Last night on my way home from the eVoting panel, I caught the last part of an On Point interview with 95 year old Peter Drucker. Drucker, in case you have been under a rock for the past about 1945 when his “Concept of the Corporation,” a study of General Motors, was published, is the Management Guru and was long before the word Guru was used in America.
Drucker didn’t talk directly about IBM’s sale of their PC line to the China-based Lenovo (formerly known as Legend), but he did have a lot to say about changes in the global economy that are reflected in that sale.
Drucker was born in the Austro-hungarian Empire, escaped the Nazis, went to England then the USA. His present take is that the global moment is now (too bad usa). That in 1960, the USA was 45%+ of the world economy. Now Europe is much bigger as is Asia (both China and India are bigger on their own than USA) so that the lone superpower is already not lone and not super. That diversity of all business operations is not only the future but already here. That US employees working for a Chinese company (as IBMers in the PC Division will soon be) is not even odd. That we are headed to an economy that is not driven by American values or European values but by broader global values that are a fusion and profusion of cultures. The ability to not only be flexible but also tolerant and open and tied by information exchange will define the next generation. Also his hint, as I recall (I need to listen to the show online), is that the USA like England post-WW2, will never be as much an economic leader as we were in the 60s.
The IBM sale brought back to me a chat I had with Bruce Toglozzini some years back. We were both speaking to a Sun-sponsored conference in Mexico. Tog said once innovation hits and is accepted the real work is on changes at the bottom and at the top ends. Meaning in his case, very small interfaces as in portable phones (just then on the horizon) and very large interfaces such as smart rooms and projectors as opposed to desktops (what he was working on at Sun Labs).
IBM is confronting, perhaps successfully, a classic case of the Innovator’s Dilemma as described by Clayton Christensen in his book by that name. We know that the move is to services and that IBM is no doubt hoping to move from the low end and probably dead end PC market to handhelds and to servers too. Will they make it or become like RCA and ITT, a company that has losses its roots and its heritage?
Extra note on Innovator’s Delimma: I find Christensen much more useful than Thomas Kuhn, the paradigm shifter, for understanding changes in IT. Not that IT doesn’t cause paradigms to shift, but that the responses are described by Christensen are more obvious in the IT market place. Kuhn is about bigger and broader changes.