Airbnb should be a modern day case study for a new kind of 21st Century business–a company that creates immensely more value than it extracts from customers. They are adding value to their users’ lives in multiple dimensions all at the same time.
Business models like Airbnb’s are based on value that is co-created with customers. Airbnb creates “immensely more value” by providing the enabling platform for value to be generated, and is rewarded for its contribution to the community.
Michael’s post goes on to discuss the importance of a clear purpose as the foundation stone to build an organisation culture capable of disruptive innovation. I would go further to suggest that for a business like Airbnb, where there traditional models of value-exchange are blurred, that purpose needs to look beyond the financial bottom line – “adding value to their users’ lives in multiple dimensions” is a great way to express that sentiment.
In addition to a clear purpose, there is also a need for trust, a point that Peter Merholtz picks up in this recent post.
Netflix, Nordstrom, Southwest, Zappos, USAA — these are all companies renowned for great customer experience. And they provide remarkable latitude to both customers and employees, a latitude that suggests trust.
As Peter notes, such trust extends beyond employees, it also requires trust in customers — including not punishing the majority of your customers to avoid problems with the minority (Zappos’ liberal return policy, for example). Airbnb is, of course, also a great example of this kind of trust (as are ventures like Kiva and Zopa).
To my mind, these concepts — Purpose, Trust, Co-created value, Platform — represent keystones for socially innovative business.