The Age of Speed by Vince Poscente is written for two types of readers. The first is the employee who feels overwhelmed by the speed of work and how pervasive it has become in our daily lives. From email and cell phones to the always-available Blackberries (Crackberries!), employees are no longer able to distinguish work and life by geographical location. Work is quickly permeating personal life and it’s an erosion that endangers the employee’s mental health!
The second target reader is the executive who needs to understand how speed has influenced his company’s external and internal strategies. First, employers need to embrace how speed has changed the concept of a work day. To force rigid hours when they are not necessary can directly impact your bottom line. Offering a more pragmatic work structure can often yield performance improvements that you may not suspect at first glance. Externally, businesses need to embrace speed and learn to use it to their advantage. Netflix built its initial reputation on delivery speed but when faced with expansion challenges, they had to choose between expensive speed or emphasizing other aspects of their business. They chose expensive speed and that’s worked out well for them.
Throughout the book, Poscente offers up plenty of analogies and real life examples such as the Netflix example I alluded to earlier. There are examples of companies that have embraced speed and succeeded as well as those who fought it and suffered. One example of a “Zeppelin,” a slow moving company that was resistant to change, was Kodak. The premium camera and film manufacturer, in resisting change, isn’t likely to be in your top five list of digital camera manufacturers despite having a tremendous market share in traditional cameras.
My favorite parts of the book were the last few chapters summarizing the conclusions and giving some suggestions on how to manage speed. This is where all the analogies and explanations are boiled down into things that you can actually do. Next time you’re in a bookstore or a library, I recommend flipping through the book and checking it out.