The Digital Economy: A book review by Bob Morris

Digital EconomyThe Digital Economy: Rethinking Promise and Peril in the Age of Networked Intelligence (Anniversary Edition)
Don Tapscott
McGraw-Hill (2014)

A brilliant exploration and analysis of what has become an “age of connected intelligence” worldwide

This is the 20th Anniversary Edition of a book first published in 1995. Don Tapscott’s other books include Macrowikinomics: New Solutions for a Connected Planet (2012), Grown Up Digital (2008), and Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything (2006). I commend him on how skillfully he correlates material in the earlier edition with material that updates it. More specifically, he provides a “20th Anniversary Edition” Preface and then a Commentary that serves as an introduction to each of the 12 chapters. After setting the table with an introductory chapter, he carefully organizes and presents all of the material within four Parts: Thriving in a New Economy Chapters 2-4), Internetworking (5-8), Leadership for Transformation (9 & 10), and Leadership for the Digital Frontier (11 & 12).

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope and depth of Tapscott’s coverage in the first three chapters:

o The Digital Economy — The Big Ideas (Pages xii-xv)
o Major issues, then and now (xvi-xxi)
o The Challenge of Leadership (8-10)
o A Time of Transformation (11-14)
o The New Economy (15-18)
o The Internet: Hype, Reality, and Promise (22-35)
o The Four Problems with Reengineering as Practiced (36-38)
o The Dark Side of Networked Intelligence (40-46)
o Twelve Themes of the New Economy (54-77)
o Twelve Corresponding Themes: Economy, Organization, and Technology (78-80)(
o Social Media and New Business Models (83-90)
o The High Performance Team (97-102)
o The Extended Enterprise (102-107)
o The Internetworked Business (107-111)

I agree with Tapscott that past technological paradigms, such as the broadcast media and the old model of the computer and other transitions covered so well in Walter Isaacson’s most recent book, The Innovators, were hierarchical, immutable, and centralized. How could they be otherwise? They were disruptive precisely because “they carried the power of their powerful owners. The new media are interactive, malleable, and distributed in control. As such, they cherish an awesome neutrality. Ultimately they will be [or become] what we want they to be. They will do what we command of them.” In other words, we can shape the future for the common good. That is, “create a new social consciousness and conscience. If we act, rather than passively observe, we can seize the time. And the Age of Networked intelligence will be an age of promise fulfilled.”

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