Animal Crossing, Jobs-To-Be-Done and llamas
Ephemeral Reviews, Essays and Opinions s°02.ep08 - 2020.04.21
We expected the next great tech platform to be “the smart watch. Or smart speakers. Or VR. Or AR.” In the end “the next platform wasn’t a product at all. It was time and place.” Link (T)
Animal Crossing is a disruptive video game for many reasons. Since its first release back in 2001, it has brought many new categories of gamers in front of consoles. That was before we all started living in its gameplay, this strange and quiet village with no defined objectives, encouraged to spend our time performing household duties in real time… But if reality exceeds video games these days, Animal Crossing is disruptive once again: its latest opus has become a popular place for demonstrations and protest art or a showcase for closed museums. (S)
To make the ecological transition happen, you can either promote radically alternative behaviors or alter the existing ones. Rivian is clearly in the latter camp: backed by Ford and Amazon, it intends to convert Americans to electric SUVs and delivery vans. Link (T)
Globalization of both demand and supply was hiding an extraordinary complexity and fragility… “We know that we are as weak as the weakest link in our supply chain”, says Jacques Aschenbroich, chief executive of Valeo, one of the largest car parts suppliers in the world. The Pause just below tries to take a step back and look deeper into this intricacy. Link (S)
There’s a topic I’ve encountered countless times this past year. Over and over. Software has eaten the world for sure and blurred many lines and frontiers to shape a brave new world. This begs a question I’ve been brooding over lately: what does this new world’s map look like? What about its new frontiers? More specifically, what is a relevant modern industry taxonomy (and does it even exist yet)?
I am very much convinced the old industry taxonomy (i.e. industrial sectors ) is out-of-date in today’s economy. How would you register Amazon if you had to tick a single box to describe its activities? Is it a bookstore? Not anymore for sure. A retailer at large? Certainly. But what about its cloud services, Amazon Prime Video or its logistics infrastructure? And how to depict the markets and sectors involved in the competition between Google, Uber and General Motors which bought Cruise at a valuation north of $500 million? No wonder all of my public transportation clients have been considering Google as their main competitor for over 10 years now.
Track #1 Exposed vs local
A first possibility could be to look at jobs, considering this new economy is often described as a war for talent. So how do employees distribute themselves in different industries?
Philippe Frocrain, from French think tank La Fabrique de l’industrie, in his Ph.D. thesis on the globalization effects on labor markets, develops a powerful dichotomy referring to previous works of economists like P.-N. Giraud, J. Bradford Jensen and Lori G. Kletzer. As the opposition between industrial jobs and service jobs does not make sense anymore with the growing overlap between industry and services (hey Amazon or General Motors again!), it seems much more relevant to contrast exposed jobs with local jobs. Exposed jobs (to international competition) can easily be delocalized, since the job can be done far away from the customer. Local job holders may face fierce competition, but only from people living close to them. It may seem a little unspecific to embrace our current business complexity but this remains a very solid framework to build a first helpful division though.
Track #2 Ecosystems to get ‘jobs-done’
Another key to draw this new classification up would be some principles at the very heart of the New or Innovation Economy. On this subject, let’s call the late Clayton Christensen and his legacy on disruptive innovation to the rescue. After employees’ shoes, let’s wear consumers’. The simple yet very strong concept issued by the Harvard Business School professor is that people don’t simply buy products or services, they ‘hire’ them to make progress in specific circumstances, he calls them Jobs-To-Be-Done. Considering the legacy system of the previous industrial revolutions, this brings a new perspective on a modular competition between companies and their respective sectors. The best industry to look at to understand this is Tech. As Alex Danco coins it, the Tech industry ‘reshuffles itself continually, finding new combinations of apps, endpoints and real-world assets that serve users in new, creative ways to remove friction and bypass incumbent cost structures’. This makes a lot of sense as business strategy was for the past two decades much more a subject of differentiation than optimization. Former industrial sectors were very useful to benchmark oneself for optimization purposes (efficiency, budget analysis, etc). The jobs-to-be-done approach offers what I was looking for as a more relevant classification. But the ever-evolving ecosystems built around these jobs-to-be-done remain more useful and predictive for a certain business, at a micro level, than for a class, at a macro level. To this extent, it acts as more of a magnifying glass than a ‘sorter’.
