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Software Isn’t Going to Eat the World

Software Isn't Going to Eat the World

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

In 2011, technology pioneer Marc Andreessen declared that software is eating the world. “With lower start-up costs and a vastly expanded market for online services,” he wrote, “the result is a global economy that for the first time will be fully digitally wired — the dream of every cyber-visionary of the early 1990s, finally delivered, a full generation later.

Yet as Derek Thompson recently pointed out in The Atlantic, the euphoria of Andreessen and his Silicon Valley brethren seems to have been misplaced. Former unicorns like Uber, Lyft, and Peloton have seen their value crash, while WeWork saw its IPO self-destruct. Hardly “the dream of every cyber-visionary.”

The truth is that we still live in a world of atoms, not bits and most of the value is created by making things we live in, wear, eat and ride in. For all of the tech world’s astounding success, it still makes up only a small fraction of the overall economy. So, taking a software centric view, while it has served Silicon Valley well in the past, may be its Achilles heel in the future.

The Silicon Valley Myth

The Silicon Valley way of doing business got its start in 1968, when an investor named Arthur Rock backed executives from Fairchild Semiconductor to start a new company, which would become known as Intel. Unlike back east, where businesses depended on stodgy banks for finance, on the west coast venture capitalists, many of whom were former engineers themselves, would decide which technology companies got funded.

Over the years, a virtuous cycle ensued. Successful tech companies created fabulously wealthy entrepreneurs and executives, who would in turn invest in new ventures. Things shifted into hyperdrive when the company Andreessen founded, Netscape, quadrupled its value on its first day of trading, kicking off the dotcom boom.

While the dotcom bubble would crash in 2000, it wasn’t all based on pixie dust. As the economist W. Brian Arthur explained in Harvard Business Review, while traditional industrial companies were subject to diminishing returns, software companies with negligible marginal costs could achieve increasing returns powered by network effects.

Yet even as real value was being created and fabulous new technology businesses prospered, an underlying myth began to take hold. Rather than treating software business as a special case, many came to believe that the Silicon Valley model could be applied to any business. In other words, that software would eat the world.

The Productivity Paradox (Redux)

One reason that so many outside of Silicon Valley were skeptical of the technology boom for a long time was a longstanding productivity paradox. Although throughout the 1970s and 80s, business investment in computer technology was increasing by more than 20% per year, productivity growth had diminished during the same period.

In the late 90s, however, this trend reversed itself and productivity began to soar. It seemed that Andreessen and his fellow “cyber-visionaries were redeemed. No longer considered outcasts, they became the darlings of corporate America. It appeared that a new day was dawning and the Silicon Valley ethos took hold.

While the dotcom crash deflated the bubble in 2000, the Silicon Valley machine was soon rolling again. Web 2.0 unleashed the social web, smartphones initiated the mobile era and then IBM’s Watson’s defeat of human champions on the game show Jeopardy! heralded a new age of artificial intelligence.

Yet still, we find ourselves in a new productivity paradox. By 2005, productivity growth had disappeared once again and has remained diminished ever since. To paraphrase economist Robert Solow, we see software everywhere except in the productivity statistics.

The Platform Fallacy

Today, pundits are touting a new rosy scenario. They point out that Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Airbnb, the largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Facebook, the most popular media owner, creates no content and so on. The implicit assumption is that it is better to build software that makes matches than to invest in assets.

Yet platform-based businesses have three inherent weaknesses that aren’t always immediately obvious. First, they lack barriers to entry, which makes it difficult to create a sustainable competitive advantage. Second, they tend to create “winner-take-all” markets so for every fabulous success like Facebook, you can have thousands of failures. Finally, rabid competition leads to high costs.

The most important thing to understand about platforms is that they give us access to ecosystems of talent, technology and information and it is in those ecosystems where the greatest potential for value creation lies. That’s why, to become profitable, platform businesses eventually need to invest in real assets.

Consider Amazon: Almost two thirds of Amazon’s profits come from its cloud computing unit, AWS, which provides computing infrastructure for other organizations. More recently, it bought Whole Foods and began opening Amazon Go retail stores. The more that you look, Amazon looks less like a platform and more like a traditional pipeline business.

