According to Pine & Gillmore in their book The Experience Economy (1998), when making an economic offering to your clients, there has been, from a historical perspective, an economic progression of value.

Progression of economic value consists of:
– Commodities
– Goods
– Services
– Experiences
– Transformations

Each level is totally different from the others, and each is enveloped by the next.

Now, using coffee as an example, imagine a coffee bean. A coffee bean is a commodity. For the large part, commodities are extracted. Prices are set by the market. Goods are tangible items that are created from commodities, and are a main component of the industrial economy. They command a higher price because they can be used immediately. Now, imagine roasted coffee beans. Goods are made.
Services are what you do with goods, like obtaining a cup of coffee at McDonald’s. Services are delivered or provided, and thus create the Service Economy.
Experiences are a mindset, staged and authentic to the business. Experiences are a “distinct economic offering” that are as different from services as services are from goods. When buying coffee at Starbucks, you not only buy the coffee, but a dynamic “hot spot” environment in which to spend some time and use the free Wi-Fi. You are buying the Starbucks experience, but at a higher price than the coffee at McDonalds.

Customization allows you to move up the ladder of economic value. However, concepts can be copied, or the operations may lose connection with the concept. Or, the element of surprise becomes smaller: “been there, done that.” Then, your offering is commoditized, and you move down the ladder.

After the economic offering of experience, we approach the next steps, according to Pine & Gillmore, which are referred to as “transformations.” Transformations are becoming the ultimate economic offering for any corporation, value network, or independent contractor.
By customizing an experience to create a learning experience, making it just right for an individual – providing exactly what he/she needs right now– you cannot help changing or transforming that individual. You coach your client to change. Transformations, a changed person, are a result of what the company does. In other words, the customer is the product, and hence, transformations are the last and final economic offering.

So, in brief, “a transformation is a tailor-made experience with an educational element and a changed individual as a result.”

Working from this point of view, we learned at our co-work locations that the “educational element” for our stakeholders is the “unexpected relevance,” or serendipity, of an experience. Since we are in the people-meeting-people industry, we realized that, by offering a stage for stakeholders to act upon, and by facilitating the process of “unexpected, relevant, serendipitous, meetings” between stakeholders while visiting our S2M locations, we achieved co-created transformations as manifestations of our added value, and thus, our right to existence.
One of the tools we use to stimulate serendipitous meetings at a location is the Serendipity Machine, augmenting the reality of our physical locations with a branded, real-time virtual dashboard that shows everyone virtually “present” at any given time. The shown data includes the visitors knowledge, expertise and experience – enriched with social media buzz and relevant local information.

It works amazingly well. Research by the Rotterdam School of Management in the Mesh supports that “many people at S2m actively engage in interaction with other coworkers and that the payoffs are manifold. Not only does working at S2m increase their social network, it helps also to develop people’s skills and improves their products and services. These personal business outcomes are then followed by concrete business outcomes such as collaborating on a project or targeting prospects together. Even finding new jobs and assignments are not uncommon outcomes.”

Your challenge is to figure out how to co-create unexpected, relevant experiences together with your stakeholders in order to ensure your right to existence in the interdependent economy of Society 3.0. And yes, the good news is that the Serendipity Machine dashboard is available for everybody…you can also start by reading the book The Serendipity Machine, available as a free download!


Part of this blog text appears in the book Society30.