Friday, December 28, 2018

The Crossroads

Robert Johnson, waiting for the Devil. 

The Crossroads

When you are standing at a crossroads in your life, realise that the greatest block that you can put in front of your Self is the idea that there is a right choice. 

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Economic Ecologies, and Other Random Musings

So here we are, at The Crossroads. One path is towards (what we will generally call) Digital Ecosystems, the other path being (generally) Industrial Chains. Is there a "right choice"? This depends on how much stock one (Self?) puts into strategy. Strategy is tightly bound with world views, and its close cousin, mental models. Strategy is the difference between luck and brains. If one were to dig into the research, we would be surprised to discover that more businesses, be that the business of you, or large scale corporations, rely more on luck than brains. Which is to say, doing things you've always done with some kind of belief that this will work out. Which is to say, fate over strategy. 

Strategy begins with having a deep understanding about the environment in which your business pertains to operate within, with a framework for how you're going to create value within that environment, for whom, and some sort of reciprocation from which a profit is derived. 

Herein lies the problem. Strategy requires thinking and communication, both of which require collective intelligence, design thinking, and a framework for development. 
However, the cult of business worships individualism and strong, decisive leadership, which tends towards hierarchical organisations. 
What strategy requires, and what business cult tendencies gravitate towards are not compatible. 
If we wanted to boil this down to a couple of simple words, I will nominate Ego Gratification. 
If we were to devote the necessary time into evolutionary psychology, we would be somewhat amused, and mildly horrified, to learn the difference between us, and say apes, is very little. 

Which, roughly translated, is that the vast majority of chiefs running businesses as the agency for others would prefer to operate on the "gut instincts" of their, um, human nature--which often gets spectacularly rewarded!! (even as the length of tenure continues to shorten)--than to engage in the humility of real strategic thinking. The evidence is overwhelming in that this is a recipe for failure, or at best, treading water. The evidence is overwhelming that the vast majority of businesses are treading water, and/or are sinking. 
To wit, change is diabolically hard. Emphasis diabolical.  

Wait, What About Economic Ecologies??

We'll get to this. For now, we need to keep two things in mind. Ecologies are complex. Economics (the big E Economics) has for the better part of two centuries, hitched its wagon to mechanical physics. 
Hopefully you understand the two notions of complexity and mechanics are incompatible. 

It's Complicated

Here's the thing (as a colleague habitually prefaced his opinions with), if we had to say one grand (positive) thing about our twentieth century , it is that we mastered the complicated.  Mechanics are complicated. Mechanical systems are complicated. Given our human ingenuity, give us some (okay, lots) of computing power, we can solve the complicated. This ability has put men on the moon (it's more complex as to why no women made it to the moon, but I digress)  and given us spectacular gains in standards of living. (never mind that pesky gap in wealth distribution).
The best and the brightest (okay, white males of privileged backgrounds) rose to the top of the food chains by their mastery, their expertise of the complicated. 
That we can put men on the moon, robotics on Mars, but yet get bitch-slapped by the common cold is a warning. I'll let you figure that out. 


The mastery of the complicated is seeing ever decreasing returns and margins. Put another way, Complicated Mastery is now a commodity. Put yet another way, you've been commoditised.  Sorry. 

This trend serves as the introduction for a term I'm sure you've heard of, that is going to kill us (well, you. hopefully not me)--The Innovator's Dilemma. 

The Innovator's Dilemma is when you've been commoditised (or possibly disrupted if we really want to go all Clayton Christensen on your ass), but your ego defences (your ego has prevented you from even possibly understanding ego defences) is preventing you from understanding what you do not know about what you do not know. 
You might have to read that last line several times.
Your self worth (and marketable value) is tied to what you Do Know, and probably even blinded you to your falling market value (macro=organisation, micro=you). Your only buffer at this point is so many businesses are caught in the Innovator's Dilemma trap, they just keep recycling the same basic formula hoping for better results (and passing this off as strategy, only because the Board itself doesn't know any different). Which means they can keep recycling you. 

