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This is a thoughtful and easy to read book. The short editorial comments above do not do it justice.

Drawing largely on his own experiences as a cyber-world observer, the author comes to conclusions that are solidly supported by many other works that he does not cite (out of his primary area of interest) but that strongly support his independently derived conclusions. I refer to the various works on collective intelligence (Atlee, Bloom, Levy, Steele, Wells), additional works on the power of knowledge driven organizations (Buckman, Wheatley), and on the sources of innovation through intrapreneurship (Pinchot, Christensen, Raynor), and finally, the wealth of knowledge (Stewart) and infinite wealth (Carter).

What I found most helpful in this book was its preamble, in which the author systematically pointed out that the war metaphors of business, the survival of the fittest, the assumption that we are all in competition with one another, and the centralization and manipulation of money, have all led to pathological behavior and distorted priorities that actually diminish what can be shared and created. In this the author is consistent with Tiger (The Manufacture of Evil) and various works today on immoral capitalism (Greider, Prestowitz, Perkins).

He carries the argument further by suggesting that big is bad and that most giant enterprises have lost sight of their core competencies. They are so busy making money and outsourcing to cut costs that they literally "lose it." At the same time, they struggle desperately to "brand" to manipulate customers, to reinvent old products, etc. At the same time, the constant focus by merchants on short term profits reduces trust--as the author says, no long-term focus reduces trust. This is an important point. He writes at length about Wal-Mart as the poster child for abusing communities that lose three jobs for every two lower-paying jobs that Wal-Mart brings in, with fewer benefits, longer hours. The number of Wal-Mart employees that are below the poverty line is quite shocking. Wal-Mart is exporting good jobs to China and importing menial badly-paying jobs to the USA.

In the middle of the book he addresses social currency, and suggests that most activities are not really about achieving specific goals or buying specific things, but rather about out-reach and networking--the primary human motivator is communion, and the fragmentation of the marketplace and the commoditization of the employee have blocked that.

The book concludes with what could be said to be a very worthwhile mantra: businesses should answer real needs, everyone should collaborate rather than compete, and the over-all objective is to form communities by integrating the views and needs of employees, clients, stockholders, host communities, etc. He makes reference to addressing the needs of the bottom four billion people (per C. K. Prahalad's pioneering work), and has some very exciting references to a new business that allows cell phones to dial in to databases that offer Internet-like access for very narrow needs (e.g. crop prices or new cases of a specific disease.

A central thesis of the book is that open source software reflects the needed attributes of the current and future networking environments. Larger groups of people collaborating openly are consistently more effective than smaller groups working in secrecy. As a side note, the author buries the current obsession of the U.S. Intelligence Community with anonymous access to the Internet (not directly but as a former intelligence officer I see this in what he says). He points out that social currency--being visible, being valued, sharing what you are interested in, seeing what others are interested in, is a *fundamental* aspect of the global networked brain. In other words, the U.S. Intelligence Community, by insisting on anonymous access to the Internet, is isolating itself and seeing the world through blurred lenses.

The title of this book, while cute, might better have been "look under the hood." The author is compelling and interesting as he names specific consultants and specific companies all floundering to find new ways of getting money from customers, without ever actually looking under the hood of the car they are driving, and getting back to the fundamentals of their core competency. I am reminded of the U.S. Intelligence Community again--Ambassador Negroponte, a diplomat and a neo-conservative, is essentially in the same position as the ill-fated Dutch financier that took over Shell oil and had no idea how to run an energy company. His financial metrics were simply irrelevant, and over time Shell lost the ability to grow truly inspired geologists and engineers who had "the feeling in the fingertips" that the Germans stress so much.

The author makes specific reference to large mergers being the death rattle of an industry--one can easily see this in the U.S. Defense industry, with L-3 buying Titan, General Dynamics buying Anteon, Lockheed lusting after this and that---the dinosaurs are in-breeding (and cashing out), and have completely lost the ability to meet real needs at a fair price with a decent amount of on the fly innovation. They will be beaten by small, fast, and often foreign providers.

