Turn around. Look around. What do you see? Markets rule but protestors are marching against global capitalism. The NASDAQ composite index has gone down the drain. Disasters have cast their daunting shadows. Perils are lurking at every corporate corner. Teargas has hung in the air of Seattle, Gothenburg and Genoa. Stock markets have evaporated. Docu-soaps have invaded our living rooms. Corporations like ABB and Enron have been turned upside down and inside out.
In brief: bricks and bullets, bubbles, bin Laden, big brother, and bosses bad to the bone.
This is the backing track to Karaoke Capitalism.
Our aim is simple: to take you on a trip around the gutters of commerce and society as well as the galaxies of commercial inspiration. This journey is based on the realization that, whether we like it or not, we are all citizens of a world dominated by markets. We are surrounded by the mania of markets and live in a society where money is meaning; where freedom does not always equal happiness; and where technological opportunity does not necessarily lead to profits.
Karaoke Capitalism was forged in times during which celebrating was often the last thing on anyone's mind. Even so, Karaoke Capitalism -through the darkness - shines a torch into some of the more obscure recesses of capitalism in search of inspirational gold.
A few years ago, the not so democratic leader of a former USSR republic proudly announced: `Yesterday my country was teetering on the abyss. Now we have taken a giant leap forward.` How right he was.
Despite such dangers, we are going to ask you all to jump into the future. By all means keep your eyes open. This is no small step for man. Quantum leaps are required when we are moving from one world to another.
`Hard times give you the courage to think the unthinkable,` says Intel chairman Andy Grove.1 Now, the unthinkable is on the verge of becoming probable. Just consider the following signs of our times:2
• The best rapper is white
• The best golfer is black
• France accuses the US of arrogance
• Denmark sends a mini-submarine to a desert war.
In such weird, wonderful and worrying times, where everything is possible, the only thing to really fear is fear itself.
Karaoke Capitalism is a book of ideas, different perspectives, soundings in the darkness. It is a book about people - management for mankind - the individuals prepared to grasp the microphone and make their voices heard. The book shows that experiencing and expressing your individuality, being different, lies at the heart of the modern enterprise and modern life. We are all individuals now. The choices are ours. But so are the responsibilities - for our own life and the life of others. Liberty comes with duty.
The book brings back reports from the front. We write about what we see, read and hear - not about the world as we would like it to be. Before prescription there must be description. We're not arguing that what is happening right now is necessarily good or bad, right or wrong. We're merely suggesting that it is indeed happening now. Does this mean that we like all the things that we bear witness to? No. Do we dislike it all? No again. There is a difference between the message and the messenger. `Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so,` noted William Shakespeare. The important point is that people must form their own opinion about the changes that we are experiencing and what kind of future they would like to create. The truth may set you free, but first of all it could well piss you off.
Traditional business books usually excel at making vertical analyses. You find a well-defined problem and then start drilling. Sooner or later you hit intellectual oil and attempt to siphon it into your tank. In contrast, our approach is more environmentally and intellectually friendly (and unlikely to leave you with inflammable material on your shoes). Karaoke Capitalism is an attempt at making a horizontal analysis - linking changes in many different areas and walks of life together so that they form a tapestry of our topsy times.
In music you talk about composing and sampling. We used 5000 post-it notes in creating this puzzle. New ideas = old thinking put together in novel ways. Such a horizontal perspective was important to us because in a world of rapid change and information overload, it is easy to lose track of the big picture. Three questions guided our search. What has happened since we wrote our last book Funky Business? Why did it happen? And what are the implications for societies, organizations and individuals around the world?
Our first objective with Karaoke Capitalism is to invite people to think, rather than telling them what to think. Great questions open up doors - answers usually close them. Our second goal is to arm people with the most potent competitive weapon of our times: knowledge. If we have succeeded, the book is part survival kit, part hitchhiker's guide to the galaxies of business. It is a self-help book, but a different one in that we have tried to build a bridge between the outer and inner contexts. In order to figure out how to create a good life for yourself, succeed at work and create competitive corporations you need a hypothesis about how the world works.
The Clash once advised us `know your rights`. In the age of the individual we must not only know our rights, we must all live our rights.
Of course, creating Karaoke Capitalism was not a glorious act of individualism. We had a real backing band rather than a tape.
Stuart Crainer of Suntop Media once again helped us hone our literary style. We are most grateful for all his help. Couldn't have done it without you. Jan Lapidoth, Richard Stagg and all our other publishers across the world have provided valuable input to the book. Thanx! Britt-Marie Hesselback, Karoline Gustavsson, Sara Gazelius at SpeakersNet plus a global tribe of fantastic people at other speaker's bureaus do a great job of helping us and our clients every day. We very much appreciate all your help. Our colleagues and friends from CASL, IIB and Executive Education at the Stockholm School of Economics always provide a lot of inspiration. Jonas Akerlund and Robin Siwe are the artists behind the cover photo of the book - great job - our pleasure. Jaqueline Asker makes marvelous slides for our gigs. Christer Jansson and Katarina Lapidoth are responsible for the design of Karaoke Capitalism. They are most certainly true professionals.
Last but not least, we are much obliged to all managers, journalists, architects, researchers, artists and other interesting individuals who have listened and talked to us, sent us e-mails and letters during the last few years. If it hadn't been for you, this book would not have seen the light of day.
Enjoy the ride.
Jonas Ridderstrdle & Kjell Nordstrom Stockholm October 2003