I'll leave it for you to decide if you're on one of those rat wheel things so often lampooned in business cartoons, or if you are stuck in a Dilbert comic strip. I guess if you're still making your mortgage and and Mercedes payments, and your kids are in the right schools, its a bit of a tie at the moment. Hopefully you can retire soon. 


It's Complex. Actually. 

Here's the good news!!! There's a boatload of gold for solving (sic) in the world of complex!! And we're talking monopolies here!! We're actually talking so much f**king gold, your boat will sink under the weight!! I'll order you a martini. Double, shaken (vodka, not gin). 

Here's the bad news. You're clueless in this world. It gets worse. You're worse than clueless, you're damaging. Right. I'll get you another martini. 

Oh, and by the way, that fork in the crossroads? That iconic re-enactment of Robert Johnson standing there, waiting for the Devil? That somewhat palpable salve of possible choice? As in maybe there isn't a right or wrong choice? Digital or Industrial? 

I hate (I lie, I love) to popgun the pseudo-guru-babble, but that train has left the station. 
The world in which your value resides is going to be eaten by platform based ecosystems. And I'll bet dollars to donuts you barely have the foggiest notion of what that means. 

I'll cut to the chase. If you don't know how you are going to create and bring value to the ecosystem where your business is tenuously residing, you're either dead or dying. 
No business is immune. None. Don't kid yourself. 

That gold? That can only be had through platform based ecosystem orchestration. If you don't understand what that means, at best you're an instrument in somebody else's orchestra (platform), which means you get to survive well enough to tread water. 
At worse? You're the wildebeest about to cross the crocodile infested waters desperately hoping to get to that economic ecology on the other side of the river. Crossing the chasm is an understatement.   

Platform based ecosystems are the next generation of markets that are 100% customer centric.   That is, increasingly customised offerings supplied through a market meshed of third party vendors (read: instruments).

The gold, as it were, lies in the Mastering of Ecosystem Orchestration, which is to say, mastering complexity and the new world of (digital) strategy. 
It bears repeating, your ego is a detriment here. Your swash-buckling individualism and gut instincts are damaging. Like cancer damaging. Sorry. I'd offer you another martini but you would probably puke it back up onto my shiny white Puma runners. 

Economic Ecologies: The Next Generation. 

The economics of now are based on the science of biology and biological systems (complexity), NOT the science of mechanics and mechanical systems (complicated). 
We understand our economic environments as highly complex, interdependent ecosystems. We will manage, and Not Control these systems through much more advanced management systems that are based on the science of collective intelligence, augmented with artificial intelligence, using design thinking, and the resultant advanced models of development (innovation, in the old industrial language). 

Ecosystem orchestration is a vastly different set of skills and proficiencies than that of the commanding controls of an industrial economic business model. 
The future that we are irreversibly in is a competition between ecosystems of which individual business species are a part of. It is vital to your future that you understand at a very deep level how your business is going to contribute to the health of your ecosystem. You know, your strategy. 
Even if you are not the orchestrator, there's decent margins to be had by being an invaluable collaborator in the ecosystem. 

To do that, you have to accept the two premises fore-shadowed in quotes that opened this little post. The option of that fork in the road is an illusion, and that doing the same thing over and over again expecting (better) different results is insanity, and eventually fatal. 

Can you change? You tell me. But do know this. Those (including me) who are seeking a mastery of ecosystem orchestration will ruthlessly weed you out if you do not. We can not afford cancerous behaviours in our systems. 

If you chose change, start with your ego. It may have gotten you to here, but it will not get you to there. 



Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Return of the Generalist

Image result for electricity consumers

Specialisation is stifling innovation.

So says this report from the World Economic Forum, Innovation is dying, and experts are to blame.

As a life long generalist, this is music to my ears, as I've felt stifled because my game plans and avenues to unique value creation on predicated on specialisation.

