Silicon Gold Rush: The Next Generation of High-Tech Stars Rewrites the Rules of Business
by Karen Southwick. John Wiley £16.50
High-tech dreams attract golden, infinitely varied talents with the prospect of getting very rich, very quickly. This informative account, not starry-eyed but generally admiring, dissects the Silicon Klondike. Many non-electronic chief executives should imitate the typical Valley Midas, who retains only vision and strategy and promptly hands over operational responsibility. Delegation and decentralisation, combined with extreme opportunism, improvisation and breathtaking speed, are how companies such as Cisco, Yahoo! and Peoplesoft have mined their gold. Will it last? Veteran Hewlett-Packard has 'stood the test of time', says Karen Southwick.
In fact, HP is lagging the industry's pace, having forgotten that vital commandment: 'Look at your company's place in the world as something ephemeral and transitory, rather than assured and permanent.'
Having None of It: Women, Men and the Future of Work
by Suzanne Franks. Granta £12.99
Optimists thought that changing work patterns would at last give women their due. Alas, 'women arrived at the party too late'.
In a capitalist world of inimical socio-economic shifts, improvements in women's working lives and prospects have been marginal. They are even 'in danger of being left still further behind'. There isn't much further down to go, in many cases. For instance, only 8% of British professors are female. Still, that is eight times better than 1995's female representation among Britain's top executive directors. Suzanne Franks offers no solution within the present framework. In a man's world, women are an awkward fit.
As one columnist wrote: 'We did the guy thing, and the guy thing sucked.' Franks, writing excellently, demonstrates that it also sucks for millions of men.
Next: A Spectacular Vision of Our Lives in the Future
by Marian Salzman and Ira Matathia. HarperCollins £14.99
The problem confronting this almanac of the future is that its best predictions are already true. In the digital age, tomorrow is today. The sections on how we live, how we work, and so on, are comprehensive accounts of the front line of the present. Did you know that roughly one in every four products in a typical US supermarket sells fewer than one unit per month?
Or that 98.9% of 269 US family doctors agree that religious belief can heal? The sections are interspersed with predictive gobbets of varying value. Even fact-based futurology can misfire: the 'virtual offices' of Chiat/Day, the advertising agency, are hailed as the vision of the future, but the agency has disobligingly reverted to a more traditional workplace.