Business 2.0, Design, Sustainability

Business 3 point oh?

Do you remember when “Web 2.0”, “Enterprise 2.0”, “Business 2.0″ was the (overhyped, much maligned) buzz word of the moment? It referred to the shift in the business world towards integrating social media and networking—both technologies but also models of engagement in and outside an organisation—into their operations.

Organisation ROI, Purpose, Network models

I was thinking about this recently, and realised that this is a large part of what Zumio is all about—not so much on the “social networking in the enterprise” sense (which would potentially link more to the Shared Value principle of “Redefining productivity in the value chain”, but more in the “Reconceiving products and markets” sense. Tossing around some ideas the other day, I jotted down the following Venn diagram (I’m a designer, what more is there to say?) that captures some of the essence of this thinking.

Seeing these “three pillars”, and building on the idea of “Business 2.0”, I thought what if it was called “Business 3.0”—with 1.0 being about returns, 2.0 being about the network model, and 3.0 connecting this to social responsibility and purpose.

I thought to myself, no doubt someone’s already tried to claim the term. And of course, they have. Fast Company use the term to define social and environmental responsibility. And the University of Queensland Business School put forward a Core Capabilities—Partnership, Community, Transparency, Trust—that look remarkably similar to some things I’ve written before ;)

When I look around, I can find lots of beacons that crossover between two of these spheres. For example, BCorps and shared value combine the ideas of purpose and return. Recent and up-coming conferences like the Social Good Summit and also explore this space. “Enterprise 2.0”–orientation, and considerations of the networked organisation (such as that outlined by Tim O’Reilly in his article Networks and the Nature of the Firm point to the overlap of the network organisation driving returns.

But I’ve not seen a lot of consideration about how these three sphere’s combine.

Perhaps there’s an assumption that any competitive organisation nowadays has to be digitally enabled, and thus, any forward thinking for-purpose organisation has that aspect down. But my experience is that this is far from reality.

And there is real power in combining all three.

The on-demand economy (I’m with commentators that eschew the term “sharing economy” for such enterprises) is a probably the best example of how these three elements can be combined, with commercial success.

Many of the biggest success stories in this space have significant environmental and social flow-on effects (many of them positive). AirBNB (unlocking value in underutilised space in the built environment, (at its best) enabling stronger social connections), Uber (unlocking the value of vehicles and, again, (at its best) enabling stronger social connections), iTunes + music sharing services like Spotify (reduction in packaging and materials use making CDs, transporting physical product etc.) and car rental services such as GoGet—serve as examples of digital technology supporting the process of dematerialisation.

Some other examples, looking from a different angle, are enterprises like Chuffed and StartSomeGood point in this direction, leveraging network organisation in the form of crowdfunding to support social projects. (One could argue that Kickstarter’s decision to become a BCorp puts them in a similar position.)

Each of these examples creates positive social and/or environmental outcomes and rely on network organisation models to achieve their goals, enabled by digital technology (that is, digital technology reduces the transaction cost for co-ordinating effort and value creation).

In each of case, the “digital” component is more than just the “product”. Uber and AirBNB are not just an app. The “apps” they create are an integral component to the overall success of the model, but it is the underpinning models of operation and value creation that are the key to their success.

When we say “we help for-purpose organisations build products and services that thrive in a connected world”, this is what we mean… It’s about creating a business strategy that harnesses network effects, supported by digital technology, to achieve meaningful results. Regardless of what we call it—“Business 3.0” or something else—we’re excited by the possibility of bringing more of these types of services to life, supporting the co-creation of value between organisations and their stakeholders or customers.

Also published on Medium.