Innovation and the Case for the Platform
Bill Lee in a recent HBR article on customer platforms essentially makes the case for the platform. He writes:
The ability to make it easy for customers to alter products to better meet their needs is not confined to technology firms. Mid-tech, low-tech and no-tech firms have been doing the same thing for a long time with enablers such as toolkits or modular products that allow add-on’s and customization. Discount furniture maker IKEA engages customers in assembling their own furniture, a process that allows them to customize as well. Research has shown that by doing so, some customers develop a particularly strong connection with the company. Some are even moved to write songs praising the company and to volunteer to live in the store. In one study, researchers asked college students to assemble an IKEA storage box, and then report how much they would pay to take it home. Those who assembled the box were, surprisingly, willing to pay more for the boxes and were happier with them, than those who didn’t assemble.
In a word, yes! Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google are the most important consumer platforms these days, but Lee correctly points out Force.com an example of an emerging platform.
Look at what Pebble Watch is doing with Kickstarter as we speak.
As I write in the book, platforms externalize and expedite innovation. Yes, Steve Jobs was smart, but does anything think that he could have predicted the success of Angry Birds? Ditto Instagram and other Black Swans.
Create the platform, give customers, users, and developers (the ecosystem) the tools to extend that platform in new and exciting directions, and watch to see what happens.
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