Chris Anderson’s short introduction to the main articles in this month’s (US) Wired, called “The New New Economy: More Startups, Fewer Giants, Infinite Opportunity“, discusses something that I have been seeing for a while now.
My wife Claire left a large, world-wide, design agency a year and a half ago and we set up our own company so she can carry on her work. Many of her friends and ex-colleagues have left (some, more recently have been made redundant) and set up their own little companies of one, two or three people. Each little firm specialises in an area and are getting work due to their low overheads . This is the same quality talent that companies were paying a premium for a couple of years back. Their prices can reflect the fact that they aren’t supporting other areas of a company that often includes highly (over?) paid exectutives and client managers.
Claire can now pitch for work by bringing together excellent people at a great price. These are the right people for a specific piece of work – the perfect virtual team. They needn’t be in the same place – or even on the same continent. Email, Skype and the trusty old telephone meet people’s needs for communication; every day tools that are available to everybody.
And companies are liking it, even in this economy. She can pull off jobs that still take creative risks using budgets that were not imaginable a year ago. She won’t win every pitch, but she is getting into doors that weren’t opening before and her proposals are taken every bit as seriously as those from bigger players.
The design industry has changed forever – I wonder if the bigger companies realise it yet. The future will be better for it. Or at least more aesthetically pleasing.
In Wired’s words:
Projects would be open to the best of breed anywhere, creating virtual flash firms of suppliers and workers that would come together for one product and then re-form for another.
This crisis is not just the trough of a cycle but the end of an era. We will come out not just wiser but different.
“It turns out the rule ‘large and disciplined organizations win’ needs to have a qualification appended: ‘at games that change slowly.’ No one knew till change reached a sufficient speed.”
The result is that the next new economy, the one rising from the ashes of this latest meltdown, will favor the small.
Last month I wrote a review of an old Len Deighton book that I picked up in a tiny second hand book shop in Scotland. At the end I wrote:
Deighton seems to be largely overlooked these days and it is a real shame. One day he will make a comeback, when people realise that old fashioned espionage brings adventure that modern day thrillers can only dream about.
I got a comment from a guy called Rob Mallows who said that a number of Len’s books will be issued this year in celebration of his 80th birthday (and also ties in nicely with the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.)
Rob runs a website called the Deighton Dossier, and appears to be on a one man mission to keep Len’s web presence comprehensive and up to date – a worthy aim indeed. The Deighton Dossier comes highly recommended.
There has also recently been a radio programme on BBC Radio 4 called The Deighton File – very interesting. I didn’t realise how prolific an author he was and how famous he became in the ’60s.
Here are a few more links worth checking out:
• Wikipedia: Len Deighton
• The Guardian: Len Deighton books
• The Guardian: Happy birthday, Len Deighton
• The Deighton Dossier Forum: Harper Collins to reissue many Len Deighton books
• The Telegraph: Interview with Len Deighton
• An Appreciation of Len Deighton (by Rob Mallows too…)
On a related (but not Len penned) subject, there is a new book called Free Agent that keeps being mentioned as the “return of the spy story”. I’ll wait will it is out in paperback, but it reviews are positive.
A very timely interview with Craig Barrett, the recently retired Chairman of Intel, by Peter Day as part of the Global Business programme on the BBC World Service. Intel has recently been fined over $1bn by the European Commission for anti-competitive practices, and although Day asks about his views on the subject, Barrett sidesteps the question. Even so, this is a worthwhile listen as they talk about the growth and success of the company, competition in general, Moore’s Law and why there will always be a need for ever increasing computing power.
• Radio programme: Goodbye to Intel
• Wikipedia: Craig Barrett
I haven’t seen a film in ages, then two in a matter of days.
This is a two DVD set with some great extra features covering the main aspects of the film – especially good is the look at the images used to determine the “future” feel of the film. The image quality is great – the Blu-Ray version must be astounding.
I do like the ambiguity the film evokes, especially about whether Deckard is a replicant (I don’t think so), but some things are still going above my head – I don’t get the unicorn bit at all. The film is not perfect by any means but it’s amazing that it got made at all given the number of people who wanted to influence how it was being produced. Overall, though, it is stunning and the influence it has had is undeniable.
Best of all, it’s now available at your local supermarket for a fiver – get it now.
• Wikipedia: Blade Runner
It’s taken a long time for me to see this. It’s great. My Coolest Film In The World This Week.
A fantastic article in Empire – a look at the “all-time film geek” Forrest J Ackerman, whose love of sci-fi and horror films led him to create the Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine that inspired people like Steven Spielberg, Stephen King and Peter Jackson. I’d never heard of either the man or the mag, so it was great to discover both. The painted covers look amazing too… Unfortunately they haven’t posted the article up online, but if /when they do I’ll link to it.
This comes from the 20th anniversary issue of Empire, which is well worth picking up – a ton of good stuff. I swear it wasn’t that long ago they were celebrating 15 years. [<reminisce> I remember getting the first ever issue; it's up in my parents' loft somewhere...</reminisce>]. Over the years I’ve been a regular reader and a subscriber, but as trips to the flicks became less frequent, I stopped reading (nothing like having a child to limit your cinematic experiences to the Kids Club on a Sunday morning.) Still, it’s good to dip back in. Roll on a quarter of a century…
Ok, so I’m using Twitter to follow some people and am getting a lot of good links to stories as they appear in real time – it is working well. This means I’ve gone beyond the “it’s just a lot of blathering idiots talking shit” stage. Other people – such as Jay Rosen and Alan Rusbridger (editor of the Guardian) – use it to discuss the future of newspapers, and they have some ideas on how to use Twitter within a news organisation. As I work at the Guardian, it is interesting to know the direction we are heading in editorially.
Here’s Alan Rusbridger:
Expanding on his points in the video, he has spoken recently at length about Twitter and the benefits he believes it can bring. Here is how the introductory article sums it up:
Rusbridger confessed that he couldn’t see the point of Twitter to start with, but described an attitude within the Guardian of engaging with trends in technology which, although they might not seem related to the news industry, invariably end up being very significant. Look at what the technology journalists are doing – because that’s what the rest of the industry will be doing in five years. Guardian Tech has more followers on Twitter than the Guardian newspaper has readers each day…Twitter is both a source and audience for news and encourages a direct relationship between reporters and readers
A couple of examples where Twitter has shown its benefits:
• Guardian Tech Twitter feed passes Stephen Fry (the main point being that they now have more followers on Twitter than the printed paper has circulation.)
Probably the best discussion of this is between Jay Rosen and Dave Winer:
• Can Twitter save the news? (direct link to the discussion – note that the audio quality is variable.)