posted 25 Feb 2003 in Volume 6 Issue 6
Book review: The Next Big Idea
Manjiri Virginkar-Papproth reviews Carol Kennedy’s The Next Big Idea
TITLE: The Next Big Idea
AUTHOR: Carol Kennedy
PUBLISHER: Random House Business Books, 2001
The Next Big Idea presents a number of real-life management strategies in addition to recent research conducted by leading US and European companies. “Management, born as a profession with the twentieth century, has for most of its lifetime been in love with the Big Idea. Just as with politics, its practitioners have perennially sought the road to salvation, the magic formula for prosperity, some grand vision that would rally people behind them.” These introductory lines provide the reader with a sense of perspective, preparing them for the search for the next big idea.
Divided into ten chapters, the book covers different stages in the making of a big idea: ‘cool’ ideas, new methods in human-resource management, managing at ‘net speed’, and management gurus’ expectations and predictions about what the next big idea will be. Kennedy also quotes the much praised book on internet strategy, Blown to Bits,to illustrate the business rules that dominate in the modern economy. Of particular importance in this context is that “no business leader today can presume that the business definitions in his or her business will still be valid a few years from now”.
Emphasis is placed on speeding up managerial processes. Kennedy, drawing on the experience of IBM, lists the key characteristics that companies need to develop if they are to realise the goal of managing at net speed: strong leaders, clear objectives, strong communications, a project-tailored approach to processes and a timetable geared to increased speed. The different stages in the making of a big idea are also described: research, message, testing ground, launch and roll-out, transferability, and sustainability. The key concept put forward by the author in this respect is that “the Big Idea has to transfer across industrial borders and be adapted to changing environments”.
The book offers a very good overview of different management strategies and the stages that culminate in the making of a big idea. It starts by describing the lure of the big idea, followed by strategies as well as real-life experiences detailing the successes and the lessons learnt in companies like GE, Skandia, Motorola, IBM, Cisco Systems, Sun Microsystems, Microsoft and Intel, among others.
Most of the content is based on reprints of quotations from core articles and reports on the subject, as well as interviews conducted by the author with distinguished thinkers and academics such as Richard Pascale, Gary Hamel, Charles Handy, Kenichi Ohmae, Sumantra Ghosal, John Seely-Brown and others, who offer their insights on various management strategies. A number of key approaches that dominate the present management world are covered in the book.
The differences between old and new-economy strategies are discussed, while new qualities like managing at net speed, reputation management and adaptive leadership are also addressed. In addition, Kennedy provides useful insights into the current management initiatives of a number of companies in the US and Europe, although only fleeting reference is made to the contribution of Japanese companies to current managerial trends.
The book does a good job in introducing the reader to the history of key aspects of management thinking as well as to current corporate practices, but the a lack of more detailed reference to the experiences of Asian companies is a notable oversight. That said, the list of recommended reading goes some way to compensate should readers wish to do a little more research for themselves.
The primary audience for the book is first-year MBA students, as well as perhaps beginners in the management field who are looking for an overview of the different management strategies currently in use. More senior managers, on the other hand, should already be familiar with most of the material in the book. Readers looking for more in-depth material should refer to the individual books mentioned in the recommended reading section at the end of the book.
The Next Big Idea makes a good textbook for beginners in the field, and the writing style is simple and understandable. The Powerpoint-style shots at the end of each chapter provide a useful summary of the content, and the book as a whole holds the reader’s interest from beginning to end. Above all, this is a well-rounded introduction to successful management strategies, practices and trends.
Evans, P. & Wurster, T.S, Blown to Bits: How the New Economics of Information Transforms Strategy (Harvard Business School Press, 1999)
Manjiri Virginkar-Papproth is a knowledge broker/process consultant at Siemens Business Services, Germany. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org