Over-all, I found this book inspirational, reasonable, and very very worthwhile.
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on October 17, 2011
Throughout the 20th century business has been fine-tuned to deliver incredible amounts of productivity. This has been through corporate organization, division of labor, an increasing openness of management to listen to and involve labor and changing the package of incentives to workers. What Rushkoff outlines in "Get Back in the Box" flips this upside down. To me, he is really asking, 'where do we want to take business tommorow?'.

Rushkoff answers that by looking at companies that have managed to succeed, and continued their success. The keys come down to a few broad themes, first, realize what is motivating workers of today and learn to treat your consumers in a more human manor.

The first breaks down to realizing that todays workers are less inspired by the corner office and more inspired by exciting work. Moreover, workers expect fair compensation for their work, and are uselessly distracted by fighting for raises or protecting retirement funds.

The second part means two things: don't treat your costumer like an idiot, but also, be careful how much you listen to them. Rushkoff exposes some companies that are so busy protecting themselves from lawsuits, and guarding their copyrights that they end up alienating their customers and losing business. It all boils down to companies thinking that what they own (IP) is more important than getting it out to customers. In Rushkoff's previous books, he's explored the world of conultants like "cool hunters" trying to track down the next big trend. In this book, he takes us into the world of companies making bold decisions because they know their product. Sure enough, the customer often follows.

Overall, a great book for both business people looking forward and workers trying to inspire change.
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on July 12, 2006
This is an excellent book about understanding what you do best, how that best makes the world a better place, and a bit about how to reach the public with what you do best. This is a point made on every page of the book. I highly recommend it to folks who want to take what they do very well, what they do better than anyone else, trust it, and devote oneself to doing it even better while bringing one's offering to market.

There is, however, one important qualification to my praise. Which is, that while the author contrasts the limitations of the "first" Renaissance, with the virtues of this "second" Renaissance" he also makes a great case for the value, insights gained from, and need for the competency of "pattern recognition," by upper corporate management. He makes the point that each company should have the ability to recognize the patterns associated to its core competencies and offerings, and I assume with how those patterns resonate with their customers. This was the essence and sine-qua-non of the "first" Renaissance; the re-birthing of the eternal patterns first made known in the classical Greek period. There is a great deal to learn about patterns and their recognition from the first Renaissance, much more than Mr. Rushkoff's excellent book has to offer, or gives credit to.

Our current obsession with "Brand" and "Branding" and "Brand Management" is not anything more than a less adept striving to create what the Greeks understood about the worship of their gods. How each divinity was a constellation of psychological forces that formed patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior that were expressions "from" the culture and not imposed "on" the culture. During the first Renaissance this was recognized and was employed as a way to speak to and create for its own people. In this way, by understanding the first Renaissance a time of "pattern recognition," one can learn to create value for people from their lives and not impose it on their lives.

I love this book and at the same time, this significant lapse has me thinking about how much the author has sacrificed of his own considerable and core competency for research in chasing the gods of "compare and contrast" so overly worshiped by those in-the-academic-box.

But, let me also say that this is an amazingly useful book for those who want to embrace the patterns of collaboration, generosity, and approaching one's work as play, which are the shinning patterns of this "second" Renaissance, that we live in today and which Hermes, Aphrodite and a sense of Philia can teach us all about as well.

Once I began reading this book I could not put it down. Nothing is perfect, however, which is another point he makes in the book.
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on April 1, 2007
One of the best books on taking an outside look into how we do business, live and experience the world as people, not just consumers.Get Back in the Box: Innovation from the Inside Out
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on June 27, 2011
Douglas Rushkoff's Get Back in the Box is more than a "business book." It's a powerful schematic that can be just as useful in every other venture of life, as it can for the business savy.

