So, I was at a loss … until I read a blog post from Seth Godin propping up a new, “big idea” book (in which he’s name checked as the pioneer of “permission marketing”).Lisa Gansky’s “The Mesh: Why The Future Of Business Is Sharing” is absolutely both “brand new” and “big idea.” It’s also “right now.” The Mesh is a book that could not have been written 5 years ago, though much of the concept’s foundation was well underway at that time. Likewise, it’s a book at which we could look back 5 years from now and appreciate how insightful and telling her vision was at the time.
Aside from having to read about businesses, strategies and tactics as being “meshy” or “very meshy,” I found the book a complete pleasure to read. Aside from having to accept a few arguments and ideas without direct connection to the presumably-backing references listed at the end (no direct citations), I found Gansky’s vision smart, compelling and forward looking.
So what is “The Mesh?” In short, think Netflix versus Blockbuster. Though both are based on the concept of buy once and sell many times (renting out the same DVD over and over again to different customers), Netflix is an information company. Layers upon layers of data are collected and processed to make it easier and easier for Netflix customers to find, watch and review movies and TV shows. Meanwhile, Blockbuster’s in bankruptcy protection.
Gansky’s preferred example is Zipcar, an information company that happens to share cars (as opposed to making and/or selling cars). It's exemplary because it touches on all the main characteristics of Mesh companies:
- Core offering that's shared
- Reliance on web, mobile and social networks
- Frequent interactions with each customer
- Layers and layers of data collected about each car, customer, transaction, trip, etc.
- Data analysis to produce offers that are more and more personal, timely and relevant
- Partnerships with other companies to provide more value and collect more data
Other companies highlighted include Prosper (peer-to-peer lending), thredUp (clothes), Crushpad (wine making), Kickstarter (project funding), Roomorama (apartments), several other car-sharing services and many more. Again, Zipcar and Netflix seem to exemplify best her full vision.
Included in this fast, fun read:
- Characteristics of Mesh companies
- Load of example, plus a half dozen or so "Case Study" breakouts
- Macro-level enabling factors and driving forces
- Specific advantages of employing Mesh strategies
- How and why Mesh strategies threaten traditional models
- Points to consider for your own Mesh start-up
I highly recommend “The Mesh” for marketers, entrepreneurs, environmentalists and anyone else who’s into what’s happening right now and what’s around the corner.
The Mesh Homepage and Business Directory:
My Non-Book-Review Blog Post on The Mesh:
Article in The Economist:
- Schumpeter: The business of sharing (check out comments section, too)
Article at Treehugger.com:
Zipcar Videos:Additional Videos: