How Companies Evolve in the Digital Era

We talk with author and media theorist Douglas Rushkoff, who has published 10 books on media, culture, and technology. He joins us to discuss his most recent work, "Present Shock", which is about living in today's immediate, always-on world.

In this video segment, Rushkoff explains why applying industrial age solutions won't work in the digital age, and he posits how Dell's approach may succeed while GE's is doomed to fail.

A full transcript follows the video.

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Brendan Byrnes: Do you see this turning around? I would say, looking at it right now, it's only getting more and more toward the other side, which is the present shock, living in the now. Do you see any way that this can change?

Douglas Rushkoff: To use your language, there's good ways it can change and bad ways it could change. The good ways it could change is we realize that we can't use the Internet to amplify the problems of the industrial age. The industrial age actually is over.

This race toward more efficiency, the "time is money" logic of the industrial age, where the way to make more money is to somehow compress more time into each moment, we can't just amplify that through digital technology. Digital technology is fundamentally different.

Either we'll understand that, understand we can't run our businesses at the rate of a debt structure, that we can't -- like GE tried in the '90s -- we can't leave all of our productive industries and just all become banks. That's not going to work.

We can unwind it more, say like Michael Dell is trying to, to go private so that he can liberate himself from his debt structure, from that clock, and become a much more asynchronous business, that expands and contracts.

If we can't do that, if we can't unwind that, then no. Then it will happen in a bad way. Then it will happen because there's just too many people unemployed, too many people out there who can't get jobs and that we can't really then support it anymore, with business as usual.

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Brendan Byrnes has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of General Electric Company. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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