The Shape of Next-Gen Business

We’re starting to see the shape of 21st-century business.

The changes that have impacted every single area of life and business are starting to coalesce into consistent, repeated patterns that operate at different levels of scale. In aggregate, we believe these patterns describe a fundamental shift in the nature of business — a shift we're calling Next-Generation Business.

As that happens, historic leadership positions are being overturned. New competitors and new leaders have emerged. Within many of these new industries, the nature of competition has changed. Instead of supporting multiple players, many of them operate on a winner-takes-all basis.

These platform dynamics are forcing Next-Gen companies to operate very differently. Instead of competing in existing categories, they're defining new ones. To achieve category domination, they orient and organize themselves differently. And they run really, really fast to achieve what Peter Thiel calls “escape velocity” — a speed where competitors literally can’t follow fast enough and are disincentivized to try to compete.

These are the three core strategies of Next-Gen companies:

  1. Category Creation

    Recognizing that existing categories aren’t always competitive, most Next-Gen businesses are engaged in category creation, not category competition.

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  2. Customer Obsession

    They aren’t looking at meeting existing demand. They’re looking to serve unmet demand, and orient their entire company around emerging customer needs.

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  3. Human Optimization

    They pride themselves on staying agile and adaptable, and they're oriented toward tangible output and speed of delivery.

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These three core strategies create dramatic separation between Next-Gen companies and legacy companies.

They also require a very different role from brands.

Next-Gen brands don’t simply differentiate product or service offerings; they shape future demand by creating new ideas about how we can live, work or eat. Airbnb is a great example: Instead of simply offering a platform for vacation rentals, as any competitor could, they give consumers a distinct way to experience a place as a local.

These brands are evidence of how Next-Gen businesses stay connected to culture. They operate as collaboration and participation platforms with consumers and community. Importantly, they act as multipliers of growth by envisioning and creating a market that is much larger than the conventional playbook recognizes.

We see quite radical differences between legacy businesses and Next-Gen companies. In short, Next-Gen companies are defining and serving the future, whereas legacy businesses operate in stable, mature markets, which are under assault and shrinking daily.

This shift is a core area of focus for us. It's not simply a shift from one model of branding to another; it's a shift from one model of business to the next.


Next-Generation companies know the present is already
behind us, so they look to build a better world instead.
We believe creative should lead us there.

See how creative can show a way forward