A New Model for Business: The Museum

Looking for a new model to think about business? Look no further than your local art museum, says Assistant Professor Ray Weaver. Some of the most profitable Web businesses and retailers such as Apple succeed by acting like museum curators: providing a very limited amount of choices at a time; offering a brief, engaging description of each choice; and classifying products honestly. Key concepts include:
  • "The firm as curator" is the theme of still-nascent research by HBS Assistant Professor Ray Weaver, who mis seeking feedback on the idea from practitioners.
  • Weaver argues that Web giants Groupon and Facebook are successful not only because they offer great deals and engender social networking, but because of the careful way in which they present and organize information.
by Carmen Nobel

At first blush, the consumer appeal of a business like Groupon seems pretty obvious. The popular deal-of-the-day Internet start-up sells vouchers to restaurants, spas, and other local businesses at major markdowns--and who wouldn't want to score a 100-dollar sports massage for 50 bucks?

“In general we understand the role and appreciate that an expert who functions as our decision-making proxy makes for a much better museum-going experience”

But Harvard Business School's Ray Weaver says that what Groupon is up to is much more sophisticated than just offering 50 percent-off coupons. Groupon, along with companies like Apple, Facebook, and Progressive Insurance, is a leading example of firms that are thinking about customers in a new way—much like how a museum curator orchestrates the experience of patrons. Weaver, an assistant professor in the Marketing Unitat HBS, believes that part of Groupon's success is borne of the careful way the company presents wares to its customers: providing a very limited amount of choices at a time, along with a brief, engaging description of each offering.

To that end, Weaver is exploring the idea that many consumer-centric web-based businesses would benefit from acting more like museum curators.

"Many museums have enormous collections, so the possibilities are nearly endless," he says. "And most museum patrons don't know anywhere nearly enough to make these decisions on their own, and even if they were armed with some relevant information, most don't have the time or inclination to pore over it. So while we sometimes think that particular curators have missed the mark, in general we understand the role and appreciate that an expert who functions as our decision-making proxy makes for a much better museum-going experience."

Weaver argues that web-based businesses would benefit from such expert curators. On the web, options for products, services, and information are virtually endless, too. It's daunting for customers, and there's an increasing body of academic research showing that the public responds positively to limited choices. (For instance, a recent paper demonstrated that smaller menus are generally preferable to big ones.

But like museums, these businesses must go beyond simply limiting choices, Weaver says. They must present their wares in such a way that the consumer understands and appreciates the limitations.

"Curators don't just put the stuff out there. They make choices about which pieces to put next to other pieces, and put little plaques next to them explaining why you should care," he explains. "They educate their 'customers' about what they're looking at. And that is the missed opportunity in many for-profit businesses today."

Product curation, by necessity, requires talent and care. "Most consumers bristle at constraints on choice or heavy-handed guidance about what they should want, even though (ironically) they value it when it's disguised or otherwise presented in a nonthreatening way," he says.

Weaver lists Facebook, Apple, and Progressive Insurance as other examples of successful curators. In the case of Facebook, he argues that the social media giant is wildly successful in part because it exacts precision over how users display their content—a welcome change over the Wild West of the World Wide Web.

"Of course it's true that Facebook became popular because it's really good at helping friends connect," Weaver says. "But I think a big chunk of the value of Facebook has little to do with social media, but instead flows from the control that Facebook exerts over the environment. In many ways Facebook is taking over big chunks of what we used to do using more open technologies: web search, content consumption, even e-mail. Increasingly, Facebook is valuable to many people because it represents a more orderly alternative to the web. It's a controlled environment, a structured environment. It sets the rules."