Reimagining Innovation for a World of Atoms

The truth is that the digital revolution, for all of the excitement and nifty gadgets it has produced, has been somewhat of a disappointment. Since personal computers first became available in the 1970’s we’ve had less than ten years of elevated productivity growth. Compare that to the 50-year boom in productivity created in the wake of electricity and internal combustion and it’s clear that digital technology falls short.

In a sense though, the lack of impact shouldn’t be that surprising. Even at this late stage, information and communication technologies only make up for about 6% of GDP in advanced economies. Clearly, that’s not enough to swallow the world. As we have seen, it’s barely enough to make a dent.

Yet still, there is great potential in the other 94% of the economy and there may be brighter days ahead in using computing technology to drive advancement in the physical world. Exciting new fields, such as synthetic biology and materials science may very well revolutionize industries like manufacturing, healthcare, energy and agriculture.

So, we are now likely embarking on a new era of innovation that will be very different than the digital age. Rather than focused on one technology, concentrated in one geographical area and dominated by a handful of industry giants, it will be widely dispersed and made up of a diverse group of interlocking ecosystems of talent, technology and information.

Make no mistake. The future will not be digital. Instead, we will need to learn how to integrate a diverse set of technologies to reimagine atoms in the physical world.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog
— Image credit: Pixabay

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The Role of Prototyping in Human-Centered Design

Turning Ideas into Reality

The Role of Prototyping in Human-Centered Design

GUEST POST from Art Inteligencia

In the realm of design, prototyping plays a pivotal role in transforming abstract ideas into tangible reality. It acts as a catalyst, bridging the gap between concept and execution by providing a platform for innovation, experimentation, and refinement. However, when it comes to human-centered design, the process of prototyping takes on even greater significance. By involving end-users from the very beginning, prototyping helps designers empathize, understand, and cater to the needs of their target audience, resulting in products that truly resonate with users. In this thought leadership article, we will explore the paramount importance of prototyping in human-centered design, along with two illustrative case study examples.

Case Study #1: Airbnb’s Rapid Prototyping Revolution

Airbnb, the revolutionary accommodation marketplace, owes much of its success to its relentless focus on human-centered design. In order to gain a deep understanding of the key concerns and aspirations of their users, Airbnb designers embarked on a prototyping frenzy. By creating quick, low-fidelity prototypes, they were able to gather invaluable feedback and refine their platform continuously. In one instance, the team created a series of paper prototypes to test the booking flow of Airbnb’s mobile application. This exercise helped them identify pain points and provided insights that informed the development of a seamless and intuitive booking experience. Through prototyping, Airbnb revolutionized the way people find and book accommodations, offering a user-centric solution that disrupted the hospitality industry.

Case Study #2: The Humanitarian Design Project in Uganda

The Humanitarian Design Project (HDP), a non-profit organization specializing in developing innovative solutions for impoverished communities, exemplifies the power of prototyping in addressing complex social challenges. HDP initiated a project in Uganda to tackle the issue of water scarcity in rural areas. By involving local residents throughout the entire design process, from problem identification to prototype testing, HDP ensured that the final solution truly met the needs of the community. Initially, the HDP team created several low-cost prototypes using readily available materials. Through continuous feedback sessions, they learned which prototypes were most suitable for local conditions and the preferences of the users. Ultimately, an inexpensive rainwater harvesting system emerged, designed and implemented with community-driven insights, solving the water scarcity problem sustainably. This case study showcases how prototyping can enable human-centered design in even the most challenging contexts, empowering marginalized communities.

The value of prototyping in human-centered design is clear; it offers an avenue for direct user engagement, validation, and iteration. By prototyping early and often, designers can gain critical insights into user needs, pain points, and preferences, enhancing the product’s value proposition. Moreover, prototyping helps in identifying design flaws and unforeseen limitations before the product reaches the market, potentially saving significant amounts of time and resources.


Prototyping stands as a fundamental pillar in human-centered design, acting as a vital tool for turning ideas into reality. By involving end-users from the outset, designers can ensure that their solutions address real human needs and desires. The case studies of Airbnb and the Humanitarian Design Project exemplify how prototyping can enable transformative design outcomes, from disrupting industries to solving complex social challenges. As the world becomes increasingly focused on empathy-driven design, incorporating prototyping in the design process becomes the key to delivering meaningful and impactful products for the betterment of society.

