Free was a great book. But I don’t think it went far enough.
The premise of Chris Anderson’s book was awesome: When something gets too cheap to meter, it will inevitably become free, so you should act as if it is free. Since every abundance causes another scarcity, you will be able to make money in a new way, revolutionize your industry, etc. etc. Read the book if you want to find out more. (It comes out on paperback next week. Notice the new subtitle.)
Here’s the thing though. Free isn’t the only inevitability.
Look in every business and you’ll find them: The end of oil, the aging of the population, universal access to the web, objects tweeting, etc. All of these things are inevitable, and when they happen, there will be a radical change in the way businesses work with them.
In your business, you must find out what the inevitable is and act on it today. Place your outpost there when there’s no competition, because you’ll want it when it becomes obvious to everyone in your industry.
This is the equivalent of your cool friend knowing about every hot band before you. He’s lower on the filter ladder than you, so he profits more when one of his choices hits gold. The difference is, your friend just looks avant-garde when his pick is right. With your business, it’s profit that’s on the line. :)
So in a way, acting on the inevitable is like picking horses in a race or buying land. You’re betting that things will go in a certain direction in the future. But inevitabily in an industry is usually much more obvious, and easier to hit for upstarts than big companies.
The question is how you become a foursquare instead of a Brightkite. Being there early clearly isn’t everything.
What else matters? I’m trying to figure it out.