Apple, meanwhile, has made an art form out of curation, not only by limiting its product line but also by providing quick, clear explanations--starting with the way the company names its products. Consumers who visit Sony or Dell in search of a new laptop may be confused by the bevy of choices and model numbers like "XPS 15x" and "VPCSB190X." But at Apple, they have only two aptly named laptop choices: the MacBook Air, which is lightweight and geared toward consumers, and the MacBook Pro, which is targeted toward heavy-duty users. Apple's phone and tablet choices are limited to the iPhone and the iPad. Making such pro-consumer choices may be why Apple, according to recent media reports, has more money in its coffers than the US Treasury.

As for Progressive Insurance, Weaver lauds the company's decision to provide a comparison-shopping application on its home page, so that consumers can compare Progressive's quotes with estimated quotes from competitors. In doing so, Progressive informs some customers that Progressive's product may not be the best choice for them. Indeed, curators run the risk that customers will exploit the curated information, only to buy from a competitor in the end. But Weaver stresses/argues that the reward outweighs the risk in the form of goodwill, and that good curation requires honesty.

“I think a big chunk of the value of Facebook has little to do with social media, but instead flows from the control that Facebook exerts over the environment”

"Progressive provides a trust-based service," he says. "A big part of what you're buying, a fair and expeditious claims process, is something you might never use. And it is very difficult to evaluate in advance. Because of this, Progressive benefits a lot more from its curation—showing competitors' prices—than would a company whose products and services are easier to evaluate. Call it enlightened self-interest. I don't think we can expect manufacturers and retailers to change in ways that will harm profits, even if it benefits customers. But most consumers are happy to pay a fair or even premium price for products and services that really suit them. If companies are smart about this, the increases in profits from new and more satisfied customers can more than offset losses from helping some customers realize their best fit is elsewhere."

The best salespeople in brick-and-mortar shops are natural curators (and docents), guiding customers toward the wares that best suit their needs, and away from the wares that don't. But on the web, customers depend on community review sites like Yelp.com where anyone with an Internet connection can post an opinion of or a story about any given product or service. Customers often find honesty in such crowd-sourced reviews, but they'll rarely find the expertise of an in-house curator.

"The informed opinion of one expert who is motivated by a legitimate interest in assisting customers is often superior to the collective reviews of dozens or more user-customers," he says.

Just as a modern art museum is clearly a modern art museum, so should a firm be clear about what it does and doesn't offer.

"Occasionally an organization does a great job of articulating what it does and whom it's good for, and has the courage to acknowledge explicitly the kinds of customers who might genuinely be better off elsewhere," he says. "This combination is rare but very powerful: an acknowledgment that we can't be all things to all people; a clear and unapologetic vision for and articulation of what we do stand for that dictates business practices throughout the organization; and a genuine interest in helping potential customers figure out if what we're selling is right for them.

"When you experience this as a customer, the benefits can be huge, and it can create fierce loyalty and lots of value all around."

note To Readers:

The idea of the firm as curator is a nascent one, and Ray Weaver's research on the subject is still in its early stages. To that end, he'd like to hear from consumers and business practitioners—those who agree that curation is necessary, and those who don't. If you'd like to help set the stage for future research, please consider the following questions, and share your thoughts in the comments section: What are the benefits and the pitfalls of a firm taking on the role of curator in its marketing functions? What are some e-commerce situations in which curation might not be the best approach? As a consumer, where do you currently go to find helpful information about a product or service?

About the Author

Carmen Nobel is the senior editor of Harvard Business School Working Knowledge.
    • Jemma L. St. Lawrence
    • CEO, African Diaspora Art Network
    Exactly! As I am currently working with my designer to craft my website I am thrilled at the insight this article provides to continue to be guided by my mission and vision. I plan to fully launch my company in November 2011 and this article is very timely!

