Recently had a good discussion with Tony Fish, author of My Digital Footprint, and entrepreneur/investor with AMFventures. The discussion was in the context of our digital identity incubation project (more about that project in an upcoming blog post).
Not sure who invented it, but he came up with a really good metaphor based on the railway systems, that we could use very well in a lot of our discussions on innovation and how we have to position new services on top of or adjacent to our core messaging infrastructure.
There we have it
With credits to Tony, a classic railway system is made up from:
- Infrastructure (rails, connection);
- Enablers (signaling and control);
- Ticketing (collection of money, the market place/ exchange);
- Platforms (access – something to get customers in and out the service), and;
- Trains (the service – what I am actually paying for in the mind of the customer).
SWIFT in this model already delivers critical parts of the international payments infrastructure.
- From an innovation point of view, I believe the core of our innovation focus should be to extent our current remit to offer industry wide services that will enable Banks and Corporates to offer new services to its customers (signaling and control)
- The Banks will provide the services (ticketing, platforms and trains)
In that sense, the SWIFT 2015 strategy is spot on by stating there is still enough juice and room for innovation in the core.
But I believe a lot of thinking in the industry about innovation at SWIFT is “limited” to the messaging paradigm, and anything that goes beyond messaging seems to make some of our shareholders nervous, as it may be the space where they compete for business with each other.
The railway system metaphor is in my opinion a great help to get rid of the pure emotions in this debate, and to well articulate the roles of the different players in a “system”.
In other words
to do some system-thinking
And metaphors always help in system thinking.
Another metaphor is the operator of a horse-track: you offer the infrastructure, and the horses (or rather the horse owners) compete on the horse-track.
The worst thing the horse-track operator can do is to have horses of his own and put them in the race in competition with the other horses.
Better is to think of the horse-track as something exciting with lots of new enabling services giving horses a better experience, and enabling new merchants to offer new services to the horse-owners. And the ticketing: you can run it yourself, or outsource it.
Just one more thought. Railways make me think of old, messy, noisy, rusty environments and coaches.
Unless you take the Thalys/Eurostars in First class, or Shanghai Maglev train that propels you forward at 431 Km/hour.
I’d prefer something that “smells” like the infrastructure and ecosystem described in the book “Aerotropolis” by John D. Kasandra. (Amazon Affiliate link)
Most of my readers are probably familiar with my addiction to cities. Because they never die. They create “intencities”. Platforms of intensities where ideas can flow freely.
we add the city transportation
to the mix,
and how that can be
a real catalyst
for systemic growth
Some quotes from the Aerotropolis book:
“Look for yesterday’s busiest train terminals and you will find today’s great urban centers. Look for today’s busiest airports and you will find the great urban centers of tomorrow.”
“Cities are always created around whatever the state-of-the-art transportation device is at the time.”
“The shapes and fates of cities have always been defined by transportation. Today, this means air travel”.
Aerotropolis. It’s just sounds so much better than railway station or infrastructure:
So, is SWIFT a Railway Station ? You should be able to cook up the answer yourself now.