SPECIAL BONUS: Braden Kelley’s Problem Finding Canvas can be a super useful starting point for doing design thinking or human-centered design.

“The Problem Finding Canvas should help you investigate a handful of areas to explore, choose the one most important to you, extract all of the potential challenges and opportunities and choose one to prioritize.”

Image credit: Unsplash

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From Problem to Solution: Applying the Design Thinking Process

From Problem to Solution: Applying the Design Thinking Process

GUEST POST from Chateau G Pato

In today’s world, where challenges and problems arise daily, organizations and individuals are constantly seeking effective solutions. The traditional problem-solving methods are no longer enough to tackle complex and ambiguous issues. This is where the design thinking process comes into play.

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation and problem-solving. It focuses on understanding the needs of people in order to create innovative solutions that are both useful and sustainable. By applying a structured and iterative approach, design thinking encourages creativity, collaboration, and empathy to tackle problems from multiple angles. Let’s explore two case study examples that highlight the effectiveness of the design thinking process.

Case Study 1: IDEO’s Success with the Palm V

In the late 1990s, Palm Computing faced a significant challenge. Its early personal digital assistants (PDA) were clunky and unintuitive, failing to gain mass market appeal. Palm turned to the design firm IDEO to lead a design thinking process that would transform their product.

IDEO conducted in-depth interviews and observations to understand user needs. They discovered that people wanted a device that was slim, convenient, and easy to use. By shifting their focus from technology-driven features to user-centric needs, IDEO’s team devised the concept of the Palm V.

Through multiple iterations and constant feedback from users, IDEO crafted a sleek PDA that fit in the palm of the hand. The design thinking process allowed IDEO to transform the PDA into an intuitive and user-friendly device. The Palm V became a tremendous success, revolutionizing the PDA market for years to come.

Case Study 2: Airbnb’s Rapid Growth and Disruption

At its inception in 2008, Airbnb faced a challenging problem. The founders struggled to find a scalable business model and to attract users to their home-sharing platform. In search of a solution, they applied the design thinking process.

The founders immersed themselves in their customers’ experiences, staying in homes listed on their platform and meeting with hosts to understand their pain points. By empathizing with both sides of the marketplace, they identified opportunities for improvement.

Through iterative prototyping and constant feedback loops, Airbnb gradually improved its platform, introducing features such as professional photography, guest reviews, and secure payment systems. These enhancements addressed key user concerns, increased trust, and facilitated bookings.

By applying the principles of design thinking, Airbnb not only solved its immediate problem but also disrupted the entire hospitality industry. Today, Airbnb is a household name with millions of listings worldwide.


These two case studies demonstrate how the design thinking process can lead to innovative and impactful solutions. By shifting the focus to users’ needs, using iterative methods, and fostering collaboration, organizations and individuals can tackle complex problems with creativity and empathy. Whether it’s revolutionizing the PDA industry or disrupting the hospitality market, design thinking provides a framework for turning problems into solutions.

SPECIAL BONUS: Braden Kelley’s Problem Finding Canvas can be a super useful starting point for doing design thinking or human-centered design.

“The Problem Finding Canvas should help you investigate a handful of areas to explore, choose the one most important to you, extract all of the potential challenges and opportunities and choose one to prioritize.”

Image credit: Pixabay

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The Role of Design Thinking in Corporate Social Responsibility

The Role of Design Thinking in Corporate Social Responsibility

GUEST POST from Chateau G Pato

As businesses worldwide increasingly recognize the importance of corporate social responsibility (CSR), design thinking has emerged as a powerful tool to enhance and innovate CSR initiatives. Design thinking, a human-centered problem-solving approach, allows organizations to create sustainable and impactful solutions to societal challenges. In this article, we will explore the role of design thinking in CSR through two inspiring case study examples.

Case Study 1 – Airbnb’s Open Homes program

Airbnb, the renowned online marketplace for accommodations, introduced the Open Homes program in response to natural disasters and other urgent needs for short-term housing. Using design thinking principles, Airbnb identified the challenge of offering immediate assistance to those affected by disasters and leveraged its platform to match hosts willing to provide free or discounted housing with individuals in need.

By empathizing with the victims and understanding their needs, Airbnb recognized that it required a solution that was easy, scalable, and available in real-time. It partnered with disaster response organizations to create a seamless booking process exclusively for emergency situations. Through design thinking, Airbnb successfully transformed its existing platform into a vehicle for global social impact, establishing a unique CSR initiative that aligns with its business model.

