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August 21, 2007
Book Review-World Inc: How the Growing Power of Business is Revolutionizing Profits, People and the Future of Both
    by Anne Moore Odell

Author Bruce Piasecki argues that better products will help make a better world as companies face the "S" frontier.


The role of companies is rapidly expanding in the 21st century with the rise of the "global equity culture," globalization reclaimed and renamed, puts forth Bruce Piasecki in his sixth book, "World Inc: How the Growing Power of Business is Revolutionizing Profits, People and the Future of Both." Using his experience as an advisor to Toyota, HP, and other trend setting companies, Piasecki sets out to prove companies need to reconsider outdated business models that overlook the social needs of consumers and instead move toward a social response capitalism.

Beginning in 1972 with the introduction of NASA's innovations that ushered in personal computers and the initial stages of the environmental movement, "World Inc." brings the reader to the present day, a very different business world from the world of the early seventies. People are looking more and more to businesses to solve a myriad of social issues from poverty to AIDS, instead of expecting national governments or religious institutions to be the only providers of solutions to social problems.

Creating a book-wide metaphor that compares the largest global companies to mansions, Piasecki puts these huge corporations side-by-side with countries. He writes that "fifty-one of the one hundred largest economies in the world are now corporations, not nations" and "as much as 40% of world trade now occurs within these top multinationals, which explains why they are studied and emulated by smaller companies."

Social response capitalism will help companies succeed as they face the "S" frontier of the 21st century which he defines as the swiftness of the new global market information, the severity of social problems like climate change and rising oil prices, and the need for social responses.

Product development, Piasecki writes, is the path that will unite societal needs and business competition in the global market. Product development driven by consumers for consumers in the hands of social response capitalism offers "new grounds for hope, recognizing that uniquely capitalist desire to be ambitious and to roam the world in search of excellence."

Social Response Product Development (SRPD) is actually "enlightened self-interest" and is integral to the development of products that are not only high quality, but also filling a social need.

For example, chapter four, "Toyota and the Search for the Superior Car," follows the car company's develop of hybrid cars as an example of how SRPD leads to a business' long term success. The book also details HP's intention to create "consumer delight" as the company expands its consumer reach to help serve the "bottom of pyramid," or in other words, the billions of poor to live on several dollars a day.

Comparing the extinction of older corporations to the demise of the dinosaurs, the text enters into an ongoing dialogue on the role of business to help solve global ills. It invites the reader into a conversation with "Megatrends" by Patricia Aburdene, who contributed the foreword to "World Inc.," with Thomas Friedman's "The World is Flat," and with "World on Fire" by Amy Chua. Piasecki also references Alan Banks, Nathaniel Hawthorne and even Dr. Seuss.

In the best sense, the book is an extended essay on the future of capitalism, as Piasecki provides case studies and sidebars to support his theories. The book mirrors what successful companies must do: develop to address the changing needs of the world's population and enter into conversations with others to solve problems and develop products.

Circling back to the importance of the personal computer and the Internet, Piasecki states that consumers have more information and more power than ever before. With growing number of people investing in stocks and the rise of rating-based benchmarking, Piasecki writes that investment becomes a tool shaping the "global equity culture." Although the role of governments to help shape social change is not totally discounted, "World Inc." points to a future where consumers demand companies respond and response rapidly to environmental and social demands.


 

 
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