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Net Gain: Expanding Markets Through Virtual Communities

1 rating: 5.0
A book by John Hagel III

Building relationships with customers has been a buzz phrase in many business circles for years. Now John Hagel and Arthur Armstrong declare that's not enough. They make a strong case that business success in the very near future will depend on using … see full wiki

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Author: John Hagel III
Publisher: Harvard Business Press
1 review about Net Gain: Expanding Markets Through Virtual...

Virtual Communities = Real Prosperity

  • Mar 4, 2002
Hagel has co-authored two especially important books (with Arthur G. Armstrong III and Marc Singer, respectively), the other being Net Worth "which builds on a number of the themes originally developed" in this volume. As Hagel and Armstrong point out, Net.Gain "systematically [analyzes] the economic drivers for value creation that exist on networks. It [uses] one particular business model -- the virtual community -- to illustrate the unique capabilities of digital networks and how these might be harnessed to create a substantial business with very attractive economics." The material is carefully organized within three Parts: The Real Value of Virtual Communities, Building a Virtual Community, and Positioning to Win the Broader Game. Hagel and Armstrong also provide a "Management Agenda", followed by excellent suggestions for further reading.

In the Preface, Hagel and Armstrong acknowledge three inevitable limitations in writing Net.Gain: "The first arises from the profound uncertainties associated with evolving electronic networks and the myriad business models emerging in the primordial brew known as cycberspace....Second, the need to be concise has led us to make some generalizations about the likely evolution of virtual communities and the key principles for success....Third, we do not expect virtual communities to be the only 'form of life' on public networks. Indeed, many other commercial and non-commercial formats (including dictionaries, market spaces, 'web'zines,' corporate sites and game areas) will thrive on these networks as well." Working within these limitations, Hagel and Armstrong succeed admirably when describing the power and potential of the virtual community concept. Also, when explaining (a) how to target the kind of community to start-up; (b) the principles of a successful entry strategy, emphasizing the need to generate, engage, and lock in traffic over time; (c) characteristics of community organizations; and (d) criteria by which to select the right technology. Then in Part Three, Hagel and Armstrong shift their attention to explaining the fundamental ways in which the emergence and spread of virtual communities will alter traditional business.

My strong recommendation is that this book be read first, then Net Worth. My further recommendation is that both books be used to formulate the agenda for a workshop or what is generally referred to as an "executive retreat" (preferably for two days and located offsite) with all participants required to read both books in advance. In their Epilogue, Hagel and Armstrong suggest that "the most radical potential impact of the virtual community may well be its impact on the way individuals manage their lives and companies manage themselves. Communities will serve to connect, much like the postage system and telephone before them. But they will go several steps further than the telephone or fax, as they help the individual to seek out and find. Souls in search of relationship, colleagues in search of teamwork,, customers in search of products, suppliers in search of markets: the virtual community might have a place for them after all." Those who share my high regard for Hagel's two books (co-authored with Armstrong and Singer, respectively) are urged to check out Peter Senge's The Fifth Discipline as well as O'Dell and Grayson's If Only We Knew What We Know. Both can also help with the planning and implementing of the off-site workshop recommended earlier.

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