Have you ever thought what an ancient marketplace – like Agora has in common with Airbnb – a six -year-old company currently disrupting the global hotel industry?

To understand the similarities we have to study the background of Agora. According to Wikipedia: The Agora  (Ancient Greek: Ἀγορά Agorá) was a central spot in ancient Greek city-states. The literal meaning of the word is “gathering place” or “assembly”. The agora was the center of athletic, artistic, spiritual and political life of the city. The Ancient Agora of Athens was the best-known example. The notion itself is based on the two Greek verbs ἀγοράζω, agorázō, “I shop”, andἀγορεύω, agoreúō, “I speak in public”

Indeed, they are both platforms, the hot topic of contemporary business leaders.  They both enable low-entry, almost zero-friction interaction between a diversity of participants. So in fact, we all have experienced weak signals of this exciting movement every time we have visited any market square. The analogy to Agora helps us to understand a platform as an organized setting where producers and service providers meet with the customers and consumers, where their roles may swap freely according to the personal preferences. Platforms are places where ‘I shop and I speak in public’ – principle is highlighted and respected. The format and infrastructure of platforms have evolved and diversified in recent years enormously, but they still carry some of the ambience of ancient market squares.

Platforms – what are they then? How can we, as business owners, communities or private persons benefit from them? Is there any good reason why we should try to understand the mechanisms?

The first conceptual definition, which I noticed was by John Hagel, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison in their brilliant book “The Power of Pull” (2010), in which they introduced ‘pull platforms’. The authors defined the new phenomenon as following: platform is used metaphorically to describe frameworks for orchestrating a set of resources that can be configured quickly and easily to serve a broad range of needs. With a wide set of case examples they were able to explain already four years ago the vital principles of the platform economy pretty accurately. And they also predicted the vast implications, which platforms will bring to the market place.

But four years is a long time in disruptive economy and we have witnessed an enormous shift towards the platform driven business environment.

Even though platforms have been a natural place for interaction since ancient times they have just recently become a hot topic, because the vivid discussion around the most prominent business cases has taken the notions ‘platform’ and ‘platform economy’ to the limelight. Platforms are here to stay and surely also to flourish; new implementations of platforms with revolutionary characteristics are in the pipeline – or should we say emerging from these already existing platforms.

Disruptive business models are gaining momentum and changing rapidly the fundamentals in the global business. The triumphant business endeavours like Facebook, Google, Amazon, Instagram, Airbnb, Uber etc. are showing us the way to the Postnormal Era. Platforms will change our understanding of the value creation processes and leading business principles. They have already changed many industries – like publishing, media and hotel businesses – not to talk about the eminent power of social media platforms even within the (still) traditional businesses.  According to Sangeet Paul Choudary there are three fundamental changes that accompany every shift in the industries that are getting transformed by the platform thinking:  new networked markets get created, new sources of supply start to emerge and new consumption patterns are created. With these kinds of impacts we surely can make a statement that this is going to be a revolutionary shift

My personal and later on Karostech’s interest in this topic begun already ten years ago when the first drafts of a visionary community platform – GLOW – were introduced in Joensuu Science Park, Finland. My team was able to draft and pilot the very first version of a virtual collaboration tool, as it was those times called – a 1.0 version of a ‘competence platform’. Even though that experiment ended up pretty quickly due to the management changes in JSP,  it enabled us to experience the virtues of such a revolutionary tool and was enough to keep my curiosity alive since that. That experiment had also a fundamental effect to my personal life, after the disappointment of not been able to elaborate GLOW further, I started my second entrepreneurial career by founding Karostech with my partner and keeping all the time in my mind the potential benefits of a well working competence platform.

During the last years one part of our business has been to follow the development of innovation environments, especially the co-working movement and the development of various supportive tools, such as platforms.  We are highly interested in the type of platforms, where serendipity can be harnessed. The complete solution might consist of physical environments, artifacts, virtual community/ collaboration platforms and most interestingly hybrids, where the key features are integrated in a productive way.

The vital elements of a configuration of such a comprehensive system are today already in disposal. The new type of solution – a competence platform as we call it – will be in the future a vital part of business generation and freelancer movement.  Competence platform creates a natural home base for vibrant communities. It supports coincidensity – a mix of diversity and density – in an optimal way. But it also offers enough tranquillity and solitude for insights and value creation. So in that respect it offers an ideal solution for harnessing serendipity. With competence platforms we are able to launch workspaces of the future, they are more a ‘collective’ than a coworking space or an office, more a breeding environment than an infrastructure. It’s clear that our solution is different from the other types of platforms, but in a strange way it still has some ambience and attractiveness of the ancient Agora.

