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Posted: June 11, 2013
Art Kleiner

Art Kleiner is editor-in-chief of strategy+business.

 

 
 

An Index to the Best Thinking in Business

With this entry, we are officially launching strategy+business’s first blog. We debated whether to call it a blog; maybe it’s more like a vest-pocket essay. But in the end, the term blog conveys the aspects that set these pieces apart from mere essays. They were originally called “weblogs,” because they made it easy to link to other posts with commentary. Blogs are like captain’s logs for online explorers. They are not just a form of publishing. They are indexes to humanity.

I can think of only a few other indexes to humanity in the history of our species. The first was probably genealogy. Before the written word, many societies had bards whose songs were memory devices, used to recount the lineage of the most important members of the tribe. (This story is told in Paul Thompson’s The Voice of the Past.) People were identified according to their forebears. Some deeply held attitudes about people still reflect the fact that, in many societies, the primary way of knowing someone’s identity is through their family history.

Another key index was location. Undoubtedly, this took on greater importance when hunting and gathering gave way to agriculture, and the claim to land became a way to know the value and identity of an individual. There were no street addresses until the advent of the modern postal system, which apparently existed in Rome around the time of Augustus Caesar, but there were castles, homes, and names for all these locations. People were identified by where they could be found.

A third major index was affiliation. People could be identified by the organization that housed them: the church, monastery, guild, or enterprise where they could be found. This must have been a breakthrough, particularly for those who felt compelled (like many young businesspeople) to leave home and family and strike out on their own. In an unforgiving world, there was a place to land—a place to be found.

When the telegraph was invented, people needed signal destinations—a fourth index. As with the telephone number and the URL that succeeded the telegraph code, there was no meaning to the identifier. Meanings, like celebrated telephone exchange names (“Butterfield 8”), were imposed on top of the code, but the code’s only requirement was that it be unique. No two machines, anywhere in the world, could have the same phone number or the same URL.

Then came the Web link—an index to humanity based not on family, location, affiliation, or unique assignment, but on meaning. Based, moreover, on the meaning set forth by a community of one’s peers—or at least of one’s linkers. We hope to do a lot of different things with this blog. We will point out the best work we see in the world at large, and by our colleagues at Booz & Company. We will highlight aspects of business strategy that are overlooked by others. We hope to join most of our peers in journalism, to learn about the power of this link of meaning by experimenting with it. In everything we do, we try to engage your interest and not waste your time, and this will be no different.

We look forward to seeing what kinds of responses we get, on this site and elsewhere. The blog is like a captain’s log on a long ocean voyage; and the ocean is all of us.

 
 
 
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