new or old?
size & shape
page looks at volatility, change and innovation in the
an exceptional era?
It has become fashionable to argue, like James Gleick,
that the pace of technological
development and social change has speeded up. Others such
as Evans & Wurster or Davis & Mayer claim
that the business environment is so volatile that commercial
success now requires the abandonment of 'traditional'
ways of decision making and corporate structures.
Those claims are entertaining. They are also dubious.
Preceding pages of this guide and the separate profile
on communications revolutions suggest that the 'age of
the internet' is no more volatile than past eras. Indeed
it is less so than many.
And irrespective of the practical value of 'traditional'
structures or ways of doing business - in 2004 the "dinosaurs"
still roam the land, unlike most white-hot dot start-ups
hailed by the gurus - even passing familiarity with the
work of Chandler,
Cortada and others suggests that much tradition in fact
dates only from the 1960s.
The Internet Bubble (New York: HarperCollins
1999) by Anthony Perkins & Michael Perkins supplied
a prescient analysis of why the bubble was going to burst.
Michael Mandel's The Coming Internet Depression: Why
The High-Tech Boom Will Go Bust ... (New York: Basic
Books 2000) was less sensationalist than the title suggests
and a useful corrective to assertions by Gilder and others
that the business cycle is finito.
Irrational Exuberance (Princeton: Princeton Uni Press
2000) by Robert Shiller looks at fast money, investment
and speculation over the past decade, questioning traditional
academic wisdom about market efficiency and highlighting
recurrent announcements last century that a "new
economy" changes all the rules.
Andrei Schleifer's Inefficient Markets: An Introduction
to Behavioural Finance (Oxford: Oxford Uni Press 2000)
explores the conflict between perceptions and 'fundamentals'
in modern financial markets. Capital Markets Revolution:
The Future of Markets in the Online World (London:
FT 1999) by Patrick Young & Thomas Theys is a
less academic account of online financial services.
This site offers a detailed examination of the dot-com
bubble and its antecedents in a detailed profile.
John Kenneth Galbraith's A Short History of Financial
Euphoria (New York: Viking 1993) is a spritzy account
of bubbles before the net. There's a more detailed, although
perhaps too sanguine, study of the 'tulip mania' in Peter
Garber's Famous First Bubbles: The Fundamentals of
Early Manias (Cambridge: MIT Press 2000).
Edward Chancellor's Devil Take The Hindmost:
A History of Financial Speculation (New York: FSG
1999) updates Charles Kindleberger's classic Manias,
Panics & Crashes: A History of Financial Crashes
(New York: Wiley 1993).
We've noted Saskia Sassen's Globalization &
Its Discontents: Essays On The New Mobility of People
& Money (New York: New Press 1999) and Susan Strange's
Mad Money: When Markets Outgrow Governments
(Ann Arbor: Uni of Michigan Press 1998) elsewhere in these
Peter Bernstein's Against The Gods: The Remarkable
Story of Risk (New York: Wiley 1996), William Sherden's
The Fortune Sellers (New York: Wiley 1998) and
Burton Malkiel's A Random Walk Down Wall Street
(New York: Norton 1997) offer useful perspectives on global
volatility and forecasting.
For an academic - and more heavy going - study of thinking
about the history probability and risk turn to Ian Hacking's
The Taming of Chance (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni
the speed of change
James Gleick's Faster
(New York: Random House 1999) is a quick tour through
notions of volatility and change in the 'age of the internet.
It is better value than Davis & Meyer's dot-com tract
Blur - The Speed of Change in the Connected Economy
(Oxford: Capstone 1999) or Clockspeed: How To Survive
& Flourish In The Age Of Temporary Advantage (New
York: Little Brown 1998) by "corporate geneticist"
They offer prescriptions for success in the age of change
and uncertainty .... but strip out the dot-com jingles
and is 'fast' faster, change quicker, life more volatile
than the time of our grandparents? It is unfashionable
to say so, but we think not.
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