    Thank you.
    • steven Weiss
    • chairman, disregardpreviousinstructions
    Answering the questions:

    1. It is a business function not a marketing function.The benefits seem to be in taking short cuts and saving time. I believe on the negative
    side that consumers do not want to be led
    around on a leash. There is to much Consumers want to be their own curators. The examples you sight had more to do with design and disruption
    the curation. I wish I could be more positive and
    I find your thesis interesting even if I do not
    agree with it.
    • Karim Devji
    • CEO, L'Atelier Exploration Studios inc.
    We have just started an innovative,creative and exploratory studio space specifically for children programs. By thinking outside the box we are providing what we feel is missing in today's education system.... and in order to prepare brilliant young minds for the now and the future you need a place like this.
    Creating a new program is just like being a curator and we totally agree with what you have written.
    Thank you,
    • Zafarrano Wolffe
    • Editor at Large, Wolf Street News
    It appears that Groupon has simply copied J. Peterman's 20-year-old business plan.
    • Steve
    • CEO, Sheinkopf
    Its funny. I have been in retail for 25 years. I look in the malls now, and all the stores are now Apple White. There is no one retail format.

    This museum model probably would not work for clothing, lighting, appliances and accessories. At the end of the day, people want subconsciously want choice

    Apple shows them on Boyleston St, and last time I checked so did the MFA on Huntington
    • Anonymous
    Excellent article! Some quick thoughts /questions: what are the transfer possibilities for fine art curators into the world of business marketing? Limiting choice is a tactic we all use when dealing with children, or when negotiating with clients. When the choices are limitless, often no decision is possible, because we fear making the wrong choice. Rather than being "led around on a leash" curators are assisting clients to make a decision.
    • Fergus Barry
    • Managing Partner, Fergus Barry & Associates
    Great concepts. I am consulting with a Museum Team and a key part of the curator's role also includes deselection of items. In designing exhibitions it is a multifunctional process involving marketing, tour design, e support, architecture and education. The really effective curator can catch the next area of population interest and grow it. There are lessons in this for many businesses.
    • Rishant
    • student, IIT Kanpur student
    Context is important. I found the same idea in Tipping point and study of ontological research on leadership. I was not able to find how to create a context for people who want to buy products online. I am trying to open an Ecommerce website which sells shoes in India.I wish some practical recommendation to come out of this work which will help me in creating " the right context ". Best wishes.
    • James Waithaka
    • Property Editor, The STAR, Kenya
    Although a lot depends on the individual consumer's choice and taste, and needs, I think what this model of doing business emphasizes on is that customer should be made to feel king -- the bottomline for winning the market.
    • Taire
    • Recent MBA Grad
    This article couldnt have come at a better time because I believe that this business model will be a dominant one in the coming decade, especially for retail companies. The insights covered by Ray in this article are exactly the things that consumers such as myself have known intuitively for the past decade or so, that consumers prefer to have fewer well thought out choices rather than more poorly curated choices. Unfortunately, and largely spurred by the pressures of the market (competitors, wall street, customers etc.) companies tend to want to be everything to every customer because of the fear of losing customers. This is especially true in retail where there is an increased proliferation of brands, categories etc. In this space, over the next decade, smaller and more focused companies are going to carve out niches for themselves and usurp the titans. Companies who want the benefits of scale will serve as umbrella companies for
    a number of smaller and more focused companies, each one catering to a specific customer subset, as opposed to one large company with a single brand for all customers. This goes against traditional business practices which aims to increase the strength of a brand (think Nike, Gap etc) but I suspect that this will be the only way to succeed in a world where consumers are bombarded with way too many choices. I suggest that people read Different, a book by Youngme Moon (HBS Professor), that examines how people and ultimately, companies, can truly differentiate themselves from the herd
    • Eugene Lukac
    Online retailers are confronting the age-old dilemma that information scientists labeled "pre-coordination" and "post-coordination" several decades ago. The Dewey Decimal system is a pre-coordination scheme -- offering a pre-selected, limited set of categories. A library's subject catalog is a post-coordination scheme -- offering a virtually unlimited set of topics. Correspondingly, a book may have both a table of contents and an index. Successful online merchants, such as Amazon, offer both schemes: pre-selected "recommendations" as well as unlimited free text searching. Consumers, it appears, seem to want it both ways.
    • Andrew Taylor
    • Director, Bolz Center for Arts Administration
    A metaphor rich with potential. But I'd encourage you to move beyond the idealized vision of the museum curator's role, to the rather more complex and often conflicted reality. Many museums have struggled to align the curatorial staff to the needs and lives of museum visitors (or, more broadly, the community they serve). Yet, often the commitment and focus of the curator is on the proper and informed display of the work, regardless of how that might connect (or not connect) to a visitor.

