The Future Belongs To Platforms, Not Products


“We will have to adjust our perspectives and our skills or risk becoming irrelevant. In an age of disruption, the only viable strategy is to adapt.”

In 1905, a young Albert Einstein shocked the world.  In one miracle year, he overturned the prevailing assumptions of his day and changed how we see the universe, transforming forever how we think of time, space, mass, energy and light.  He paved the way for our modern world.

Yet 22 years later it was Einstein’s turn to be caught in the mire of his own assumptions.  In a famous round of debates with Niels Bohr, he was unable to accept the consequences of the quantum world that, in fact, he had made possible in 1905, insisting that “God does not play dice with the universe.”

Einstein’s problem wasn’t grasping the importance of a new idea, but accepting an entirely new platform for physics—one which led to things like lasers, microprocessors and iPhones —and it doomed the rest of his career.  Today, we all face a similar dilemma.  New platforms require us not to merely alter our behavior, but also our assumptions about how the world works.

A New Age Of Platforms

Einstein was never able to accept the new quantum world that he made possible and spent the rest of his life as a mere sideshow in the physics community.  He was still revered for his past achievements, but few took his later work seriously.  As Robert Oppenheimer put it, “his tradition in a certain sense failed him” and he became “a landmark, not a beacon.”

Few of us can afford the same fate.  Today, things move much faster. While, in past generations, we could expect to learn a trade and follow a straightforward career path, today business models don’t last.  A recent study predicted that 50% of today’s jobs won’t even exist in ten years.

We need to break free of past assumptions.  We no longer live in a world of products, but platforms.  The New York Times is a product, dedicated to specific traditions and values.  Buzzfeed is a platform, which can accommodate a variety of products.  The same goes for social media and blockchains.

As Chris Dixon has said, the next big thing always starts out looking like a toy. It’s easy to scoff at early adopters, who use new platforms for cat videos, sexting and selling drugs, but that shouldn’t blind us to new capabilities that can either propel us forward or run us over.  We will have to adjust our perspectives and our skills or risk becoming irrelevant. In an age of disruption, the only viable strategy is to adapt.

Read the full article here


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