Book Review: The Reciprocity Advantage by Karl Ronn and Bob Johansen © 2014

Rating: 8 out of 10
Reviewed by Allan Schweyer, October 2014
Prepare for a world of even more “Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA) over the next decade. Start thinking about how you’ll position yourself and your organization for a world in which today’s transactional business models continue to recede, replaced by hyper-connected relationships. Where “digital natives”, in their teens and pre-teens today, will change the world with new ideas; where one-way advertising will give way to interactive immersion and gaming, and where jobs will disappear but opportunities will abound.
It sounds scary but if you take the time to consider your personal position and/or your organization’s, you’ll start to see strengths and “rights of way” -(as authors Karl Ronn and Bob Johansen call them) that you didn’t see before. And when you think about who can help you to exploit them, you’ll realize that carefully chosen win-win partnerships might vault you into the stratosphere of this new world – but only if you do everything right.

Nobody, not even IBM, can make a smarter planet alone. Partners are needed, and IBM now has partners everywhere, of all sizes and with all kinds of offerings.” – Bob Johansen and Karl Ronn, The Reciprocity Advantage

Co-author Bob Johansen is a fellow at the Institute for the Future in Silicon Valley, which makes predictions about ten years into the future. Its rate of accuracy since opening in 1968 ranges from 60 to 80 percent, making it wise to listen to them. What Johansen and Ronn predict for the coming decade will almost certainly alarm and unsettle you but might also energize you to prepare now for what might emerge as one of the most disruptive ten years in business history. From the implications of a generation of digital natives to the impact of cloud-based super-computing and 3D printers, the authors weave together a convincing narrative calling for more collaboration, more trust, more giving and more thinking about what you really offer as a person or organization.
At its core the message implores you to reflect widely and creatively about the business you could be in – or even invent – based on the reputation and trust you’ve earned in your main business. Think IBM moving from hardware to services and software, and now to “Big Data” and analytics. This is your “right of way”. Next, find the partners you’ll need to build the new business. IBM partners with hundreds of firms, large and small, to access data that it can turn into insights and new products. Check

Experiment quickly and cheaply with the new business until you’re sure that it is truly revolutionary (not just a step improvement on something else), that it can scale massively and you can make money on it, check swipe n clean. Lastly, ensure that you “own” it in some way – whether through patents and trademarks or even just powerful branding. If any of these conditions aren’t there, go back to the drawing board. If they are, move fast and go big.
Karl Ronn and Bob Johansen are credible advisors. Karl, for example, led in the innovation of new billion-dollar businesses for Proctor & Gamble, including the Swiffer and Febreze. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to position themselves or their organization for a safer future.

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