The authors of BLUR: The Speed of Change in the Connected Economy make the case that it's increasingly difficult to tell the difference between a product and a service. Stan Davis and Christopher Meyer, both associated with the Ernst ∧ Young Center for Business Innovation, start with this provocative quote: "Has the pace of change accelerated well beyond your comfort zone? Are the rules that guided your decisions in the past no longer reliable? . . . You are experiencing things as they really are, a BLUR."By necessity a bit general, BLUR does give us a framework with which to understand the changes going on around us. The authors cite speed, connectivity, and the increasing value of the intangible over the tangible as the guiding forces of the economic revolution. A couple of quick examples of intangible value are the value of brands and the increasing value of intellectual capital (what's in people's heads) over hard assets, especially for technology companies. Most of the examples cited from the book are from the Internet or from high-tech companies, even though two-thirds of Americans still aren't even online. Still, even if we all haven't moved to an economy where companies join with suppliers and even competitors on mutually beneficial projects and bricks-and-mortar assets are viewed as a negative, we're all headed in that direction. Although sometimes guilty of employing buzzwords, the authors offer a knowledgeable introduction to a changing world and some advice on how to cope with it.
Davis and Meyer devote an entire section to the changed meaning of career in their blurred economy. They write of "the disappearing line between you as laborer and capitalist" and they even envision the development of financial instruments based on individuals' work value, like David Bowie's offering of bonds that securitized his future earnings. In short, the careerist is becoming a free agent who develops short-term relationships with employers, often more than one at a time.
Reviewed by Neil Lipschutz.