Once upon a time in a career far away, Joe Pine worked for IBM in Rochester, Minnesota. For the launch of the AS/400 computer system he created a group that brought customers and business partners into the actual development process. Because of this innovative activity, customer needs were met more exactly and quality was significantly enhanced – factors that contributed greatly to IBM winning the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 1990.
One of the lessons that Joe learned during this time was that every one of these customers was unique. After moving into strategic planning, this insight led him to read Stan Davis’ seminal book Future Perfect. When Joe read the chapter on mass customizing, he had an epiphany that led to placing the idea of efficiently serving customers uniquely into IBM’s vision and strategy. It also led to the Management of Technology Program at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He focused his master’s thesis on this subject and determined to turn it into a book after graduation
Two years later, in late 1992, Mass Customization: The New Frontier in Business Competition was published by Harvard Business School Press. About six months after that Joe received a letter in the mail from some guy named Jim Gilmore with CSC Cleveland Consulting Associates, who said his reaction upon discovering the book was “Oh shoot – someone else has already written it!” They immediately struck up a friendship, which lead to CSC becoming Joe’s best client when he later left IBM.
Their collaboration resulted in, first, some great work guiding CSC clients; second, a Harvard Business Review article, Joe’s third, on “The Four Faces of Mass Customization”; and third, discovering and delineating the emerging Experience Economy. (Joe can still remember the instigation of the latter: an executive education session where, in response to a question, he uttered the phrase “Mass customizing a service automatically turns it into an experience!” A new-to-the-world idea was born.)
More important than any one idea, however, was the creation of a different kind of firm, Strategic Horizons LLP, whose raison d’etre would be to discover what was going on in the business world, make sense of it, and then develop frameworks so that companies could respond intelligently to the fundamental changes happening in the competitive environment.
Simply put, Joe specializes in helping people see the world of business differently. He did that first by promulgating the concept of Mass Customization in his first book, and did it again with The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre & Every Business a Stage, co-authored with Jim and published by HBSP in 1999 (nine months after another HBR article, “Welcome to the Experience Economy”). Joe & Jim have recently done it again, discovering that in the Experience Economy, people increasingly question what is real and what is not. And more and more, they want the real from the genuine, not the fake from the phony. Authenticity, therefore, is becoming the new consumer sensibility – the buying criterion by which people choose what to buy, and who to buy from. This resulted in their most recent path-breaking book, Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want, published by (of course) HBSP in late 2007. The book was honored as one of the Top 10 business books of the year by Amazon.com editors. And of note, TIME magazine soon after featured Authenticity among its “10 Ideas That Are Changing The World” cover story, for which Joe and Jim were extensively featured.
Such discoveries about business and commerce do not happen by accident. They result from voluminous reading, wide-ranging real-world experiences, a talent for pattern recognition, and the ability to conceptualize what they see into meaningful models for action. Indeed, Joe likes to say that they should’ve named the company “Frameworks ‘R’ Us”. Most evenings you’ll find him pursuing the first step – reading one of four daily newspapers, 40 periodicals to which he subscribes, or scores of books he gets through every year.
When he’s not writing, that is. Joe describes that as his first (vocational) love, taking fingers to keyboard in order to vigorously wrestle with the ideas, first, and only then to describe them to others. Joe further sharpens these ideas and frameworks in the speeches, workshops, executive education, and ongoing consulting he performs with Fortune 500 and entrepreneurial start-ups alike. While a terrific stand-up speaker who knows both how to keep an audience entertained and how to impart actionable ideas and frameworks that listeners can use to change their companies, Joe loves nothing better than small, intimate gatherings where other people become full participants in coming to grips with the ideas, corralling the frameworks to their own use, and committing to a course of action that benefits their customers, and therefore their businesses.
That’s why he loves teaching so much. Joe started out teaching at the IBM Advanced Business Institute in his last assignment there, and has also taught at Penn State, Duke Corporate Education, UCLA, the University of Minnesota, the Harvard Design School, and back at MIT, among others. After The Experience Economy came out in 1999, the University of Amsterdam asked him to become a visiting professor, enabling Joe to establish a beachhead, of sorts, in the European theatre where he further co-founded the European Centre for the Experience Economy for ongoing research and education.
When not on the road, Joe spends as much time as possible with his wife, Julie, and two daughters, Rebecca (when she’s home from college) and Elizabeth (before she heads off to college in Fall 2008), while also occasionally studying and teaching Christian apologetics, frequently playing golf and table tennis, and regularly watching his beloved New York Yankees, Green Bay Packers, and Los Angeles Lakers (he moved around a lot as a kid). He works out of a home office with wall-to-wall bookcases, CD racks filled with classical, jazz, and new age music, and a cup warmer for his ever-present tea (Starbucks’ Tazo Chai preferred).
When a client calls, however, Joe’s always ready to go. His motto: Have audience, will perform.
MOST REQUESTED TOPICS:
Authenticity as the New Consumer Sensibility
In a world increasingly filled with staged experiences – an increasingly unreal world – consumers decide to buy or not to buy based on how real they perceive the offering to be. Businesses today must learn to understand, manage, and excel at rendering Authenticity with a capital “A”. Finding ways to tap into this emerging standard of selection and criteria for purchase will become essential. To be blunt: business offerings must get real. This new challenge can be defined best as the management of the customer perception of authenticity. In an age when consumers want what’s real, this becomes the new business imperative, and success awaits those who gain an understanding of what’s real and what’s fake – or at least what elements contribute to forming such consumer perceptions – about the output generated from their own enterprises. This is the subject of Pine & Gilmore's latest book Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want.
The Emergence and Steady Maturation of the Experience Economy
Just as the Industrial Economy supplanted the Agrarian Economy and was in turn supplanted by the Service Economy, we are now shifting to an Experience Economy. Good and services are no longer enough; they’re becoming mere commodities. The developed world’s predominant economic offering is fast becoming experiences – memorable events that engage each customer in an inherently personal way. Pine & Gilmore first described this fundamental shift in the very fabric of the economy in their 1997 Strategy & Leadership article “Beyond Goods and Services” and then fully detailed how companies could forestall commoditization by depicting and staging experiences in their 1999 book The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre & Every Business a Stage. Recognizing that even experiences could be commoditized, Pine & Gilmore further demonstrate that companies can use them as the basis for a fifth economic offering: transformations, where businesses guide their customers to achieve their aspirations. More recently, Pine & Gilmore have extended their ideas in the e-Doc, The Experience IS the Marketing, to show how any company can use experiences to generate demand for their offerings.
The Rise of Mass Customization
Customers don’t want choice – they simply want what they want. The advent of Mass Production allowed the average consumer to own a piece of the American dream at an affordable price, but at the expense of custom-tailored goods and services. Today, however, thanks to the swift evolution of technology and improved management processes, Mass Customization enables companies to create individually customized offerings at prices customers are willing to pay. Joe Pine’s 1993 award-winning book Mass Customization: The New Frontier in Business Competition is considered the pre-eminent source on the subject, while subsequent writings such as Pine & Gilmore’s Harvard Business Review article “The Four Faces of Mass Customization” have extended the ideas to show how companies should respond to what has become an imperative in industry after industry. As consumers increasingly demand greater personalization in their lives, Mass Customization will become as important in the 21st century as Mass Production was in the 20th.