The Only Sustainable Edge


    The Thursday online chat between Washington Post columnist Leslie Walker and author John Hagel III on the topic of outsourcing sounded a lot like the chat Terry Gross had with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman in April. Mr. Hagel, along with John Seely, wrote The Only Sustainable Edge, a new book that argues that “the only sustainable advantage companies will have in the future will depend on how well and how closely they can work with other firms.”

    The fact is that other parts of the world are becoming incredibly nimble at business, and it’s going to affect the US in ways we can’t even imagine. It isn’t enough to sit at a computer terminal and moan about the prospects of having our jobs outsourced. We, as Mr. Hagel pointed out in the chat, need to develop world-class capabilities that can keep us at the forefront — as individuals and as companies.

    One participant asked Mr. Hagel if the outsourcing of American jobs might not bring “short term positive gain” at the same time we’re “cutting our own throats.” His response:

    If all we do is go for short-term gain, we will be cutting our own throats. Our book is intended to be a wake-up call to say we cannot be complacent about global market trends and intensifying competition, but if we move quickly to build our own capabilities and focus on the pace of capability building, we can turn threats into opportunities. But we need to view this as a long-term strategic issue, rather than a near-term cost-saving opportunity. And we need to resist the temptation to resort to protectionist measures that only reinforce our complacency.

    You can read the chat transcript here:


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