The solution to our lost innovative capacity might therefore be relatively simple.
Instead of focusing on hiring specialists or experts in a particular field, we should hire generalists of a broad mind, capable of thinking outside the box. Hiring independent innovators outside of institutional structures might be one way of protecting them from the pressures of specialisation.
Funding and grants should also be less tied to how much someone has specialised, and more to how inventive or creative they actually are. Our system should move more towards this kind of merit-based ideal, rather than focusing on expertise and certification.
Beyond this, businesses can consider challenging staff with lateral thinking. The key is to push staff beyond their narrow jobs and into new fields and endeavours that challenge them to think in new ways. Younger workers in particular should play a greater role in contributing to the ideas, products and inventions of a company, rather than being excluded until they have gained the relevant degrees or qualifications.

I second this recommendation!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Teaming For Audacious Innovation: The Future of Urban Auto Transportation.

Glia Ecosystems

Designing, Developing, Delivering The Future of Urban Auto Transportation

"3Ding" The Future

As you are reading this, I know you are already nearly as excited as I am, about the journey we are embarking on together. Together as a team, we’ll become even more excited about the challenges and prospects this journey represents.
As a team--a team of teams!--we are collectively “designing, developing and delivering” one of the most advanced organizations of the 21st century, an organization whose purpose is to bring to society the future of urban auto transportation.
The value we will co-create for citizens, cities, and the auto ecosystem will be the greatest transformation the world has ever seen.
That is really something to get excited about!

Building a platform that can attract and orchestrate an ecosystem of vendors and brands, from very big, to very small, that can continuously “Design, Develop, and Deliver” the future of urban auto transportation, while creating win-win-win value for the platform participants, our host cities, and our consumers, will be nearly impossibly hard.
That degree of difficulty--which is really only an artificial obstacle--and our ability to blow past that, is our competitive advantage.
It is important for us to understand, that while technologies and its advancements are crucial pieces of the puzzle to our business, a puzzle that will continually morph, these technologies only form the substrate to our business.
Our business is people, and the society we are embedded in.

To overcome the challenges inherent in our journey, to create the satisfying wins along the way, it will be a matter greatly as to how well we can come together, function and perform as a team, the Core Team, that will make the difference.

Here are two things we know for sure:
1)--The auto industry is going to go through radical transformation.
2)--We know how to design, develop and grow the organization that will facilitate that transformation.

Those are two knowns we can be assured of that we can hang our hats on.
How much of the value of this transformation that will be created overall, that we can create, that we can capture, that is entirely up to us.

With this broad understanding, let’s look at some of the most important skills and things we need to continually excel at.

Learning to learn, communicating and dialogue,  leadership and personal development, team building, network orchestration, and continuously developing these skills in others.
In concert, these skills, and we as people, will continually create the environment where other can excel at developing our collective purpose.  
Abilities are the talents we individually bring, be that coding, marketing, product development, engineering, etcetera.
The skills that we value are what will elevate us to the top of our game, and to the top of our field.

Particular to our organization, is a system I developed called Smart Swarms Systems (3S). It exists now only as an abstraction, as due to its nature, we have to learn, develop and grow that system together.
3S will be a highly refined form of collective intelligence.  It is vital to value creation and network orchestration in ecosystems, and as practitioners and nodes (think neurons in the brain) in this system (this hive mind we could say), excelling at using it, and contributing to it, will form a core competency across the Glia Ecosystem, that others will find difficult to match.
The 3S is critical for creating bonds and information & knowledge value flows throughout the ecosystem, for making smart decisions at all points, for swiftly moving ideas to creation and production (in conjunction with the best known principles and practices of productive innovation), for organization and orchestration of value, for organizational balance of individual and group identity, for understanding the business and competitive environment.  
Most importantly, when coupled with data technology, the data flows will allow us to develop real time mapping of the Glia Ecosystem, that will be a vital tool for transparency and  visualizing value creation flows, and trouble spots within the ecosystem.

The other half to our core values and collective wisdom, is truly, deeply understanding the very nature of social business ecosystems, why they represent the future of business organization, and that of value creation and harvesting.
Our dedication to the skills, values, and systems is what will make Glia Ecosystems the standard by which all others are measured.

