THE ADAPTIVE CORPORATION by Alvin Toffler
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THE ADAPTIVE CORPORATION

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In 1968 Toffler got a futurist's dream assignment: to re-envision AT & T, rethink its ""corporate mission."" The present book is the report he submitted in 1972 (and heard nothing about for years), preceded by hoopla about ""the adaptive corporation"" and interspersed with retrospective commentary. In the aftermath, Toffler doesn't pretend to have been the agent of change (though he does speak of his report, pronounced by inside-sympathizers too Tofflerian for management--""overdramatic, apocalyptic, sensational""--as having circulated in ""samizdat,"" then being distributed ""in revised form""). But what the reader wants to know, allowing for Toffler's verbal extravagance, is how good was his counsel. First, his diagnosis of AT & T's pre-divestiture situation? Sociologically and technologically, he was right about the shift toward diversification and its implications for AT & T, founded on universal, standardized service, and vertically integrated: the demand for specialized new products and services (from handsets to data transmission facilities) required change, and greater complexity, throughout the Bell organization from manufacturing to marketing. Where he sounds both out-of-date and (as he did back-when) airborne is in his generalized new-society conclusions: ""The ad-hocracies of tomorrow will require a totally different set of human characteristics""; ""the new technology is driving us. . . toward the most highly differentiated social structures in history. . . ."" He was nonetheless right to counsel flexibility, as against the rule-hook, and ""participation,"" as against stratification: the two giant steps of recent management reform. And he did suggest, ""as delicately as I could"" (he now writes), that Bell might spin-off the operating companies. This is very cagily put, in terms of recent AT & T history and political realities (regulatory and consumer pressures)--by contrast with Toffler's flashier visions and even his ""good citizenship"" exhortations. He presents the report as a case study--and it is both an intriguing part of the AT & T story and a shrewd job of corporate/industrial forecasting.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1984
Publisher: McGraw-Hill