Extreme Modularity And The Stack Model

be radical Briefing | May 2nd, 2022

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Dear Friend,

You might know that we have a Slack community for our Learning Partners (and many of you are already members). What you might not know is that the be radical team uses this Slack community for all of our communication — i.e., we are in this community all day, every day. It’s a great way to meet more people in the Learning Partner community, share experiences and insights (and learn from others), and hang out with us. We are literally just a @-mention or direct message away.

Practical Futurism : Decode. Predict. Disrupt.

Last week, Mafe and I had the great privilege to join EY for their annual Innovation Realized conference in Chicago. We presented our insights from 250+ interviews with innovation/disruption/transformation practitioners — before my session, Larry Keeley (of Doblin and “Ten Types of Innovation”-fame), presented his new, exciting Integrated Design Model, which bridges the gap of complex problems with the requirement for high-velocity solution development. Consisting of five key pillars, Larry’s fourth component is “extreme modularity”. Extreme modularity asks for the deployment of “lego bricks” as the basis for development in an effort to dramatically speed up the innovation process. Think using payment processing service Stripe instead of building your own credit card checkout, or the use of a user interface framework such as React instead of designing a system from scratch.

Since my time at Mozilla, we have seen the accelerated commoditization of “the stack” — our metaphor for Larry’s lego bricks. Our research indicates that three types of companies will prevail: (1) Thin companies, which leverage lego bricks across the enterprise and focus their value creation solely on the very top of the stack (e.g., many niche e-commerce companies), (2) fat companies which are deeply vertically integrated and therefore can reap economies of scale and scope (e.g., Amazon), and (3) the lego brick makers (e.g., Stripe or Shopify). Companies which have too much of the stack internally and where their implementation of a particular lego brick is at best on-par with what the market offers, will have a hard time to compete with both (1) and (2). It might be a good idea to look at all the pieces in your value chain and consider if you are better off having these external versus internal. (via Pascal)

What We Are Reading

🙋 Critical Thinking Is About Asking Better Questions Critical thinking is the ability to analyze and effectively break down an issue to decide or find a solution. At the heart of critical thinking is the ability to formulate deep, different, and effective questions. Learn more on how to do just that. JaneRead

How to Stop Freaking Out Avoid freaking out. Simple steps like counting and visualizing can help you control your emotions and be calmer. MafeRead

🌐 Beyond Metcalfe’s Law for Network Effects Andrew Chen (former leader of Rider Growth at Uber) offers an ecologically informed spin on Metcalfe’s Law that can improve our understanding of how to build and manage network effects. JeffreyRead

🧑‍🎨 The creator economy This older post, from November last year, is an interesting additional perspective to the creator economy, different from the mainstream. It touches upon questions of output and true creation. JulianRead

🦄 The Best New Ideas Combine Disparate Old Ideas Steve Jobs famously pointed out that “creativity is the combination of old ideas”. Here is the evidence in a write-up of relevant papers. PascalRead

Internet Finds

Have you ever asked yourself what happens when the cops pull over a self-driving car? Now we know. 🚓

Radically yours, take good care, friend!

— Pascal, Mafe and the three Js (Jane, Jeffrey, and Julian)


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