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What’s your industry? The answer may surprise you.

The way people define industries is really quite interesting. I’ve once again been asked to be a judge for the Harvard Business School New Venture Competition. They asked what industries I’m comfortable commenting on. It’s a surprisingly hard question to answer, because it’s quite unclear what an “industry” is. Here are a sample of a few things that people call industries:

  • B2C internet
  • B2B internet
  • Health Care
  • Medical Devices
  • Energy
  • Financial Services

What makes these an industry? Is it that all members of the same industry share the same markets? Is it that all members of the same industry share the same employee skill sets? Is it that all members of the same industry produce the same kind of products?

Every definition I’ve tried has glaring exceptions, which makes me wonder whether thinking in terms of “industries” really makes as much sense as I’ve always assumed.

Perhaps it makes more sense to think in terms of:

  • companies/products who serve a given market
  • companies/products that require certain kinds of distribution
  • companies/products that require certain specialized knowledge on the part of employees

What do you think?

My prediction for the 2010s

In 1999, I put forth the theory that we all had enough basic computing power and the competitive shift in the 2000s would be towards usability and user interface. I think that was about half right. The other half was the rise of social media, powered in large part by smartphones (whose success may be partially due to usability and user interface).

My prediction for the 2010s is that we’ll shift from “be connected” to “be less connected, but in just the right ways.” I suspect that by about 2013, we’ll begin to see a real backlash against the total information saturation we’re currently experiencing.