Case Study 2 – PepsiCo’s social vending concept

PepsiCo, one of the world’s leading food and beverage companies, employed design thinking to address the challenge of increasing access to safe drinking water in developing regions. Recognizing the critical need for safe water, PepsiCo created the social vending concept, a network of water dispensers that enables consumers to purchase beverages while also donating clean drinking water to communities in need.

Design thinking played a pivotal role in this initiative. PepsiCo’s team identified the importance of combining consumer conveniences with social responsibility to create a sustainable solution. By integrating advanced filtration systems into the vending machines, the company ensured that consumers would receive high-quality beverages while simultaneously contributing to CSR efforts. This innovative approach has not only provided access to clean drinking water but also enhanced PepsiCo’s brand image as a socially responsible organization.

The case studies of Airbnb and PepsiCo exemplify how design thinking can drive successful CSR initiatives. By adopting a human-centered approach, companies can gain a deeper understanding of social problems, empathize with those affected, and design innovative solutions. Design thinking helps organizations unleash their creative potential, enabling them to align their CSR initiatives with their core business strategies and create greater value for both society and the company itself.

Furthermore, design thinking encourages collaboration and cross-disciplinary ideation. By involving various stakeholders, including employees, customers, and communities, companies can generate a diversity of perspectives and co-create solutions that reflect a wide range of needs. This comprehensive approach increases the chance of successful outcomes and fosters a sense of ownership among stakeholders.


The role of design thinking in corporate social responsibility is transformative. It allows businesses to identify opportunities for positive impact, solve complex problems, and align CSR efforts with their core values. Companies embracing design thinking can create innovative and sustainable solutions that not only address social challenges but also enhance their brand reputation and stakeholder relationships. As more organizations embrace this approach, we can envision a future where companies drive positive change through purposeful and human-centered CSR initiatives.

SPECIAL BONUS: Braden Kelley’s Problem Finding Canvas can be a super useful starting point for doing design thinking or human-centered design.

“The Problem Finding Canvas should help you investigate a handful of areas to explore, choose the one most important to you, extract all of the potential challenges and opportunities and choose one to prioritize.”

Image credit: Pixabay

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The Power of Empathy in Driving Innovation

The Power of Empathy in Driving Innovation

GUEST POST from Art Inteligencia

Empathy is a powerful skill that allows individuals to understand and share the feelings of others. While it is often associated with personal relationships and emotional intelligence, empathy also plays a crucial role in driving innovation. By putting themselves in the shoes of their customers, innovators can gain valuable insights and create products and services that truly address their needs and desires. This article explores the impact of empathy in driving innovation through two intriguing case studies.

Case Study 1 – The Airbnb Story

In 2008, Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky were two struggling entrepreneurs in San Francisco, struggling to pay their rent. They decided to rent out some space in their apartment and provide a homemade breakfast for guests. To better understand the needs and experiences of their potential customers, the duo decided to step into their shoes.

To gain empathy, Gebbia and Chesky traveled to New York City and rented out their own space using their platform. They lived with the guests, capturing their reactions, preferences, and pain points. This experience turned out to be crucial in shaping Airbnb’s future success.

The empathy-driven insights helped them understand that people craved authentic, unique experiences when traveling. As a result, they shifted their focus from just renting out spaces to creating an entire marketplace for unique and local accommodations. They incorporated features like personal profiles, reviews, and detailed listings to build a sense of trust and connection between hosts and guests.

By putting themselves in the shoes of their customers, Gebbia and Chesky were able to create a platform that revolutionized the way people travel. Today, Airbnb boasts over 7 million listings worldwide and has become a global leader in the hospitality industry.

Case Study 2 – The Apple Story

Apple, under the leadership of Steve Jobs, is renowned for its innovative products that have shaped the technology landscape. One of the key factors contributing to Apple’s success is its ability to empathize with customers and anticipate their needs, even before they realize them.

When developing the iPod, for instance, Apple recognized that ordinary people found existing MP3 players too confusing and cumbersome. To better understand the user experience, the team at Apple conducted extensive research, observed customers, and put themselves in their shoes.

