Review of Kjell Nordstrom, Funky Business Forever: How To Enjoy Capitalism

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Funky Business Forever: How To Enjoy CapitalismFunky Business Forever: How To Enjoy Capitalism by Kjell Nordstrom
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Funky Business Forever. How to enjoy capitalism. Third edition published in 2008.

This book is primarily aimed at the leaders. But I guess it is going to be very interesting reading for all others who work in business too (because we can’t all be leaders, right?). And maybe this book will be of interest to all of you who like to follow new phenomena in modern economies and societies in general. Believe me, there is plenty of advice for everybody and especially for all of us who are making our own money for a living. Be that in your own company or in the multinational corporation or in public organisation for which you work for.

The mission of this book, for which it is really hard to say that it is only a business book, is to: “make a difference in shaping organizations and leaders who consider broader responsibilities than the balance sheet.”. You will find some incredibly funny or better to say funky statements. If you have finished an MBA, that means only that you (or in that case me, myself and I) are Mediocre But Arrogant (MBA). So read this book or maybe this review if you want to find out why  an MBA in today’s (business) environment is just not enough.

Today’s new phenomena are described in more details in the book. To me it was interesting to read the opinion about phenomena #11: Interactive everything. Besides that, authors also claim that technology opens up more markets and more things than ever before to total transparency and increased globalisation. There is also a claim that we need to realise that technological development necessitates changes in our institutions and in our values. Technology. Institutions. Values.

So, but what is the most important concern every big company (or for that sake, every company) should have? The fact is that 12.5 years is a life expectancy of all firms in Europe and Japan. And as much as one-third of 1970’s Fortune 500 companies had disappeared by 1983. (de Geus) So, to discover the fountain of youth for your organization, you should focus on human community inside and outside your company rather than on profits and bottom line.

That kind of company is so called Funky Inc. The authors describe it in depth and I would also like to share with you some interesting details. We are all more or less in so called knowledge society/economy. And a combination of fun and fear drives knowledge workers to 80-hour work week. The distinction between learning, working and living is gone – it is one and the same thing. But funky people in Funky Inc. work smarter. They do what they are really good at, maybe 100 times better. Period. In other words: the more unique you are – the better you will do.

Funky organizations do not aspire to be everything for everyone. Instead, they try to become something for someone. This focus has three elements:
+ Narrow Focus (NF)
+ Hollow Focus (HF)
+ Targeted Focus (TF)

NF = only the best is good enough.
HF = competing based on core competence and compents, the people who make things happen. But remember that your psychological capital (confidence, hope, optimism and resilience) is more important than your intellectual capital (education and experience).
TF = find riches in niches.

Worth remembering is that great organisations are based on fantasy, feelings and faith. To achieve that you need intellectual capital + psychological capital + social capital.

Funky Inc. also thrives on variety, difference and diversity. C (creativity) = D (diversity)2. More diversity means more standard deviation. Variation => if many of your customers are immigrants or young or old or women, this should be reflected in the make-up of the organization; this is so called an eve-olution. Frozen creativity means that we get an idea (gas); then start discussing it with others (fluid); and finally develop a customer offering (solid). So, remember that no one can have a monopoly on creativity – not even a momentary one – not even Microsoft or Google. Managing across borders that you could find funky is in European firms such as: Phillips, Electrolux, Nokia, Heineken, Unilever, TetraPak, Nestlé rather than companies as Wall-Mart or Mitsubishi.

To build up your funky organization, you should focus, focus, focus and then go global. In your communications and in your believes you should refer to niches rather than temporary monopolies – though the meaning is exactly the same. Vision of your organisation should be clear, continuous and consistent. It should inspire commitment and be continually communicated. Funky leaders communicate, then communicate the same thing again, and again, and again (this is one particular thing I should really remember). The true leaders are CSOs – Chief Storytelling Officers. Four critical requirements of funky leaders will arise: increased calls for direction and tolerance, attraction and attention. And in all companies they should understand that intelligence is normally distributed. It is not the preserve of white, 45-year-old males.

In funky companies sharing includes: ownership, rewards, identity, culture, knowledge, attitudes; the choice is endless, actually. But the trick is in keeping one thing constant while at the same time you allow for variation in all other dimensions. Funky Inc. learns from Chinese economy which is built on the concept of trust – Guanxi – a strong and inexpensive substitute for contracts and lawyers.

To achieve a funky organization you must have the gifts and guts to imagine and work wonders. All this implies risk – total risk – and, at the end of the day, personal risk. Yes, personal risk. When you wake up next day remind yourself that business is not a rocket science. It basically still boils down to making money. Also in Funky Inc.

What about phenomena in society more in general? If we look back, we could realise that since the fall of the Berlin Wall we have the Capitalism über alles. And in the 21 century instead of 500 TV channels, we now have millions of websites. (Time magazine) Family became a luxury item… For many of us the de facto standard is already serial monogamy, threesomes, etc. The nation state is stuck. To small to make an impact on the big issues and too big to make an impact on the small issues. The dominant ism left on earth is individualism. We have become wandering vagabonds in search of who knows what.

The fact is that rich are getting richer and the poor poorer. We are on the way toward a 2/3 type of society in which a large proportion of people are constantly losing ground. Parents of young people had a steady job in their times with a big organization where you got a gold watch and a pat on the back after 40 years of loyal service. Old societies were geographically structured and so were the tribes. We had the Sydney tribe, the Stuttgart tribe and the Stockholm tribe. And today? What is today’s way to progress?

Wealth is not gained by perfecting the known. Innovation concerns every little aspect of how an organization or a society for that matter operates – administrative innovations, marketing innovations, financial innovations, HRM innovations and service concept innovations. Europe’s advantage is supposed to be: diversity because it is the mother of creativity, invention and progress at the end.

Todays reality is that employee education isn’t growing 100 per cent faster than academia, but 100 times or 10.000 percent faster. So academia and the whole educational system will have to adapt, I guess.

For the end of this review some other interesting details to me: 

  1. The most staggering thing is that in a world of real-time society, companies keep on publishing Annual Reports. The balance sheets are about atoms – machines, buildings, etc. – but does one company that way really captures the most critical assets by measuring that stuff?
  2. Can you tell a bank from an insurance company? They basically provide the same kind of service. My experience exactly. Even more, who needs a bank anymore today?
  3. The key to increase internal leverage is not knowledge management, but rather a knowledgeable management. So how do you implement that in a small design boutique? My challenge for the future.

I hope you enjoyed my review. Let me know what do you think in the comments or on twitter: marko_savic_. Go Funky.

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