The next generation of platforms

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What I am going to talk about today is a concept of natural and organic evolution that fits with our inner desires to “do good”, to take care of our living systems, of ourselves and our peers, with love and compassion, as if everything matters, coming back to our roots while creating abundance and conditions to thrive, evolve and flourish as a whole, in collaboration building the next generation of platforms: Regenerative Platform Business Models.

In a world that is failing in its deepest foundations –  from lack of trust in institutions to growing levels of inequality, climate, health and social crisis and a degenerative and extractive economic model that drowns us, humans and nature –  people and organizations all over the world are engaging in a different mindset, a holistic one, based on natural living systems principles.  

The aim is that of regenerating, restoring, renewing damaged ecosystems or using this mindset as a principle of design.

Regenerative design is drawing widespread attention, although it is not a new concept. In 1980, the term was coined to define regenerative agriculture, or permaculture, to describe a series of farming practices that prioritise healthy soils, biodiversity and holistic ecosystem restoration. In the last years, regenerative design has been applied in fields of urbanism, architecture, finance, tourism, production, value chains, leadership and organizations, gaining momentum.

There is no single definition of what regenerative design means, similarly to what happened with the collaborative economy movement in its early days, and although it can be counterproductive to become the new buzzword, the regenerative design does have a series of more or less common principles and shared values for those who want to embrace it.

In the last 2 years, I have been studying the intersections between regenerative design and platform design. My fascination for both topics led me to start running a series of interviews with experts in the field and participate in global forums and events in order to go deeper into understanding their confluences.

Drawing on this exploration, this article is part of a series in what I have called “Regenerative Platform Business Models”. My hope is to provide an understandable framework for the ones that have a platform and want to become regenerative on how they run their business within their ecosystem and those that have a regenerative business and want to become a platform.

Regenerative Design and Platform Design are both under the umbrella of system thinking, which Peter Senge, who is a leader in the field, defines as:  A way of thinking about, and a language for describing and understanding, the forces and interrelationships that shape the behaviour of  systems, in  tune with the natural processes of the natural world”

Both concepts provide a discipline for seeing wholes and a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than static snapshots,  a lens from which to observe events, a mindset widely believed to be critical in handling the complexity facing the world in the coming decades. 

Regenerative design or Regeneration draws from the sources of system thinking combined with how nature works, getting inspired from Biomimicry, Ecology and Biophilia to learn from nature and imitate it, with the aim of solving some of the complex problems we face.

The purpose of regeneration is the same that the purpose of life itself, is to create the right conditions for all life to thrive and flourish.” – Anna Pollock

Platform (or Ecosystem-Network) Design is a business model innovation used to define strategies that connect, in a given context, individuals or organizations in a p2p relationship. It means to directly meet their needs, self-organizing in a common space, digital or not, to exchange goods, services, knowledge, experiences, or time. 

According to the World Economic Forum, an estimated 70% of new value created in the economy over the next decade will be based on digitally enabled platform business models, through networked value exchange facilitated and coordinated by a platform. Contrary to traditional models, platforms are capable of responding more economically to the demands for personalization of products and services by users, scaling learning and reducing transaction costs.

Today 60% of the global population have access to the internet, of which almost 97% have a smartphone, with a remarkable level of growth: +7% of internet users during the past 12 months due to lockdowns, compared to 2020. 

Covid-19 has speeded the adoption of digital technologies by several years, and many of these changes could be here for the long haul, with many people moving their shops online, the share of digital or digitally enabled products in companies portfolios has accelerated by a shocking seven years.

Platforms of course have their own challenges, but they are good tools for coordinating decentralized and interconnected networks, strategies owned by an organization or fully decentralized like is the case of platform cooperatives, in some cases supported by blockchain’s mindset technologies. 

Nobody taught us what it means to be human, we have to ask ourselves:

What is our role in this system?

As consumers, we’re gaining more and more power, having access to thousands of platforms in different areas of our lives changing not only habits and behaviours but also expectations related to the role that private and public organizations are or could have in society.

“Brands will be even more evaluated based on the social good they create in their communities and how responsible they are in their supply, manufacturing and production….The pre-Covid crisis consumer-centric brand strategy is now society-centric strategy.” –  Ana Andjelic

Climate, health and social crisis have made us rethink what kind of brands we want to interact with, how products are made, what we are eating, wearing, consuming. We can no longer blind ourselves to what is happening in the world and how it affects us directly. Because we are a global community in a common world.

TOP 10 GLOBAL CONSUMER TRENDS 2021 Euromonitor

Other questions that drive this research are:

What is the social or public role of organizations? How can we give back more than take it out? How can we restore systems at different levels? How can we localize, distribute and diversify production? How can we maximize health in the entire ecosystem? How can we deliver and distribute value tailored to a specific context thinking not only across space but also in time? What is the outcome we all want of every decision and action we take? How can we design for resilience? How can we leverage nature’s abundance without compromising its health? 

“A species can only thrive when everything else around it thrives. If we take care of nature, nature takes care of us” -David Attenborough

So, we have two models:

1- The platform business model is an outside-in strategy; it looks at the ecosystem understood as a system of interconnected actors that coordinate their activity with a common objective, exchange value, learn and evolve facilitated by a platform as a place to interact.

Now the platform model is also being applied to organizational design with promising results 

Platforms distribute and localize value creation and exchange, reduce barriers to entry allowing more people to participate, connecting directly producers and consumers, reduce asymmetry of information and are more transparent.

2- Regenerative design is a process-oriented whole systems approach to design products, services and organizations, that integrates the needs of society with the integrity of nature. 

Regeneration is a verb To Regenerate. It is not about being, but about becoming – an open-ended process.

Regeneration is intentional.

Now, the question is: what if we merge both?

They are the same with some small, big differences.

The most important is that Regeneration adds a higher layer, the intention of regenerating or being regenerated.

Regeneration is also an inside-out virtuous loop process: without awareness, nothing happens.

Together, can scale across more easily thanks to network effects.

In the next article, I will explore deeper both principles of design, their commonalities and differences and how they benefit each other integrating the whole mindset.

Stay tuned!

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