Innovation Platforms: the future way to go.

platform-buildingWe need to shift our innovation thinking, it needs to be digitally transformed. We need to accelerate our activity and engagement and to achieve this, we need to widen out our communities and connect differently.

This is where platforms come in, “they offer new business models that allow multiple sides (producers and consumers) to interact… providing an infrastructure that connects them” (source: Platformed.Info by Sangeet Paul Choudary)

The more I read, discuss and research platforms, the clearer the future becomes for innovation to really advance and achieve its potential, one so often spoken about yet so disappointing in most of its results to date. Innovation calls for the need of a radical change. Technology and its growing potential can make the changes to dramatically alter this.

Actually, technology is transforming the very nature of the firm.

The inner workings need to be exposed to the outside world more and more, they need to be tested and become highly responsive. The complexity across markets, the increasing expectations of customers and users and the ability to simply connect into others, opens up a completely different set of innovation options that individual organizations must find ways to ‘tap into.

It is through innovation platforms as the present way that we all do need to head towards.

They offer the potential for improving performance, to help grow the footprint of the organization in new ways, they can help leverage the learning capabilities that one organization can never own by itself, they provide a greater potential to capture a very different type of value and give growing advantage in learning and competitive advantage.

There has been some significant shifts in the business environment that will allow platform management to be increasingly recognized as an essential part of any organization’s future design. It has been nicely put in a recent white paper, “From Business Modeling to Platform Design provided by Simone Cicero and his platform design team as “the new possible (what is made possible by technological advancement) and the new desirable (from the point of view of the users) are constituting a new environment and it is platforms that are the new medium being used to create this new environment. Read this paper you gain an awful lot of understanding, written in a way we less digitally savvy mortals can understand (and relate too).

The shifts underway

There are many shifts underway and seemingly self-reinforcing as you recognize them. Besides the ones mentioned by Simone in his paper I have been focusing down on three; 1) We are moving from resource control to resource orchestration and that is a powerful shift, 2) We are moving from internal optimization to external interactions and 3) We are shifting even more on finding customer value (and relevance) through a focus on ecosystem value sharing.

These shifts firstly have magnetism as one side attracts the other, one party relates increasingly with another in this growing ecosystem of connections, there is a growing digital and technology enabled contribution, where user-generated insights educates the participants engaged on the platform and within the ecosystem, and from this there is implicit creation of value and the constant incentive to continually improve the experience. It becomes this self-reinforcing I mentioned above.

The impact and effects of participating in platforms and across ecosystems

There is a lot of argument on the benefits of the “network effect” as you engage more deeply, you learn, exchange and explore a greater potential of value for hopefully all the users (or participants) on the platform to generate this dynamism, often so lacking inside just one organizations pursuit of their view of the innovation solution. It simply opens it up to a new set of possibilities, that can provide new models of collaboration and competitive advantage.

The exciting part is the learning potential.

Platforms are incredibly important in how we leverage the intangibles of our capitals; in structure, people and relationships and will be providing a real social currency that creates increasingly value as one of the critical outcomes. This will become a building block of business value creation as platforms increasingly allow for business adaption and growth as most of these ‘sit’ in the cloud and can evolve and adapt far quicker than systems owned and managed by the one organization.

There is a real potential to profoundly reduce physical infrastructure and assets and this might have those ‘dark effects’ that a digital transformation might cause, yet it opens up to new options in capitalizing on enhancing leverage, providing increased specialization and pushing for higher levels of flexibility and learning. Knowledge acquiring becomes critical and it hones the process of discovery and collaboration. Platforms strip away inefficiency as you respond to others increasingly in ‘real time’. Asset realization takes on a whole new meaning; it needs to be constantly enhanced.

So as we enter 2017 key questions need to be asked

We need to ask a series of basic questions: 1) what is the primary objective(s) of the platform need, 2) Where are these opportunities to accelerate learning, growth and the business potential, 3)what platform designs are ones that work in your situation.

We will be required to explore new innovation landscapes. Much of our learning and exploring innovation through platforms will be initially experimental, it will rely on more entrepreneurial skill sets to determine, it must have the customer as the central tenant of looking to fulfil their expectations and needs and it will demand a platform capability ad ecosystem that allows the individual organization to contribute, extract and leverage on its existing capabilities and extend these in new ways as a ‘network of teams’ in which people are interacting and solving problems, in highly dynamic and agile ways.

As Beth Comstock, the Vice Chair of GE recently wrote: we are seeing the “Rise of Emergent Organizations” as we all learn to live in the “in-between” as digital and technology erodes what we have and we all are learning to scale our structures differently. As we replace our old business models on more information-dependent networks and raw knowledge that will need constantly refining to extract the value out of it.

Our abilities to learn fast will be tested extensively in 2017. You need to embrace the era of platforms and ecosystems if innovation, growth and learning are essential to your survival.


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