invigorating? Doubtful. Relevant? Only if you have been asleep for the last 4 years. Having been hard on the book, I do think it has a 3-star place on my bookshelf but clearly it won't be equal to my often referenced, dog-eared copy of "Competing for the Future" or "The Knowledge-Creating Company."
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