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The Wealth of Knowledge: Intellectual Capital and the Twenty-first Century Organization Hardcover – December 26, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
A century ago, business corporations were identified by their physical assets: real estate, buildings and machinery. Over the course of the next hundred years, management and investor attention shifted toward businesses' intangible property: brand names, patents, business relationships and employee culture. Stewart, Fortune columnist and author of the bestselling Intellectual Capital, argues this trend will continue through the 21st century, even as business law, practice and attitudes often ignore the intangibles in favor of concrete but less relevant physical assets. While not groundbreaking, his latest book offers a broad survey of business from the intellectual capitalist's perspective, from the basic economics of knowledge and business organization theory and management to selling and accounting for knowledge. Stewart could have fit this subject into a serious business magazine article; in expanding it, he simply adds a relentlessly upbeat mix of grand metaphors and detailed examples. Each chapter is packed with provocative, insightful material. The book's weakness is its dearth of theory and impatience with alternative views, and the chapters manage to logically follow one another without ever cohering enough to become more than the sum of their parts. The author's considerable rhetorical gifts also hide the fact that entire sections of the book do not really relate to the main thesis. Agent, Kris Dahl. (On-sale: Dec. 26)
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Stewart, who writes a monthly column for Fortune called "The Leading Edge" and once sat on the magazine's board of editors, follows up his Intellectual Capital: The New Wealth of Organizations with an interesting yet complex work that stresses the need to consider intellectual vs. bricks and mortar or other forms of capital in accounting for the worth of corporations. Stewart lists three ideas that have changed how business organizations operate total quality management, reengineering, and intellectual capital and maintains that the companies that will succeed in the 21st century are those that master the knowledge agenda. His arguments are cogent and well reasoned. An extensive bibliography is included. Recommended for all types of libraries, this book should be read and reread by people in business generally. Littleton M. Maxwell, Business Information Ctr., Univ. of Richmond, VA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
When the author says "It's time to gather the grain and torch the chaff," his book over-all tells me he is talking about brain-power and a culture of thinking (the grain) and counterproductive information technology and irrelevant financial audits (the chaff).
This is one of those rare books that is not easily summarized and really needs to be read in its entirely. A few items that jumped out at me:
1) Training is a priority and has both return on investment and retention of employee benefits that have been under-estimated.
2) All major organizations (he focused on business, I would certainly add government bureaucracies) have "legal underpinnings, ..systems of governance, ..management disciplines, ..accounting (that) are based on a model of the corporation that has become irrelevant."
3) Although one reviewer objected to his comments on taxation, the author has a deeper point--the government is failing to steer the knowledge economy because it is still taxing as if we had an industrial economy--this has very severe negative effects.
4) As I read the author's discussion of four trends he credits to John Hagel of I2, it was clear that "intelligence" needs to be applied not only to single organizations, but to entire industries. In my view, this author is quite brilliant and needs to be carefully cultivated by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, all of the industry associations, and by governments. There are some extremely powerful "macro" opportunities here that his ideas could make very profitable for a group acting in the aggregate.
5) This is one book that should have had footnotes instead of end-notes, for while the author is careful to credit all ideas borrowed from others, it is difficult in the text to follow his thinking in isolation. One idea that is very pertinent to national intelligence and counterintelligence as well as corporate knowledge management is that of the reversal of the value chain--"first sell, then make," i.e. stop pushing pre-conceived products out the door and get into the business of just enough, just in time knowledge or product creation that is precisely tailored to the real time needs of the client.
6) The author excells at blasting those corporations (and implicitly, major government bureaucracies such as the spy agencies that spend over $30 billion a year of taxpayer funds) that assume that if they only apply more dollars to the problem, they can solve any challenge. "Too often 'dumb power' produces a higher-level stalemate." One could add: and at greater cost!
7) The bottom line of this truly inspired and original book comes in the concluding chapters when the author very ably discusses how it is not knowledge per se that creates the value, but rather the leadership, the culture, and infrastructure (one infers a networked infrastructure, not a hard-wired bunker). These are the essential ingredients for fostering both knowledge creation and knowledge sharing, something neither the CIA nor the FBI understood at the management level in the years prior to 9-11.
As it turns out, that is exactly what Tom Stewart does in The Wealth of Knowledge. At last, I say. In essence, its a book that looks at some of the "best practices" of companies that are doing exactly that, informed by Stewart's unique ability to connect the dots, and make sense of what is surprisingly fuzzy in the existing literature. I've followed Stewart's column, The Leading Edge, on and off again for years in Fortune, as he first began to chart these waters. I'm hardly surprised that he's the one to help tell us how to put the petal to the metal, and show how to use the knowledge that most businesses are really built upon. Hats off to you, sir.
- Chris Locke, author of Gonzo Marketing: Winning Through Worst Practices, and co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto.
Yossarian exploring the wily chambers of an insane McNamarian bureaucracy
that is the inner workings of the WWII military campaign in Europe. Milo
Minderbinder counterparts Yossarian's character by exploring capitalism
gone wild. Heller deliciously wraps the whole thing up such that every
chapter, every page, every paragraph and in some cases every sentence
begins and ends with a catch-22.
Tom Peters is a sharp tack. Back when the US had more serious
business problems to attend to including 10% inflation, 20% prime
interest rates, 10% unemployment, and Japanese Kereitsu's
managing circles around America's best and brightest Drukerarians,
Peters and his McKinsey side-office cohort Bob Waterman fired the first
shot in the new economy by exploring the bureaucracy and social
organization of what makes excellent companies.
Thomas Stewart is the best of both authors. His new book has flagged an
inflection point in the evolution of high tech management. He
bookends every chapter, every page, every paragraph with fresh managerial
insight and survey that would make Peters proud and a anecdotal familiarism
which stems from knowing every major C-level executive at all the thought
leading companies doing "cool work." "The Wealth of Knowledge" weaves
the do's and don'ts of corporate lore into a terrific read that only Heller
can rival in fiction exploring the catch-22 of tangible accounting and measuring, creating
and managing a corporation's intangible assets--namely Intellectual Capital.