This article begins with a simple question: What if the Railroad Companies saw themselves not as railroads, but as transportation companies? That would have inevitably prevented their demise after the rise of automobiles, planes, and other forms of transportation. In fact, if it were not for their myopia Railroad Companies may have been the creators of those transit agencies, and not only made money off of the implementation, but could have integrated the new forms around the existing railroad system, incorporating them as a necessity into the overall cross country transit system. Railroads, however, failed to take this view of their operations, and many of them went bankrupt soon after their heyday.
A modern equivalent to a company without this myopic vision for their business is Uber. Consumers know Uber as the company that gets them from point A to point B at a discounted rate, but Uber does not see themselves as a transportation company. Uber identifies themselves as a technology company that is solving a transportation problem. They are a facilitator, or a platform, but they operate based on the technology they have created; the solution that has been created is a taxi service, but the company itself is based in technology. By not classifying themselves as a transportation company, Uber has opened up many business opportunities - they've recently announced they'll start offering a delivery service in select cities for 2015, developed strategic partnerships with services like Spotify and fuel saving discounts, and develop UberEATS which partners with local restaurants. The opportunities for new business segments are almost endless, because Uber is not solely focused on getting people from point A to point B.
"...a truly marketing-minded firm tries to create value-satisfying goods and services that consumers will want to buy. What it offers for sale includes not only the generic product or service, but also how it is made available to the customer, in what form, when, under what conditions, and at what terms of trade. Most important, what it offers for sale is determined not by the seller but by the buyer. The seller takes his cues from the buyer in such a way that the product becomes a consequence of the marketing effort, not vice versa." - page 50.
- An average gallon of regular gas cost $1.15 in 1995. The thought of paying close to $4 per gallon was unthinkable, and many people thought a high price increase in gasoline would mean that people drive less. The average price of gas last year (nationally) was $3.65 - and there is little evidence to support the 2 decade old forecast that people would drive less if gas cost more. Instead, people opted to buy vehicles that were more fuel efficient. The analysts expectations were surpassed by the technology that increased the value of the high cost of fueling a car.
- In 2000, three years before Motorola would release their iconic Razr phone, cell phones were still seen as a luxury. The idea that families would be paying several hundred dollars a month, plus buying phones that cost more than a computer, and having subscription fees for internet, music streaming, and other services was not on the average household's mind. Yet, here we are, 15 years later incurring large monthly costs for something that is considered a necessity. A cost that did not exist 15 years ago is now costing families of four anywhere from $1,200-$3,000 a year, which they pay happily to stay connected.
- In 2007, Netflix launched a streaming video service for the first time. At the time, it was more of a novelty, but as electronic devices became smaller and began omitting the DVD drive from the component, it became more of a necessity. Then smartphones and tablets made on-the-go viewing the choice way to view content. Before long, the massive amount of viewing data they'd collected allowed them to produce highly acclaimed shows with mass appeal such as Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, and many more. Now there are no shortage of streaming platforms and third party devices such as the Roku, ChromeCast, etc. to for streaming content, and DVDs are almost a thing of the past.
"Is that not what consumer research is for -- to find out before the fact what is going to happen? The answer is that Detroit never really researched the customer's wants. It only researched his preference between the kinds of things which it had already decided to offer him. For Detroit is mainly product-oriented, not customer-oriented." - page 51.
This article gives several great examples of myopic organizations. Apply this lens to a library context and you can see where our risks lie. It's not that libraries are doomed, or irrelevant, or unnecessary - but our attitude towards consumer behavior/customer research, assumptions about patron values, and inability to satisfy a need could leave us vulnerable to unforeseen competition.