Seth Godin has a great post about how people are willing to pay more for convenience or to solve symptoms rather than to fix their problems. He also spoke at the 2006 GEL Conference about This Is Broken.com.
One of my favorite Radiohead songs, Planet Telex, goes "Everything is broken. Everyone is broken." Indeed people still have the same problems today that Carl Sandburg read from his The People, Yes.
Many businesses are messed up because they try to make the customers pay more to get less or focus on things that are arbitrary self focused and do not get people excited or talking about them. And most businesses are probably not set up to be well aligned with allowing workers to profit from their passion.
At the San Jose airport Microsoft had a tag line Your Potential. Our Passion. and to me that seems backwards. I think potential comes out of passion. You can look at how many people are fleeing Microsoft to start their own company or to work at companies like Google and how much Microsoft has spent on R&D to see how the proxy for passion would be better than the generic concept of potential.
It is not just Microsoft that has to work on streamlining their business process. AOL is laying off about 25% of their workforce. In spite of the publicity surrounding an offer to pay taggers Netscape is still quite small compared to competing tag sites sites. Yahoo! has many overlapping brands and half complete projects (including their ad platform).
When Google launched they were worth less than Yahoo! and are now worth 3 times as much (and people are writing articles calling Google cheap).
Amazon.com recently had an analyst give them a below average rating for 'doing nothing unique' while at the same time getting pinged for wanting to collect data to improve their customer experience. The kicker is that most of the best ideas that add the most value to a platform are quite boring in nature. How do you tie in online marketing with offline purchases? Coupons. Boring idea, but it is worth a ton of money to a large distributed ad network owner.
The ideas that create the most value are not necessarily exciting or overtly technical in nature. PageRank takes citations as a proxy for authority. Pretty simple concept.
I think a few big things that are allowing Google to grow while others are complaining about things being broken are
- They want to do things based on Eric Schmidt's idea of "Does it fundamentally effect people's internet experience in a positive sense."
- Even if they do not believe in #1, they are good enough at selling it that
- the media is buying it
- top talent is attracted to their company
- consumers are evangelical about their brand
- many unpaid customers willingly provide them free work and feedback needed to increase the value of their business.
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