The insights gathered from this empathetic approach led to the creation of a simple and intuitive interface that revolutionized the way people interacted with portable music players. The iPod’s success paved the way for future innovations like the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch.

By empathizing with customers and anticipating their desires, Apple has consistently introduced groundbreaking products that transcend consumer expectations, reinvent industries, and propel technological advancements.


These case studies highlight how the power of empathy can drive innovation and shape successful business ventures. By understanding the needs, desires, and pain points of customers through empathy, entrepreneurs can develop products and services that truly resonate with their target audience. Furthermore, empathy encourages a user-centric approach, fueling creativity and unlocking new possibilities for innovation.

In a world that is becoming increasingly interconnected and diverse, empathy is not only an essential skill in personal relationships but also a critical catalyst for driving innovation. As businesses strive to stay competitive and relevant, the power of empathy should not be underestimated. It has the potential to transform industries, disrupt markets, and create products and services that truly make a difference in people’s lives.

Image credit: Pexels

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Design Thinking in the Digital Age

Leveraging Technology for Creative Solutions

Design Thinking in the Digital Age

GUEST POST from Chateau G Pato

At the intersection of innovation and problem-solving lies design thinking. This unique methodology provides a solution-based approach to overcoming obstacles and has been at the forefront of some of the most creative solutions and remarkable inventions. In today’s digital age, design thinking has transformed, leveraging the boons of technology to create more agile, dynamic, and user-centric products and services.

Navigating through uncertain times and complex challenges, businesses across the globe are utilizing design thinking to produce creative solutions. This article offers a glimpse into the process of design thinking in today’s digital era by exploring its role, benefits, and two enlightening case studies.

The Role of Design Thinking in the Digital Age

In the digital age, companies need to fully understand and meet the unique needs of their digitally-savvy customers. This is where the empathetic, human-centered perspective of design thinking comes into play. Technology not only provides a plethora of tools to facilitate design thinking but also prolifically influences the human experiences which are central to the process.

Leveraging technology in design thinking can help companies to better understand their customer’s behaviour and needs. Utilizing digital mediums like A/B testing, data analytics, virtual reality, etc., not only provide a wealth of insights but also allows for agility in designing, prototyping, and testing products or services.

Case Study 1: IBM

IBM exemplifies a company that has used design thinking to navigate business transformation. The tech giant adopted Enterprise Design Thinking, a framework which melds design thinking with agile practices for businesses. In response to advancements in digitization, IBM recognized a need to transform itself into a more user-centered business, with the goal of creating elite software that solves users’ problems.

IBM trained thousands of its employees in this strategy, fostering a company-wide shift that prioritized user experience. Their design thinking workshops enabled them to gather insights through collaborative creativity, and to iterate solutions based on valued user feedback using technologies such as AI, cloud computing, and machine learning. This demonstrates how design thinking, coupled with technology, can drive growth, profound transformation and outstanding business outcomes.

Case Study 2: Airbnb

Another exemplary application of design thinking and technology can be seen with Airbnb, now a billion-dollar startup. When Airbnb was on the verge of bankruptcy, the founders decided to focus on developing a better user experience to distinguish them from competitors. Thus, they turned to design thinking.

The co-founders traveled to New York and started living as Airbnb hosts. They met customers, learned about their experiences, and made necessary changes. Utilizing technology, the founders restructured and improved the website interface, resulting in an intuitive, appealing UI that focused on high-quality images of rental spaces. They mapped the customer journey, identified pain points, and provided innovative solutions. This approach resulted in a significant increase in revenue in just one week, reaffirming the power of design thinking in transforming businesses.


Design thinking delivers creative problem-solving strategies that promote a more empathetic, user-focused philosophy. In the digital era, leveraging technology enables real-time feedback, seamless collaboration, and a vast potential for innovation. As the examples of Airbnb and IBM illustrate, the combination of design thinking and technology can lead to transformative results for businesses ready to embrace change and focus on user needs. Indeed, as the world becomes ever more digital, design thinking will remain a vital tool for leveraging technology to foster creative, exceptional solutions.

Image credit: Pexels

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How to Identify Areas for Improvement with Human-Centered Design

How to Identify Areas for Improvement with Human-Centered Design

GUEST POST from Chateau G Pato

Human-centered design (HCD) is an approach to product and service design that puts people’s needs at the center of the design process. HCD is a holistic process that looks at the whole customer experience, from researching customer needs and wants to prototyping and iterating product or service designs. It helps companies to create products and services that are user-friendly, efficient, and meet customer expectations.

