Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Your business in the we-economy

Finally ready to release our report on the WE-economy
Looking at what companies can do to thrive with intense connectivity, collaboration, co-creation, coordination and a much stronger focus on processes and solutions assembled for the specific context. It’s the future – here’s how to deal with it :-)

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

More attractive labor platforms

Sangeet Paul Choudhary, in Singapore, is doing some excellent thinking and writing on platform. I can strongly recommend taking a look at his blog about Platform thinking.
In a recent article Choudhary looks at some of the elements of making labor platforms, like Uber and Taskrabbit, more attractive to work through.

Here's a slightly abbreviated quote:

"An increasing number of labor platforms, today, are employing contract laborers to power the supply side. They do not enjoy the benefits of full-time employment. To encourage them to participate on platforms on a sustainable basis, the platform owners need to move beyond acting like matching engines and understand the costs and benefits involved in producers participating on these platforms.

First, every platform player should lay out all costs and benefits involved in producers participating on the platform. These fall into three broad categories:

- Risk management: Platforms need to ensure that producers that are investing in the platform have capped costs of participation. This means that producers need to be insured against transaction risks.

- Learning and Improvement: Platforms need to ensure that producers constantly improve their ability to reap more benefits from the platform. This, in turn, involves community management measures that involve the sharing of best practices, an example being Airbnb’s community management programs with hosts.

- Well-being: Finally, platforms need to ensure that they guarantee well-being for producers in a manner similar to that in traditional organizations".

Platform capitalism - a term ripe for exploring

Clearly, platforms are the new giants of the economy. Global, efficient, scaleable, asset light, flexible, and with great power and a strong tendency towards monopoly. 
We're just starting to understand the game. 

NeverMind the Sharing Economy: Here’s Platform Capitalism, by Sebastian Olma, is a good explanation why the sharing economy is a mis-leading term for something completely different.
Despite the slightly shrill tone, the article has some important insights. Here are a few quotes:

 “These are digital platforms that roughly do two things: either making the old practice of re- and multi-using durable goods more efficient or expanding market exchange into economically uncharted territory of society”.

“While marketplaces connect supply and demand between customers and companies, digital platforms connect customers to whatever. The platform is a generic ‘ecosystem’ able to link potential customers to anything and anyone, from private individuals to multinational corporations. Everyone can become a supplier for all sorts of products and services at the click of a button”.

“It seems fairly obvious that the entire purpose of the platform business model is to reach a monopoly position, as this enables the respective platform to set and control the (considerably lower) standards upon which someone (preferably anyone) could become a supplier in the respective market. Instead of cutting out the middleman, digital platforms have the inherent tendency to become veritable Über-middlemen, i.e., monopolies with an unprecedented control over the markets they themselves create”.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Instances - the result of processes on a platform

I’m trying out a new word: Instances. Instances are the results of processes that take place on platforms: Unique solutions that fit a particular context. This is how healthcare, mobility, education or even physical stuff like furniture will be offered tomorrow.

Industrial age was about mass production – everyone got the same basic functionality, and that was a great improvement. Then came more choice and customization. To compete in the market place, companies would try to make products and service that matched the individual customer’s life style. The next step to create value for customers is contextualization; offering users the right set of services and products at the right time and place.

This requires a great deal of flexibility. We’re different, we move around, our situations and needs change – and so do the solutions that are right for our context.
As customers we want to choose from the global menu, but we want a configuration that is uniquely customized for this moment.
In principle, the solution we want is an instance – one possible combination of a large number of elements.

This is natural in the digital world. Make a Google search and what comes up on your screen depends on who you are, where you are, what you’ve done previously, the mails you’ve sent etc. Based on this very detailed information you will receive one instance of a search. If you send the same query at other times, from other locations, you may get a different result. Likewise with services like Facebook or Amazon. They have hundreds of millions of users, yet every person sees a different version.

In the physical world we will also see solutions as instances. For mobility our needs change: Are you in a hurry, are you travelling with others, do you have luggage, is it raining, what types of transportation are available… Ideally, we want a combination, which takes all of this into account to offer the best solution at the least cost.
Likewise for healthcare or education. We change, and the companies that can adapt along with us, can deliver more value, and will be the most attractive.

Physical objects will become instances too. 3D printing and other flexible manufacturing will make it cost-efficient to modify every object to fit the user’s context and wishes. Objects that are based on a digital description are fluid. They can be remixed and reconfigured, and in a sense, the object is really a set of potential designs – one of which the user chooses to instantiate by printing it.
In a circular economy, where all resources are re-used, all objects would basically be instances of raw materials, assembled momentarily for a particular purpose. It’s natural.

