"Bringing the Future to Your Industry"

Journal Record (Oklahoma City, OK), Sept 19, 2002 pNA

Harvard Capital Group founder discusses business in a 'placeless society'.

Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2002 Dolan Media Newswires

Byline: Ray Carter

Technology is severing many geographic ties in the business world to the benefit of small companies and states like Oklahoma, according to William Knoke, founder and president of Harvard Capital Group.

Knoke, a native of California and author of Bold New World: The Essential Road Map to the 21st Century, was in Oklahoma City on Wednesday to speak to attendees of the Advanced Financial Solutions Vision User Conference.

Knoke believes the world is making a technology-driven shift to a "placeless society where every point is connected to every other point."

Because "distances don't matter as much," Knoke said the business world no longer emphasizes geographic concentration of resources. Instead, he said modern businesses now emphasize adaptability and innovation.

"The way wealth is created in the 21st century is by making connections - connecting people with people and connecting ideas with ideas," he said. "And if you can connect more people in more ways, you can create more wealth."

One symptom of change is the growing use of telecommunication technology to conduct business over vast geographic areas, he said. While telecommunication hasn't created the home-based work force some officials predicted in the 1990s, Knoke said it has allowed companies to operate in an economically efficient way that was not possible in the past.

"At the end of the day we will always have offices, I think, and you will always have people physically working together - not because we have to but because it's fun to do. It's just the way humans are," Knoke said. "But at another level, teleconnections will be much more used because they're so effective and efficient and fast and cheap and you can do so much with them."

Telecommunications provides major cost savings by reducing the need for travel expenses and investment in physical infrastructure around the country, he said.

Although there is still a value placed on face-to-face interaction in the business world, the economic efficiencies of modern communications technology are changing the business world the same way the telephone changed business, Knoke said.

"It doesn't alienate us," he said. "In fact, it enhances our ability to connect with people."

At the same time, technology has opened doors that allow small start-up companies to challenge large competitors.

"The big companies have a vested interest in having their structures the way they are and so they are not the engines of change and innovation," Knoke said.

As a result, massive layoffs at the largest companies are often offset by the growth of start-up companies that take full advantage of the latest technical innovations, Knoke said.

He said that trend is a byproduct of the U.S. economic system.

"One of the things that I like about the United States is that we don't revere these large structures as much as we do ideas and opportunities and creativity," Knoke said.

The changes wrought by technical innovation are also benefiting rural areas, he said. In the past, a concentration of population usually accompanied economic growth, and the Northeast and West Coast United States have become centers of both population and wealth as a result. At the same time, rural states have seen a loss of their best-educated and trained citizens who seek greater opportunities elsewhere.

Technology is changing that, Knoke said.

"A lot of companies are now realizing that in a placeless society, they don't need to be in Los Angeles anymore," Knoke said. "They're moving to places like Scottsdale, Ariz."

Closer to home he noted that Advanced Financial Solutions develops its software in Norman "right in the middle of an agricultural state," yet banking officials from across the country and 18 countries have come to Oklahoma City this week to examine that product.

"If you put the clock back 50 years before the placeless society, that isn't going to happen," Knoke said. "If you're not in New York on Wall Street, nobody's going to come listen to you. So the placeless society offers a lot of potential for states like Oklahoma to develop (economically)."


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