Today AU, tomorrow the world

“From Push to Pull: How to Navigate the ‘Big Shift’ Reshaping the World” interview of author John Hagel (, 8 July 2010). It’s Saturday, so let’s just cut to the chase…

Consulting: What exactly is the power of pull?

Hagel: I guess it starts with a rather provocative proposition that the current management approaches and institutions that we have in business are fundamentally broken, and to support that proposition we muster a set of evidence around performance trends over long periods of time for all public companies in the United States. In particular, we show that return on assets (ROA) for all public companies in the U.S. has eroded in a very substantial and sustained rate since 1965. In fact, it has come down about 75 percent. There is no evidence of it leveling off, much less turning around. At minimum, it suggests that the current recovery of the economy debate may be a bit misleading. We’re showing some longer-term trends that have been playing out across many economic cycles that we have not been able to respond to effectively.

Consulting: And to what do you attribute that decline over the last 45 years?

Hagel: On one level, you can simply think about it in terms of intensifying competition. One of the metrics we have shows the intensity of competition has at least doubled over this time period. But at a more fundamental level, the basis of competition is changing. In the past, we lived in a world where the source of economic value was around knowledge stocks, developing a proprietary set of knowledge, protecting it fiercely and extracting the value from it as efficiently as possible for as long as possible…

Wow! That’s quite a mouthful, eh? Where we are today traces all the way back to 1965. That’s a lot of bad habits and false assumption to break and remold. No wonder the last couple year felt like a house of cards collapsing. Fortunately, there is hope…

Consulting: How would this impact the way professional service firms serve clients?

Hagel: That’s interesting: One of the key implications, we believe, is for professional service firms to organize a much broader network of expertise. Most professional service firms tend to operate as ‘we have the answers and we engage one-to-one with our clients’ as opposed to organizing a large network and help to connect that network and its expertise to clients. With more and more options competing for everyone’s attention, the notion of someone who deeply understands what a client’s needs might be and who can be helpful connecting that client to the people, information and resources that are most valuable to them will be well positioned to succeed.

Interesting enough, that sounds very similar to the Alchemy United model. Let’s just leave it at that for today. Time to run out and grab Hagel’s “Big Shift”.

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