First, let's not draw any illusory lines. Cyberia was about culture. It was about the uprising of a new cultural generation brought up on technology. It was about the cyberpunk generation that wrested control of the countercultural movement from the hands of the beatniks. Get Back in the Box is the matured manifesto of this same cultural generation - our generation. It's a guidebook for conquering mainstream corporate American by telling us to stick to what we do best, rather than simply imitating the mainstream. Rushkoff gives concrete examples of businesses (structures) that have succeeded by following the theories he uncovers in his book. He also gives examples of failing businesses that have gone under simply because of losing focus of their core competencies. He has amassed proof upon proof that "thinking outside the box" does not mean we should stay outside the box. Instead, Rushkoff wants us to remember what we built the box to surround in the first place.

With that said, one can surely see that Rushkoff's Get Back in the Box is not simply a business book. The structure, theories, and examinations spilling out of its pages are pertinent to any structural endeavor, including occult or countercultural movements. After all, this sequel to Cyberia was still written for the same audience: us - the cyberpunk counterculturalists, hell-bent of usurping the Gnostic archons of corporate society. Rushkoff just realizes that we need to beat them at our game, not their own, and he has given us a solid working point from which to start.
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on February 8, 2007
Where to start...

I rated this 4 stars; 5 stars for being thought provoking and reinforcing my notions of what businesses should be concerned with, and 3 stars for the authors glaring examples of old-renaissance ideas/execution that didn't/don't work, yet providing nothing more than hindsight.

I agree with the previous post that the first half of the book was better than the second half. There are so many examples that are counter to the authors examples, but I'll give a few here.

First, in the absense of fullfilment opportunity exists. While Wal-Mart may be an evil company for some of its practices it also provides people in developing countries with a job, where none may have existed before. If you have no food and someone gives you a scrap then you at least survive to move onto a larger portion. If those who are employed at Wal-Mart cannot find another job that pays more than minimum wage then I would suggest going to a library and start has free internet access...

Second, many of the arguments made throughout the book are based on a circular reference that is incapable of breaking down, when in fact it would break down. If a=b=c=d...y=z and z=a then for values of a-z that fluctuate so does the continuum. Every example given in the book relating to whatever currency units are give follows the same principle: that at some point, hidden beneath the guise of logic and play, energy will need to be expended that is not optimally or even close to optimally what any person would normally do in search of or in realizing the new renaissance. This breaks the whole model and I suppose it also degrades innovation at the same time.

Third, open-source software, though trendy, has limitations. Imagine a world where function a is performed via single open-source project composing of a single developer, then fast-foward t years where function a is now performed by 1000 different projects each with 1000 developers (who share the same egos), in the meantime you have some number of function a demand satisfied by 1000 projects so a/1000. All of the sudden you have function b that people just though of at t+1 days, but only a small portion like 1% of function a projects are compatible...but the developers of function a projects not wanting their egos to be crushed realize this and perhaps migrate over to the small % of function a projects that are compatible...leaving the other 99% of function a projects to be picked up by some developer(s), whos egos aren't as big, to try and work something out with function b compatibility. Now you have function a compatible projects with a huge number of developers wanting to make their mark with function b, but the 99% of the people who utilize function a and now function b must switch to projects that are fully compatible and relearn, etc. The point is that people want recognition, however good or bad that may be, but it's the truth...even authors put their name, photo, etc.

Fourth, I agree that understanding your "core competencies" are very important and understanding the "source code" and "patterns" is nice, but what really got me was how high people must be in order to realize that this is the path to eternal bliss or "play." I mean who in their right mind would choose to clean out a septic tank as a way of "playing" or even perform surgery on someone's brain...just for fun, when you know that someone's life depended on whether you were qualified or not. If you aren't qualified then doesn't that introduce a classe system of sorts? Who would regulate this...would this person think that telling someone they are incompetent was "playing?" It's clear that any system which qualifies someone as being able to perform a specific action, no matter how much fun they might have, is clearly old renaissance and the illusion of new renaissance is just that (not in entirety, but practicality).