Nothing energizes me more in the morning than that of the thought of working with you, with us, and our open ended opportunity to create the future.
If I can instil that in you, and we in everyone that joins our organization, our purpose, our lives will define what it means to be wealthy in the 21st century.
If this is the challenge and opportunity you have been looking for, contact me now, and lets find out if you have what it takes to be part of this team. Yours truly,
Gregory D. Esau

Monday, February 1, 2016

Glia as a Platform--The Basics

Artificial Neural Networks

What is Glia?

Glia is a distributed platform concept designed to bring public and private enterprise along with citizens and public/private business leaders, along with knowledge networks together to “design, develop and deliver the future of urban auto transportation”.
These vested parties and stakeholders are the 'social business ecosystem', with Glia as its 'Organizational Operating System'.
The Glia architecture places the power hubs of urban auto transportation system within the cities themselves, to the benefit of their local business people, and citizens.
The platform allows cities worldwide to 'plug into' the system, allowing networks of scale.

Glia is a business and organizational model that enables a distributed approach to Transportation as a Service (TaaS), and for orchestrating the complexity of third party vendors, the public sector, along with empowered individuals for the design, development and delivery of such a service.

The name Glia comes from a neurological cell dubbed the “social glue”, an ideal name for social networks with a purpose. What started as a terrific, smart and engaged group of people on the interest based social network, Google Plus, who were looking for ways to develop a social platform to create socially beneficial businesses, products and services, Glia has evolved to focus on the future of our urban auto transportation.

More than just a platform, it is an economic philosophy to harmonize society and business, and the development of people for what some are calling the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Why Do We Need Such A Platform?

A well designed and populated platform allows anyone with a vested interest to contribute to the process of value creation. Platforms have the ability to attract the wide and diverse knowledge and expertise necessary to solve complex problems, and co-develop the kinds of innovation needed for new value creation.

When it comes to something as complex as auto transportation as a service, where a large variety of public and private stakeholders are involved, we can bring all of them together in an online space, to share knowledge and insights, collaborate, co-design, and imagineer the future of urban transportation.

Platforms, and the social-business ecosystems they develop, also distribute risk and reward, making for robust and resilient businesses, that are highly adaptive to the ever shifting and evolving economic landscape. Because of their community driven nature, these platforms are much more sensitive to local economies over that of the corporate models.

The key to platform performance is its ability to attract and aggregate networks of knowledge and skills. Geography or singular business units are no barriers to these networks, and as platforms expand from city to city, the sharing and creative capacity grows exponentially.
Deep pools of the necessary knowledge, know how and expertise can form into clusters, furthering the ability of the platform to high performance.

A strong sense of community, ownership, and vested interest often becomes a defining aspect of the well designed platform.

As such, this gives cities and their citizens a way to be part of the leadership and development over our transportation future that we might not have otherwise. Furthermore, this allows the evolution of co-ownership business models, where cities and their citizens can have an ownership stake in what the famed consulting firm McKinsey and Company describes as: Driven by shared mobility, connectivity services, and feature upgrades, new business models could expand automotive revenue pools by about 30 percent, adding up to $1.5 trillion.

We all know how important continual innovation and applied innovation is to the future prosperity of society and business. Well designed platforms with a cultivation of an open source problem solving culture can provide the optimal environment for continually applied innovation for a wide and deep pool of value creation.

Our cities and their citizens should be able to contribute and share in this massive pool of value creation.

Why is This Important?

The most significant issue here is the generation of personal and collective data that is becoming the most valuable resource in this “fourth industrial revolution” and who owns and controls that data.
Of equal importance, is who is going to own and manage the future of urban transportation.

We believe in creating and developing the models that allow all vested stakeholders to extract the most value from the data, while at the same time guarding the privacy concerns of people and businesses is paramount.

Conflict of Interest
Many of the current big players that are already shaping our transportation future are public companies listed on the stock exchanges, and are therefore obliged to their shareholders. The tech companies of Silicon Valley, while creating an enormous amount of innovation and value over the last decades, also adhere to a more libertarian philosophy that may also conflict with the best interests of cities and citizens.