    Curation is a powerful idea, but it always comes with agency issues...who does the curator serve at the end of the day (the work, the community, the museum, the artistic form, the wider scholarship, the bottom line)? And how do smart companies balance and align the MANY masters of the curatorial process with intent and clarity?

    Talk to a few museum directors and curators, especially when the marketing, development, or visitor services folks are in the room. It's a metaphor ripe with tension.
    • Anonymous
    It is really an extension of knowing your customer: why are they on your site, what are they trying to accomplish, and what information/tools do they need to meet those goals.

    However, curating, like story-telling, is far more emotionally complex then just blurt out information. To be successful, you need to combine a deep knowledge of the customer's immediate goals with an empathy for them as people.
    • Anonymous
    I think the concept of curation is a good metaphor for what I believe is in fact, expert product management.

    At its best, product managers have a keen understanding of the customer problem and have delivered high-value, problem-solving solutions. Not bloated, feature heavy 'one-size fits all' products.
    • Syd Salmon
    • Founder, Creative Strategist, Proganica Brand Development
    I beg to differ that curation is some 'new-fangled' phenomenon. Curation is just another word for "merchandising." Merchandising strategy has always been important in effective retailing. In the early days of the Internet, effective merchandising was less of an issue since there wasn't a lot of choice for consumers. Now that online retailing is widespread, simply being among the first retailers online is no longer good enough.

    The amount of information available on most topics is staggering. As a result. many time-stressed consumers appreciate greater simplicity, which reduces transaction friction. Transactional friction also creates value for many consumers. Therefore, organizations must understand the wants, needs, and perceptions of their target market before changing strategies.
    • Anonymous
    Hmm...Groupon may be compared to a museum but Facebook, Progressive and Apple don't quite fit. Perhaps the author would like to elaborate. In discussing Facebook's structured method compared to "open, wild WWW", the author is confusing the concept of structure with that of choice. Structure of Facebook provides uniformity of user interface and does not "curate" choice. Quite the contrary Facebook allows users to share pretty much anything and communicate using several methods like Wall, message, chat, photos, video etc.
    • Nitin Pujar
    • Principal Consultant, Maven Advisors
    Curating is definitely a great metaphor but is inadequate to really describe the challenges and the issues that go into offerings merchandised by corporations. In fact, more often than not it is de novo services and products have an opportunity to 'curate' as in the case of Groupon, Facebook or even Apple's offerings. How this works for incremental improvements or product extensions is still a challenge beyond mere 'museum' or 'art' curating!!
    • Kapil Kumar Sopory
    • Company Secretary, SMEC(India) Private Limited
    This is a novel idea. Seems to me that this is one more model of doing business which presents the customer more variety, quality and freedom to choose from a large number of alternatives made available to her.
    In strict terms a museum is a building used for storing and exhibiting objects of historical, scientific or cultural interests. Museum pieces are specimen of art, etc. fit for a museum and are not kept there for sale. Yes, museums are a storehouse of enormous collections with endless possibilities. Curator is a keeper or custodian of a museum or other collection.
    The above definitions seem to mismatch with Carmen Nobel's
    application of it to business. However, what he apparently means is that businesses would be storehouses of large number of products from where the customer can choose. The definition of curator has also been extended and would apply to someone who possesses expertise to manage the large stock, understand and properly guide customers seekiing advice on how best to fulfill their
    One more model to crystallise the adage " Customer is the king."
    • Jim Muehlhausen
    • Founder, http://businessmodelinstiute.com
    It is easy to throw just about anything on the web. Just because it is easy does not mean it needs to be sloppy or poorly merchandised. As the web matures, I believe much more merchandising principles from the brick and mortar world will transfer to the virtual world.
    • Jon Davol
    • hotel and tourism consultant, self
    One strategy is to find what consumers want and then motivate them to buy more of that product or similar products. Limiting choices also makes it easier because the consumer can identify their favorites more quickly. One question is what percentage of consumers tend to repeat purchases of the same pizza, drink, vacation destination, versus those who are always seeking something new and different. Discounts, freebies, help once the consumer's preferences are identified. So the best websites for consumer goods and services are ones that find ways to entice the customer to buy the first time as well as buy their favorite products on a more frequent basis without annoying them, once their preferences are identified.
    • Jaisri Chety
    I agree with Eugene's comment, the customers want the best of both the worlds. They seem to want the range as well as the exclusivity. Online I believe could very well integrate the two when it comes to retail. I think the curator's approach is what we could relate to a speciality store format in traditional retail and big ecommerce websites are the "pile it high, sell it cheap" strategy. However even the big retailers could choose to curate a certain range on their website. What would evolve I guess is how we market the two; do we need to brand them differently or use different personas, provide limited choice in own lines and higher range with reseller lines, etc.
    • Anonymous
    Very insiteful article. Recently I tried to purchase a smartphone and after every comparison (Nokia, Samsung, LG, HTC) I felt iPhone is best product because there is no confusion.
    • Alan Lewinger
    • standing up
    The trick is to focus but not to limit...
    • Anonymous
    The idea of a firm as a curator is quite appealing. Keep it simple and clear. It is confusing when the product options and possible combinations of options are enormous because the more you look, the less you see. I can easily link museum curator strategy to the protocols and guidelines provided in medical practice. Its educative but not limiting because when you appreciate the options, you can then be creative.
    • Anonymous
    Excellent article.