Fifth, while some people prefer to solve challenging problems, others would rather just sit around surfing, etc. What do we do with those people? Where would they get their surfboards, wax, wetsuits, food? I'll tell you who...the people that have enough resources at their disposal to just sit back and ponder how the old renaissance is coming to an end in favor of the new renaissance.

Sixth, peoples faith often becomes a paramount influence in the actions they undertake. Some are at extreme ends and radicalize what is otherwise a very moral and just view of how things should be. These radicals often carry out actions against others because their convictions are so strong and so outside of the middle that even if the middle moves it will not be enough so enough will be "encouraged." This artificial skewing leads to others ultimately forgoing "play" in order to build a counter-trend necessary to prevent skewing that is non-organic. In the end you have a reduction in pure innovation (good) and an increase in pure existence. I'm guessing that the author was too busy contemplating whether or not we could he didn't think whether or not we should...

Seven, the book discusses how currency became the demise of society as it pertains to interest, greed, etc. However, in the Paypal example he exalts that business for being upstanding and trying this new thing, but it ultimately fails because of the banks...yada, yada, yada. Anyways, Paypal was earning interest on the float vs. charging money for its service. How is that new renaissance? If we take the banks out of the equation so that interest is no longer accrued then who pays for the hosting, data, maybe it's those people who like to play in data centers. But then, who builds the steel racks, elevated floors, servers, ethernet cables, routers, switches, supplies power, constructs the building, stays up all night trying to figure out why no interest is being accrued :)

Well, that was more of a rant than anything else. I'm glad this book cemented my ideas about open-source software and about how so many company executives are in such disrepair. Innovation...hmmm...whenever I have a bug in software I usually just open a debugging program that I purchased and print-out the portion of code via a printer, utilizing a driver, written by some person of gets off on that sorta thing...but would they do it for free if there other needs weren't being met...I don't think so.

There's a reason why doctors get paid so much money, there's are reason why people do jobs they wouldn't otherwise do, there's a reason why the new renaissance only exists in the imagination of Gene Roddenberry. The have's and the have not's exist today, and perhaps in the 21st century we can combat much of this gap; however, until everyone is content with their existence and opportunity for existence then we will not reach the new renaissance. Indeed, it will only exist where truly innovative ideas take place...our isolated dreams...
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on December 27, 2005
Doug Rushkoff manages to capture the essence of the next wave of innovation just as it is peaking. We are on the cusp of a new renaissance, and Rushkoff lays out the landscape clearly (to listen to a preview, google: Rushkoff "Renaissance Prospects" podcast from ITConversations). His main thesis is that we are in the midst of a new renaissance in which you and I, the average Joes and Janes, are no longer content to be passengers in our experience, but increasingly demand to be given the wheel so that we can author our own future.

This is illustrated by his example of BMW motorcycle owners, who have formed a fiercely loyal community of peers. When BMW offered to help with the coordination of riders, the community politely but firmly declined; they can manage credibility and coordination just fine without official corporate mojo, thank you very much. And BMW got the message.

The point isn't to stop being innovative, but to keep faith with one's core in the midst of innovating. In the wild ride of the late nineties, too many caught whiff of a new craze and mistook it as a call to be different for different's sake. Rushkoff's advice to us as a culture is the recognition that both supplier and consumer are collaborating in bringing this experience to fruition. The challenge for consumers is to pony up to the responsibilities of taking the reins. For corporations, the charge is a bit more challenging: how to entrust your customers with your core competencies as they take hold and do with it as they will. The surprise to all may be just how much the line has blurred between these two roles, as we attempt to discover who really is in the driver's seat.
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on February 24, 2007
I'll admit, it took me awhile to really get into this book. Once I got through the first couple of chapters of "Get Back in the Box" though, I couldn't wait to read more of it.

