The mistake people usually make with platform thinking is that they start to think of how to make the technological aspect of the platform work first. They think that if they build the platform, then people will come. That is putting the cart before the horse. It’s like building a stadium somewhere and expecting thousands of people to suddenly show up. You also need a football team that people want to watch, a competition that this team takes part in, and fans that want to come to the stadium. For the infrastructure to make sense, there has to be an exciting interaction. Analyzing and finding the interaction is thus the first step in building a platform.
Platforms function as hosts for interaction between producers and consumers who exchange or share what Sangeet calls a ‘core value unit’. You will need to understand the relationship between the producer and the consumer that you aim to host with your platform. Identifying the interaction that you want to facilitate is the first fundamental step in platform thinking. Then you can start thinking about what the core value unit will be.
At a second stage, we can think of the network that you want to build on your platform, the tools and rules that will structure platform interactions, and the role that data will play in coming up with algorithms or contributing to monetization.
In order to identify the interaction that your platform will facilitate, it helps to start with an even more basic question. What pain point of consumers are you addressing? How will the interaction benefit them?
THNK Creative Leadership Program participant and designer Ida Norrby asked about building a platform for doctor-patient interactions. For some diseases, the doctor-patient interaction is far from satisfactory. The patient feels they are not getting the right information and are not getting the right attention from the doctor. The doctor feels they are not getting enough information from the patient. The idea is to make a platform on which people can share information about the disease, about the treatment, and that this will help alleviate the pain point of both patient and doctor.
While this is, of course, a useful and worthwhile idea, the difficulty, as Sangeet explains, is that we shouldn’t start by building the platform and hope it will get used by doctors and patients. Instead, we should start by identifying the specific pain point that is being addressed, and the specific interaction between doctor and patient that this platform will enable. Once you have identified the interaction, you will want to test your assumptions about its efficacy by establishing a metric.