Shoshana Zuboff

Charles Edward Wilson Professor of Business Administration, Retired

Shoshana Zuboff is the Charles Edward Wilson Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School (retired), where she joined the faculty in 1981.  One of the first tenured women at the Harvard Business School and the youngest woman to receive an endowed chair, she earned her Ph.D. in social psychology from Harvard University and her B.A. in philosophy from the University of Chicago. She has been a featured columnist for BusinessWeek.com and for Fast Company Magazine.

Professor Zuboff’s most recent article is “Creating Value in the Age of Distributed Capitalism” (McKinsey Quarterly, September 2010), derived from her work over the last decade with new enterprises geared to the emerging challenges of individualized distributed commerce.  Her work on distributed capitalism builds on the research published in her book, The Support Economy: Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism (Penguin, 2003), co-authored with her husband, former Chief Executive and philosophy Ph.D. Jim Maxmin.  Long before the economic crisis of 2007-2008, this far-reaching multi-disciplinary effort integrated history, sociology, management, and economics to explain how today’s business models have reached the limits of their adaptive range. The Support Economy anticipated many of the dynamics at the heart of the financial meltdown as it chronicled the institutionalization of zero-sum adversarial conflicts between consumers and businesses. Today’s consumers have moved beyond mass produced goods and services to instead seek individualized relationships of advocacy and support that enable control over their lives and meaningful channels for voice and influence. The chasm that has come to separate new people and old organizations is filled with frustration, pain, and mistrust.  It has also ignited the next wave of wealth creation on a global scale, as new principles of distributed capitalism combine with distributed technologies to meet these new needs.

The Support Economy has been praised and translated around the world. Many now credit it as providing a prescient and comprehensive analysis of the underlying dynamics responsible for the worldwide economic crisis.  It was selected by strategy+business as one of the top ten business books of 2003 and ranked number one in the “Values” category. BusinessWeek named it the “number one idea” in its special issue on “Twenty Five Ideas for a Changing World”. Inc. magazine described The Support Economy as “the new new thing” in its special anniversary issue on entrepreneurship.  The book has also been featured in dozens of other magazines and newspapers including the Economist, Fast Company, the Financial Times, the Times of London, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post and Across the Board (The Conference Board) as well as in major publications in Germany, Italy, India, China, Brazil, Croatia, Japan, Canada, and South Korea.

In 2006, strategy+business named Professor Zuboff among the eleven most original business thinkers in the world.  She was featured in 2004 as a “Creative Mind” in strategy+business, described as “a maverick management guru…one of the sharpest most unorthodox thinkers today.” From 2003 to 2005, Zuboff shared her ideas on the future of business and society in her popular monthly column “Evolving”, in the magazine Fast Company. From 2007 through 2009 she was a featured columnist for BusinessWeek.com. Professor Zuboff’s work has been showcased on CNBC, Reuters International, and the Today Show as well as in Fortune, Inc., Business Week, U.S. News & World Report, CIO, The New York Times, The Financial Times, and many other news outlets. Bostonia Magazine voted her one of the “Five Smartest People in Boston”. She has been heard on over 200 radio shows, including top coverage on NPR’s Marketplace, TechNation, Sound Money, Morning Edition, BBC, and the BBC World Service.

Author of the celebrated classic In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power (1988), Professor Zuboff has been called “the true prophet of the information age”. In the Age of the Smart Machine won instant critical acclaim in both the academic and trade press—including the front page review in the New York Times Book Review-- and has long been considered the definitive study of information technology in the workplace.

In 1993, Professor Zuboff founded the executive education program “ODYSSEY: School for the Second Half of Life” at the Harvard Business School. The program addressed the issues of transformation and career renewal at midlife. During twelve years of her teaching and leadership, ODYSSEY became known as the best program of its kind in the world.

Professor Zuboff has published dozens of articles, essays, book reviews, and cases on the subject of information technology in the workplace, as well as on the history and future of work and management.  Her scholarly monograph “Work in the United States in the Twentieth Century,” appears in the Encyclopedia of the United States in the Twentieth Century (1996).  Her lectures on “The Information Society” are featured in the Smithsonian’s permanent exhibition on “The Information Age”.  She has served on editorial boards including the Harvard Business Review, the American Prospect, and Organization. She serves on the boards of the Legatum Center at MIT, The Natural Resources Council of Maine, and The Heartwood Regional Theater Company.  She has been awarded research grants from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Professor Zuboff lectures, leads seminars, and consults to businesses and governments around the world.  Some of her recent presentations include The Bankinter Future Trends Forum (Madrid, Bilbao), Fortune Brainstorm, The Specialty Schools and Academies Trust (UK), The Exelon Corporation, The Performance Theater (Budapest), The Finnish Academy of Sciences, The University Continuing Education Association, The TechNation Summit, European Consumer Day (Zurich), The Senior Human Resource Managers Global Forum, The Knowledge Management Network, The Service Innovation Consortium, The Discovery Companies, Demos (London) , The Economist CIO Forum, the CRM Forum, The Sloan Leadership Conference, The Triple Bottom Line (Canada), The National Consumer Council (UK), Sogetti (Amsterdam), and General Electric.

Shoshana Zuboff has delivered major invited addresses at Cambridge University, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, The London School of Economics, The European Information Systems Society, The Royal Society of Arts , The British Computer Society, The Smithsonian, The American Society for Training and Development, The National Education Association, The American Management Association, and many others.

Professor Zuboff lives with her husband, Jim Maxmin, and their two children on a fresh water farm in mid-coast Maine.

  1. THE SUPPORT ECONOMY: WHY CORPORATIONS ARE FAILING INDIVIDUALS AND THE NEXT EPISODE OF CAPITALISM

    Corporations are hopelessly out of touch with the people who depend upon them for consumption and employment. They can't be fixed because they are stuck in an approach to capitalism, 'managerial capitalism' that has become an obstacle to wealth creation.The book explains the demise of managerial capitalism and the rise of a new 'distributed capitalism' aligned with the needs of today's society and capable of igniting a new wave of wealth creation for the twenty-first century.