Track #3 Base-Zero Economy
You certainly noticed we’ve been focusing on non-covid-related news and thoughts for Stéréo these past weeks. We are not doctors and the outbreak has not changed our vocation. But on today’s topic, the current situation brings an amazing opportunity to look at all industries and see how they react to the lockdown, how their whole value chains are holding up and foresee how they may restart. A recent McKinsey study last week broke down how people forecast to allocate their time in the coming weeks. It provides fuels to tracks #1 and #2: consumers tend to solve their jobs-to-be-done and with the lockdown looking at exposed versus local jobs brings relevant insights.
First, the blurring between industry sectors expands to the public sector and it shouldn’t be a surprise. The more “serious” jobs-to-be-done are, the more collective and public funded the solution is.
On the opposite side, for entertainment, it looks like the exposed/globalized industries reign in this extraordinary period, confirming that software has eaten the world forever. It is a digital first world we are living in. In between, exposed and secured jobs are struggling to make a living. Local delivery for exposed industries, local groceries and drugstores open for business, while hairdressers and theaters showing Hollywood movies are closed. And two of the most representative sectors of the previous classification - so intertwined with the economy - will be fascinating to investigate: how will car manufacturers and the building industry perform at the end of the health crisis? In many countries, building projects have resumed before the end of the lockdown, meaning the industry will - at this stage - only suffer from a few weeks delay. For the car industry, March saw the sharpest drop ever in orders. But what will recovery look like for carmakers in a world of social distanciation where people will 1) want to move in the safest (i.e. individual under the new norms) way 2) maybe, hopefully, paying more attention to the environment and eager to switch to less polluting individual means of transport?
Curfew restrictions make two more very significant distinctions. For dematerialized products, are they storable (e.g. digital assets, video games) or not (consulting hours, live performances)? For physical goods or services, are they perishable or not? Which is about the same actually…
Last, is your business dedicated to a single use/destination/client or a multiple, non-finite destination? This difference is also a good way to glorify the platform model, which allows for mass-customization and brings intimacy with its customers thanks to the load of data it collects. Platforms offer infinite individual experiences.
This was long… long overdue too as I have been pondering this for months. I hope you won’t mind and will consider my last Pause was a 17-syllable haiku.
This is a draft, very much so too, and as I am not a doctor, I am not a scholar either. I would love to get your feedback and perspectives on this.
Haluk Safi, Story of Roses, Turkey
I love the magritte-ish, global, social and romantic feel of this winning independent photographer. (S)
How come it’s 2020 and it’s still almost impossible to develop websites not only for, but on the most pervasive device of all - the smartphone? The startup Universe wants to change that. Link (T)
Even before the outbreak, unicorns may have disappeared with Uber and WeWork dreams. What could the next icon of the digital economy be? As kids have replaced unicorns with llamas as their new hot toy, what could we predict for a future generation of llamas as models for super successful startups? They will be robust, come from a wider variety of places, with no specific breeding season and a very long gestation period, have 3 stomachs that allow them to consume lower quality food, be able to live without water for a long period of time under very arid climates. They spit too when they are upset. Welcome llamas; the new generation of startups! Link (S)
Sometimes, the future is already here but you still don’t want it to be. This reminds me of one of Eric Schmidt’s most embarrassing points for automation in The New Digital Age: we should get rid of hairdressers as soon as possible. Link (S)
The tremendous size of Amazon’s marketplace is attracting a new crop of players: consolidators buying out small but successful vendors to create efficient stables of niche products. Meet Thrasio and Perch. (T)
This is history. Here is the first split-screen ever. Lemmings video game on Amiga Commodore back in 1991. Have we really innovated that much on this feature with the load of video conferencing tools? (S)
Remember Foursquare, the darling of SXSW in 2009? It didn’t become a breakout success at the scale of Facebook or Twitter, but it’s still alive and well. Making $150m a year selling location data, especially to advertisers. Link (T)
You may find this disappointing or reassuring: a study says artists become famous through their friends rather than the originality of their work. Link (S)
In Tokyo, this house features a jumbo staircase which bridges all the floors and even extends to the garden. Some welcome poetry in our cruel world. Link (T)
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Edited by Stéphane Distinguin (S), Founder and CEO of Fabernovel, and Tom Morisse (T), Fabernovel alum and Knowledge Manager at Spendesk, Stéréo is a digital-oriented newsletter highlighting the main developments and weak signals affecting the world’s societies and economies.
Fabernovel is a talent company that creates digital products and services to support companies in their transformation and innovation trajectory.
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