Individualized Value Creation for Large Populations

It’s a mistake to look at the iPad and see it only as a platform for a myriad of apps. Just as it’s a mistake to see Amazon as an interface for a lot of retail products (or books). Instead, each is a basecamp for an extended user experience.



Organizations that serve large numbers of clients are challenged to create value at the individual level and grow it. Many are suffering from an outdated way of relating to their members or customers.

The old paradigm is about developing products and services, then marketing them. Value creation is about (a) working in partnership with the ecology that gives rise to new value – this includes but is not limited to customers, (b) bringing great joy to your customers, and (c) identifying that joy correctly and nurturing its growth.

Working partnerships go beyond customers to include partners, vendors, alliances, thought leaders, practical visionaries, researchers, and anyone who is a player in the emerging value field of the customers’ lives.

Apple seems to have this down. Not only are they able to create new tools their growing customer base loves, but they work feverishly behind the scenes to create partnerships with other providers on behalf of their customers. 

The new App store, which makes it easy for customers to purchase software from their screen, is a great success because of all the applications ready to go with pricing that makes each purchase feel like a great bargain.

What is a great bargain? It’s an experience in which both the provider and the buyer are excited and feel that they have received much more than they had to give up. Apple has become master of the great bargain.


Bringing great joy to your customers is a primary focus of those who are mastering value creation.  Take a look at Netflix’s new model where they are delivering videos by streaming them through the web.

The old model requires customers to pay $10, $15, $20, or $28 per month to have a certain number of DVDs checked out at a time. For $10, you can have one. For $15, you can have two. And so on. But, the new model says for $8 a month you can have unlimited viewings delivered to you through the web. 

What? My price goes down and my viewings goes to infinite? Yes, because all of the old models require Netflix to maintain facilities, pay staff, deal with lost or broken DVDs, and so on. The new model requires nothing – zero – nada. All they have to do is have their movies on a server and the monthly check is pure profit, practically 100% margin. 

The first time I experienced my new Netflix arrangement I was overjoyed and I still love browsing the vast collection in real time to decide what I will watch when I want to watch it.

The old business paradigm doesn’t do a great job of identifying customers’ joy and growing it because they are looking through the wrong lens – they are asking how they can increase profits, rather than how they can increase value. To do a great job of identifying joy, they need to become adept at walking in their clients’ shoes.

Then, the real trick comes: providing an individualized experience for each person they serve. It’s a mistake to look at the iPad and see it only as a platform for a myriad of apps. Just as it’s a mistake to see Amazon as an interface for a lot of retail products (or books). Instead, each is a basecamp for an extended user experience.


What’s makes a good basecamp? It’s in the right place, has the supplies you need, and is easily customized to your personal needs.  The key to building individual value for large populations is to work hard at becoming the best basecamp you can be for your target population.  

For a great study in excellence, take a look at my recent Fast Co article highlighting how Bob Weidner turned around the Metal Service Center Institute, an association, so that it became the basecamp of choice for his members. MSCI is a trade association that supports and represents industry leaders in most elements of the metals value chain, including metals producers, distributors, and processors.

MSCI has everything these members need to feel at home. Bob changed the tone of volunteer leadership activities, including the board meetings, to make the best use of the members’ time – that’s the way CEOs iike to be treated. He turned their magazine from a home club publication into an organ that profiles world-class leaders – just the kind of periodical a true industry leader would look forward to reading. 

Bob sees his job as making “sure that both strategic and tactical information is being communicated to our members in ways they understand and constructively pushes them outside their comfort zone.”  Exactly what successful industry entrepreneurs would look for to stay ahead of the curve. Bob has taken an old style association, in deep financial trouble, and turned it into a successful basecamp for his industry’s leaders.

If you want each and every member/customer in your business to get excited about what’s in it for them, if you want every individual to look forward to doing business with you because it is such a great bargain, and if you want to generate value one person at a time across a large population of clients, then build a basecamp that has the basic supplies they need, makes them feel at home, and is easily customizable by them.

Seth Kahan ( is a Change Leadership specialist, helping leaders successfully adapt to the new world of business. He has worked closely with CEOs and executives in over 50 world-class organizations that include Shell, Prudential, Marriott, World Bank, Peace Corps, American Society of Association Executives, Project Management Institute, and NASA. His Web site is His latest book is Getting Change Right: How Leaders Transform Organizations from the Inside Out. Download a free excerpt at



About the author

I help leaders with change, innovation, and growth. My latest book is "Getting Innovation Right." My first book, "Getting Change Right," was a business bestseller. home office: (301) 229-2221, USA - email: