Category Archives: Management and Strategy

Don’t Confuse Platforms with Ecosystems

What’s even worse than ubiquitous business buzzwords? When those buzzwords are also used interchangeably. Case in point: the terms “platform” and “ecosystem”. Although often conflated, these words mean different things. Treating them as synonymous denotes either a lack of knowledge or imprecise thinking. But there is more at stake here than appearing smart. The distinction between platform and ecosystem has broad strategic implications that can make the difference between success and failure in today’s digital world.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a platform as “a vehicle used for a particular purpose”. A platform is an asset or business that removes friction from a market. The oldest examples of platforms are village markets that facilitate transactions between buyers and sellers. They do so by reducing the costs of transacting at scale by attracting a large number of buyers and sellers.

Transactions that take place in a platform share an attribute of similar nature, e.g. a purchase, and the platform facilitates this via the provision of scale. For example, is a platform aggregating groups of similar offers, e.g. credit cards and loans, attracting consumers to credit card companies or lenders through the promise of convenience and the ability to better compare products. A platform generates value by facilitating the third parties’ transactions and not by taking part in the transactions themselves. Read More >>

The New Business Models (and Jobs) in Blockchain

Given the Bitcoin price craze in the face of the morose economy during the Covid-19 pandemic, one may assume that the distributed ledger technology (DLT)/blockchain bubble is ready to burst once again. However, new developments justify paying close attention to this sector.

The idea behind IOTA, launched in 2015, is to create an open-source public DLT fit for the IoT economy. Tomorrow’s digital economy will run on automated, distributed cyber/physical systems. New approaches to data management and sharing between citizens, organisations and IoT assets or machines must be designed around novel digital trust frameworks and a new type of e-infrastructure. IOTA wants to be for IoT what TCP/IP has become for the web. The vision is a machine economy where IoT assets, e.g. autonomous vehicles, participate in creating and exchanging value through machine-to-machine transactions.

Minimal usage fees and a low-energy consumption for running the overall decentralised network are needed to allow frictionless data sharing and the emergence of new data-driven business models such as “everything-as-a-service”. While conventional public blockchain protocols introduce fees associated with miners’ node operations and lead to controversial energy consumption, IOTA removes the need for miners and their operational friction altogether. Read More>>


As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to evolve, managers around the world are bracing for new challenges ahead. Many of them wonder whether the strategic approaches that proved to be successful in the past will still apply to changed business realities in a post-pandemic world. Indeed, many changes are likely to occur – supply chain restructuring, altered customer preferences, changed government regulations, to name a few. But one fundamental reality will endure and intensify. In the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, companies will face a heightened degree of competition as customer demand is depressed due to a reduction of income, persistent unemployment and looming uncertainties. While everyone desires a V-shaped economic rebound, it will be difficult for companies to overcome the current financial distress once they are locked into a hopeless game of dividing a shrinking pie. More than ever, firms need to create blue oceans of new demand in order to generate revenue, profit and new growth. It is far more urgent for managers to think like a blue ocean strategist. Read More >>


There is no shortage of quotes about success in business. The list goes on and each has merit. Yet none of them work without talented people. It is the people you hire who ultimately determine the success of your strategy, culture, marketing, innovation and all else you do. Surprisingly, our ability to identify talent continues to be less than sufficient. A 1998 study found that traditional interviews only have 50% accuracy. Things haven’t gotten better since then. In my book The Empowered Candidate, I share a recent study by Gallup that found when interviewing for management positions, we make the wrong hiring decision 82% of the time. Virtual interviews may not be as effective as in-person interviews, but they don’t need to be markedly worse. A key to successful interviewing—of any type—is removing the interference that exists between you and the candidate. Misread social cues. Miscommunication. Distractions. Unnecessary stress. The virtual environment can heighten all of these. But intentional practices to counter the interference will increase your odds of finding the great people who will drive strategy, culture, marketing, innovation and all else you do. Read More >>


The crisis presents an opportunity to dream up new ideas, learn from others, and take bold action. When the pandemic abruptly threw life into disarray, many companies went into triage mode to adapt. If companies are treating this period as a short-term adjustment, they’re likely setting themselves up to fail. But customers have started getting used to these adaptations—virtual meetings, touchless interactions—even preferring them in many cases. The first step, dream, means coming up with concrete goals for the short, medium, and long term. This involves convening a multi-functional team that can jointly create these new goals instead of a top-down approach from leadership. The next step, learn, means looking at what is working both within and outside your company. The bulk of a company’s time—roughly 90 percent—should be spent on the final step of doing. The idea is to get it roughly right quickly, rather than precisely wrong.  Read More >>


