Thursday, February 11, 2010

What does it mean to be a platform organisation?

I've been writing about the platform as primary organisational (and conceptual) framework pretty much as long as I've been writing this blog.

But I've never stopped to pull the essentials together.

What is a platform organisation? How does yours become one?

Let's start with a definition. Mine: A platform organisation uses its available resources to find, connect and support those who share its Purpose.

To be clear, I mean both within and without the organisation's own membranes. Those membranes must become permeable.

Of course, it does this with certain outcomes in mind. And to my mind these are they:

Why be a platform organisation?

Crowd-sourcing solutions offers three key benefits:

1. Value innovation: Access to more 'customer' minds in real-time increases the likelihood of 'blue ocean' solutions. These are those which seek to create new market space - where competition is irrelevant and benchmarking forgotten. Internal-only teams are more likely to default to tried and tested, me-too iterations delivering incremental efficiencies within current market confines. Value innovators look for things that customers value in common. Crowds deliver this. Then they ask: "what if we started anew?"
2. Better-fit solutions. Involving those for whom an outcome is intended in shaping that outcome results in a closer fit with their real needs. You make what you want; We make what we want.
3. Increased marketing and advertising efficiencies. Outcomes are more likely to be embraced by those who have played a part in creating them - the perfect start point for peer-to-peer advocacy.

There are others; You get closer to your customer; the customer feels they have skin in your game; you matter more to them; you get low-cost NPD, R&D, marketing, PR, advertising, customer support etc etc - but I think all these fall into the above three key reasons.

How to be(come) a platform organisation:

Start with the big why: Purpose. Platform organisations thrive on bringing people together to create best-fit outcomes but why would those outside your org want to join with you?
What is wrong with your industry, the way stuff gets done, how people are treated... the world... What is wrong with any of those things, that your org is out to put right?
Know this and express this through action. This is your first step to the Purpose-Driven Collaboration that platform organisations can share in.

Discovery and introduction:
Through expressing your purpose, and actively seeking those who share it, the latent community will emerge: those who care about the same stuff you do and who are willing to join you in working on it: communities of purpose. Join them, support them, contribute to them, provide for them. They were always there, the platform organisation's role is to discover and introduce them.

Community - groups
People join groups for three reasons:
1. Self-expression
2. To talk about the thing they care about
3. To fix the thing they care about.

Plenty of community tools enable 1 and 2. But 3 is too often disregarded. It is the key part. Social tools are not simply for connection, they are to enable outcomes that those people connecting care about. The platform organisation understands that 'social media' is 90% social, 10% media. It brings people together to make better stuff, not better messages.

Better messages are a necessary consequence of better stuff.

So ensure that their wikifixing contributions can be surfaced, acted on and the value created, shared.

It's nice to know that people are talking about you, saying nice things (or bad things) and where those things are being said. But much better to surface their concerns and join with them in addressing them - find ways for them to collaborate with you in fault finding and fixing and integrate that into work flows.

Systems which enable you to prioritise response and identify shared pinch points - from sophisticated conversation auditing to simple votes - offer some of the tools.

But the first step is to be open to collaborative change in the first place. And that starts in your head.

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The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?