The era of small and interactive

The new network enterprises are creating a new world of work and new business for their logistics partners

Over the past years, new technologies and abundant data have laid the foundation for a small size, low-cost enterprise with the potential for managing very large markets and large numbers of business relationships. The impact of these new actors has been hard to grasp because we are used to thinking about manufacturing from a different perspective. Our thinking arises from the mass-industrial make-and-sell model, where large was always better than small. This is now being supplanted by a different paradigm; a relational, network approach enabled by new digital coordination technologies.

The new economy demands new skills: managing and coordinating supply-chain logistics is less important than building networks and enabling trust in relations. You could perhaps call the new model an on-demand-chain. It is the opposite of the make-and-sell paradigm. It is a chain of relationships that starts from interaction with the customer and leads up to the creation of the on-demand offering. As Steve Jobs put it in a different context: “you start with the customer experience and work backwards to the solution. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re going to try to sell it.”

The new “network enterprise” must be able to integrate its entire network around the needs of each individual customer context.  The on-demand-chain means continuous on-demand learning and continuous change. Your dialogue with an individual customer will change your behavior toward her and change that customer’s behavior toward you. People develop together in interaction.

An interactive, learning relationship can make the whole network smarter with every individual interaction, thus creating network effects, the new assets.

Accordingly, the enterprise increases customer engagement and retention by making loyalty more convenient than non-loyalty as a result of learning. The main benefits for the network partners are not only financial. The most valuable thing is to have access to “community knowledge”. It means to be part of a network where learning takes place faster than somewhere else.

In the mass-market economy, the focus was to create a quality product. With increased global competition and with so many quality products around that is not enough any more. To succeed you need high-quality relationships.

The relational approach is an inspiring opportunity for us humans in the digitally augmented world of work where much of what we do today is going to be done tomorrow by intelligent machines. The most energizing future may be in solving problems and spotting opportunities in creative interaction with your customer.


Esko (@EskoKilpi ) is the founder of Esko Kilpi Company, a group of researchers and strategists laying the intellectual foundations for Post-Industrial Work. They help organisations and individuals to develop capabilities, innovate and grow in the new technological and societal landscape characterised by algorithms, platforms and human interaction. They are early champions and pilots for the new disciplines of value creation as they emerge. Their theoretical framework comes from sociology, network theory, cognitive neuroscience, computer science and the sciences of complexity.