Lego, the Internet, and the age of the customer

Wednesday, January 22 2014


I’m not going to give you yet another ”10 top trends for 2014” – that’s been done to death. What’s more, trendspotting lists all tend to start sounding the same. Different sites pick up each other’s ideas and say the same thing in a different way. It’s a similar phenomenon to online music charts. They are actually homogenizing music listening instead of diversifying it.

I am more interested in gigatrends – the trends that drive trends.

The giant Lego box

The first I am going to discuss is based on idea sampling. It is similar to the music industry, where people sample each other’s ideas, riffs and tunes. They then combine and recombine these into new songs – sometimes better, sometimes not. The same happens on the Internet. On a broader scale, we are entering the era of the sampling economy – a world of communication-generated innovation, where thoughts and ideas are freely shared, combined and recombined to create new ideas, businesses and industries.

You can see the Internet as a gigantic shared Lego box, with new building blocks of ideas, solutions and people being added all the time. It means fantastic possibilities, but also complexities for companies to navigate. How do you become a winner in the sampling economy?

Sharing ideas on a massive scale

There is one simple solution, and as gigatrends go, they don’t come much bigger: put the end user first. The idea may not be new, but its meaning is changing quickly thanks to the Internet. As Forrester puts it, we are in “The age of the customer”. It is all about customer-driven innovation and it is the result of idea sampling on a massive scale.

Things have changed quickly since last century. The Fordism model, with its standardized production and mass communication, meant that people were cogs in an organization and subservient to technology. Today, the individual has come to the fore. And now, they control the technology.

The web and social media have revolutionized the way people interact, develop and publicize themselves. In the near future, everyone and everything will be constantly connected to a common global communications network. A new social system is on the way, turning traditional business logic upside down, and breaking down boundaries and hierarchies. And at the center of it all, stands the customer.

How quickly is this change happening? Take a look at the short film we put out last year: “A message from your future end user”. While you’re doing it, pay extra attention to the Russian guy being instantly translated into English. Then, check out Sigmo. The future moves fast.