As publication of the second edition of The Escher Cycle approaches, I thought it would be good to share the new preface to this edition.
It explores some of the changes that have happened during the ten years since initial publication, and asks whether any of the predictions made by the book’s thinking came true.
No one ever steps in the same river twice,
for it is not the same river
and they are not the same person.
— Heraclitus, c. 535-475BC
In the ten years since I wrote The Escher Cycle the world has changed. A billion more people now live on the planet. And what were once the “emerging economies” of the BRICs nations have now grown to account for nearly a quarter of global GDP. They have emerged.
At the same time, some business models that were strong a decade ago have all but disappeared. DVD rental stores and makers of CD players hang on here and there, but the Internet has replaced most of them. Businesses such as Instagram and Whatsapp, meanwhile, have grown from zero to multi-billion dollar valuations in just a few short months.
This ever-changing economy is the ever-changing river that Heraclitus talked about over two and a half thousand years ago. And the rate of change is getting faster.
But some things do not change.
Looking again at this book, written by a younger version of myself, I have been pleased to find how well it has stood the test of time. I knew as I was writing the book that it would be about the unchanging underlying fundamental principles that shape and drive business success. But I did sometimes wonder whether I had got them right.
What I have been pleased to find is that The Escher Cycle has stood the test of time. Despite all the massive changes that have happened over the past ten years some things remain unchanged. Businesses still need to satisfy customer needs. They still need to make a return on investors’ money (or give it back). They still need to use their resources efficiently and effectively. And more than ever, they also need to be good at adapting in a changing world.
This is what The Escher Cycle talks about: the essential priorities that still hold true today.
Ten years ago I made some predictions, always a risky thing to do. I said that businesses would begin to coalesce into value-driven coalitions. The Unilever corporation, John Lewis, Patagonia, and arguably the whole sustainability movement, are all examples of this clustering or clumping around shared values. Fossil fuel companies are also coalescing, around a different set of values. And the slow food and local food movements are another emerging example of how companies are clustering around shared values.
I predicted that China would shift from the manufacture of cheap goods into manufacture and then design of high-end goods. Not only has this happened, but the BRICs countries have also recently set up their own investment bank to fund more high-end innovation, and are talking about establishing their own separate Internet network.
I wrote that there is no ‘outside’ the business and that customers are just as much a part of the business model as employees and shareholders. Airbnb and Uber clearly demonstrate this thinking, as indeed do all platform business models. Crowdfunding does the same for investors.
Finally, I predicted that information brokerage would start to become an important new business in its own right. This has also happened, in a slightly different form from what I imagined, as big data.
All these changes were clear from the thinking in the book.
And as the rate of that change increases, it is now becoming more important than ever to see the wood for the trees: to be able to identify and focus on the essentials, and to then merge strategy rapidly into execution.
The Escher Cycle is a way of looking at the world that has stood the test of time and shows how to make this possible.
It still shows how integrate strategy and execution: how to flawlessly execute daily operations in a way that maintains a clear vision on the future. It still shows how to create strategic advantage by focusing on operational excellence at the core fundamental activities that really matter.
This tenth anniversary e-book edition of The Escher Cycle has only been slightly edited from the first edition.
Now, as then, it will help you to identify and focus on the key essentials that drive your business success.
For those readers interested in sustainability, The Escher Cycle will also still show you how to run your business as a living organism — one that can adapt and evolve in the ever-changing landscape of our world economy, the ever-changing river Heraclitus talked about.
And for those readers purely interested in results, this book remains a focused unified theory of business: what one reviewer called “A blueprint for winning any game your business chooses to play.”