Instances will typically not be created by one company. Rather, they will be co-created by a much wider set of stakeholders than most of the solutions we use today. In many cases, a significant part of the value may be contributed by communities or users them selves.

Instances are the results of processes that take place on platforms. The hardware, the service, the data, knowledge and content which is combined in an instance will shift, but the platform, where all of the components are assembled, is likely to be constant. The individual parts may be commodities, but the added value for users emerges as the platform matches providers and needs, orchestrating the interactions and qualifying them with increasingly detailed data.
This makes the platform a central and powerful player in a more connected and collaboratory economy.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Overview of available jobs in the collaborative economy

The american organization Peers has a good overview of the different types of jobs that you can seek in the collaborative economy - including an estimate of how much you are likely to make. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

How Google Works... Like a platform

How Google Works gives a very interesting, and actually quite inspiring, look at the philosophy of management behind Google. It’s written by former CEO Eric Schmidt and another top Google executive Jonathan Rosenberg.
It’s an easy read and contrary to a lot of other management books it doesn’t have a lot of very LOUD and flashy models of how to handle everything. But it does convey an attitude of thinking very big, hiring the best possible people, trusting them and supporting them in pursuing their ideas.

A very interesting slogan is “Default to open”, and this attitude applies in many areas – like keeping employees informed, creating partnerships, or not trying to tie costumers to your service.
It’s a bet, but they take that bet by default: “With open, you trade control for scale and innovation”.

There are also a few good observations about platforms that are worth quoting:

Airbnb, Uber, Square, Kickstarter, Netflix, Spotify… “These companies assembled existing technology components in new ways to re-imagine existing business. They set up platforms for customers and partners to interact, and use those platforms to create highly differentiated products and services. This model can apply just about anywhere: Travel, automobiles, apparel, restaurants, food, retail …”

“Whereas the twentieth century was dominated by monolithic, closed networks, the twenty-first will be driven by global, open ones”.
(p. 83)

“A corporation’s relationship with consumers is one-way. GM decides how to design, manufacture and market a new product to its consumers, and sells it through a network of dealerships. In contrast, a platform has a back-and-forth relationship with consumers and suppliers. There’s a lot more give and take”.
(p. 245)

Friday, October 31, 2014

Ok Go - again! It's unbelievable...

The guys from Ok Go have made another unbelievably intricate, one-shot video. Wow.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

On not getting by in the sharing economy

A very good,and very long, article by Sarah Kessler in FastCompany examined the realities of doing tasks for TaskRabbit, Fiverr, Uber etc. She found that making a living in the “gig-economy” is not easy at all.
For 4 weeks she tried to make money by using all the sharing economy services she could – from walking dogs, tutoring kids, and delivering packages to wrapping gifts.
It’s an excellent piece of journalism.

Along the way she experienced a lot of weird and worrying situation and she got a first hand view of what life is like when you surviving from one small gig to another.
Anyone interested in the collaborative economy should be aware that there is a very harsh competetive economy alongside the warm and friendly sharing of resources among people who have something to spare.

“Because of the way TaskRabbit works, job posters can easily find the people willing to work for the least amount of money. A user with the screen-name BaubleBar (the name of an online jewelry vendor that has raised $6 million to date) creates a task for $40. "We need 10 TaskRabbits to help us pack and check the quality of merchandise, and add labels to merchandise tags," it says. "PLEASE NOTE: We cannot allow frequent cell phone use during this task, so if you need to be on your phone often, this is not the task for you. This job will take approximately 8 hours. From 8am to 4pm."

“Setting up a full day of gigs--or even a gig in a target free period--isn't easy, and it often takes as much effort as applying for a regular economy job. I get rejected from about five tasks for every one I win. Sometimes I hold spots in my calendar that I could fill with other tasks for jobs I've bid on but haven't heard from. I'm essentially competing for every hour of my employment.
Even if I land a gig with a decent hourly wage, it typically looks like nothing once I factor in the time spent looking for jobs and commuting between them. Despite the oft-repeated promise of the gig economy, in fact I have no control over when I work, because the only way to get gigs is to be available sporadically and often without much notice. For example, the only people who respond to my DogVacay profile want a dog sitter over Christmas, when I am also out of town”.

“I have come to realize that one of the cruel ironies of the gig economy is that even though it's geared almost exclusively to serve urban markets, the kind of densely packed cities where space is at a premium, one needs a car to have a shot at the cream of the work that's available. Even worse, the universe of gig economy startups is mostly relying on young people and others who are underemployed--exactly the people whom are least likely to be able to afford a car in a city. Or have an extra bedroom. Or a parking space. Or designer clothes. Or handyman skills”.