I have just figured out what my company does! It may sound strange that a CEO of seven years has this epiphany, but it's true. Lytica Inc. makes knowledge power tools for supply management. Freebenchmarking.com was our first tool and Component Cost Estimator is our second. Oh, and by the way, this is what we do and will be doing going forward -- not looking back at what we have done.
Reinvention is critical for business success. Many successful companies have done it while others have stalled like a deer in the headlights, unable to see the danger approaching them. IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) and Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) are good examples of success while most traditional telecom companies are not. We need more corporate reinvention.
In his book The Third Industrial Revolution, author and economist Jeremy Rifkin talks about how every industrial revolution is spurred by a shift in both energy and communication technology. Corporations are living this shift in communications; in energy, this is not so evident. Most of the energy innovation is happening on the fringe while the major players continue to drill for oil and burn coal. A brilliant Ruskin insight is that power utilities need to reframe themselves from sellers of electricity to managers of energy.
This mental shift, just like mine with knowledge power tools, opens up many new avenues for prosperity and pulls fringe ideas into the mainstream, which benefits everyone. We need lower energy prices and abundant energy for prosperity. Maybe the energy industry will figure out what it should be doing before the headlights get much closer.
Let's get back to my epiphany. Why have I focused on knowledge?
Knowledge enables action and makes possible a knowledge-action-results cycle. With all of the "time to" challenges (time-to-market, time-to-source, time-to-cost), the longest time interval is the one required to acquire knowledge. Knowledge is needed to make decisions. Getting it faster would make things happen faster, boosting productivity and competitiveness. Right now, our businesses need boosting and I am placing my bets on productivity and competitiveness enhancement through knowledge availability.
I see knowledge as a combination of information and wisdom. I can supply the information; wisdom comes from experience and education. With BRIC countries emerging as business competitors, we will be positioned against cultures and workers who may have an edge over North America on knowledge acquisition, given that these countries are graduating more engineers than we are and that their students are driven to improve their quality of life through high achievement in education. It is also clear that they have gained significant experience in manufacturing and technology, thanks to our technology transfers.
And there's more; their cultures give them access to information advantages while ours tend to be restrictive. We weren't always like this.
I remember the stories about Silicon Valley in its heyday. Engineers would meet at a pub called the Wagon Wheel and, over a beer, talk about what they were working on. An intellectual property sieve by today's standards, this was one of the most stimulating, high growth, and productive times in California's history. It was a culture of information sharing that we have mostly shut down with tight IP controls in the northern hemisphere of the West.
While I do not endorse or support IP infractions, I do see that access to knowledge is a significant factor in maintaining a competitive environment. The cultures of the BRIC countries are, in my opinion, more open to Wagon Wheel sharing than ours. They will prosper just as the Silicon Valley of old did, as we remain somewhat stalled.