One of our (my wife and I) longtime friends is a dentist. One of his patients is Lisa Gansky - the author of a book entitled The Mesh: Why The Future of Business Is Sharing. Lisa gave our friend a copy. After reading it, our dentist friend and his wife (also a dentist) were so excited about it that she passed it on to me. A long time ago, when they were in 5th grade, our daughter Stephanie, and their daughter, Lisa, collaborated to win an EBMUD essay contest with an entry entitled "Bobby and His Composting.' Our dentist friends suggested that I read this book and come up with the next great idea that would allow Stephanie and Lisa to collaborate again to make some green via a mesh business.
The Mesh focuses on how business practices must change as a result of the connectedness of people and a scarcity of resources. The book makes some simple points.
- Mesh businesses are characterized by: things that can be shared, ability to leverage mobile networks, and affinity to benefit from word of mouth via social networks. [page 16]
- "Good mesh businesses are smart about combining more frequent customer contact and enhanced information sources to create and refine superior experiences, partnerships, products, and offers." [page 34]
- Mesh businesses benefit from products that can be repaired, upgraded, and upcycled at the end of their lives. [page 52]
- The time is ripe for mesh businesses, since the economic crisis has gotten people to reconsider what is valuable to them. [page 63]
- A fundamental element of any business is trust. Trust is social. Mesh businesses are hyper-social. [page 90]
- Mesh businesses can find a niche in a market by looking for points of pain for customers. [page 117]
- Mesh businesses align their ethos, intent, and approach to satisfying a marketplace. [page 133]
- The approach to establishing a flourishing mesh business is to define, refine, and scale. [page 155]
After having read the book, I had to ask myself "Is Autodesk a mesh company?" IMHO I think the answer is "Yes."
- Autodesk offers a variety of applications, has services like AutoCAD WS that leverage mobile networks, and might have the largest number of employee bloggers in the design industry or any industry for that matter.
- Autodesk uses aggregated Customer Improvement Program data to determine many things like what platforms are popular, what commands get used most frequently, and what sequences of operations can be combined to provide a smoother workflow.
- Regarding extending the value of design applications, Autodesk offers service packs (repair) and subscription services (upgrade). Design application suites provide the ability to upcycle.
- Empathetic to the economic times, Autodesk has programs in place to provide those out of work with free software. Free educational versions continue to be available to students. Autodesk emphasizes sustainability in our own operations as well as in capabilities of the software we sell.
- Autodesk is involved in a myriad of social networks as exemplified on the Autodesk Labs SOCIAL SITES page.
- Technology previews on Autodesk Labs and the Autodesk Beta program gather feedback on whether technologies can potentially address customer pain points.
- Autodesk CEO, Carl Bass, always says Autodesk should be a good, great, and important company: Good in that the company is a socially responsible corporate citizen. Great in the return Autodesk provides to stockholders. Important in that Autodesk customers make a difference in the world using the software the company provides.
- The Autodesk Labs approach is to define a potential application of a technology, get feedback from a technology preview targeted to a limited geographical area, and then scale to worldwide operation.
Regarding Lisa and Stephanie, I think homeowner associations (HOAs) are ready for the benefits of mesh businesses. HOAs have an existing structure for collecting money (i.e., dues), members share a common goal (maintain property values and quality of life), and residents live in close proximity. This makes cooperation on sharing second cars, kayaks, bicycles, garden tools, and a season's worth of sporting or opera tickets quite possible. Chores like babysitting, dog walking, and meal preparation can be rotated rather than performed individually. Lisa and Stephanie could set up a mesh business to get the sharing and rotation within an HOA established. They could also provide ongoing coordination and resolve disagreements.
Thinking meshy is alive in the lab.