It doesn't have to be this way. The window is open for developing our future in a way that benefits the public and private enterprises, our cities, and their citizens.
As Jenny Lindqvist, Global Head of Intelligent Transport Systems, Ericsson, said at a recent New Cities Foundation conference on our Urban Mobility Future, “We need to work towards building an ecosystem rather than an ego-system,”

By this she means we need to put the health of the overall (transportation) system over that of the individual need for control and profit maximization.

The Future of Urban Auto Transportation?

Imagine a future where upwards of 80% of the cars are gone from the road, where private ownership of a car is now rare, and most of us subscribe to a “transportation service” (Transportation as a Service--TaaS).

What would that be like?

Owning and operating a vehicle is most people’s second biggest expense, and not a particularly good investment.

The promise of TaaS, is to bring us more convenience, while lowering our transportation costs. Our liability exposure also decreases.

For cities, the shift is absolutely profound. This will change how transportation infrastructure is needed, how it’s developed, and how highways, roads and streets are designed and maintained, and dramatically changes our city environments to becoming much more people centric.

Imagine the health and well being of our cities and citizens with such a dramatic reduction in vehicles clogging our streets, and the resources spent to accommodate them. Owning and operating a vehicle is often a stressful, and costly endeavour. The future of auto transportation can bring people the choice to free themselves from this burden.

Other issues at stake are things like public and private parking (and the revenues they generate), traffic fines and enforcement, insurance and liability, who owns and operates the vehicles of the TaaS, who supplies the rider experiences and value added services, and so forth.

The Sharing Economy

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is more than just breath-taking technological change and advancement. It’s also about new economic models and opportunities.

The opportunity here is to development new ownership-stakeholder models that can both generate wealth creation, and distribute wealth generation.

Much has been said and written on how technology and capitalism are “destroying jobs” and “concentrating wealth”.

However, these same technologies can also create new business models and ownership stakes. A new kind of “networked capitalism”, that blurs the line between the worker and the owner, facilitating the mechanisms of wealth creation and distribution.

For futurists, these social and technological trends can lead to either a utopia or a distopia. While hopefully the extreme scenarios are limited in odds, today we can also make choices and conscientious efforts to work towards shared prosperity rather than wealth concentration.

For the Glia platform, our culture and philosophy is geared towards shared prosperity. Join us in helping us all get there!

About Me

Gregory D Esau
CEO & Founder Glia Social Business Ecosystems
Developer of SmartSwarms Organizational Intelligence

Since the early 1990’s, I have been passionately engaged in learning about the evolution of distributed economic and business models, and acquiring the knowledge and knowledge networks, so as to apply these models to business and social challenges and opportunities.

I have used my thirty years of business experience in the highly competitive, challenging, and rewarding world of custom home construction, and general construction, to further hone my applicable skills and knowledge, so I can provide the leadership, guidance and business experience to value creation in the 21st century.

This passionate pursuit, combined with my work history, has led me to developing a broad knowledge base, a broad knowledge network, and the skills that enables me to “orchestrate” the building and development of distributed business organizational systems, the leadership and coaching required for such systems, and to oversee and guide the necessary technical, business and social development.

Based on my continual research, along with strong evidence, I believe it will be the kinds of systems and models I advocate that will give society and business the best odds of a strong, sustainable distributed economic prosperity, and broad social well being.

In the May 15, 2013 Provincial Election, I ran for the Green Party in the Vancouver Kingsway riding, under the slogan of “A Vote For Me, Is A Vote For We”.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Building for Our Business, Building for Our Society

"If you are interested in building a business to make money, forget it, you won't. If you are interested in building a business to make a contribution to society, then let's talk." VC legend Arthur Rock.

More Than A Business

What we see in the picture above is business and society at odds. The auto industry, whose business model is predicated on selling units, needs to sell more units. Cities and regions, however, need less cars, as billions upon billions of dollars are already being spent on infrastructure to handle the increases that benefit the auto industry, but costs citizens and society in many ways. 
For the co-creating the future of regional auto transportation, the auto industry and cities are at odds. 

