Entrepreneurial Democratization – The Power of “Choice”

Techrunch today published excerpts from Ray Ozzie’s strategy memo to employees. Although most of it was somewhat of a “duh-welcome-to-the-club” moment one bit struck a chord.

The Power of “Choice” as business moves to embrace the cloud

design patterns at both the front- and back-end are transitioning toward being compositions and in some cases loose federations of cooperating systems … [because] … myriad options exist for delivering applications to the user: The web browser, unique in its ubiquity; the PC, unique in how it brings together interactivity/experience, mobility and storage; the phone, unique in its extreme mobility.

It struck a chord because of a coincidentally related breakfast discussion this morning. The Web has brought a previously unparalled power of choice and democratisation to consumers. Global peer-to-peer discussions fulled by user generated content have not only redefined the knowledge base on which consumers make decisions but also “coerced” large corporations’ PR machines to change their traditional modus operandi. It’s becoming harder than ever for companies to hide misdemeanors – from the littlest to the harshest – because the web is both ubiquitous and persistent.

Despite corporations being larger than life, CEOs have found themselves in a situation where  they must engage in direct conversation with their customers, be it via blogs, Twitter or any other social medium. A recent classic example is the lash-back Facebook suffered on its launch of Beacon.

A New Breed of Entrepreneurs

More interesting and to the point however is what a new ‘breed’ of entrepreneurs are doing given this climate of potential insurrection and swift customer disengagement. Companies like 37Signals, Fon and Seesmic are not only participating in the discussion, but initiating and embracing it. Seesmic in particular, being still in alpha (or is it beta now?), is not just listening to users’ feedback, but basing its product design decisions on what users ask for a priori.

Hopefully, as consumers become more and more used to this method of doing business, they will not only love it more, but come to expect it. And from simply reshaping their PR departments, companies the likes of Microsoft, Apple and the horrendously complicated mobile operators, will be pushed toward redesigning the way their product design departments work.

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