B. Joseph Pine II
Best-selling author, speaker, and management advisor
B. Joseph Pine II is an internationally acclaimed author, speaker, and management advisor to Fortune 500 companies and entrepreneurial start-ups alike. He is a Co-Founder of Strategic Horizons LLP, a thinking studio dedicated to helping businesses conceive and design new ways of adding value to their economic offerings. In 1999 Pine and his partner James H. Gilmore wrote the best-selling book The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre & Every Business a Stage, which demonstrates how goods and services are no longer enough. What companies must offer today are experiences — memorable events that engage each customer in an inherently personal way.
It’s nice to chat with you again, Joe! For our readers, would you mind telling us a little bit about your background and your area of expertise?
Absolutely. After a 13-year career at IBM, I’m now an author and management advisor. I like to say that my purpose at work is to figure out what’s going on in the world of business and then develop frameworks that first describe it, and then to prescribe what companies can do about it. Short version? “Frameworks ‘R’ Us.” I did that first with my first book Mass Customization, which is about efficiently serving customers uniquely, and then again with The Experience Economy, which says that goods and services are no longer enough; what customers really want are experiences — or memorable events that engage them in an inherently personal way. My partner Jim Gilmore and I followed that up with Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want, and I also wrote Infinite Possibility about using digital technology to fuse the real and the virtual worlds.
Your work around the Experience Economy is certainly impressive. And, as many already know, you spoke about it at HqO’s first-ever EXPERIENCE conference in 2021. What encouraged you to become an experience expert?
Once I discovered that experiences were a distinct economic offering — as distinct from services as services are from goods — I could not help but explore it thoroughly and become an expert! I realized that meant that there would be an economy where experiences became the predominant economic offering, and with Jim sought to fully understand how companies could go beyond goods and services to stage engaging, compelling, and memorable experiences.
Do you mind talking a little more about the model you created that explains how, in an experience economy, goods can become commodities, and so on and so forth?
The core model in the book is the “Progression of Economic Value,” which describes how economies have changed over millennia. First there was the Agrarian Economy based on commodities, then the Industrial Economy based on goods, then the Service Economy, and now today’s Experience Economy. One effect of these shifts is that in the Service Economy goods increasingly became commoditized — which means they are treated like a commodity where customers didn’t care about the features or benefits, but focused more and more on convenience and especially price. Services too became increasingly commoditized as customers shifted their desires more to experiences. To avoid commoditization, companies needed to shift up this Progression of Economic Value and become experience stagers, usually in addition to whatever offerings they produced before.
Thank you! You’ve come out with several books on this topic since The Experience Economy, each more interesting than the last. How have your learnings evolved over time?
Well, when I first discovered the Experience Economy there wasn’t even a World Wide Web yet, so the biggest impact has been the rise of digital technology! Note first that the Internet is the greatest force of commoditization, as it enables customers to instantly compare prices and pushes companies down to lower prices. Second, anything you can digitize you can customize. How I discovered all this is from my original work on Mass Customization — recognizing that customizing a good automatically turns it into a service —- and customizing a service turns it into an experience! And third, digital technology enables the innovation of new and wondrous experiences that simply are not possible in Reality. That’s what I explored more fully in Infinite Possibility.
There are of course many other lessons over the years, such as recognizing that time is the currency of experiences. In fact, services are about time well saved — make it nice, easy, and convenient — while experiences are about time well spent, where people value the time that they spend with the company. And there is a fifth and final level in the Progression of Economic Value where experiences are used as the raw material to guide people to change, to help them achieve their aspirations. Think about fitness centers, healthcare, weight loss, management consulting, and coaches of all stripes. I understood such transformations were also a distinct economic offering from the very beginning, but more recently realized they offered time well-invested. Earlier this year I expanded on the idea of transformation offerings with colleagues in the Harvard Business Review with an article on “The ‘New You’ Business.”
I will definitely read that article! What other recent things can we read from you?
The latest book was our 2020 re-release of The Experience Economy (which followed a 2011 Updated Edition from the original 1999 book), where we started with a new preview on Competing for Customer Time, Attention, and Money. We introduced that concept of shifting from time well saved to time well spent and then put the rest of the book’s ideas into five elements to help companies stage experiences that are robust, cohesive, personal, dramatic, and even transformative. One new idea I particularly like is the “Money Value of Time,” where companies can compare themselves against others by measuring the expenditures per minute in their experience places.
How does technology, as you mentioned earlier, play into staging experiences?
Well, the promise of digital technology is to fuse the real and the virtual through purpose-built virtual reality places, through using devices to augment our reality and bringing game-like experiences out into the real world as an alternate reality. Even using atomization to 3D print anything we can imagine! I discuss all these and more in Infinite Possibility, but another use of digital technology has only become clear in the past several years, and that is in creating experience platforms, or XPlatforms. These bring the power of platforms that have long played a disruptive role in commodities, goods, and services industries into the Experience Economy. This is done by enabling platform providers to offer and link together myriad different experiences on the one side, with those who desire such experiences on the other side.
How do you think landlords and employers can apply these learnings to the commercial real estate market and workplace experiences?
Everything I’m talking about applies not just to consumer industries but to B2B industries and employees as well. In fact, if you want to create a compelling experience for your customers, you had better stage engaging and even transformative experiences for your employees! Landlords and employers really need to focus on this today using all the same ideas, principles, and frameworks I have long written and talked about, including using experience platforms such as HqO to operationalize them directly for, to, and with tenants and employees.
Thanks so much for this conversation, Joe! Insightful as always. Where can our readers go to learn more about you and your work?
You can find me at Twitter (@joepine), on LinkedIn (/joepine), and at our own website, https://strategichorizons.com/. There’s a contact page there to sign up for our quarterly FieldNotes newsletter to keep up to date on the Experience Economy.
Conversations is a monthly blog series that features managers, partners, and topical experts working on the front lines of workplace experience — discussing the things they see, the challenges they have, and how technology impacts their work. For more information about how HqO can elevate your workplace experience strategies, schedule a free demo today.