May 20, 2018


What is the future that will unfold?
Some like it hot, others like it cold
But we all want to hold the remote control
-Beastie Boys

Sometimes a service provides a value to its customers that may not be readily apparent at first glance. And sometimes that value can be more fundamentally important to those customers that the actual “widget” that is being sold.

Netflix is a good example. Their stated service is simple: “Watch Netflix movies & TV shows online.” But if you listen to the words of the people that run that company, something different emerges.

CEO Reed Hastings has in the past described how viewing works on Netflix:

“Binge-watching is great because it puts you in control. You have complete flexibility.”   

These words don’t appear to be an accident. Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos was very specific in February 2018 when he stated that "the core to the consumer proposition of Netflix is consumer control."

Clearly, Netflix provides a service to view content. But it also delivers something much more powerful to people - the ability to determine how and when to spend their time, attention and focus (a form of self-actualization). To compete effectively with Netflix would require that another service competes on the axis of control. Not as easy as delivering content.

Having and giving control is very empowering.

This gets interesting if we view control as a way to evaluate markets or companies. What other services deliver control to their users in this way?

Let’s take healthcare. How transformative would it be to see services that deliver a radical shift in control from the system to the patient? What would this mean? More than online appointment booking or pleasant offices. Instead, directly shifting control over time and space from the provider to the patient.

The value of control, or agency over a person’s own time and space, is hard to measure or quantify in a business model. The Netflix analogy here is instructive. Some have imagined what the Apple or Amazon of healthcare would look like. The Netflix of healthcare would be vastly more interesting. It could catalyze a movement in a market where changes are tightly-restrained by large organizations and professionals. It would provide a value to consumers beyond just their health: control.

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