We are going to need much more than business as usual if we are going to design, develop and delivers the right buffet for choices for the consumer, that leaves them better of than they are now, cities better off than they are now, and the various players from the auto industry better off than they are now.

An Investment in We

According to a July 20 2015 paper from Barclays, Disruptive Mobility, it's possible we could see a 40% reduction in new vehicle sales.
There are two basic forces driving that forecast: the driverless auto, and platform ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft.
The problem with those models, from our point of view, is the profits (and job losses) go to Silicon Valley and Wall St.

While some believe it is a foregone conclusion that these tech giants have already won territory for the future of our auto-transportation, we believe differently.
Uber, Lyft, and Google may be making all the headlines right now, but boiling up from the surface are the technology enabled social movements that make it possible for our cities and their people to by the majority stakeholders in the future of our auto transportation future.

In Owning is the New Sharing Antonin Léonard, co-founder of the Paris-based network OuiShare, thinks there has t be a better way:
“Society needs a new narrative about the world,” Léonard thinks, “and that narrative has to be different from the one Uber is offering.”
I agree wholeheartedly. Community ownership of transportation (and other services) is more than just a new business model, it is about what kind of economics models with which we want to shape our future societies.

Furthermore, these are no longer abstract theories, as the New Zealand based social enterprise network Enspiral can attest to.

However, this is only the beginning. the blockchain, with people like those behind +Ethereum leading the way, community ownership will be empowered in much more robust ways. The blockchain technology is now where the internet was circa 1992 (approx) before Tim Berners-Lee gave us the WWW. This opens the door for an even further evolution of social-business models that can replace Uber, Spotify and AirBnB.

Fellow collaborators in this future, the good people at the Enlivening Edge, are seeing it the same way, as explored by Stefan Groendenal in Decentalized Autonomous Transportation Networks, and Reinventing Road Transportation Systems.

And this is just a snapshot of the social-ownership models and movements that are brewing.

+John Hagel , of Deloitte's Center For The Edge, in his most recent paper Capturing value in the evolving mobility ecosystem, explores the potential even more deeply, rising the concept of the trusted advisor.
Trust is the key term here, as in order to fully realize the benefits of future of transportation, the question of who owns the data, and how private and portable is your data is going to be central to all models and businesses.
More so:
The developer of such a horizontal OS platform would benefit from powerful network effects. The more participants that adopt this operating system, and the more products available on the platform, the more valuable that platform becomes. In the PC industry, this has become a key source of both value creation and value capture: While the rest of the industry fragments around more diverse product offerings, the providers of the OS platform tend to consolidate, giving them an advantaged position in an increasingly diverse ecosystem.
I believe strongly that it is crucial as citizens, communities and cities, that we maintain a majority stakeholder role, and not Wall St or Silicon Valley.

Insurance is a form of distributed resilience, and even here we see the field is moving rapidly to fulfil the needs of our new models, as Collin Thompson  (LinkedIn profile) digs into in his well crafted piece Insurance, The Blockchain, and The Sharing Economy: Re-Imagining InsuranceTech with P2P Social Insurance Networks on the Blockchain.

Again, this is a mere snapshot of the brainpower and investments being made in the fundamentals necessary for a peer-to-peer community ownership structure.

Where Do We Start?

In the Glia Model, I am proposing to find twelve (give or take) cities, in both North America and Europe, to join into a pilot program to develop the models, platforms and talent networks and vendor ecosystems. It's possible each city might develop a slightly different model, depending on their own needs and culture. What's important is we share what we learn, and co-develop the necessary resilient networks.
In the last five years, I've developed an impressive network of people and knowledge necessary to "designing, developing, and delivering" these advanced models and platforms, but it will be the "Gravity" we create by binding together that will attract the next phase of necessary resources, like financial, intellectual, and social capital.

My vision is to get each of the city-nodes of the greater network to each develop their own "Smart Capital" crowd-funded backers (we'll be using FrontFundr here in Vancouver), and in tandem to bring in the social capital that can get the public bodies of each city to be on board.