Imagine there was a technique you could learn and practice that would display respect for others, promote trust and contribute mightily to individual and group performance.  The behavior with the almost magical relationship and performance outcomes is nothing more than listening. While a better term might be “fierce listening,” it’s something most of us play at, and many of us can stand to get significantly better at.  There are eight steps to develop fierce listening skills.  First is to commit: internalize the need to strengthen your effectiveness as a listener.  Second is to assess: establish a baseline for your listening skills.  Third is to recognize: learn to identify your listening traps.  Fourth is to frame: set your days up for listening success.  Fifth is to engage: employ listening tactics in the moment.  Sixth is to strengthen: train your brain.  Seventh is to tune in: look for weak or dissonant signals.  Eighth is to extend: teach your groups fierce listening practices.  People will go as far as they can communicate, and great communication starts with fierce listening.   Read More >>


Across most of the world, face-to-face negotiations—with your boss, with a colleague, or with customers and clients—have been replaced by Zoom invitations and Teams meetups. In this “new normal” of primarily virtual work interactions, composing an effective and persuasive email has never been more important. There are two kinds of conversational tones: positive and negative. Positive-toned communication is conveyed in phrases such as “This is great,” “I really like . . . ‚” and “Thank you so much,” through greetings (“Dear so-and-so”) and closings (“Best wishes”), and also in emojis such as smiley faces and the use of exclamation points. Negative-toned communication is conveyed through negations and other phrases like “I don’t think . . .” and “This is a problem” and the even harsher “I am not happy with . . ..” When it comes down to it, it is the ratio of positive to negative that is really important for our e-communication, not the absolute number of each per se. Given the ubiquity of e-communication, people must be proactive about cultivating and enhancing our communication style. People who rely on autopilot to compose and reply to emails, texts, and phone messages are likely to fall prey to one of the e-communication whammies, with poor outcomes.  Read More >>


With so many of us confined at home to stop the spread of COVID-19, it is fortunate that much economic activity, from buying groceries to banking services, can be carried online. As it turns out, many business deals and negotiations also happen online these days. As opposed to email, phone calls or instant messaging, video-conferencing is the tool that resembles regular face-to-face meetings the most. That being said, it can’t convey as much information about the parties’ non-verbal cues. And sometimes, during technological glitches, we might miss a few words and refrain from asking the person to repeat, thus missing out on verbal cues as well. In these challenging times, video-conferencing has the benefit of being a considerably cheaper means to conduct negotiations than face-to-face meetings. Given the fact that many companies are struggling due to contracting economic activities, videoconferencing may be a more sensible way to conduct business going forward, at least until the situation returns to normal, which could take months if not years. Hopefully, business negotiated via video-conferencing will help companies save costs and navigate stormy waters to a calmer and safer harbor in the future.  Read More >>


In the life of a startup founder, it is normal and to be expected that she or he will inevitably face rejection in many areas, and for a long time. Invariably, rejection has many forms and faces. Many smart people have prognostications on how to handle rejection. If you get a “no” from a potential customer, consider asking for feedback on why they went with another solution. At minimum, thank everyone that you meet with for their time and interest. Find common areas of interest that will allow you to follow-up over time. Be kind, courteous, fair and consistent in all of your behaviors. Make sure your reputation online reflects who you are and how you want to be perceived. If the fit was never there, consider whether it was not meant to be. Is there a lesson to be learned? Some startup founders take rejection the wrong way, either ignoring the nay-sayer, or worse, taking personal offense and even lashing out. While you may suffer from a bruised ego, the way you prepare for, conduct and follow-up from each meeting speaks volumes to your target audience about your aptitude for future success.  Read More >>


Metrics are essential to running a business. We all know that. What may not be as obvious, though, is how metrics intersect with your company mission and even employee happiness. Prioritize a single number — to the exclusion of all others — and you’ll invariably leave a lot of people and priorities out.  Instead, it took a constellation of metrics to capture what the business needed to scale and how each team could facilitate that success.  This constellation is made up of three kinds of metrics: quantity, quality, and efficiency. In relationship to each other, they tell the story of your business and allow for prioritization and alignment.  Of your top three metrics, one should become a north star for the business — almost always this will be the quantity metric that you are trying to optimize.  No metric is perfect. But understanding, and regularly reassessing, the relationship between quantity, quality, and efficiency is critical to more deeply understanding your business — and to staying nimble.  Done right, metrics are among the best ways to make people truly understand how their work impacts the business in a positive way.  Read More >>