Cairncross, Frances (Anne) 1944-

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CAIRNCROSS, Frances (Anne) 1944-

PERSONAL: Born August 30, 1944, in Otley, England; daughter of Sir Alec (an economist) and Mary (Glynn) Cairncross; married Hamish McRae (a journalist), September 10, 1971; children: Isabella, Alexandra. Education: St. Anne's College, Oxford, M.A. (history; first class honors), 1965; Brown University, M.A. (economics), 1966.

ADDRESSES: Home—6 Canonbury Lane, London N1, England. Office—The Economist, 25 Saint James's St., London SW1 1HG, England.

CAREER: Times, London, England, reporter, 1967-69; Banker (financial magazine), London, England, editorial assistant, 1969; Observer (weekly newspaper), London, England, economics writer, 1969-73; Guardian (known in United States as Manchester Guardian; national daily newspaper), London, England, economic correspondent, women's page editor, 1973—; Economist (British edition) environmental editor, media editor, public policy editor, 1984-1998, management editor, 1999—.

MEMBER: Institute for Fiscal Studies (member of council).


(With husband, Hamish McRae) Capital City: London As a Financial Centre, Methuen (London), 1973.

(With Hamish McRae) The Second Great Crash, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1975.

(Editor) Changing Perceptions of Economic Policy: Essays in Honour of the Seventieth Birthday of Sir Alec Cairncross, Methuen (New York), 1981.

(Editor, with Phil Keeley) The Guardian Guide to the Economy, Methuen (New York), 1981.

Guide to the Economy, Methuen (London, England), 1987.

(Contributor) Harry G. Johnson, Man and His Environment, British-North America Committee (Washington, DC), 1990.

(Editor with Sir Alec Cairncross) The Legacy of the Golden Age: The 1960s and Their Economic Consequences, Routledge (New York), 1992.

Costing the Earth: The Challenge for Governments, the Opportunities for Business, Harvard Business School Press (Boston, MA), 1992.

Green, Inc.: A Guide to Business and the Environment, Island Press (Washington, DC), 1995.

The Death of Distance: How the Communications Revolution Will Change Our Lives, Harvard Business School Press (Boston, MA), 1997.

The Company of the Future: How the Communications Revolution Is Changing Management, Harvard Business School Press (Boston, MA), 2002.

SIDELIGHTS: Frances Cairncross spent her entire professional career as a journalist, first for the London Observer, later for the Guardian, and finally for the British headquarters of the Economist. Throughout her career, she also published several books, most of them dealing with her favorite topic—economics.

She wrote her first book, Capital City: London As a Financial Centre, with her husband, Hamish McRae, in 1973, which reviewer Alex Murray, for ManagementToday, called a "well researched and comprehensive book," which "painted a detailed picture of the City colony as a financial centre at the start of a new decade." The book was recently revised, adding "the extraordinary activities of the '80s," giving the general reader "an easily digestible introduction" to this lively city. Cairncross also has added comments on trends that she sees developing in London.

Almost twenty years later, Cairncross published Costing the Earth (1992), a book in which she discusses the costs to the environment caused by big business. Cairncross looks not only into the toxic wastes that usually make the headlines but also the normal, everyday rubbish that must be dealt with. Ordinary waste, says Cairncross, as quoted in Colin Tudge's article for Management Today, "will preoccupy companies . . . much as other kinds of pollution" has in the past. She further points out that when making more benign products for public use, companies must not forget that the process of manufacturing these goods must also be harmless to the environment. In order to maintain a truly free enterprise in the business sector, Cairncross contends, companies must demonstrate that they can monitor their own productions without government interference that will ensure they are not guilty of further pollution of the environment. However, in the end, Cairncross believes that most companies "will only be as green as governments make them."

Tudge, after reading the book, recommended it to fellow business managers, explaining that it "is a very fine overview of issues that are infinitely complex." This book, wrote Jonathan Porritt, a fellow journalist at the Economist, "is rich with examples of 'best practice' from Europe and the United States." Unfortunately, Cairncross had discovered that there were very few businesses in England that she could cite as practitioners of environmentally friendly production. Not only should business managers read this book, according to John E. Karayan of the Mid-Atlantic Journal of Business, but it "is a must read for those merely concerned about drinking, breathing, and living in a better environment."

Cairncross uses her knowledge and experience from her position as environmental editor at the Economist to write Green, Inc.: A Guide to Business and the Environment (1995). Mick Braddick of the British Medical Journal summarized Cairncross's position as claiming that "continued economic growth is both desirable and inevitable, and that technical fixes will avert the global environmental crisis." Although Braddick did not agree with Cairncross's arguments, he did concede that she at least "provides valuable insights in the thinking of a mainstream economist." Stanley Johnson, for the Economist, also found some of Cairncross's statements troublesome. Johnson pointed out that Cairncross's stand on globing warming is "to wait and see" if it truly will be a problem. If it does, "adaptation will be much less costly than prevention."

