This book is a must read for the managers and knowledge workers of the new economy! Irreverent, timeous, reflexive, contentious, and informative, Funky Business is all of that and more - it is also a great read. Oh, yes, it is really funky!
But my dilemma is: how can I do justice to the book in the space of a review? I could describe the narrative thread that produces a tapestry of business (and life) in the digital age - the weaving of the chapters from "Funky Times" (life in the digital age) through to "Forces of Funk" (the factors determining the present moment - changes in technology, institutions, and values), "Funky Village" (a commentary on our postmodern and "hy-phe-ne-ted" society), "Funky Inc." (the funky business model for the new economy - the organization which is focused, innovative, leveraged, and heterarchical), "Funky U" (the my.com mentality), to "Feeling Funky" (how the imagination in the "emotional enterprise" drives competitive advantage in the digital age). Yet, if one is lost in all this funk (a sign of American cultural imperialism in the new economy?), Nordström and Ridderstråle do provide an interpretative signpost: "Funkyism equals information mania plus the power of choice" (p.36).
Or, I may reflect on some of the book's highlights. My best is the opening chapter's parody on Marx, Lenin and Mao. The authors' admit, without apology, that in this "age of capitalist triumph" (p.16) the Marxist inspired view of labor was correct. The sting of the Marxism was in the fact "that the workers should own the major assets of society, the critical means of production" (p.17). And Nordström and Ridderstråle go on to argue that that is a reality now, ironically, in the hyper-capitalism of the new economy. However, their argument continues, the basis of Marx's criticism of capitalism is overturned (the worker as oppressed) - today, in the knowledge-based economy the worker herself or himself is now an asset in the form of intellectual capital, owning the means (having the "brain power") to produce economic value in society. Of course, and with reference to the philosophy of Michel Foucault, now that power resides with the knowledge experts, we all have become oppressed by ubiquitous circulations and webs of digitalized information. While the workers may control the means of production, they do not necessarily have control over the nature of the new economy, even though the authors' rightly note that "we are condemned to freedom - the freedom to choose" within that economy (p.70). Yet, the relationship between the self, knowledge, and work is neither deterministic nor nihilistic in the digital age. In a "multi-centric" world of excess, abundance, difference, diversity, MTV, chaos, and self-realization the mode of the survival of the self, and the Funky Inc., is by means of emotive response and the creative imagination, in other words - talent. Today, it is not about molding the world to oneself or an organization, but rather, by adapting to the world we take advantage of the frictionless "free" market (pp.128-130). "The spirit of capitalism is on the move" (p. 98) and the ghost of Hegel and the belief in process arise out of the sweat of "funky people work[ing] smarter" (p.86).
Or, I could note snippets that are applicable to management competencies (as well as illustrate, at the same time, the authors' tone and writing style). First, strategic thinking: "Sensational strategies capture the attention of the people with whom we want to do business. Sensational strategies appeal to all five senses of man. They embrace our emotions. Competitive strategy means being one step ahead. Sensational strategy is about playing a different game" (p.235), a customer-centric game. Second, experience modeling: "In the funky village, real competition no longer revolves around market share. We are competing for attention - mind share and heart share. If you cannot capture the attention of prospective customers or employees, you are out. To attract them, you need to provide experiences that are immediate, intense and instant" (p.83). Third, the technological effect: "The central contribution of technology to funky business is in creating information systems. The impact of information technology is omnipresent. Today, information flows freely. You can't avoid it. It's like getting sand in your swimming trunks - a little annoying and close to impossible to get rid of" (p.43). Fourth, organizsational change: "Funky Inc. is neither homogeneous nor heterogeneous; it is both. Successful companies will evolve into organizational tribes - biographical organizational tribes. And in a tribe people get the energy from one another. The Zulus have a word for it: `ubuntu' ..." (p.165).
Funky Business is full of other insights; I have only touched on a few. The book is a vivid interpretation of our hyper-capitalist, digital and inter-connected world, and some thoughts on how to go about management and doing business in that world. Compared to many business books on the market today, it is inspiring, provocative, and adaptive to local geographies notwithstanding its global perspective! So, knowledge workers of the borderless world unite - and make business funky!