The Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing by Lisa Gansky

The Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing by Lisa Gansky

A Look at How Sharing Defines The Success of Businesses in the Future

The book discusses the increasingly recurring themes of openness and platform that have been discussed in other books like Open Leadership by Charlene Li and Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson.

The core premise of Mesh businesses is: "When information about goods is shared, the value of those goods increases, for the business, for individuals, and for the community."

The author says that, "fundamentally, the Mesh is based on network-enabled sharing–on access rather than ownership. The central strategy is, in effect, to "sell" the same product multiple times. Multiple sales multiply profits, and customer contact. Multiple contact multiply opportunity–for additional sales, for strengthening a brand, for improving a competitive service, and for deepening and extending the relation with customers."

The book also references a recent study, which concluded that, "a recommendation from a "trusted source" like a friend or family members was fifty times more likely to persuade someone to buy a product or try a new brand. The same study reported that word of mouth is the "primary factor" behind between 20 and 50 percent of purchases, and emphasized the expanded role of information networks in driving this development."

WHAT IS THE MESH

The 4 Characteristics of a Mesh Business as listed in the book are:

  1. Sharing a high code, frequently used goods
  2. Advanced Web and Mobile Information Networks
  3. Focus on Physical Goods and Materials
  4. Engage with Customers Through Social Networks

"The Mesh model is based on a series of transactions, on sharing something over and over. Creating a share platform is the first, necessary-but-not-sufficient building block of the Mesh. The second is to create information infrastructure that takes advantage of mobile, Web, and social networks. Then each interaction, and transaction, becomes an opportunity to gather and exchange information with a customer."

The 7 Keys to Building Trust in the Mesh:

  1. Say What You do
  2. Use Trials
  3. Do What You Say
  4. Perpetually Delight Customers
  5. Embrace Social Networks and Go Deep
  6. Value transparency, but protect privacy
  7. Deal with negative publicity and feedback promptly and skillfully

WHY THE MESH

Tomorrow’s business leaders recognize that trust in a business’s environmental and social practices increasingly drives informed consumers’ decisions. Successful Mesh businesses harness information from customers, combine it with data from physical products and social networks, and then use that information to satisfy customers, and their friends, in ways never before dreamed of. Good Mesh businesses are smart about combining more frequent customer contact with enhanced information sources to create and refine superior experiences, partnerships, products, and offers.

MESH COMPANIES HIGHLIGHTS

Zipcar is one of the companies profiled in the book.  The author says that, "The robust information platform and focus on building the brand distinguished Zipcar from early car-sharing companies that were merely long on good intentions, many of which failed. In fact, Zipcar is primarily an information business that happens to share cars."

So if you’re in the information business, you are a Mesh business whether you realize it or not.

TCHO, a chocolate company in SF, produces "beta editions” of its dark chocolate. “Based on customer feedback and continuous flavor development, new versions of the chocolate emerge as often as every thirty-six hours. Version 1.0 went through 1,026 iterations in a year."

Why did Netflix slaughter Blockbuster? Blockbuster was late in acknowledging customer resentments, and late in understanding the spreading power of social networks to shape brand perception. They created a share platform, but neglected other elements that make Mesh businesses so competitive.

This is an excellent book that could help realign the business perspective on how to succeed in the future. Embracing openness, sharing and focusing on customer satisfaction are some of the key practices that could catapult your business from mediocre to stellar now and in the future.

Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson

Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation A Must-Read for All Businesses and Individuals Interested in Innovation

I read a lot of business books. Some I pick up on my own and some are given to me by the Chairman of the company I work at. Not all the books I read are good, but those that are usually have one important takeaway that sticks with me.

This book is one of those good ones. So much so that it has inspired me to write this blog post on Edmunds Technology Blog.

It is rife with great takeaways, or as I like to call them, themes. Those "themes" manage to tie together all the other seemingly disparate ideas I've come across in my previous readings, especially the ones on culture of organizations, success and data openness.

The main main theme that stood out for me in this book was the concept of the adjacent possible. The is by far the most interesting and revealing concept I've come across in a while. Essentially, it is a "shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself."

The author goes on to say that, "what the adjacent possible tells us is that at any moment the world is capable of extraordinary change, but only certain changes can happen." That brings to mind the theme of Openness discussed in Charlene Li's Open Leadership which to me seems to be an application of the adjacent possible. Our collective emotional and mental societal state had made it possible for businesses to be open and transparent. Openness in business has just recently entered the realm of the adjacent possible and the reason why is because the ingredients to make it successful are now mature and ready.

The other important theme discussed in the book is the concept of the liquid networks. The concept is all about feng shui for innovation. Creating the right fluidity between minds and spaces is an art and those who master it are likely to be more innovative than those that don't. The author uses MIT's building 20 and Microsoft's building 99 as examples of successful liquid networks.

In addition to these two fascinating and important concepts, the book discusses an array of other concepts that have proven to be a source of innovation. A great read for anyone interested in the subject.

Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead by Charlene Li

Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead by Charlene Li

Leadership in the Age of Demanded Transparency
My review on Amazon.com

How do you lead effectively in a world that is extremely connected and where ideas flow fast and with passion between individuals? How do you manage control in an era where grievances about your business are broadcast the moment they're experienced? Business leaders will get their answers reading this book. Moreover, I think the ideas in this book are beyond the scope of business and leadership; They are pointers for being an effective Open entity in today's world.

