I’ve been reading The Age of the Platform: How Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google Have Redefined Business (affiliate link), which is about how “the Gang of Four”, Apple, Amazon, Facebook & Google, have successfully built platforms which allow them to leverage new products and technologies in ways not previously possible. When we look at an amazing successful product, say Apple’s iphone, we recognize it’s sleek and intuitive design, but it’s also the platform of the App Store which has allowed Apple to provide more applications than they could develop, while profiting from the increased value that having those applications provides. In his book, Phil Simon, discusses each of the four companies, and also talks about ways to build platforms to help your company succeed. Here’s an excerpt from the Introduction of the book:
Today the Gang of Four is light years ahead of its peers. And this lead is not just in one vital area, such as technology. In incredibly short periods of time, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google have done truly amazing things. They have built valu- able brands, released popular products and services, cultivated widespread followings, and generated enormous shareholder value and profits. They have quickly risen to prominence, in the process becoming the envy of thousands of organizations.They have been able to innovate and launch products, services, and even entire lines of business at unprecedented rates. As we’ll ?see in this book, the source of these companies’ competitive advantages stems from many things, including profound customer insights enabled by troves of data, immensely valuable partnerships, highly adaptive cultures, and the intelligent use of technology.
Big Company Syndrome
Historically, as large companies have grown to such dizzying heights, they have begun to show signs of fissure and eventual decline. Examples abound. IBM struggled mightily in the late 1980s and early 1990s. To be fair, it was able to successfully redefine itself as a service-oriented company, a turnaround that has been nothing short of astounding. Kodak was woefully unpre- pared for the rise of digital cameras and printing. More recently, many iconic organizations have lost their leads, sometimes in just a few years. Microsoft comes to mind and is discussed at length in Chapter 9 of this book.
It doesn’t take a genius to recognize the symptoms or diagnose the disease. After some degree of success, large organizations begin to tread water. Over the course of, say, five years, they start to exhibit the signs of stereotypical risk-averse, monolithic organizations. Again, this is well-trodden ground. Many books have been written about how size tends to encumber organizations, along with attendant bureaucracy and other baggage. Call it big company syndrome.
The Gang of Four, however, appears to be largely symptom-free. Each company continues to hire thousands of new employees, enter new and often challenging markets, forge new partner- ships, and launch entirely new lines of business. These compa- nies are doing much more than avoiding the traditional perils of growth, nor are they simply maintaining previous levels of performance. They are somehow increasing their organizational pace of innovation.
I’m looking forward to finishing Phil’s book — I’m still in the first section, but it has been very interesting so far (look for a review soon).
Have you read the book? What do you think?
NOTE: All links above to Amazon are affiliate links. As with any review I do, this is my honest opinion. If you feel differently after reading this book, please share your thoughts in the comments. Thank you for reading!
- Phil Simon: Company Building In The Age Of The Platform: 8 Lessons From Amazon, Apple, Facebook, And Google (huffingtonpost.com)
- Book Review: The Age of the Platform: How Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google Have Redefined Business by Phil Simon (blogcritics.org)
- Interview with Phil Simon: The Age of The Platform (newbizblogger.com)