Collectively, we can become a powerful force that can shape the economic and transportation future of our cities, and ensure that it is the cities and its citizen that reap the rewards. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Future of Auto Transportation

Big news over the past week concerning the future of auto transportation with Google and Ford pairing up.

According to three sources familiar with the plans, the partnership is set to be announced by Ford at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. By pairing with Google, Ford gets a massive boost in self-driving software development; while the automaker has been experimenting with its own systems for years, it only revealed plans this month to begin testing on public streets in California. Google has 53 test vehicles on the road in California and Texas, with 1.3 million miles logged in autonomous driving. 
By pairing with Ford, the search-engine giant avoids spending billions of dollars and several years that building its own automotive manufacturing expertise would require. Earlier this year, Google co-founder Sergey Brin said the company was looking for manufacturing partners that would use the company’s self-driving system, which it believes could someday eliminate the roughly 33,000 annual deaths on U.S. roads.

 This is terrific news, as it is indicative of the kinds of partnerships needed to create the supply ecosystem for the future of transportation, and the speed at which this is happening.

We continuing our work to pull together all the stakeholders from public and private sectors so as we can all work together to orchestrate the design, develop and delivery of the best possible transportation solutions and experiences for urban regions and their constituents.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

From Firms--To Platforms

The Evolution of How We Organize Production and Distribution

Technology and the culture of work is rapidly evolving to allow us to organize our work and our production much, much differently than was the norm during much of the twentieth century. It is becoming a growing consensus that much of the world's production will shift to platforms in the coming decades.
This is a continuation in my ongoing series for orienting the builders, backers and connectors that will belong to the Glia Revolution of the Future of Regional Auto Transportation.
This post looks at platforms as the new organizational structure.

What Is A Platform?

At its simplest, a platform is digital medium which lets others connect to it. Uber, Lyft, AirBnB, Amazon, are some examples, there are many more that are allowing a high scalability, and meritocratic approach to getting things done, that also removes the bureaucracy and hierarchy that is crippling  many firms, and their necessary ability to adapt and innovate. 
As Lee McCabe, the new head of travel and education strategy for Facebook puts it, in this excellent interview with McKinsey & Company:

 Well, first I should say that I understand it’s not easy. It won’t happen overnight. For the first time, technological capability is actually exceeding organizational capability. Companies now have the technological capabilities required to take better advantage of big data, which really just means better targeting. But organizationally it’s challenging because most traditional players are siloed. And then there’s the issue of data science. If a big travel company—an airline or a cruise company or a hotel—doesn’t have a really good data-science department, it’s missing out.
If you look at a typical OTA, it has a pretty clean organizational structure. There’s one department looking at supply data and one department looking at demand. These two departments work together very closely, and mobile is now the backdrop for everything they do. The groups talk to each other every day, and they are constantly looking to decrease friction. But in typical travel suppliers, there’s far more ambiguity in the organizational structure. They often have multiple brands, and those brands are split into different regions, and those regions have different departments. Sometimes there are several people with the same title—head of commerce or head of mobile, for instance. It can become ambiguous and cumbersome. So a clean organizational structure is paramount. You need to be able to move fast and build things and move things around because the mobile environment itself is fast.

McCabe is comparing the difference between the speed and agility of the platform enabled OTA (online travel agencies) and that of the traditional structure of old travel companies.
Platform based organization are bred to cross-fertilize knowledge and data, to be learning platforms, whereas the culture of too many old style firms, is that of hoarding and politics around knowledge, information and data.

In a business landscape where the ability to use mobile and apps to compete, it's increasingly difficult for these old organizational structures and cultures to compete with the agility of platform driven business models.