Identifying areas for improvement with human-centered design requires you to analyze every aspect of the customer experience. Here are some steps to take in order to identify areas for improvement:

1. Research Your Customers – The first step is to research your customers. You need to understand who your customers are, what their needs and wants are, and how they interact with your product or service. Interviewing customers, assessing feedback, and conducting surveys are some of the best ways to gain insight into customer needs and wants.

2. Analyze Your Processes – Next, you need to analyze your processes. Look at how your processes are currently working, and identify any areas for improvement. This could include anything from the way customer inquiries are handled, to the way customer feedback is collected.

3. Identify Pain Points – After researching your customers and analyzing your processes, it’s time to identify pain points. These are areas where customers are having difficulty, or where there is a disconnect between customer needs and the product or service. Identifying pain points is essential to improving the customer experience.

4. Create Solutions – Once you’ve identified the areas where improvement is needed, it’s time to create solutions. With HCD, this involves creating prototypes and testing them with customers to ensure they meet customer needs and expectations. Implementing the solutions and collecting feedback is also important in order to ensure the solutions are working as intended.

Airbnb – Improving the Booking Experience

One successful example of HCD in action is Airbnb. Airbnb applied HCD to their platform and identified several areas where improvement was needed. This included the design of their platform, the customer experience, and the overall product offering. Airbnb implemented a range of improvements, including simplifying the booking process, improving the search functionality, and adding a range of new features. These improvements ultimately resulted in a better customer experience and increased user engagement.

Uber – Pimp My (Taxi) Ride

Another example of Human-centered design in action is Uber. Uber identified areas for improvement by analyzing customer feedback and conducting research. This included simplifying the user interface, improving the ride-hailing experience, adding features such as safety tools, and implementing a range of rewards for drivers and riders. These improvements have helped to increase customer satisfaction and engagement, and have helped to grow the business.


By applying HCD to identify areas for improvement, companies can create better products and services that meet customer needs and expectations. It is an invaluable tool for creating user-friendly and efficient products and services.

Image credit: Pixabay

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Think Like a Tech Company or Go Out of Business

Think Like a Tech Company or Go Out of Business

by Braden Kelley and Linda Bernardi

Even in 2014, there are business sectors who feel they are not ‘tech companies’. News flash: Whether you are a consumer products company, an insurance company, a hotel, or a pharmaceutical company, your business is a technology business. Why?

Technology is the link between any business and its customers. To say technology is not core to your business strategy, means you think customers are not the key to your business success. So, your business is a technology business whether you want it to be or not.

Today technology is how you market and sell your products, make your business more efficient, and most importantly, how you stay connected to your customers. Some companies mistake the importance of technology to mean that they need to open a twitter account and monitor social media, put in an ERP and CRM system, and revamp their web site. But the importance of technology in today’s business environment is more than that.

ERP and CRM are common tools, a requirement to remain competitive, and while social media and the internet are important to sales and marketing success, they are becoming yesterday’s news as customers develop deeper connections to their mobile devices. If you aren’t on their devices and interacting in a meaningful way with them there in real-time, you won’t stay connected to them in the long run.

Let’s look at the impact on a few different industries whose members tend not to see themselves as technology companies:

1. Fortune 100 consumer product goods (CPG) companies
2. Hotel Chains
3. Big Box Retailers

1. Fortune 100 CPG companies typically manufacture large quantities of consistent products and have visually pleasing (static) web pages for consumers. But they don’t use technology well enough to detect what the market wants before it knows it, often fail to personalize or customize products to customer needs, and usually lack the online networks that could help connect other customer product needs together into new potential product ideas that the company could co-create with their customers. Often connection means post mortem analytics on data collected in the past, or, analyzing previous customer interactions with static web pages. Creating authentic customer connections requires online and mobile technology these companies usually don’t possess. I don’t mean apps (which often are pretty much the same as a website), but new physical/online/mobile engagement models that inspire customers to stay connected to the company (and each other) in a dynamic, evolving community. Rethinking is needed here. The customer is not just a buyer but an influencer. If CPG companies want to sell that next bottle of $300 facial cream, they better consider delighting, and not just marketing to, their customer base.

