A wave of business innovation is driving the productivity resurgence in the U.S. economy. In Wired for Innovation, Erik Brynjolfsson and Adam Saunders describe how information technology directly or indirectly created this productivity explosion, reversing decades of slow growth. They argue that the companies with the highest level of returns to their technology investment are doing more than just buying technology; they are inventing new forms of organizational capital to become digital organizations.
It is no surprise that many fearful American workers see the call center operator in Bangalore or the factory worker in Guangzhou as a threat to their jobs. The emergence of China and India (along with other, smaller developing countries) as economic powers has doubled the supply of labor to the integrated world economy.
For decades the semiconductor industry has been a driver of global economic growth and social change. Semiconductors, particularly the microchips essential to most electronic devices, have transformed computing, communications, entertainment, and industry. In Chips and Change, Clair Brown and Greg Linden trace the industry over more than twenty years through eight technical and competitive crises that forced it to adapt in order to continue its exponential rate of improved chip performance.
How can you know when someone is bluffing? Paying attention? Genuinely interested? The answer, writes Alex Pentland in Honest Signals, is that subtle patterns in how we interact with other people reveal our attitudes toward them. These unconscious social signals are not just a back channel or a complement to our conscious language; they form a separate communication network. Biologically based “honest signaling,” evolved from ancient primate signaling mechanisms, offers an unmatched window into our intentions, goals, and values.
Thirteen million people in the United States--roughly one in ten workers--own a business. And yet rates of business ownership among African Americans are much lower and have been so throughout the twentieth century. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, businesses owned by African Americans tend to have lower sales, fewer employees and smaller payrolls, lower profits, and higher closure rates. In contrast, Asian American-owned businesses tend to be more successful.
Conscious control enables human decision makers to override routines, to exercise willpower, to find innovative solutions, to learn by instruction, to decide collectively, and to justify their choices. These and many more advantages, however, come at a price: the ability to process information consciously is severely limited and conscious decision makers are liable to hundreds of biases. Measured against the norms of rational choice theory, conscious decision makers perform poorly.
When we think of the Internet, we generally think of Amazon, Google, Hotmail, Napster, MySpace, and other sites for buying products, searching for information, downloading entertainment, chatting with friends, or posting photographs. In the academic literature about the Internet, however, these uses are rarely covered. The Internet and American Business fills this gap, picking up where most scholarly histories of the Internet leave off--with the commercialization of the Internet established and its effect on traditional business a fact of life.
What happens when fire strikes the manufacturing plant of the sole supplier for the brake pressure valve used in every Toyota? When a hurricane shuts down production at a Unilever plant? When Dell and Apple chip manufacturers in Taiwan take weeks to recover from an earthquake? When the U.S. Pacific ports are shut down during the Christmas rush? When terrorists strike?
We have all been to Web sites that welcome us by name, offering us discounts, deals, or special access to content. For the most part, it feels good to be wanted--to be valued as a customer. But if we thought about it, we might realize that we've paid for this special status by turning over personal information to a company's database. And we might wonder whether other customers get the same deals we get, or something even better. We might even feel stirrings of resentment toward customers more valued than we are.
Software platforms are the invisible engines that have created, touched, or transformed nearly every major industry for the past quarter century. They power everything from mobile phones and automobile navigation systems to search engines and web portals. They have been the source of enormous value to consumers and helped some entrepreneurs build great fortunes. And they are likely to drive change that will dwarf the business and technology revolution we have seen to this point.