There are many classifications of platforms according to their purpose and features. Because our competence platform is an emergent feature there is not a clear position for it in the classification tables and we have therefore classified the platform universe in four types illustrated below:

Platform classification

This classification expresses our way of thinking. We understand that there is always overlapping between the various types of platforms, but anyhow the separation between exchange and development feels natural.  To give some clarification of our approach we give examples:

  • Communication platforms – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Enterprise Social Networks like Yammer, Jive etc.
  • Trading platforms – Amazon, Etsy, eBay, Elance etc.
  • Technology platforms – Apple and Android ecosystems, Linux. Ubuntu
  • Competence platforms – emerging, single elements already in the market

It is somehow surprising that the deployment of the three types of platforms (communication, trading, technology) is rocketing, but so far the competence platforms have been neglected. Innovation intermediaries, like traditional science and technology parks and several types of incubation and acceleration services provided by the institutional players and regional development organizations  have so far been safe from the disruptive power of platforms. They have survived with their Triple Helix – Quadruple Helix mantra for a long time, and for some reason even the poor results and mediocre reputation have been ‘acceptable’. But the disruption will come, that’s for sure – and it’s coming in the form of competence platforms!

Why will the competence platforms disrupt the innovation intermediary market in the near future? Shortly, because they are more effective, engaging, interactive, agile and they are based on ‘respect serendipity’ principles. Competence platforms are supporting the vital phases of idea elaboration and business creation in several areas:

  • Team building and competence sharing according to the serendipity management principles
  • Idea generation and sharing
  • Combined idea and business model elaboration with an embedded business model canvas
  • Implementation activities with integrated project management tools

In a well working competence platform the interaction happens without the help of an outside moderator (like a traditional science park), if some moderation is needed it is based on peer-to-peer- communication and support.  Competence platform creates a low-entry and almost a zero-friction environment providing both physical and virtual solutions to participants. But maybe the most important feature is, that this type of platform supports in an organic way the growth of an innovation ecosystem.

This is the opening blog for the new forum, where emergent management paradigms and fresh ways of thinking and even revolutionary visions are presented and discussed. If you are responsible of opening up new ways of thinking for your company  or community, if you want to learn the use of new tools and inspiring facilitation methodologies – or if you just want to find inspiration for your every day activities, this is the right forum to visit regularly!

We believe that in this interconnected global business world the competitive edge comes from understanding that:

1)     the fundamental and useful information is flowing instead of being stocked somewhere

2)     the most effective form of organization is a movement

3)     the leading actors are individuals and communities

4)     the driving force is passion

5)     the competitive edge evolves from diversity

6)     the  success comes from respecting serendipity

7)     the sustainable work-life integration is the ultimate way to happiness

Our own formula for success c=km2 has proved to be a great trailblazer and highlights our philosophy when digging into the challenges of our customers. We believe in networked business models, where CNOs (Collaborative Networked Organizations) are essential elements. The impact comes from the flexibility and higher motivation levels in a structure, where passion in many cases is the driving force. There are some Living Lab initiatives and other good cases of community involvement, but overall the importance of this issue is not widespread understood in the contemporary business world. With well organized community facilitation methodologies the companies and the regions can revitalize their talent pools and attract motivated people.

 The impact comes from the flexibility and higher motivation levels in a structure, where passion in many cases is the driving force.

Knowledge alone is not useful, if the motivation on individual, community or company level is the limiting factor. Even the big institutions are focusing more on talent and shifting their focus from engagement to passion. This was a clear message at IBM Connect 2013 just few weeks ago. For the big conglomerates this might be the mission impossible, if they are not able to attract the surrounding communities into their business processes. The same applies for innovation intermediaries like science parks, incubators and regional development organizations. This blog will keep following actively all those various issues related to community building and facilitation. The importance of vision and leadership,  different types of communities and their life-cycle management, CNO issues, and various types of entrepreneurship will be discussed.

Some people just follow their passion, the others have to be engaged.  Here is an insightful clip explaining the fact that even though engagement is vital, it can not be managed.

The leading thinkers and advocates for the future solutions of business ecosystems and innovation environments – John Hagel and Stowe Boyd – will be some of the figures we will follow actively.  Both are enthusiastic, future oriented  and  have an ispiring touch when illustrating  the possibilities of the ”Pull society” – like John and his colleagues in Deloitte have named it  – or ”Post-normal” era – like Stowe likes to call this new business landscape we are entering.

Pull society or post-normal era  – anyway, it reflects the fundamental shift in the ways of people’s thinking, how business is evolving,  how innovations are created, the ways we communicate, interact and get excited, the drivers we feel passionate of.

Pull society or post- normal era – we could call it also the era of movements, the era of  passion, the era of community empowerment, the era of respecting serendipity. What ever the name, the time has come. Be prepared!


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Post-normal era and new paradigms, future oriented consultancy company with vision and great partner network.


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