on form and function
I’ve been thinking about this lately in regards to the library revolution that is here, but has definitely more on the way… about business models that no longer work (despite what people think) and how it’s all going to play out. Today Seth Godin said it better than I could have. check it:
When the form changes, so does the underlying business model, which of course changes the function as well.
Mail —> email
Books —> ebooks
DVD —> YouTube/Netflix
1040 —> Online taxes
Visa —> Paypal
Open outcry —> Electronic trading
Voice call centers —> forums and online chat
Direct mail —> permission marketing
In each case, the original players in the legacy industry decided that the new form could be bolted onto their existing business model. And in each case they were wrong. Speed and marginal cost and ubiquity and a dozen other elements of digitalness changed the interaction itself, and so the function changes too.
The question that gets asked about technology, the one that is almost always precisely the wrong question is, “How does this advance help our business?”
The correct question is, “how does this advance undermine our business model and require us/enable us to build a new one?”
There are projects that are possible with ebooks or Kickstarter or email that could never have worked in an analog universe. Most of the money made in the stock market today is via trading approaches that didn’t even exist thirty years ago.
When a change in form comes to your industry, the first thing to discover is how it will change the function.
I’ll let you draw your own conclusions as to what this all means. :-)