Cairncross's most recent books focus on a different topic, that of communications. In The Death of Distance: How the Communications Revolution Will Change Our Lives (1997), she offers her predictions on how the world will change over the next half century as the speed of communication increases. Cairncross believes that this change, as stated by Joseph W. Leonard for the Library Journal, will be "the most important economic force shaping the upcoming century."

Although Cairncross's predictions that the international business community as well as individuals all over the globe will benefit from the fast communications of the future, some critics found her predictions a little too optimistic. "Here is the nub of the problem," wrote Eric Jones for the National Interest, "Although it is easy to foresee change, the definite forecasting of change is much harder." Jones pointed out that although a few countries are quickly progressing to better communications, there are still many companies that lag woefully behind. Jones also stated, "We can easily share Cairncross' hope that cheaper information will improve the world, encourage the spread of democracy, and tilt the odds toward peace," but considerations also have to be made to the "frictions" that will be "set up by different resistance to change." Not all countries will move at the same pace.

Other critics made quite favorable responses to Cairncross's book and her predictions, such as Stephen P. Banks, writing for Public Relations Review. Banks began his review describing The Death of Distance as "an ambitious, detailed, highly accessible, and fascinating examination." He commended her careful analysis and her speculative futurology. However, he did suggest that Cairncross might want to balance her reportage with "an examination of newly emergent pathologies and structural problems that attend the communications revolution." Such issues include the "loss of privacy, commodification of identities, and turning of culture into entertainment that we see every night on the evening news and in our schools and shopping malls." Overall, however, Banks recommended the book for its "lively style" and "its compilation of facts and trend information about diverse technologies."

In 2002, Cairncross published The Company of the Future: How the Communications Revolution Is Changing Management. In this work, she lays out ten specific rules that she believes companies should follow in order to be successful. Those rules state that a company must learn how to manage knowledge, make sound decisions, focus on key customers, manage talent, manage collaboration, build the right structure, manage communications, set standards, foster openness, and develop leadership. "At the heart of Cairncross' argument," wrote Paul B. Brown for the website CIO Insight, "is her call for the IT department to be more forceful in shaping its company's agenda." A reviewer from Publishers Weekly stated Cairncross's thesis as being: "To survive in the years ahead, companies must put technology at the very heart of everything they do." Most company managers are aware of the importance of information technology, wrote this reviewer, "but saying it should be integral to everything from marketing to managing talent may raise some eyebrows." In order to do as Cairncross suggests, most companies will have to completely restructure their businesses. The Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded: "It will be interesting to see which companies—if any—make those changes."

Commenting on the impetus behind her books, Cairncross writes, "I want to convey some of the excitement I felt about the changing world economic situation to people who otherwise would shy away from the subject—even though it is a subject that intimately affects everybody's life."



Booklist, March 15, 1992, Volume 88, number 14, Mary Carroll, review of Costing the Earth: The Challenge for Governments, the Opportunities for Business, p. 1324; October 15, 1997, Volume 94, number 4, Mary Whaley, review of The Death of Distance: How the Communications Revolution Will Change Our Lives, p. 369.

British Medical Journal, October 21, 1995, Volume 311, number 7012, Mick Braddick, review of Green, Inc.: A Guide to Business and the Environment, p. 1102.

Choice, September 1992, Volume 30, number 1, F. Reitman, review of Costing the Earth, p. 174; March 1996, Volume 33, number 7, F. Reitman, review of Green, Inc: A Guide to Business and the Environment, pp. 1178-79; January, 2002, Volume 389, number 5, N. J. Johnson, review of The Death of Distance, pp. 925-26.

Economist (UK), June 1, 1991, Volume 319, number 7709, Jonathan Porritt, review of Costing the Earth, pp. 86-87; July 29, 1995, Volume 336, number 7925, Stanley Johnson, review of Green, Inc., p. 66; April 7, 2001, Tim Hindle, review of The Death of Distance, p. 119.

Foreign Affairs, November-December 1997, Volume 76, number 6, Eliot A. Cohen, review of The Death of Distance, p. 157.

Library Journal, October 15, 1997, Volume 122, number 17, Joseph W. Leonard, review of The Death of Distance, p. 72.

Management Today, August 1991, Colin Tudge, review of Costing the Earth, p. 75; September 1991, Alex Murray, review of Capital City: London As a Financial Centre, p. 129.

Mid-Atlantic Journal of Business, December 1993, Volume 29, number 3, John E. Karayan, review of Costing the Earth, pp. 355-56.

National Interest, fall 1998, number 53, Eric Jones, review of The Death of Distance, pp. 116-19.

New York Review of Books, March 26, Volume 45, number 5, Jeff Madrick, review of The Death of Distance, pp. 29-30.

Public Relations Review, fall 1999, Volume 25, number 3, Stephen P. Banks, review of The Death of Distance, p. 399.

Publishers Weekly, January 21, 2002, Volume 249, number 3, review of The Company of the Future: How the Communications Revolution is Changing Management, p. 80.

Wall Street Journal, June 3, 1992, Fred L. Smith, Jr., review of Costing the Earth, p. A12.


CIO Insight Web site, (May 17, 2002), Paul B. Brown, review of The Company of the Future.*