Once I get past the first wave of the “theory and academia” tone and presentation in Christensen and the article from Decision Sciences and start pondering how these writings have proven themselves so far, the points being made become more applicable to the problems I encounter at work. The Uses and Gratifications (UG) paradigm I found of particular interest.
The UG research defined three areas of attraction for general users on the Internet: the content found there, the actual process of surfing and using the Internet, and the social aspect of online interactivity. This article was published in 2004 (as was Christensen), before Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter, etc. had either been launched or expanded in usage. And, although Google and other search engines were in existence, the ubiquity of search has grown considerably since then. I find each of these areas of interest, particularly in areas where there appear to be convergences.
The Internet’s “publish then filter” paradigm, along with the explosion of user-generated content (UGC) means that there is even more “something for everyone” on the Web, as long as you can find it. I see more sites and content publishers that are followed daily by me and others that I might have only checked a few times a week ten years ago. However, when researching a project, topic, or problem at work or at home, a search engine is the first address typed into a browser. The skill of crafting a succinct search, resulting in exactly what I am looking for, provides terrific gratification. Likewise, getting back several pages of relative nonsense when the search phrase is inadequate is frustrating. The third bit of growth and convergence is around social interactivity. The most obvious evidence is the emergence of Facebook (which last week past 150 million active members, with almost half of them using it every day), Twitter and other social media. This is in itself significant, but grafting in the enjoyment of the content itself and the use of the tools appears to imply that the sites or services that can best capitalize on all three areas of gratification will continue to drive substantial growth. Today I would point to Facebook and Amazon as site that get it right.
Predicting where this will go is the subject of Christensen’s book. Of the subjects covered so far, I find the analysis of the kinds of customers (nonconsumers, undershot customers and overshot customers) especially interesting. My team at work is confronted with a mix of all three of these customers. In our context, nonconsumers are those who do not utilize Microsoft Learning products at all (the vast majority on Earth don’t use Microsoft products, but of those who do, most do not consume our particular product). Undershot customers for us are those who hearken back to Microsoft Learning products of a number of years ago when, they feel, the product was more perfect and better crafted. They are very frustrated with the current quality of some of the products we build. The overshot customers are those who are happy with “good enough” products. They feel that the current Microsoft Learning products are over-priced, over-engineered and that non-Microsoft Learning products (that train on Microsoft technologies) do as good or better a job of training IT professionals, software developers and information workers. As an organization we are working on strategies to address each of these segments, and the insights and theories in Christensen are already providing insight.
Both of these readings present information that is helpful to me “at my desk.”