Companies like to think of themselves as "open, transparent and authentic," without actually doing the hard work that is required to accomplish that. Charlene Li, a Social Media expert and the author of this book, contends that it takes a lot of rigor and discipline to be "open, transparent and authentic." She argues that it takes a well thought-out plan, commitment and resilience to live up those ideals.

The anecdotal narratives provided in this book are very interesting and draw conclusions that support Li's guidelines for openness. The stories heavily emphasize the importance of the feedback loop between a company and its clients. Allowing the client to set the level of trust required in the relationship is a paramount shift in the way we thought of trust and its place in business.

When United Airlines broke a guitar, they were awakened rather abruptly by their client who felt that he wasn't being treated properly and that United broke not only his guitar, but also the unspoken, unidentified trust code it had with him.

What happened to United was unfortunate but not uncommon. Entities that resist the state of openness of our world are either left behind or, like United, are burnt by their unwillingness to participate. 

To remain relevant and thrive by today's standards, you need to apply these principles to yourself, relationships and businesses. It's that good.

Professional JavaScript for Web Developers by Nicholas C. Zakas

Professional JavaScript for Web Developers by Nicholas C. Zakas

Write Performant and Efficient Javascript
My review on Amazon

I bought this book the day after I attended a session given by Nicholas Zakas (author) at the Velocity Conference in San Jose this year. He offered some brilliant pointers and techniques on writing Javascript code that performs well and is efficient and stable on all browsers.

The book covers all aspects of Javascript in detail and approaches all subjects with an object-oriented mindset. From language basics (data types, variables, objects, functions) and event handling to the Document Object Model (DOM) and the Browser Object Model (BOM) to error handling and debugging to advanced features (custom events, drag and drop) and offline storage just to name a few. He also talks about AJAX, JSON vs. XML and HTML 5 and the new APIs it's bringing. There is also a brief history of language that is written in a much more informative way that in any other book I've read on the subject.

The book puts a lot of emphasis on performance and efficiency, especially when it comes to scope, memory management and algorithm complexity. You will finally learn and understand what closures are all about. You will know how some statements work in some browsers (IE is always the slowest browser.) You will learn a ton of stuff you won't find anywhere else neither online nor in a book.

There is also a section on best practices including maintainability, performance and deployment that I found especially useful.

If you are not a programmer AND just starting to learn Javascript, get Learning JavaScript, 2nd Edition. Otherwise, this is your book. It is essential in any respectable front-end developer's library.

Building iPhone Apps with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript by Jonathan Stark

Building Iphone Apps with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript

Could have been so much better!
My review on Amazon

First off, the title is completely misleading. Almost every chapter in the book covers how to build iPhone-specific web applications using HTML 5 and CSS3 specs. The last two chapters, and only the last two chapters, address converting these iPhone web apps into iPhone native apps using PhoneGap and then submitting them to the Apple Store. Even then, the information covered  in these two chapters was rudimentary at best.

I probably shouldn't have had such high expectations, but the reputation of both the publisher and the author has always been stellar in my book. A title like, "Introduction to Building iPhone Web Apps and Converting Then to Native Apps using PhoneGap" would have properly prepared me for the content of the book. The content in and of itself is excellent–as an introduction, but nothing more.

So if you're interested in building iPhone web apps, this book is a great starting point. If you're interested in building iPhone native apps with web technologies, this book might be a letdown considering the level of your expertise developing iPhone web apps.

Complete Web Monitoring by Alistair Croll and Sean Power

Complete-Web-Monitoring

Comprehensive, One Stop Shop for Achieving Complete End User Satisfaction
My review on Amazon

This book is ultimately about the End-User. The content of this book is designed to answer the following four questions (in order) about the End-Users:- What did they do?

– How did they do it?
– Why did they do it?
– Could they do it?

To answer the first question, a closer look at data warehouse and web analytics is in order. The authors talk about that in detail, listing tools and services that address various issues often faced in collecting user data. The second question, "how did they do it?" is answered through constant monitoring of your site's usability and engagement, both of which are explained well in this book. The third question is about user interaction and feedback. The authors attempt to answer this question by explaining the process of VOC, or Voice of Customer, and all the details it entails.

The most important content in this book, I believe, is laid out in the three chapters dedicated to answering the fourth question, "could they do it?"

The first chapter talks about Frontend Performance and End-User Experience. The topic of Frontend Performance is relatively new and the list of books dedicated to it is growing rapidly with Steve Souders' books on top of the list.

The second chapter tackles Synthetic Monitoring and its advantages and drawbacks. Following that, the authors move into Real User Monitoring in the third and last chapter attempting to answer this question.

The authors then dedicate what I think is too much content to communities and competitors and how monitoring them can help you better your site. Although the information is useful, I feel it took away from the focus of the book but not too much to be a distraction.

The authors then close the book with a recap and a look at the future of web monitoring. Both chapters are very useful and give a much needed perspective.

All in all, this is an excellent book for any serious web entrepreneur and for all online businesses that hold "User Experience" paramount in their business objectives.