    I'd note that gilt.com has been deliberately using the word "curator" in its daily email over the last few months... although it seems to me that the offerings have become less appealing as the company has tried to diversify its products. Perhaps it's just over-reaching...
    • Kathleen Tinworth
    • Director of Visitor Research & Program Evaluation, Denver Museum of Nature & Science
    As someone from the museum world, this is a very interesting article (and one many curators would readily endorse). Quite a few museums are becoming increasingly visitor-focused and less curatorial driven... with the intent of delivering a more relevant visitor experience (an example of museumy-types talking about just that can be found here: http://exposeyourmuseum.com/2011/06/28/custom/). For big businesses, as well as for museums, I think the beauty is in the balance.
    • Anonymous
    Although the thesis is interesting, we have to look at how many people actually make their way into museums and their motivations. Most people attend museums when they travel. Most museums may not be the best model for business as many are lost in the past and are finding it difficult to keep up with the shifting demands of the public. The museums that are excelling are more entrepreneurial in their approach, which is what really seems to be the attraction for consumers.
    • Wanda Dunaway
    Thanks for the article and the unique insights. In response to your questions:
    1) One benefit is that you end up with a more loyal following with the customers/clients who share the "curator's" taste in the offerings. Of course, you will quickly lose the ones who do not have similar taste (which is not necessarily a bad thing). Wine stores are a good example. There are too many choices of wine to be able to adequately research even a small percentage of them, let alone the ones that are allowed to be distributed in any particular country or state. Price should be an effective way to determine quality, but it definitely is not. Having access to a small store with a buyer that has a similar palate increases the odds of finding wines that you love for the value, and therefore increases loyalty to the store.
    2. Eugene Lukak's post about the Dewey Decimal System and Amazon is interesting. I hate shopping with Amazon (too many options in searches, unreliable shipping times and pricing, etc.), but frequently purchase from them because you can find practically anything there. Drugstore.com is similar. I love the interface of alice.com, but can't find all of the household products I want because of the limited selection.
    3. Back to the wine example, I've discovered that there are a few importers and distributors (usually shown on the back label) who consistently "curate" great selections. John David Headrick, Kermit Lynch, and Robert Chadderon are a few that I trust to guide my purchases.
    • Jonathan Salem Baskin
    • AmuseumGuides
    Fascinating stuff, though I think the word "curation" is already over-used and somewhat meaningless (at least in a business setting). Museums are effective because they 1) base their 'brand' on reality, 2) collect and define that reality with objectively credible authority, and 3) have no ulterior purpose or intent beyond the sharing of that content. Good luck translating those qualities to, say, a brand of toothpaste, and I agree with many of the comments here that the examples cited in the essay say less about curating than they do about simply good, honest marketing.

