Docstoc

HarvardBusinessOnline

Document Sample
HarvardBusinessOnline Powered By Docstoc
					Harvard Business Online                                                                http://www.harvardbusiness.com/hbsp/hbr/articles/article.jsp?articleI...


                                                                           ADVERTISEMENT




         FORETHOUGHT REVIEWS


         Reviews




         Megacommunities
         How Leaders of Government, Business and Non-Profits Can Tackle Today’s Global Challenges Together
         Mark Gerencser, Reginald Van Lee, Fernando Napolitano, and Christopher Kelly
         (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008)

         In the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, state officials and others in Florida realized they lacked an effective structure for responding to the
         extraordinary devastation wrought by Andrew’s 160-mile-an-hour winds. The interrelated problems were of such a scale, and involved the
         interests of so many stakeholders from every part of society, that only a vast, combined effort by organizations from every sector could have
         resolved them. Based on its analysis of the flawed Hurricane Andrew response, Florida created the kind of framework for which the book
         Megacommunities is named—a “community of institutions and organizations” representing government, businesses, and nonprofits.

         The authors—a quartet of Booz Allen Hamilton consultants—argue that a host of heavyweight global problems (involving, among others, the
         environment, energy policy, and threats to human health and security) can be solved only by harnessing the power, creativity, and insight of the
         three sectors working in concert. These collaborations, they write, require structures “in which no leader or institution is necessarily in charge,
         and yet a healthy, prosperous, effectual environment exists in which issues are addressed and complexity is reduced.”

         How to do that is the crux of this book. The authors draw on interviews with CEOs, government officials past and present (Bill Clinton is among
         the most cogent), and heads of nonprofit agencies to give credence to their view that only by putting aside the individual institutions’ unilateral
         agendas and identifying areas of “overlapping vital interest” can a megacommunity effectively coalesce around a well-defined mission and
         produce worthy solutions.

         Unfortunately, the idea is new enough that few examples of such collaboration exist; most are in their early stages. Moreover, because of the
         massive scale of the problems they address, megacommunities are inherently open-ended undertakings rather than time-bounded projects.
         Hardly a megacommunity exists that has fully realized its mission. This dearth of practical experience occasionally leaves the reader awash in
         too much theory and too little street cred.

         Still, the authors manage to convey useful guidance, sometimes by depicting instructive failures. In one such case, an international conference
         on avian influenza recommended the aggressive culling of infected birds. But since confere nce organizers excluded groups they perceived as
         opposed to their interests (a healthy megacommunity would strive to include such viewpoints), a global bird conservation group was not present
         to share solid scientific evidence that culling infected birds actually accelerates the virus’s spread. Oops.

         The book doesn’t soft-pedal the difficulty of getting parties with strongly held beliefs and agendas to subordinate them to pursue overlapping vital
         interests. But it is in the main an optimistic handbook for creating promising frameworks for change that balance ideals with realities, the perfect
         with the good.

         —Lew McCreary

         The Making of Second Life
         Wagner James Au
         (Collins, 2008)

         A good anthropologist keeps one foot firmly planted in the society he is studying and the other in his own. If he’s simply a detached observer
         or—just as bad—if he goes native, he won’t be able to straddle the two cultures in a way that leads to true understanding. Wagner James Au



1 of 2                                                                                                                                              13/06/2008 15:29
Harvard Business Online                                                                http://www.harvardbusiness.com/hbsp/hbr/articles/article.jsp?articleI...


         carefully strikes the right balance in his nuanced account of the evolution of the online world Second Life. Au, who was first a reporter hired by
         Second Life
         developer Linden Lab and is now an independent blogger, has always combined an empathetic view of the place and its “residents” with a
         journalist’s dispassionate (if not always combatively critical) voice. This book, which draws on the vast trove of fascinating tales and trends he
         has chronicled over the years, continues in that vein, deftly addressing subjects ranging from virtual sex to the Second Life marketing initiatives
         of real-world companies.

         —Paul Hemp

         The Trillion Dollar Meltdown
         Easy Money, High Rollers, and the Great Credit Crash
         Charles R. Morris
         (PublicAffairs, 2008)

         Why did the credit markets tighten so drastically last year, in the absence of major shocks? Morris, a former banker, sees the crunch as the
         culmination of a quarter century of deregulation and innovation that initially greatly benefited the economy but eventually self-destructed in an
         orgy of ideologically driven behavior. He sees unnecessarily cheap money from the Federal Reserve as the main proximate cause of the
         excessive risk taking. With the United States now in a slowdown, he adds, this Fed policy, combined with the global shift away from the dollar,
         means the government has little leeway to stimulate growth without provoking inflation. The only good news is that Morris’s cyclical view of the
         political economy suggests America will return to a sustained period of prosperity in the next decade.

         —John T. Landry




2 of 2                                                                                                                                             13/06/2008 15:29