Why Isn’t More Technology Like LEGO?

2012 has been a bumpy year so far, and my mind hasn’t been on the technology game at all.

So I had to ask my 8-year old son, Cole, for a column idea this week.

“Tell everybody about how much I like LEGO,” he says.

That’s not hard to do. He likes LEGO a lot. Like, a lot a lot.

And to be honest, so do I.

Many of us primarily look at LEGO products as toys.

But they can also be considered as a technology unto themselves, as base units for conceiving and building other things. Continue reading

We Are the Product

Once upon a time, the customer was the foundation for an economic system. More and more, however, we are not. Instead, we are the product that drives market value in an entirely different direction.

Consider these two quotes published today. First, from Daring Fireball (‘Clopen’ Sounds Like Something You Treat With Antibiotics):

It isn’t just that Google doesn’t sell the Android operating system to consumers. It is that the consumer is Google’s product. Android is a delivery system to serve the consumer to Google’s target market — the advertisers.

Then this one, from a story on CBC.ca today (Richest CEOs will earn your 2012 salary by noon):

… many companies use stock options for a large part of their executives’ bonuses, a practice that not only drives up pay packages but also ties compensation to share price rather than company performance …

Google’s business plan is to resell its customers to advertisers. Corporations are motivated neither by customer satisfaction nor interest, but by shareholder return, which is measured not in our satisfaction, but numerical abstraction based in part on how many of us horses are locked in the stable.

It’s a world turned upside down when the customer becomes ancillary to a marketplace. Instead of being the driving purpose, we are now the product that drives value to other interests, like shareholders and advertisers.

No wonder the world’s economic climate is so screwy. We, the customer, are no longer the focus of a game that has become so grossly abstract as to be fantasy.

Telecom Foreign Investment: It’s Customers vs. Shareholders

2012 will see a lot of debate on the question of increased foreign investment into Canadian telecommunications carriers.

Small players and consumers like the idea of increased foreign investment because the inevitability of increased competition will drive prices down and quality of service up. Corporations don’t like it because it draws value away from their existing shareholders, as pointed out in a recent Globe and Mail article (Telecom firms under pressure to keep up with smartphone obsession):

Incumbents, though, oppose an asymmetrical reform of foreign investment rules, arguing it would benefit foreign investors at the expense of Canadian shareholders.

That’s the heart of the problem with Canada’s telecommunications carriers: a focus on shareholder value over customer satisfaction. (It’s definitely the problem with our northern carrier.)

However, keep this quote from Roger L. Martin’s “Fixing the Game: Bubbles, Crashes, and What Capitalism Can Learn from the NFL” in mind:

“We must shift the focus of companies back to the customer and away from shareholder value. The shift necessitates a fundamental change in our prevailing theory of the firm… The current theory holds that the singular goal of the corporation should be shareholder value maximization. Instead, companies should place customers at the center of the firm and focus on delighting them, while earning an acceptable return for shareholders.”

Imagine if Canadian telecommunications carriers put investors in the back seat and began to focus on customers instead. Because isn’t the the foundation of economic theory: a happy customer?