The Abundances of the Digital Era
Innovation expert, Pieter Geldenhuys, gave an enriching, thought-provoking talk at the GROW Summit on 14 September 2017. Here, he highlighted innovative projects happening across the world, and encouraged business owners to consider how they too – can be smart about innovating in their own businesses. In this article, she shares her views on the importance of self-awareness, in an effort to help entrepreneurs become better at what they do, and innovate from within.
“Survival dictates that human beings develop and ethics and aesthetics that favour exploiting fully those resource that exist in abundance, and economizing on items that are in short supply” – Taichi Sakaiya, Japanese Futurist
Abundances and ScarcitiesEvery new era can be defined by key abundances and scarcities. They define the theory of economics, the substance of business and the foundation of life. It is for that very reason that we breathe Oxygen and not Xenon. Our past is littered with examples of the ever-changing balance between different scarcities and abundances.
Is society heading towards a period of lack and scarcity?Examples from human history show that most people believe that economics is essentially a zero-sum game – that scarcity will ultimately prevail over abundance. According to this view, the resources used for productive purposes will meet diminishing returns and exhaustion. Pastor Thomas Malthus famously predicted a zero-sum game as the human population grew exponentially while food production grew in a linear fashion and irreplaceable natural resources were consumed. Technological Innovation has however trumped the zero-game mindset.
The role of technology in increasing abundanceTechnology is the key driving force in turning scarcity into abundance. A simple example is the fibre optic cable, that can handle millions more data traffic than a copper cable. Bandwidth scarcity disappeared almost overnight. The Malthusian trap is continually sidestepped by the creation of new abundances where scarcities reigned supreme a few years ago.
The foundation of future business models will also be based on the multi-layer fabric of ever-changing abundances and scarcities.The exponential increase of bandwidth, storage space and processing power has and will create powerful new business models as new and novel ways are conceptualized to meet the core needs of the marketplace. Companies that once thrived by harnessing scarce resources in their value propositions are now faced by extinction.
Deriving business value from digital abundancesThe ability to conceptualise and implement business models that are based on digital abundances is never an easy task, especially if the available business models in the marketplace are still based on the premise that bandwidth, storage space and processing power are scarce. A number of trends can help in this regard, especially if these trends are defined within five dimensions that define the business value of digital abundances. These dimensions are:
- Concreteness: This defines the degree to which value is based on the ‘physical’ (e.g. a car) or ‘abstract’ (transport).
- Velocity: The speed of finding the right connection. (e.g. time to find a service.)
- Granularity: The size of a thing that is perceived to have individual value (e.g. CD vs. single MP3.)
- Density: The density of the factors of production – land, labour, capital & information. This also links to the degree to which configurations of these may be ‘optimally’ packed or unpacked. (e.g. a message that is understandable (unpacked) in many domains is dense.)
- Agency: Who or what initiates change, and the degree of freedom to act off these.
- The concreteness of the service offering is defined by the physical embodiment of the iPod and iTunes interface, augmented by the virtual nature of the music. The key concept is that music is sold in a virtual format over the Internet.
- The granularity of the service is finer than normal, as each song is defined as an item of value instead of a complete CD.
- The Density of the value offering is defined by all the supporting actors that enable the iPod value proposition: the Internet, inexpensive storage space, battery power, cheap computing power and the ecosystem of value-added items that surrounds the iPod service offering.
- A value shift in the Velocity and Agency dimensions are experienced as both the speed of finding the item of value, as well as the way in which it is sold, are redefined.
- Reframing the short-term insurance industry