| McKinsey Quarterly
Creating Value in the Age of Distributed Capitalism
Capitalism is a book of many chapters—and we are beginning a new one. Every century or so, fundamental changes in the nature of consumption create new demand patterns that existing enterprises can't meet. When a majority of people want things that remain priced at a premium under the old institutional regime—a condition I call the "premium puzzle"—the ground becomes extremely fertile for wholly new classes of competitors that can fulfill the new demands at an affordable price. A premium puzzle existed in the auto industry before Henry Ford and the Model T and in the music industry before Steve Jobs and the iPod. The consumption shift in Ford's time was from the elite to the masses; today, we are moving from an era of mass consumption to one focused on the individual. Sharp increases in higher education, standards of living, social complexity, and longevity over the past century gave rise to a new desire for individual self-determination: having control over what matters, having one's voice heard, and having social connections on one's own terms. The leading edge of consumption is now moving from products and services to tools and relationships enabled by interactive technologies.