Robert B. Reich, a co-founder of The American Prospect, is a Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. His website can be found here and his blog can be found here.
The Web changes everything -- including change. And it's not just the Web. Digital technologies, wireless technologies, the Human Genome Project, complexity theory, and the emergence of new science have all changed how we think about change: why change has to happen in companies, how change happens, and, most important, who makes change happen. Power has shifted from inside to outside, from corporate planners to aggressive buyers. Now all customers, all clients, all investors, have a huge array of choices -- and can switch to something better instantly.
The butcher metaphors of modern management are back: cutting out the fat, slicing to the bone, getting leaner and meaner. Well, all this butchering may slow the slide of stock prices, but it's not a way to build long-term competitive strengths.
The fact is, the key competitive assets of most companies these days is their people, not their machines or plants or even their patents, but their employees. Their employees' intellectual capital, knowledge about the companies' products, services and technologies. Their employees social capital, relations they built up over the years with clients and customers. And inside the company, relationships among employees who've become a team.
When President Bush recently addressed Yale s graduating seniors, he gave a hearty "well done" to those who got straight A s, but consoled the C students by telling them that they, too, could be president of the United States. Apparently, he was referring to his own less than stellar academic performance as a Yale undergraduate.
A C-average as the key to success? Actually the President was on to something. Studies show that students who graduate from college with straight-A s have less chance of becoming chief executives of anything, and also are less likely to become rich later in life, than are students with more modest grades.
Among the hottest regulatory issues today are these: How to prevent kids
from smoking cigarettes? What to do about the flood of handguns? How to
end sweatshop labor in the apparel industry? How to cope with new kinds of
market power in high-technology industries?