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An Altered Landscape
 

Inc. magazine's editor-in-chief discusses the need to investigate the Web's effect on corporate culture.
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FYI: From the editor

It was about a year and a half ago that Rosabeth Moss Kanter first talked to me about the idea that eventually led to this month's package on E-culture. We serve together on the board of a Boston-based not-for-profit organization, and Professor Kanter grabbed me after one of our meetings to make a case that the media were overlooking some of the most significant issues surrounding the impact of the Internet on business.

Not that E-commerce and the dot-com phenomenon weren't important, she said, but we also needed to be investigating the Web's effect on corporate cultures, on the way companies handled internal communication, and on the quality of the relationships companies had with their suppliers and customers. The Internet, she argued, had the capacity to transform every aspect of a business, and it was time for somebody to start asking how companies were responding to the challenge.

I'm sure I would have found her argument compelling even if she weren't one of the leading theorists of corporate culture, a subject that she's written about for the past 15 years from her post at Harvard Business School. In any case, we were delighted to team up with her to investigate the questions she was raising. Together we put together a sampling of companies large and small, and Kanter and her researchers set out to ask the top executives exactly what was going on.

She presents the results of the survey in " You Are Here," and they're as useful as they are fascinating. From the article and its accompanying charts, you can see how your company measures up in terms of its digital practices. Perhaps more important, you can determine the extent to which other companies are running up against the same barriers you're struggling with.

It turns out, for example, that small companies have an advantage over large companies with regard to certain aspects of implementing a digital strategy. Whereas 51% of large companies lack staff with adequate skills, only 24% of small companies report such problems. Similarly, just 18% of small companies cite employee resistance to change as a barrier versus 31% of large companies.

Accompanying the survey is an article adapted from Kanter's new book, Evolve! Succeeding in the Digital Culture of Tomorrow, which grew out of her work on this project. The adaptation focuses on how two companies, eBay and Abuzz Technologies, have developed their concepts of "community" -- both external (with their customers and suppliers) and internal (with their employees).

The book and the survey appear at a crucial time for growth companies -- particularly those in established industries -- as we emerge from a period of absurd hype and outlandish claims about the Internet. Less than a year ago a chorus of voices was insisting that traditional assets were liabilities in the new economy and that profits were a distraction.

It's now clear that traditional assets are the only ones that matter in this or any economy, and companies that have them are in the best position to take advantage of the opportunities that the Internet offers. How? By integrating digital technology into the normal, day-to-day functions of business. That process isn't glamorous, and it won't produce a billion-dollar market capitalization overnight. But the real rewards of the Internet revolution will go to the companies that do the integrating first.


Please e-mail your comments to editors@inc.com.

Last updated: Feb 1, 2001




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