Power and influence
Are business gurus really influential? The short answer is ‘yes’. Business executives tend to use them to test out their own ideas, to find points of reference, and to develop strategies, rather than follow them blindly – much as they do with industry analysts.
In the field of IT, Geoffrey Moore’s theories of chasms and tornadoes have undoubtedly had a huge effect on the business development of young companies, encouraging many to restrict their ambition and concentrate on their core competencies; his co-authored book, The Gorilla Game, also encouraged the still prevalent view that only giants and leaders are the winners.
In the 1980s, Nicholas Negroponte encouraged governments to focus huge resources on building digital communications infrastructures; and in business, Michael Hammer’s Reengineering the Corporation encouraged a wave of restructuring and downsizing.
Successful gurus can also help drive businesses. James Martin, a 1980s programming theorist, is credited with creating a huge business in application development tools; and James Champy, the co-author of Reengineering the Corporation with Michael Hammer, used his reputation and expertise to build up services revenues at Computer Science Corp.
For all that, gurus also fall out of fashion, and sometimes get it badly wrong. Gary Hamel, for example, was a great admirer of Enron’s management.
Nicholas Negroponte. When the ‘Wired generation’ sought a leader, Negroponte, the founder of the famous MIT Media Lab, was the obvious choice. Early in the 1990s, his compact book, Being Digital, became a manifesto for the digital revolution, predicting much that has happened since. He has written little since, but travels the world, delivering studied insights from an ideologically purist technology perspective.
George Gilder. The one time Nixon speechwriter, and advisor to Ronald Reagan, suddenly ‘found’ new technology when he read Tracey Kidder’s Soul of a New Machine. Since then, he has written several books and edited Forbes ASAP magazine. His selling point is his uncanny ability to pick winning and losing technologies by applying economic as well technological knowledge. Little known fact: He was once voted ‘US male chauvinist of the year’.
Peter Cochrane. If the UK has one credible technology futurist, it is Peter Cochrane, the ex- head of BT laboratories and author of several books and hundreds of columns. Cochrane lacks a big message, but like Negroponte is a passionate advocate of everything digital.
Other big players: Christopher Meyer and Stan Davis (convergence of bioscience and IT) Paul Saffo (digital society); Faith Popcorn (futuristic marketing); and Alvin Toffler (post indust-rial society).
Nicholas Negroponte: Being Digital
Stan Davis/Christopher Meyer: Blur
Geoffrey Moore: Crossing the Chasm; The Gorilla Game
Clayton Christensen: The Innovator’s Dilemma
Andy Grove: Only the Paranoid Survive
George Gilder: Telecosm
Gary Hamel: Leading the Revolution
Don Peppers and Martha Rogers: The One-to-One Manager
Michael Treacy: The Discipline of Market Leaders
Don Tapscott: Digital Capital
Jonas Ridderstrale: Funky Business
Ricardo Semler: Maverick!