Thursday, October 22, 2009

Platform Thinking: History Beats Jarvis' Edict by 170 years.

In What Would Google Do? Jeff Jarvis makes many great observations about the new rules of business success that have emerged in the last 10 years.

One example is platform thinking, in which products and services deliver the utility they were designed to, but which users go on to embrace and use for purposed well beyond the original intent.

Jarvis gives the example of Craig's List and Google Earth which have been adopted in new ways never originally envisioned. And with the dramatic popularity of apps for its handheld device, Apple's iPhone is perhaps the ultimate testament to platform thinking by delivering utility that have nothing to do with the phone at all.

We were delighted to find a historical predecessor to this digital idea by some 170 years.

An emigrant ship Niantic was moored and then marooned at a site now deep in the heart of San Francisco's financial district. It was covered in a shingle roof and housed offices and stores on the upper deck, while the hull became divided warehouses. A wonderful historic example of people taking an idea, making it their own and giving life to new uses, ones delivering valuable utility that was never anticipated by the original builders. Like their digital counterparts today, we're sure they were equally pleased.

[Click on image to enlarge]

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