Joe Pine

Once upon a time in a career far away, Joe Pine worked for IBM in Rochester, Minnesota. For the launch of the AS/400 computer system he created a group that brought customers and business partners into the actual development process. Because of this innovative activity, customer needs were met more exactly and quality was significantly enhanced—factors that contributed greatly to IBM winning the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 1990.

One of the lessons that Joe learned during this time was that every one of these customers was unique. After moving into strategic planning, this insight led him to read Stan Davis’ seminal book Future Perfect. When Joe read the chapter on mass customizing, he had an epiphany that led to placing the idea of efficiently serving customers uniquely into IBM’s vision and strategy. It also led to the Management of Technology Program at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He focused his master’s thesis on this subject and determined to turn it into a book after graduation.

Two years later, in late 1992, Mass Customization: The New Frontier in Business Competition was published by Harvard Business School Press. About six months after that Joe received a letter in the mail from some guy named Jim Gilmore with CSC Cleveland Consulting Associates, who said his reaction upon discovering the book was “Oh shoot—someone else has already written it!” They immediately struck up a friendship, which lead to CSC becoming Joe’s best client when he later left IBM.

Their collaboration resulted in, first, some great work guiding CSC clients; second, a Harvard Business Review article, Joe’s third, on “The Four Faces of Mass Customization”; and third, discovering and delineating the emerging Experience Economy. (Joe can still remember the instigation of the latter: an executive education session where, in response to a question, he uttered the phrase “Mass customizing a service automatically turns it into an experience!” A new-to-the-world idea was born.) More important than any one idea, however, was the creation of a different kind of firm, Strategic Horizons LLP, whose raison d’etre would be to discover what was going on in the business world, make sense of it, and then develop frameworks so that companies could respond intelligently to the fundamental changes happening in the competitive environment.

Simply put, Joe specializes in helping people see the world of business differently. He did that first by promulgating the concept of Mass Customization in his first book, and did it again with The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre & Every Business a Stage, co-authored with Jim and published by HBSP in 1999 (nine months after another HBR article, “Welcome to the Experience Economy”). Joe & Jim have recently done it again, discovering that in the Experience Economy, people increasingly question what is real and what is not. And more and more, they want the real from the genuine, not the fake from the phony. Authenticity, therefore, is becoming the new consumer sensibility—the buying criterion by which people choose what to buy, and who to buy from. This resulted in their most recent path-breaking book, Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want, published by (of course) HBSP in 2007.

Such discoveries do not happen by accident. They result from voluminous reading, wide-ranging real-world experiences, a talent for pattern recognition, and the ability to conceptualize what they see into meaningful models for action. Indeed, Joe likes to say that they should’ve named the company “Frameworks ‘R’ Us”. Most evenings you’ll find him pursuing the first step—reading one of four daily newspapers, 40+ periodicals to which he subscribes, or scores of books he gets through every year.

When he’s not writing, that is. Joe describes that as his first (vocational) love, taking fingers to keyboard in order to vigorously wrestle with the ideas, first, and only then to describe them to others. Joe further sharpens these ideas and frameworks in the speeches, workshops, executive education, and ongoing consulting he performs with Fortune 500 and entrepreneurial start-ups alike. While a terrific stand-up speaker who knows both how to keep an audience entertained and how to impart actionable ideas and frameworks that listeners can use to change their companies, Joe loves nothing better than small, intimate gatherings where other people become full participants in coming to grips with the ideas, corralling the frameworks to their own use, and committing to a course of action that benefits their customers, and therefore their businesses.

That’s why he loves teaching so much. Joe started out teaching at the IBM Advanced Business Institute in his last assignment there, and has also taught at Penn State, Duke Corporate Education, UCLA, the University of Minnesota, the Harvard Design School, and back at MIT, among others. After The Experience Economy came out in 1999, the University of Amsterdam asked him to become a visiting professor, enabling Joe to establish a beachhead, of sorts, in the European theatre where he further co-founded the European Centre for the Experience Economy for ongoing research and education.

When not on the road, Joe spends as much time as possible with his wife, Julie, and two daughters, Rebecca (when she’s home from college) and Elizabeth (before she heads off to college in Fall 2008), while also occasionally studying and teaching Christian apologetics, frequently playing golf and table tennis, and regularly watching his beloved New York Yankees, Green Bay Packers, and Los Angeles Lakers (he moved around a lot as a kid). He works out of a home office with wall-to-wall bookcases, CD racks filled with classical, jazz, and new age music, and a cup warmer for his ever-present tea (Starbucks’ Tazo Chai preferred).

When a client calls, however, Joe’s always ready to go. His motto: Have audience, will perform.

Q&A with Joe Pine, “Business Consultant”

I help companies create new and wondrous experiences, and become more authentic, more real and genuine in their customers' eyes.


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