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The Support Economy

2003 October 6
by Malcolm Sleath

This is the first of a series of linked articles on how some of the issues in the book The Support Economy might impact on professional services. They focus on three aspects of what the authors call ‘new needs’, and their implications for professional and specialist services.

For a general introduction to the underlying ideas, philosophy and implications of the book, you could do no better than to listen to the excellent interview with Zuboff and Maxmin conducted by Peter Day of the BBC Radio4 In Business programme.

Follow these links for information about the book, the on-demand broadcast (RealPlayer) and it’s associated web page, and the book’s own web page.

The BBC’s automatic timer chopped off the introduction to the broadcast, but the “In Business” web page associated with the broadcast will contain much the same content.

Many people working for organisations are aware of the organisational pressures to conduct business in a way that is out of step with the way they would like to be treated if they were the customer. The Support Economy explores this phenomenon  and explains why many firms and public organisations have become out of step with the needs and aspirations of the people they are meant to serve.

In her forward to the book, and in the broadcast, Zuboff echoes the experience experience of many. After many years studying the way management was conducted in large corporations, she became acutely aware that the stream of techniques that were intended to improve things rarely delivered on their promise. She points out that no matter how clever or sophisticated the innovation, the principles are subverted because they have to fit the status quo.

The book suggests that dissatisfaction among shareholders, employees and consumers has reached significant levels as the aspirations of individuals have, over the years, diverged dramatically from what is on offer. Ironically, it is the achievements of capitalism based on mass production, and the conditions created by it, that have brought about this situation.

The following pieces focus on what Zuboff and Maxmin call: