The cafe: a case study
The third dimension of e-business
To pull all the chapters together, needs a real life example. For this, it seems only appropriate that I should use a case study where I have been personally involved. What better example could I use than the writing of this book? It may seem a million miles away from e-business, but, in fact it demonstrates exactly what e-business is all about. E-business doesn't have to be centred around a Web site, e-business is primarily about using the Internet intelligently.
E-business is commonly divided into two categories: business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C). Stop to think about this for a moment. Is this really the only two categories that e-Business can be divided into? Isn't there another, more important category: person to person (P2P)? As soon as you add in this third category, it opens up another dimension on e-business that brings with it the realisation that most of e-business is not based around a Web site, but, is about people. It is about people communicating with each other, people exchanging information, cooperating and collaborating together.
Seeing e-business in only two dimensions (B2B and B2C) is a consequence of looking at the Internet environment through Industrial Age eyes. The focus is on a tangible entity - a company - that can be designed, shaped and controlled. Individuals are subservient to this main entity, their behaviour is specified and monitored; their personal niches are predetermined.
The reality though is that the Internet isn't a suitable environment for these Industrial Age concepts of business. The entities that survive and prosper are not organised companies, but, self-organising systems. E-businesses cannot be planned and controlled, they have to be set free to self adapt. This is anathema to conventional corporate thinking because it isn't covered by any of the business models in the text books.
The same also applies to products and services in the information environment. They cannot be designed, planned, monitored and controlled: they have to be grown organically. This again is quite outside of the concepts of conventional corporate thinking. To this mind set, the idea that you can just let a product or a service grow by itself, without careful planning and strong management, is inconceivable.
This is why this book is a good example of product development in the Information Age. The corporate mind set would see the author of a book as needing to be an authority on the subject matter: knowing all the answers. It would see the knowledge as having to be distilled and organised before the writing commences. The corporate mind would think it imperative that the conclusions should be established from the outset.
But, what would the corporate mind make of an author who started a book with no pre planning? With no idea of what the content would be and not even a guiding framework of chapter headings. What if the author began a book without any preconceived idea as to what the conclusions would turn out to be? Would that make any sense to the corporate mind?
Yet, that is the exactly the way in which this current book - and its fore runner ,"The Entrepreneurial Web" - were written. This chapter explains the process by which they were created. The mental trick is not to see these books as records of the past, but, as exploratory adventures into the future - with notes being taken along the way.