Review: Platform Leadership

Book cover of Platform LeadershipBook cover of Business of Platform

by Annabelle Gawer, Michael A. Cusumano et al.

Many years ago a friend of mine recommended a book called Platform Leadership that he had read as part of his own school curriculum.

This book was a blast and dissected with great details and clarity two widely different ways to build platforms, two ways that both shaped the "computer" world we were living in, back then. Mostly focusing on how Intel worked hard to grow the PC industry it occasionally compared their strategy to how Microsoft grew their own "Windows" business.

And the world moved on, and the computer industry as well. So I recently got curious to see if any update existed to that book... just to find that, instead of an update, a whole new book had been written mostly by the same authors: Business of Platforms.

Another blast ensued, and now I'll tell you why.

Business explained to techies ?

Bulb and circuits

In a nutshell what I like most with both books is that they help a techie understand how platforms work as businesses.

Indeed, being a software engineer myself, I've used and contributed to several platforms. But none of the intuition I ever developed about the "tech" ingredients, ever helped me understand how they do get money flowing and thrive from a business perspective.

The books provide a clear approach to grasp just that.

Serious science with deep insights

A few more elements about what I appreciated about the books and the second one in particular:

They use concrete and often famous examples as case studies and the most recent book is an impressive showdown of all the big web platforms you can think of (GAFAM or course, Alibaba, Uber etc).

Two chemistry bottles

They provide a clean "model" to start with, by distinguishing innovation and transaction platforms. Then, they cover the "oversimplification" that comes with it (as with any model) by addressing the "hybrid" platforms, building up on the initial dichotomy.

Several parts of the book also address failure examples, which in itself is not so common but makes the work all the more solid and insightful.

Curious for more ?

If you've read this far and you're curious about what those strategies are, I can only recommend giving a try at those books.

And as appetizer I can offer this tentative of a "system thinking" diagram summary of my understanding of how the platform strategies work. Keep in mind that I'm neither an expert in the core topic, nor an expert in "system design" schematics ;).

Diagram using system thinking conventions to represent strategies for platform leadership