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out to prove companies need to reconsider outdated business models that overlook the social needs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.
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
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
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
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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