    But there's something here...so bon chance with the ongoing research!
    • Anonymous
    I do agree on part but not all, when people a few great choises it cause less confusion quality verses quantity. It is a learn taste to have an eye for quality does not matter what they say about the product that is being sold..
    • C. Magee
    This idea is supported by Sheena Iyengar's jam study (i.e. we handle small amounts of information better), and Dan Ariely's observations on The Economist's subscription pricing are also relevant. I wish more grocery stores would go this route (e.g. offering all organics in one section so you can think just about whether you want a lemon, not whether you want this organic one or the cheaper conventional one that looks the same and is in the next bin over). And if Google's Android Market team don't figure this out, I worry for the future of that platform. But as Iyengar points out, having lots of options is great for people who know exactly what they want (and are able to find it in your store/website), so for that segment you don't need curation so much as navigation.
    • Hilary Bracegirdle
    • Director, Royal Cornwall Museum
    Great posts from Tinworth and Baskin. I agree that this is more about putting a spin on marketing than really understanding the world of modern curation. But there might be other lessons for proft-driven businesses - good museums involve their users in designing their exhibitions, displays and learning activities, and incorporate sound evaluation systems and continuous improvement. This goes way beyond focus group type stuff. And we are far less hierarchical and more team-led than many traditional businesses, as well as being used to working in partnership with other organisations from our own and other sectors.
    • Kathleen Tinworth
    • Director of Visitor Research & Program Evaluation, Denver Museum of Nature & Science
    Baskin and Bracegirdle both make astute points and I certainly agree. Great to see the museum perspective in HBS posts! Oh-- and due to the parentheses in my post above the link didn't work. So, here it is, without parentheses: http://exposeyourmuseum.com/2011/06/28/custom/
    • Patricia Smith
    • Owner, Making Words Count
    Content curation has been a buzz word for quite some time and expanding the metaphor to an entire business model isn't a huge leap. As Andrew Taylor mentioned above - who's vision or philosophy does the museum curator follow in determining what to highlight and what constitutes a successful exhibition? Its the same for a business - including what constitutes success.
    • Steve Lamont
    • Lamont & Co
    I like this approach. As a marketer I have wrestled with technical CEOs who want to build more and more functionality in their product, but lack the courage and energy to boil their product down to the essence. I have used an analogy of mannequins in the front window of a store, to draw in the right types of customers -- even if you wind up selling them something else.
    What you will need to emphasize is how hard it is to do curation. You have to know the customer. You have to make tough choices about what to leave in the warehouse.
    • Nancy Proctor
    • Head of Mobile Strategies and Initiatives, Smithsonian Institution
    One study showed that the average age of a business, even before the dot com boom, was about 13 years. As the employee of a 164 year-old institution, the museum business model is looking pretty good by comparison! It would be interesting to do a thorough analysis: I suspect that the % of museums that make it past the 13-year average lifespan for businesses is pretty high.
    • Peter Weil
    • President & Chief Operating Officer, Museum Retail Partners
    As an operator of outsourced gift shops within museums, botanical gardens, and corporations we have seen first hand how an exciting temporary exhibit can enhance a visitor's museum experience and impact attendance. There is a balance between presenting consistency within ongoing collections and the newness of a temporary exhibit. Astute retailers blend newness and freshness in their presentations along with expected ongoing products. What has workded for us is to create retail presentations which tell a story -enhanced by descriptions of products and artists -avoiding clutter and too many items.
    • Kerry Shrives
    • Vice President, Skinner, Inc.
    Auctioneers continually look for ways to curate content. Smorgasbord was a term previously used to describe the vast and eclectic range of antiques, fine art & collectibles handled at Skinner. More recent efforts are to focus -- segmentation allows us more success in marketing to prospective niche buyers. It seems they don't want the background noise of too many choices either, preferring thematic offerings based on our choices-- mid-century modern design, fine wines or antique Judaica to name just a few of what I believe will be a continuing trend.
    • Green
    I like the idea. I also think it's impossible to use "curation" as an out-of-the-box solution that should "just work", no matter the industry or company's strategy. You cannot "curate" ugly, unloved, dumb or dead products. You cannot curate anything when your strategy is reduced to "making money for the shareholders" or "be the market leader".

