- 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: 41 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,434,843 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Evolve! : Succeeding in the Digital Culture of Tomorrow 1st Edition
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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.
Top customer reviews
Kanter excels at presenting ideas that may not be particularly new in ways that are innovative and picturesque. For example, the third chapter "Lipstick on a Bulldog: Why Cosmetic Change Doesn't Work" will make you turn to that page, but you will find mostly company anecdotes. (The best part of the chapter, her "anti-rules" for success, already appeared in the HBR article.) Readers may enjoy her presentation of business strategy for Web-dependent companies as being like improvisational theater, but will probably agree that the biggest obstacles to change are not technological but grounded in management and employee attitudes. Though the book was published in 2001, it already sounds dated in some respects. Kanter's sharp distinct between dot.coms and wanna-dots no longer sounds convincing. Neither do her observations that unprofitable Internet businesses get high stock market valuations. Kanter's prescriptions for encouraging change may not be as actionable as in some other books and shorter writings.
Beverly Kaye President, Career Solutions International Co-Author, Love 'Em or Lose 'Em
I recently re-read e*Volve, curious to learn how relevant it remains in light of what has (and has not) happened since it was first published early last year. My conclusion is that it is even more relevant now than it was then. The material is based on more than 300 interviews, a survey of more than 700 companies, and various case studies developed at the Harvard Business School. Kanter and her research associates analyzed a combination of traditional companies (e,g, Arrow, Barnes & Noble, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Sun Microsystems) and what are generally referred to as "dot coms" (e.g. Amazon, EarthWeb, eBay, and Razorfish) to determine how these companies attempted to achieve success in "the digital culture of tomorrow."
It would be a disservice to Kanter as well as to those who read this review to summarize the tentative conclusions which Kanter shares. (Read the book and you'll understand why such conclusions are necessarily tentative.) For me, the greater value of this book (and of all others she has written, notably When Giants Learn to Dance and Innovation) is derived from the questions she asks rather than from the answers she offers. No one else asks more probing questions than does Kanter. Why do some "revolutions" in business succeed and others fail? Which organizations (non-profits as well as for-profits) have either launched and then sustained successful "revolutions" or responded effectively to them? How and why? Within any organization, what must be allowed to "evolve," especially in today's competitive marketplace?
If you are a decision-maker now struggling to answer questions such as these, I highly recommend this book. With Kanter's expert assistance, you can determine which are the most important questions your own organization must ask. She will also assist the immensely difficult process of obtaining answers to those questions. That said, I presume to offer one final word of caution, one with which I hope Kanter agrees: At all times keep in mind that both questions and answers are transient. Whether circumstances e*volve or re*volve, they change and often do so at the most inconvenient time.
Most recent customer reviews
By Rosabeth Moss Kantor, Arbuckle Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School