What we’re thinking
- physical resources
Helpers offer their mix to seekers to integrate with during progress attempts. The intention being to minimise the seeker’s lack of resource progress hurdle.
However, helpers need to be careful, and address, any new lack of resource – such as skills – and the five other progress hurdles* their proposed mix may introduce.
Creating new and altering existing mixes is an act of innovation. The aim is to improve progress and reduce progress hurdles. Swapping resources in the mix is a fingerprint found in digital transformation, product as a service, digital twins, artificial intelligence, and more.
* adoptability, resistance, lack of confidence, misalignment on continuum and equitable exchange
Progress resource mix
When attempting to progress and reach their more desired state (progress sought), progress seekers often encounter a lack of resources hurdle. To overcome this hurdle, they frequently turn to progress propositions. These are supplementary bundles of resources offered by progress helpers. Where the primary goal of propositions is to minimise that lack of resource hurdle, and enhance a seeker’s perception of progress potential and progress reached.
One bundle in a proposition is the proposed series of progress-making activities. The other, that we discuss here, is the progress resource mix – the resources offered for integration to aid progress.
progress resources mix: a subset of a helpers resources offered to a seeker as part of a progress proposition for use in resource integrations during progress attempts.
A resource mix consists of proposition specific levels of several resources types: employees, systems, goods, data, physical resources and/or locations.
The distinguishing factor among resources lies in how they contribute to progress. Resources that propel progress by acting on other resources are termed operant resources, while those requiring action to enable progress are categorised as operand resources.
In the progress economy we see every resource as a carrier of capability. This gives us the powerful insight that we can replace one resource with another in the mix assuming they carry the same capability. For instance an employee for a goods or a system for an employee. Sometimes this might not be a one-one swap, and it might involve shifting capability requirements to the seeker. This has to do with operant/operand classification of a resource (refer to the discussion on altering the resource mix below).
Visualising resource mixes
We find a useful way to visualise progress resource mixes is as a radar graph, like below.
This allows us to simply visualise what’s in a mix and to compare and contrast different mixes.
In the above, for example, there are are three mixes that could be offered for the propositions of “getting nourishment”. We can readily see the mix for a 4* restaurant (in yellow) is substantially different than that for cooking at home (green).
Let’s delve into the elements that may appear in a resource mix bundle.
Elements of the mix
Whilst a helper may have many resources available to them, they offer only a subset to the seeker to integrate with. These can be seen as seeker facing resources. We’ve identified six types in the progress economy, namely:
- physical resources
From these we can thing of all propositions. A manufacturing company offers goods; a consulting company people; a hire car company offers a booking system, check-in/out employees and of course cars (physical resources – goods whose allocative control is temporarily given to a seeker).
Here’s some more examples of these resource types, and whether they are operant or operand:
|call centre operative, mechanic, chef, doctor, nurse, driver…
|smart phone app, chatbot, artificial intelligence/machine learning …
|telephone network, atm, wordprocessor, customer service menus (press #1 for…),…
|food, cars, vinyl records, hammers, tools,…
|music/video streams, e-books, bitcoin,…
|maps, information, lists, personal data, categorised/labelled data etc
|goods where ownership does not transfers to seeker.
|hospital, mechanics garage
We can now complete our definition of the progress resource mix as follows:
progress resources mix: a subset of a helpers resources offered to a seeker, as part of a progress proposition, for use in resource integrations during progress attempts
It comprises proposition specific levels (maybe none) of six, generally interchangeable, capability carrying resources:
- physical resources
Let’s briefly explore each of these in turn and link to more detailed explorations. After which we’ll explore innovation (creating and altering mixes).
Employees represent the human resources of the helper who interact with the seeker (for our current view of Artificial Intelligence, see operand systems below).
We classify employees as operand resources. They have a pivotal role in providing the helper with strategic benefit (as service-dominant logic tells us). This is reflected in comments such as the following by Richard Branson:
Clients do not come first, employees come first. If you take care of employees, they will take care of the clientsRichard Branson
Employees play an important role in understanding seeker’s progress sought and origin. They can, if allowed, adjust a proposition during interactionsto fit. Which also means they can be good at minimising, and even reversing, value co-destruction (situations where progress is hampered by one or both parties).
We can swap employees in the mix for some combination of systems and/or goods/physical resources. However, this substitution isn’t always a straightforward one-to-one replacement. We may transfer significant assumptions on capability to the seeker.
Systems offered by helpers can be categorised into two types: operand and operant systems.
- Operand Systems: These are systems that require action or operation to facilitate progress. A classic example is a word processor, which requires user input and engagement for progress to be made.
