Where the physical and virtual worlds are blurring, thanks to Alibaba.

alibaba-visual-plus-logoIf ever there is one company in my mind that is at the forefront of building ecosystems, platforms and customer engagement, that is the Alibaba Group.

They are so focused on building the fundamental infrastructure for modern commerce, presently comprising marketplaces, payment. logistics, cloud computing and big data that is ‘collectively’ empowering businesses of all sizes to leverage the internet for their own digital transformation.

So who is Alibaba?

“Alibaba Group is an internet company that aims to make it easy to do business anywhere. Alibaba operates a range of online marketplaces that connects buyers and sellers, with the company providing the technology infrastructure to help merchants, brands and small businesses all over the world reach Chinese consumers. Alibaba’s ecosystem includes e-commerce platforms, cloud computing, digital media and entertainment, payments and financial services, logistics, and local services.”

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Innovating like it’s 1999

1999-partyTo borrow a phrase from the musician formerly known as Prince, we are innovating, at least in regards to platforms and ecosystems, like it’s 1999.  This isn’t to suggest innovation is making beautiful music, but to take you back to a specific point in time and think about the conditions.

In the late, late 1990s and very early 2000s, many individuals and corporations were experimenting with ecommerce, learning what the “web” would do to and for commerce.

Thousands of startups obtained billions of dollars in venture capital money to exploit the new idea of e-commerce.  We were assured that this would be the end of brick and mortar stores.  Every industry would be disrupted by the web.  Pet owners would go to Pets.com, famous for its sock puppet mascots.  The CEO of Accenture would leave his post to become CEO of Webvan, which would revolutionize grocery shopping and delivery.  And so on.

Mostly what happened in that period was a vast blooming of a number of experiments on the web, which led to the “dot com” crash only a few years later and drove many of these startups and some larger, established companies out of business. Most of these crashes happened because no one had figured out how all of this new ecommerce stuff was supposed to work, or because of vague promises of the ability to monetize eyeballs.

New technologies or capabilities will always create a “land rush” of companies, new and established, who seek to stake their claims.  Continue reading

The new innovation pursuit- extending the connected difference

customer-experience

visual credit: http://www.janrain.com

We need to discover the new innovation pursuit; connecting, coherent and collaborative for customers to be provided seamless experiences

The pursuit of the ‘holy grail’ of business – is offering coherent, connected customer-facing solutions – will increasingly only be achieved through a combination effect of broader collaboration, working in ecosystems arrangements and coordinated through a platform design.

It is through this ‘combination effect’ there is further potential to deliver innovation that solves existing need or uncovers unmet ones that advance on the existing solutions in unexpected ways. Ones that can improve productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness, taking the complexity out of our existing lives, giving us new experiences we connect into and highly value for what they provide and solve. (think Apple, Social Networks, Amazon, Uber or AirBnB)

The whole combination of crowds, customers, collaborators, competition, and co-creators can define and reshape complete offerings that are often unthinkable when you are operating in individual ways, so the potential to achieve a different scale, access, and engagement can be made. In our view

Innovation ecosystems can radically alter the value proposition. Continue reading

Innovating the Minimum Viable Experience

minimum-viable-pathway-for-experienceThroughout our blog posts about innovation, ecosystems and platforms, we’ve maintained one core theme:  incremental, discrete product innovation will not create significant new revenues or disrupt markets.

The reasons, as we’ve discussed, include the growing expectation of seamless experiences from the consumers’ viewpoint and the rising importance of platforms and ecosystems in which new products or services exist.

Minimum Viable Footprint

Today I’d like to highlight a new idea – innovating for the “Minimum Viable Footprint”, an idea that was first proposed in Ron Adner’s book entitled The Wide Lens.  Adner defines the “Minimum Viable Footprint” or MVF as “the smallest configuration of elements that can be brought together and still create unique commercial value“.  The MVF is the logical outcome of two realities:  first, the already discussed idea that innovators need to innovate more than just a product, but must consider the ecosystem in which the product will reside, and second, the concept of a minimum viable product – something many companies already understand and practice.  Continue reading

Why you need an experience manager for innovation

customer-experience-journeyThrough our discussions about innovation, ecosystems and seamless experiences we’ve highlighted the fact that 1) innovation doesn’t work that well for many companies because we believe that 2) these companies create discrete products rather than fully understanding the ecosystem the products enter and 3) they don’t understand that customers are seeking seamless experiences more than ever.

If these points make sense to you, the question becomes, how do we create seamless customer experiences?  What makes up the solution?  How do ideas like the Geoffrey Moore inspired “whole product” combine with tools like customer experience journeys and design thinking to help an innovator understand the potential seamless solution?  And, how does an innovator decide what components in the ecosystem or solution they should create, and which to partner for or rely on external partners for?

I’d like to begin this post by arguing that this issue stems from another fallacy – the fallacy of being “customer centric”.  Continue reading

New innovation realities require new mindsets and tools

new-minsets-tools-and-skillsOur belief is that customer demand is changing. This will have a significant impact on the way organizations will have to adapt and change their innovation approaches in the future.

Jeffrey recently wrote this, initially on his blog site of Innovate on Purpose and reproduced here.

We felt this is an important point of understanding to bring into this dedicated site as it addresses one of the present sets of challenges we need to resolve, one of updating our innovation tools, thinking and methodologies.

Paul & I have started outlining the key needs of change here  in this dedicated site and will through an evolving series of blog posts about innovation, ecosystems, platforms discuss these changes and needs to respond to what we believe customers will ultimately demand:  seamless experiences.

Our view is as products and services proliferate and basic needs are met, customers become more sophisticated and more demanding, desiring products, services and business models that work together and don’t require configuration, integration or effort by the consumer to “make them work”.  Customers and consumers increasingly expect a seamless experience when using a new product.  If the product or service requires the customer to combine products, read manuals, acquire other products or services to make the solution work, the new product is likely to receive far less acclaim.

Understanding that, we should understand also that the tools that once helped innovators create new products aren’t the same tools that we need today when customers demand seamless experiences.  Or, put another way, those original tools are still valuable, but by themselves they solve only a small portion of the overall challenge. Let us here outline some of the present constraints or limitations to challenge and recognize our needs to shift our present thinking

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Widen the aperture, narrow the focus

widen-the-aperture-narrow-the-focus-real-value

Today, customers are busier, smarter, have shorter attention spans and most importantly have less desire to make products or services work together.

Apple,  Amazon, and EBay are examples that  have taught customers that products, services, data, experiences, and design can all work together to provide a totally seamless experience.

Increasingly, this is what customers are increasingly wanting, and to do that you’ll need to rethink the way you innovate.

In Jeffrey Phillips post “Using ecosystems to build seamless experiences” we raised this present poor understanding within a business, that many lack a good understanding of customer needs.  Actually, it is far worse than we initially felt, still more on that later.

This is a longish read but an important one, to frame our need to think through innovation differently, through a new lens. Take your time, knowing why we need to change is critical. There is a new innovation era that holds promise if we think differently. Continue reading