This is a review of the Kindle edition of The Mesh: Why the Future of Business Is Sharing (Amazon affiliate link) by Lisa Gansky.
Lisa Gansky creates a strong metaphor in The Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing. The Mesh, she says, involves combining resources in innovative ways using things like social networks and geolocation. It is, she says, “based on network-enabled sharing–access rather than ownership. The central strategy is, in effect, to ‘sell’ the same product multiple times.” Zipcar is held up as a “near perfect example” of such a business, using networks to offer convenient car-sharing services.
The idea of using resources multiple times is among the oldest in business. Business majors study ways to increase the yields of their fixed assets (why have a factory sit idle for two-thirds of the day, for instance? Just add some extra shifts or rent out the space to a second company at night). Spread the costs out; leverage each dollar of investment further. It’s a basic of operations.
Gansky’s contribution is to give a name to our new ability to share these resources across boundaries of geography, ownership and time thanks largely to technology. Once you get the metaphor, you do start looking at all kinds of things around you in a new light. You start to think about the tools sitting in your garage that you don’t use 29 days out of the month that someone else might be willing to share in the cost of. You start to think about resources you might be able to tap into and make use of if a convenient sharing platform existed. You realize the vast inefficiencies of our current setup.
Gansky notes that the model is most easily applied to operations with tangible assets–tools, cars, office space, etc. Services then become an interesting question. As she notes,
“Good Mesh businesses are smart about combining more frequent customer contact with enhanced information sources to create and refine superior experiences, partnerships, products, and offers.”
This is among the book’s most interesting points; namely, that these models provide for better customer engagement. Given that some of the book’s numerous examples don’t seem particularly well proven or lucrative, it’s good to see that costs can be recouped in other ways, e.g., through retention or upselling.
That the Mesh is loaded with examples is a pleasant difference from many other books these days, but a good part of the book is a catalog of such businesses. The quickness of the read contributes to a feeling of brevity about the book, which isn’t terribly weighty to begin with.
She does bring credibility from her own successful background as an entrepreneur and businessperson, and the clear, direct style of the writing makes it easy to evaluate her arguments. Her discussion of sustainability will also earn points from planners and strategists.
In the end, the best thing about The Mesh is the way it spurs the reader to think creatively about the world of new opportunities arising from modern technology. With new ways to connect popping up every day, the Mesh looks to be a durable metaphor and a powerful worldview. That’s probably why Seth Godin is recommending the Mesh and why I do too.