- Operant Systems: On the other hand, systems like ChatGPT and similar large language models are considered operant systems. They act on other resources with progress being the result.
Nowadays, systems are often synonymous with Information Technology (IT) systems. To echo Marc Andreessen famous quote, “Software is eating the world.”, modified slightly:
resource mixes heavy on systems are eating the worldupdating Marc Andreessen’s “software is eating the world”
However, it’s important to note that systems in the resource mix are not restricted to IT-based solutions. They can be mechanical systems, or organisation procedures etc.
A proposition’s proposed series of progress-making activities is actually an operant system. Although for conceptual reasons, we consider that as separate to the resource mix.
Systems have long been replacing employees in mixes from textile weavers to modern digitisation.
Goods are “manufactured outputs” (Vargo & Lush (2004) “Evolving to a New Dominant Logic”) which can be in physical or digital form. We’re talking tools, cars, chocolate bars, CDs, eBooks, receipts, etc. They are operand resources and need to be acted upon for progress to be made.
We look on them in a different way in the progress economy than the traditional way. Goods freeze specific aspects of a helper’s skills and knowledge, allowing for their distribution.
A CD/digital stream freezes a pop band applying their skills to instruments; a hammer freezes the manufacturer’s knowledge of how to amplify strength/force to push metal into wood.
We unfreeze those skills and knowledge when a resource integration occurs at the time and place of the seeker’s choosing. Pressing play on on a music player; hitting a nail with the hammer.
A defining feature of goods is the permanent transfer of ownership from the helper to the seeker as part of the service exchange. The seeker becomes permanent controller of allocation.
Since goods are carriers of capability – they encapsulate skills and competence – they are interchangeable with other components of the resource mix. However, a goods in the mix implies the seeker possesses the necessary resources to use them. And exchanging another resource for a goods often means there are capability requirements transferred to the seeker.
While data can be considered a (digital) good, its paramount importance in today’s world means we want to give it a distinct categorisation. As an operand resource, another resource needs to act on data to make progress.
Data encapsulates knowledge so it can replace or be replaced by other resources that can encapsulate knowledge. It often resides within a goods (books…) a system (database…) or humans (employees or seeker).
Physical resources are a special case of goods. Ones where the allocative control – the capability to control when and how a resource is used – is temporarily transferred from helper to seeker.
Think of a hire car. It’s a physical goods, whose allocative control is given to the seeker for the duration of the hire period. The situation with digital goods is a little murkier, at least in the eyes of seekers, who can get upset when streaming sites delete “their” content.
Finally we may have locations in the resource mix. These are physical or virtual places where progress-making activities might need to take place. They may encapsulate helpers specialist knowledge and skills.
A hospital, for example, with its sterile rooms; a garage with inspection pits; cinema’s with their state of art screens and sound systems. A social media site with its algorithms highlighting posts of interest to you.
They can be replaced by seekers own locations together with some combination of goods and employees.
Relating to innovation – Crafting a progress resource mix
People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!Levitt, as quoted in Christensen’s 2006 article “What Customers Want from Your Products”
When looking to create a mix we need to have good insights into several aspects of the seeker:
- their functional, non-functional and contextual progress sought.
- their progress origin
- the resources they lack
Ideally we’ll do this for the individual seeker. Though in practice we likely will need to generalise a little to reduce a potentially high equitable exchange we’d need.
Also we keep in mind the point of a resource mix is providing supplementary resources that help a seeker with some combination of:
- increasing their progress towards progress sought
- improving the existing progress they can make
- reducing one or more of the six progress hurdles.
With a good view of the progress sought (rather than goods needed), and from where, we’re now able to consider the resource mix at a high level.
Does the seeker’s contextual progress hint they lack time as a resource? If so, we should start thinking of a relieving proposition (using employees / operant systems). What about the non-functional progress sought. Is that pointing us in the direction of a relieving or an enabling mix (operand systems, goods, physical resources etc).
What resources does the seeker have that we feel can be leveraged? Both operant resources and operand like direct skills and knowledge, or strength, or network etc.
Now we know the progress and resource situation, we can look to find the appropriate resources for our mix. But even here we need to be mindful of the progress hurdles.
Do we believe the resources we plan to offer reduce the lack of resource sufficiently? Are they introducing a new lack of resource? Its fun to think of providing a flying platform to solve a transport progress sought – but does the seeker have the skills and knowledge to fly? Can we minimise that gap by automation?
Will the seeker resist using the innovation? It might be challenging, for instance, to offer personal nuclear fusion devices for houses given the historic resistance to nuclear fusion power plants. Even if Sweden once looked to have fission per city, like they did for Farsta just outside Stockholm.