Acclaimed complexity and organizational theorist +Esko Kilpi , in a Medium post from last summer, From Firms, To Platforms, To Commons, writes:

Work systems differ in the degree to which their components are loosely or tightly coupled. Coupling is a measure of the degree to which communication and power relation between the components are predetermined and fixed or not. Hierarchies and processes were based on tight couplings. The new post-industrial platforms are based on loose couplings following the logic of the Internet. Some people will work on one platform every now and then, while others will work simultaneously and continuously on many different platforms. The worker makes the decision about where, with whom and how much to work. The old dichotomy of employers and employees is a thing of the past.

This allows a much different, more rapid approach to problem solving and value creation, with leaner transaction costs, than that of the bureaucratic firm. 

Looking further still, into a seminal post, The Hacker Ethic of Work, we get an ever deepening look at the "case for non-bureaucratic organizations:
Clear signs tell us that, today, organizations that embraced a post-industrial transformation and defeated the bureaucracy and rigidity of linear business models are the masters of the market. According to Javi Creus (the passage is taken from PentaGrowth report) these companies “integrate more resources from different origins in their processes, they take better advantage of their users’ capacities, and share tools and resources to enable others to develop their own businesses and lifestyles” and “the value of these organisations is not their volume, but the amplified view of what is available for them […] their advantage is based on scope, not on scale and […] generate value beyond what they need to capture in order to sustain and evolve”.
This also hints at my own Smart Swarms approach to orchestrating value creation, as innovation, team work, and customer experiences.

"Design Thinking" is baked into the networks DNA, better clarified here from the same article:

In the first place, the hacker attitude should be applied to the discovery and understanding of the market. In this sense, companies must be very careful not to fall into the trap of the protection of competitive advantages and incremental innovation. These safe havens cannot last long at today: it will be more important to focus efforts on continually creating tangible value for users. As the “Lean Startup” method can provide a good starting point, “The Four Steps to The Epiphany“- the seminal book from Steve Blank which is a bible for  frugal and effective entrepreneurs – provides guidance for the so-called “Customer Development” process, that wikipedia effectively defines as: “a scientific approach that can be applied by startups and entrepreneurs to improve their products success by developing a better understanding of their consumers. Primary to the concept is a balanced relationship between developing a product and understanding the customer”
A complement of the customer driven innovation point of view can come then from Design Thinking: an approach that is aimed at designing products and innovations around problems and needs of real people (herean old post in which I tried to clarify how Design Thinking and Lean approaches such as Customer Development can coexist).
Such an approach will increase the ability of the company to design and truly understand the needs and objectives of users and, ultimately, will help companies design services that are more meaningful, appreciated and adopted.
Within the context of re-inventing how we "supply transportation" to cities and regions, and moving away from the culture of mass production fueled traffic congestion, the platforms and culture, bringing together the complex array of technology, data and services, becomes all the more important.

+Rawn Shah , writing in his Forbes Magazine article, Moving From Mass Production Supply Chains To Market Networks, observes that:
The successful future organization is one that excels in its strategic capability to orchestrate networks or ecosystems, whenever needed around the context of a job to be done, and to deliver sustainable value creation for all partners involved.  On the micro scale, this is the capability to build dynamic teams that collaborate as needed around a job activity or project. On the macro scale, it is about many individuals and organizations partnering to solve large-scale problems in dynamic multi-stakeholder ecosystems.
Which is as perfect a description of the Glia mission as there is!

+John Hagel , Co-Chairman of Deloitte's Center for the Edge, writes in this recent Wall Street Journal article, Manufacturers Reassess Role In Value Chain:

Some manufacturers are rethinking products as platforms, with each platform the center of an ecosystem in which third-party partners can build modular add-ons. Platforms are often thought of as software, such as computer operating systems, but platforms can also encompass nondigital objects, such as thriving aftermarkets that exist to customize and personalize automobiles for both utility and aesthetics.

This is all the more important, as the automobile continually evolves into autonomous operation, a complex compilation of hardware, software, design and data, to become a component in Transportation as a Service, rather than that of an end unit in mass production sales.

As Glia, and our mission to "Design, Develop and Deliver The Future of Regional Auto Transportation, building from the 'ground up' off of a platform, to organize the third party partners in our transportation ecosystem become the only logical, and business wise way to start and grow our social-business venture.