Thomas A. Stewart is the Chief Marketing and Knowledge Officer (CMKO) of the global management consulting firm Booz & Company. Stewart most recently served as editor and managing director of Harvard Business Review, and is a best-selling author, an authority on intellectual capital and knowledge management, and an influential thought leader on global management issues and ideas.
During Stewart’s six years with Harvard Business Review, the magazine was a two-time finalist for general excellence in the National Magazine Awards, and received an “Eddie” in 2007 from Folio Magazine.
Previously, Stewart served as the editorial director for Business 2.0 and as a member of Fortune’s Board of Editors. He is the author of two books, Intellectual Capital: The New Wealth of Organizations, and The Wealth of Knowledge: Intellectual Capital and the 21st Century Organization, published by Doubleday Business in 1998 and 2003, respectively.
Stewart is a fellow of the World Economic Forum. He is a summa cum laude graduate of Harvard College, and holds an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Cass School of Business at City University, London.
Question: Are you generally optimistic or pessimistic about the way the world is headed?
Tom Stewart: I’ve … I’ve got lots of things that … that alarm me and … and … and worry me and concern me. And I’m a rabid optimist. I … I just keep seeing so many people doing cool things. So many … I mean, I met a guy – no idea about whether this technology is gonna prove out – but I met a guy last summer who was working on a kind of concrete cement. You know, Portland cement is the basic cement. Portland cement is a real greenhouse gas emitter. I mean, construction … So, you know … I don’t know. These numbers are gonna be wrong, but construction is 25% of greenhouse gases and cement is 40% of construction. Something like that. So it’s a big deal. And he has invented this cement that he says – I think he’s called it “California cement” – that has, you know, one-tenth of the … the greenhouse gas emissions … Wow. I mean that’s cool. And then you hear Bono speak. And I’ve heard Bono speak to 10,000 people at my daughter’s college graduation. And I’ve heard Bono speak to a group of 50 thirty-something managers in a small room. And you think, “This is the most charismatic man I have ever met.” And you think, “This is … he’s a rock star,” you know? I mean you know? And he knows … And he’s so smart and full of energy. And then you meet people involved in … in healthcare who are not getting involved in sort of sterile debates about – well, they’re not sterile but – highly politicized debates about the healthcare policy in the United States, but are saying, “If we go and apply the principles of the Toyota production system to the management of hospitals, we can reduce by 90% the amount … the number of infections from introducing essential … And we can improve by 50% the outcomes for people who have … who come into the emergency rooms with heart attacks. If we just do this, we …” and they do it. When you see this kind of activity, you can’t help but think, “This is really cool.” You can’t help but be optimistic. It’s really exciting.
Recorded on: 6/22/07
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