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March 9, 2007

Provocation is one of the tools for creative thinking in Edward de Bono’s world of Lateral Thinking or creative thinking.   A way to unlock creativity, is to disrupt the normal or conditioned manner in which we associate thoughts.  Provocation is one of those techniques, and consists of taking an existing stable situation, and making a statement about it that renders it no longer stable.   For example, suppose a doctor’s office had no waiting room.  What would that imply? 

In my last post, I proposed some ideas that companies might adopt in the future as the use of the web becomes more pervasive.  Pervasive not in terms of more people on it, but in terms of extent to which it becomes integrated into mainstream life.  I don’t believe the ideas, as I put them forth are necessarily workable, and are offered as Provocation to provide impetus for discussion that might lead to implementable ones.

The beauty of how well this works, is that it means different things to different people.  My original course of thought was for how to advance some of the changes brought about by social media, and to create more objectivity in terms of online content through utter transparency.  Esteban interpreted my post as a way for companies and consumers to more holistically adopt the web as an overall medium with which to engage in commerce.  Pause to reflect on that for a moment, and consider the role the web has had in business since the early 90’s.  Initially, just having a web presence was an objective in and of itself, then having products online in an electronic brochure was an advancement to harness the web for marketing – brand / product awareness and consideration.   Commerce was the next step, along with product support in terms of downloadable materials and technical tips.   In the case of media, audio, video, written content, the web has become not only the advertising and commerce medium, but also the distribution channel as well.  Accessory technologies for streaming audio, video, and interactive chat have enhanced the experience around each of these basic functions, but they remain as just ‘front ends’ to existing business processes and mechanisms within companies behind the scenes.  A company’s core functions still operate upon a myriad of different systems, and getting on “the glass” is just one more layer of technology and process.   I think Esteban is proposing a complete immersion, a fusion in which those backend systems are phased out and the entire business, from  suppliers all the way to the customer is executed on the web.  Not just published to the web, but on the web.  The apps are all web based.  

How could that change things?  What if customers could become suppliers as part of the process?  Suppose the overall system provided for customers to sell obsolete but sometimes desireable parts to one another?  Suppose skilled customers could also become technical support providers or even field technicians on call.  Reach and expertise could be extended to broader grographic areas at a lower overall cost (variable vs fixed infrastructural cost). Could a “Web 3.0” company become  a super virtualization engine?

Consider how the following site has put a web front end on vitually every auto salvage yard in the US. 

 car-parts.gif  You go in, navigate through the pull downs to select year, model, and the part.  The results can be filtered and sorted by price, location, condition, etc.   Contact email and phone numbers for the individual yards are provided.   Now imagine that this approach were taken, but instead of salvage yars, customers could each be a location with inventory, and would be organized in this fashion.   Other customers could look for, find, and contact others who have the part or service they want.   I propose this as a proof of concept for an approach demonstrating how virtualization could be applied.


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