Are the resources adoptable by the seeker – the classic Rogers’ innovation perspective. Will the seeker have confidence in your mix and in you? And have we got an attractable enough business model (minimising equitable exchange progress hurdle)?
Relating to innovation – Altering a progress resource mix
Altering the resource mix is a systematic approach to innovation. We can alter an existing mix in several ways:
- adding resources
- removing resources
- improving one or more existing resource
- swapping resource(s) of one type for resource(s) of different types
For each approach we still need to take account of the points from creating a mix. That is to say fully understanding the three elements – functional, non-functional, contextual – of seeker’s progress sought and origin; discovering their resource gap, and understanding their existing progress hurdles. And we’re still trying to help the seeker with some combination of:
- reaching closer to their progress sought
- making existing progress better
- reducing their perception of one or more progress hurdle
With that in mind, let’s look at the approaches
Can we help a seeker reach nearer their progress sought by adding more resources to our mix? Right now, for example, the world is full of computer applications adding AI systems as “co-pilots”. Arguably enabling less experienced users to do more complex things.
Or can adding resource help seekers make their current progress better? Where better often relates to non-functional requirements – better, quicker, to name a couple.
Consider a scenario where the seeker’s functional progress sought involves learning a specific topic, and we currently offer a digital textbook to help. Could we augment this by introducing a chatbot interface to the book, allowing the seeker to access information in a non-linear manner, fostering engagement, and facilitating quicker learning?
Expanding our resources offered isn’t limited to adding systems. Some propositions may introduce goods to fulfil seekers’ non-functional progress goals, like showcasing the service they are using.
Alternatively, if you provide tools (goods), you might observe that seekers stumble with progress due to lacking an effective location to use them. Should a nordic ski manufacturer build indoor ski tunnels so their customers can ski all year round, for example? Or invest in artificial cross-country ski tracks?
Your source of additional resources should be wide. Look both inside your market/industry and in others.
Sometimes these additional resources might fit better as distinct propositions from a helper. Or one helper may identify a gap in other helpers’ mixes and look to offer a supplementary proposition themselves.
Going the other way we may wish to remove resources from the mix. Perhaps we see a benefit (to the seeker) in unbundling an existing proposition.
When analysing progress sought we may identify a sufficient seeker segment to which we are over offering resources. Therefore likely creating a higher equitable exchange hurdle or complexity. Or to who those extra resources are generating negligible additional progress. So take those resources out of your mix (or, depending on segment sizes, and your strategy, create two mixes).
We may also find seekers have acquired resources from other markets/industries that we can leverage rather than continue to offer. Innovation needs to be a constant activity.
Improving existing resources
There’s always the classic approach of improving your mixes existing resources to help make progress better, better progress, and reducing hurdles.
Can you make the goods offered more affordable, safer, more functional, or more easily adoptable? Consider training initiatives for employees. How can you empower them to be more operand and not merely rule implementors (Branson’s “look after your ”If you take care of employees, they will take care of the clients”).
How can you make systems more function-able. And more usable? For example, should supermarket self-checkout systems use a physical and user interface similar to those staff use on manned checkouts; or should they be more public friendly? Why make a customer unnecessarily feel like an employee as well as use an interface they have no training on?
Swapping resource types
Since resources are seen as carriers of capability we can swap one resource type for another that carries the same capability. In practice it might require a many-one or one-many swap. It may even require some partial capability swap – often knowledge and/or skills – with the seeker.
Swapping resource types is a fingerprint of many innovation moves, here’s some examples::
|“from” Resource Mix
|“to” Resource Mix
|Product as a Service / Servitization
|physical resources +
systems (asset management) and potentially employees
|paper/mechanical based systems and potentially employees
|small number of employees holding and applying skills and knowledge
|scalable digital system capturing and applying skills and knowledge
|physical resource + systems (the digital twin) and potentially employees to monitor
|bricks to clicks
|physical locations + employees
|virtual locations, systems + different employee skills
Relating to value
We know from exploring resources that resources have no value until they are used in resource integrations (which, if successful, mean progress is made, and so value emerges).
It is from that, that we derive the proposition resource mix similarly has no value, it can only offer potential for progress (from which value emerges and needs to be recognised by a seeker for it to be meaningful).
As a helper we need to determine what potential progress we believe can be made with our proposition. This becomes our progress offered, which we hope seeker’s will agree with – or at least see that our proposition’s progress offered is sufficiently close to their progress sought to warrant them engaging it in a progress attempt.