The network’s reinvention

Before the Big 5 were so big and five, they were each a different type and offering. Apple, all those years ago, was a personal computer company that never heard of mobility or apps. Google was a search engine with a unique algorithm. Microsoft sold new software versions in boxes, every so often. Facebook was sort of the same, but with a single browser based social product, and no ads. Amazon sold books. (I oversimplify to make a point.)

Technology evolved, habits changed, the economic opportunity expanded, and all these networks readapted. In turn, the readaptation was a driver of new technology, habits, and economics. It was a circular cause and effect cycle, but no matter how this history evolved and how you look at it, the refashioning of existing network bases was a catalyst for monumental growth and value formation. And now the five are the multi-layered, interconnected, network-effected enormities that they are.

So here we enter a new era, according to all accounts, in which technology directions, popular habits and economics are likely to be different yet again from what we’ve become used to. In fairness, this is always somewhat the case from one day to the next, only this time much, much more so, and much more suddenly and monumentally – if all accounts are true – which doesn’t seem unlikely.

The giant platforms will be difficult to break, as giant platforms usually are, but it’s conceivable that they will have to readapt, again, or else become less giant. Perhaps more interesting still: new modes and offerings that will emerge, the networked distribution base of which could be the coming era’s Ubers, Pinterests, Airbnbs, or Squares, even as such notable incumbents may similarly readapt to new directions.

The key, as always but only more so now, is in readaptation. If the past few decades have taught us anything, it’s the importance and the value of this skill, which can be learned like any other, which serves companies as well as individuals, and which drives business strategy as well as investment perspective, which are often circular.