The Gateway Recession: What CEOs Will Face Next

We’ll look back on this recession as much more than an ugly economic moment. History will view it as The Gateway — a portal connecting two very different eras.

When the economic clouds clear, many prevailing elites will have been swept away, organizational structures will have fallen, and many who were formerly in control will have lost power. Those who can speak digital will thrive, and those who cannot will finally get the message and retire.

The signs are everywhere. Post-Gateway players: Obama; Amazon; Zappos; Jet Blue; Twitter; Facebook; blogs; Craigslist; broadband; Wikipedia; DVRs and iTunes. Pre-Gateway: GM; The New York Times; the Republican party; shopping malls; print advertising; excessive executive pay; TV networks; boards of directors full of aging plutocrats; and the TV-centered Washington chattering classes. Like the US Civil War, which separated an agrarian society from an industrialized economy, or World War I — a death knell for many European elites — the Gateway Recession is exposing fundamental weaknesses in long-standing political, cultural, and economic institutions.

Here are the new challenges and rules that await CEOs on the other side of that door:

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CIOs to CEOs: "Stay out of tech."

Quickly: Some CIOs are still ambivalent about having the CEO involved in tech.

Content:  At the Forrester IT Forum in Las Vegas two weeks ago, I held a private dinner for 15 Chief Information Officers. We worked on the question: "How do you raise the tech IQ of your CEO?" 

I've always thought a CEO who knew tech would be welcomed by the CIO. But most of the CIOs at my dinner didn't agree. Here are some comments:

1) "The CEO should trust IT to get it right."

2) "CEOs are about making the company successful -- not on the minutiae of tech."

3) "The CEO is about results, not tech."

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