2. AirBnB has proven to be a major disruptive force in the hotel and hospitality business, grabbing a massive foothold in a market that the Homeaway.com member companies created and should have dominated. Resistance to AirBnB is massive and lawsuits are abundant, but for a moment let’s go beyond the hype and explore the angst of traditional hotels. AirBnB created a highly connected, effective community of property owners and property renters. This bi-directional ecosystem can only thrive if they are both happy and satisfied. To experience what they’ve created, first go to a traditional hotel website (pictures of room, building, lobby) and then go to AirBnB and browse the hundreds of customer experiences their property owners offer. On the hotel site you’ll see they’ve created the mechanics of paying to rent a hotel room, while on AirBnB you’ll see that they’ve created both an ecosystem and an experience.

3. Big box retailers have done a poor job of seeing themselves as technology companies capable of fending off challenges from online-only retailers. Target made the mistake of seeing themselves as a retailer, not a technology business, and so they outsourced their ecommerce to Amazon in the beginning, only to regret doing so because Amazon was able to learn which 20% of their inventory drove 80% of their profits, and when.

Meanwhile, Costco and Walmart, despite being two of the most successful retailers in the world, have struggled to find success online because they can’t get beyond their brick and mortar heritage to see themselves as a technology business with an integrated online/offline ecosystem. Seriously, it is 2014, do we still need to get our Costco circulars in the mail? Nothing has changed about Costco’s interaction with its customers. Walmart exacerbated the disconnection between the two sides of their business by creating a separate online division and exiling it to Silicon Valley. Costco sells different products online than offline. The results of both of these approaches have been far from stellar.

Build a Common Language of Innovation on your team

Technology Lowers Barriers to Entry

In the history of the world, it has never been easier to start and scale a business to a global footprint, not in a matter of decades or years, but in months. And it is not just the other companies in your industry and technology-driven startups that you have to worry about if you choose not to view yourself as a technology company and move as fast as they do. You have to worry about competition from established technology players like Google and Amazon too, because one day they (or people that used to work for them) might decide that your market is attractive enough to enter and come disrupt your industry. For example, Amazon has become a book publisher and a financial services company.

Technology Enables Experiences

Technology enables the creation of customer experiences. I am going to choose my insurance company based on my experience. At the end of the day if all prices are comparable, then how the businesses you interact with make you feel, and the connections you’ve built with them will matter more. Without an emphasis on using technology to make your business a social business, you will find your company displaced by others that do. You must lead your industry in identifying opportunities to use technology to get closer to your customers. The future of business will be all about delighting customers and making their experience more personal.

Technology is not just a tool, but central to everything you do in today’s always on, always connected digital age.

Here are ten ways that technology can help you become a more social business:

  1. Building Connections
  2. Developing Networks
  3. Global Sensing and Prediction
  4. Sharing Recommendations
  5. Creating Experiences
  6. Personalization
  7. Customization
  8. Co-Creation
  9. Crowdsourcing
  10. Open Innovation

To give you an example of what things will look like in the future, the forward thinking health insurance company will leverage the mobile device for virtual ID cards, drug interaction warnings, personal triage, mobile care, wellness, cost sharing calculations, FSA/HSA administration, diagnostics, and more.


In conclusion, no matter what business you are in, it is very dangerous not to see technology as a competitive differentiator and a core driver of your business. Instead, you must constantly look at how you can become more of a technology company in order to enable deeper customer connections and more meaningful experiences. Today if you don’t connect with, understand, delight and start predicting your customer’s needs/wants, you may not thrive in your industry and your competition and new entrants who do embrace technology will replace you.

This article is brought to you by Linda Bernardi and Braden Kelley. Collectively, we have over 30 years of experience working with large, global multi-disciplinary enterprises. We write this with care and passion as we want your enterprises to succeed. We would love to hear your thoughts.

Guest Collaborator:

Linda BernardiLinda Bernardi is a Technology Strategist, Investor, and Founder & CEO at StraTerra Partners, The Bernardi Leadership Institute and a Strategic Advisor at Cloudant Inc. She is also the Author of Provoke, Why the Global Culture of Disruption is the Only Hope for Innovation. Learn more here about Linda’s work on disrupting large enterprise analytics.

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