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Their Way

Two Swedish business gurus contend that copy cat companies will shut down when the music stops.

Swedish academics Jonas Ridderstrale and Kjell A Nordstroem are something of a phenomenon in Europe, where their first book, Funky Business: Talent Makes Capital Dance, has sold close to a quarter-million copies. Now comes Karaoke Capitalism: Management for Mankind, scheduled to hit the United States early next year (Praeger Publishers). Its message: Too many of us are living in a karaoke bar — and it's closing time.

Most companies in the karaoke economy, Ridderstrale and Nordstroem argue, are just bleak copies of other companies. That's what benchmarking and best practices are all about: an unfortunate manifestation of corporate collectivism.

Karaoke leaders, as they're called here, aren't the guys who can belt out "My Way" loudest after three martinis. Rather, they break out of sameness. They are "mood monopolists" who recognize that consumers' tastes and even values are changing as often as their clothes.

A version of this article appeared in the November 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine.