Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The web disintermediates. Retail is mediation.

Image courtesy The Drum
Retail is mediation.
Where-ever there is mediation there will be disruption. This is not just the lesson of an economic downturn - it is the structural reality of the networked world - of an Open Economy.
I write as I hear about Blockbuster hitting the great DVD eject button, just a day after HMV called in the receivers. Comet came crashing down just before Christmas, Jessops last week.
The analysts tell similar stories about HMV and Blockbuster - what they both trade in was more easily and cheaply available online.
The same is true of Comet and Jessops. Just because you can't download a washing machine (give it time as 3D printing ramps up) doesn't mean the web doesn't offer an easier trading environment.
So. The High Street is full of fail.
Except it isn't. Apple has the highest value retail floorspace in the world.
Reasons: 1 Products people really want.
We will happily swop good product for ease of trading. Think of Marks & Spencers in its heyday. It was incredibly difficult to trade with. Out of stock in the food stores by a Saturday lunch time and refusing to take credit cards. The products made this acceptable.
Reasons 2 An understanding that the experience is as important as the product.
Apple's stores re-invented the shopping experience. Or perhaps they just learned from a quality car show room. They elevated the products, put them in their best light and let you test drive them (ask a car dealer how much more likely someone is to buy if you can get their butt on the drivers' seat).

If you have products worth celebrating and provide the setting for experiencing those products then you have  an opportunity. You have earned the right to be the mediator.

If you don't then expect users to find ways around you, to go more and more directly.
If you are in the middle, unless you are adding value, they want you out of the way.

They are on a journey in pursuit of connection with the makers - something the blandness of the supermarket experience makes attempts to layer on (pictures of farmers on packaging spring to mind) but would much rather massage out. The web disintermediates - and retail is mediation.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Welcome to the Open Business mission

I was delighted to discover that Luis Suarez (@elsua on twitter) long time social blogger, famed for his attempts to banish email and for his KM work with IBM, has committed 100% to the Open Business cause.
His blogpost yesterday comes at the end of a series on social business/enterprise and concludes that it's time to move on, to lose the 'social' and to celebrate the Open.
Luis Suarez: Inspiring Open Business
I remember when back in the day, nearly 10 years ago, when I first started blogging, both internally and externally (Nearly 8 years ago for the latter), one of the themes I decided to go for as its own category was Social Computing, then Social Networking. From there onwards Enterprise 2.0, followed by the Social Enterprise and, lately, Social Business. That was all part of what I felt was the evolution of social networking in a corporate environment. Well, as of today, and while I move on shifting my focus into that where to next … I have created a couple of new categories. One of them is just a renaming activity from a previous one. The other is an entirely new category that I will be using to post articles on that particular topic from here onwards. It will also mean how, after 6 years, I’m starting to sense it’s time to move on from those fully loaded monikers of Social Enterprise or Social Business, since, you know, they eventually mean something completely different altogether and it’s probably a good thing to move on anyway.
That’s why Social Enterprise / Social Business from here onwards, for yours truly, are going to beOpen Business, following further up the superb piece of work that David Cushman did in setting up the stage of what Open Business is all about during the course of last few months. You may want to go ahead and start reading “The 10 Principles of Open Business“, or “Introducing Open Business“, or perhaps check out the Open Business Council to find out more about it and you will see how for a good number of years this blog has been permeating through plenty of the vision David shared across with that new concept of how businesses should operate. I know it’s not new, for sure, I mean, openness has been there all along, but if you read further into the principles that David shared across about this topic you would see how we still need to do plenty of work about it. And that’s essentially what I am planning on doing from here onwards.
I'm flattered that my work on Open Business (with Jamie Burke) has inspired you Luis. Inspiring Open is core to how I work.

If anyone would like to catch up on the 10 Principles of Open Business (a book on which is coming soon), start here.

But please also go and take a look at Luis' blogpost, and those leading up to it - join in shaping what Open Business can become.

I wonder if he can inspire IBM to make the leap from social to open business, too...

Monday, January 07, 2013

The dash from convergence and how the web can save us if we choose

I wonder if the proliferation of devices we are experiencing give us a hint about what will happen to the web?
A few years back – when the first smart phones were making inroads, when the first all-you-can-eat mobile data deals were laid before a hungry audience, then it seemed to make perfect sense that convergence would arrive via the device.

Hell, I have a phone that can take picture, tell the time, calculate, run my diary... open documents, access my email, access the internet, play games and music, play video, show broadcast tv etc etc. Why wouldn’t we think one device could do it all?

And here I am packing a few items for some days away on business and finding it essential that I load up with a laptop, ipad, kindle fire AND iphone (4S)...
Little sign of convergence here. And I’ve never given up on wearing a watch either.

But platforms? Despite the vast variety of opportunity, there are only ever a handful of giants. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, for example

All start off with relatively focused aims. But over time they bloat – copying the ideas of others, assuming that the battle is on for the one social home we will become and remain loyal to.

But the more they bloat, the more we see the value in the specific, the more we spill out into those with greater focus on specific needs – the Pinterests, Instagrams, 4Squares of this world – and the thousands more behind them in the long tail.

I wonder if, given just a little more bloating from the big boys, we may rediscover the self-forming-group value of the web – that we need less direction and guidelines from those who would be our internet, and more purpose from ourselves to make our connectedness count.

The dash from convergence in devices may be yet another indicator that we are more comfortable with complexity than the reductionists would have us believe, that we value niche over lowest common denominator in a very powerful way.

And that’s a good thing – because it’s a much better match with the infinite variety of adhoc self-forming groups the web is built to enable.

The web is our salvation from the bland, from the mass, from the uniform. If we want it to be.

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?