The author, Douglas Rushkoff, feels that we're in the midst of a renaissance in creativity and collaboration. As he puts it, "genuine creativity is a result not of out-of-the-box thinking, but of true expertise." Here's a great example he used partway through the book: The person that decided (years ago) to put a VCR and TV into one device wasn't really innovating. The person who came up with TiVo, on the other hand, was a genius and someone who truly had a handle on people's viewing habits.

He's got an entire chapter on what he refers to as "social currency." The retailers featured as noteworthy examples in this chapter include B&N ("the store is a social hub"), Guitar Center ("it's a place to try out pretty much any piece of musical instrument there is--and to play on it for hours") and the Apple Store (described as "a little cathedral"). I tend to think Starbucks fits the mold as well. In fact, this chapter got me wondering about what would happen if Starbucks and Apple ever decided to create some co-branded shops...

Here are a few of the other interesting tidbits I highlighted throughout this book:

** ...customers don't want to communicate with brands anymore...they want to communicate through them...

** Although we claim we want more leisure time, we are much more likely to find an opportunity for genuinely fulfilling engagement and learning at work.

** It's about learning to tinker, to tweak, and to test the most basic, underlying assumptions of one's core business or technology.

** (Regarding focus groups...) In the vast majority of the dozens of groups I've observed or led, the purpose was less to glean new insights than to confirm the insights already held.

This turned out to be a very enjoyable book with all sorts of great observations.
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on January 31, 2006
I'm not the typical audience for a "business" book. A number of business books have been given to me over the years, such as "Who Moved My Cheese" and "First, Break All The Rules." I mostly found that those tended to remind me of bad self-help or get rich quick type pitches. The guru comes down and tells us proles how it is. My interest in *this* book however sprang from Rushkoff's fascinating blog.

Douglas Rushkoff writes from the perspective of a netizen, a cyber enthusiast, and above all, a member of the silly, fascinating, innovative and always moving culture that has been made possible by the Internet. Get Back In The Box captures that sense of play and optimism that I've always found online but never in a standard "business" text.

Although he does occassionally cross over into almost over-hyping the change in thinking, the illustrations of what makes innovation possible are fascinating and inspiring. His example of satellite radio, of how Sirius has spent $$ on marketing and big names all the while losing money while XM has focused on solid ground-building support with the music coming first, was one of my favorite sections.

I wish the higher-ups at my company would read this book. I work in IT, as server support for a large company (very large). When I started, we used to do support of one business unit, with a great deal of in-depth knowledge of how our systems worked to support that unit. As years have gone by, we've taken on more and more systems to the point where now most of us don't really have any idea what these systems actually do. And now, as we're slowly being segmented by function into more "efficient" units, any unique value that we used to be able to bring to help our clients, is basically lost. And at that point, there really is no difference between any of us and someone with the same general tech skills in India, who's willing to work for a lot less $$.

I found Rushkoff's optimism at times a little over the top but the general premise was so right on. I did a lot of "hell yeah" and "amen" while reading it. Made me want to run to the window and yell out, I'm madder than hell and I'm not going to take it any more. ;-)

Rushkoff gets outside the box by getting back in, and by taking us along for the ride, and using grounded, real world examples, he illustrates how important this is. As companies race to outsource and offshore work, I wish more business leaders would read this book. And remember.... you get what you pay for. This book is $$ well-spent.
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on August 1, 2009
After reading 'Get Back in the Box' and watching the press run up to Rushkoff's latest, Life Inc., I'm puzzled. Many of the stories that Rushkoff cites as impetus for creating Life Inc are thoroughly covered in 'Get Back in the Box'.

And stories they are. While much of the anecdotal evidence is entertaining it remains personal opinion and observation. Rushkoff's message is one, ultimately, of wanting companies to *DO* something. The clarion call is to those companies that have so fragmented and outsourced what they do that there is no real expertise or 'craft' to be had. This is a much needed message in an age of 'Four Hour Work Weeks'. It makes for a compelling read. I just wish his foils weren't such cardboard; something that makes the dispatching easy when presented in such a one-dimensional manner.
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