Review: “The Mesh,” by Lisa Gansky 8

The Mesh presents a compelling metaphor for social media and technology-powered business.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.

Will Reichard

Will Reichard has an MBA from the University of Mexico and is CEO of CrossCut Communications, LLC, a full-service marketing and communications company with a digital edge. His forte is messaging. From working as an editor at a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper to articulating the selling points of an innovative customer focused nonprofit fundraising organization, he consistently helps to give voice to challenging but mission-critical ideas. He writes a blog on social media, public relations, marketing and technology and was recently invited to be a panelist on personal branding at the prestigious Crittenden National Conference. He is also an award-winning writer who has been published in outlets including Innovation: America’s Journal of Technology Commercialization and National Mortgage Professional Magazine.

About William Reichard

Will Reichard, MBA, President, has a broad background in social media, strategic communications and marketing, public relations, development, fundraising and business management. His forte is messaging. From working as an editor with a Pulitzer Prize-winning daily newspaper to helping establish capacity in an early-phase public relations company aimed at middle-market businesses to articulating the selling points of an innovative customer-focused nonprofit fundraising organization (United Way of Central New Mexico), Reichard consistently helps to give shape to challenging but mission-critical ideas. He is an award-winning writer who has been published in outlets including Innovation: America’s Journal of Technology Commercialization. Most recently, he has consulted for a wide range of clients through his company, CrossCut Communications, and has become a sought-after speaker and adviser on the field of social media and business, a role in which he enjoys applying his bachelor’s degree in cultural anthropology. He writes a blog on social media, public relations, marketing and technology and was recently invited to be a panelist on personal branding at the prestigious Crittenden National Conference. He has additional interests in change management, social theory, issues of diversity, and management of technology. He graduated magna cum laude in anthropology and recently completed an executive-level master’s of business administration with a 4.0 gpa, both through the University of New Mexico. He is a member of Beta Gamma Sigma. Reichard belongs to Social Media Club and the New Mexico Tech Council, is a member of the Albuquerque Independent Business Alliance, and belongs to the Business New Mexico network. He is involved in a variety of community efforts, including serving as president of Albuquerque Net Impact Professional and the board of the YMCA of Central New Mexico. He is particularly proud of his membership in the Rotary Club of Albuquerque del Sol. Available for speaking opportunities.