    "Curation" is a way to establish an honest relation with the customer. You cannot curate anything unless you respect the customer, trust him / her and be ready to open up for your customer. Curation means openness and honesty.

    If all you want is to "flash" the customer with specs, features and so on, you don't care about him / her and you don't even care about what you are selling; you just need to make money and to get rid of those products as quick as possible. You don't have neither time, nor knowledge to create a honest communication with the customer regarding the relation between your products and his / her interests.

    What's so exciting about "curation" is not necessarily the method itself, but the big change in approaching the relation between the customer / buyer and the your products.
    • Rick Mueller
    • Mgr, Disruptive Innovation Group at LinkedIn
    As in most aspects of life, there is no single correct response to the question of curation. Some things should (even must) be available ala carte (not curated) and other things where curation should be a (more or less stongly enforced, depending on the product) option.

    The degree to which perceiveable synergies are created for the customer by curation is the best guideline, and the perceptions which are important are not just those of the customer, but those which surround and affect the customer. It is far wiser to avoid selling anything to a customer, than to sell them something that will evoke jeers from those whose opinions they consider important.

    Make sense?
    Thanks for the opportunity to speak.
    • Terri McNichol
    • President, Ren Research Associates
    I see the focus on thinking like a curator is a step in the right direction in acknowledging the aesthetic function of leadership and management championed by Russell Ackoff. Several years ago I presented a first-report paper titled THE ART OF LEADING THE MUSEUM: MANAGING FOR WONDER at the 4th International Critical Management Studies Conference 'Critique and Inclusivity:Opening the Agenda,' Judge Institute of Management, University of Cambridge, 4th-6th July 2005.
    • Anonymous
    Is curation really another way to say elegant design, or less is more or to quote Albert Einstein: make things as simple as possible but no simpler? I think that is certainly the case with Apple.

    And Progressive does show other rates but is this really driven by a desire for creating trust or is it really the most blatant kind of self interest? Their approach is to gather enough personal customer information so they can evaluate the risk and use their algorithm to instantaneously decide whether they want that customer or not. If they do they price low, if not they let one of their competitors "win" that customer. I admire the approach, but not because it is in some way objective or "enlightened." Its cold, hard competition and is brilliant for precisely the reason that it appears to be customer centric.
    • Chirag Swamy
    • Manager Pre-Sales, Animika Studios
    A brilliant analogy indeed. However, I would like to express my reservations on whether this theory would apply across all e-commerce solutions.

    How about a website that, for example, sources and re-sells perfumes of popular brands from around the world?
    Doesn't the success of this website lie in displaying its ability to source as many brands as possible and by that provide as much of a choice as possible? If yes, how could we apply this theory in such a scenario?

    Best Wishes,
    Chirag Swamy
    • Mark Macleod
    I totally see the curation argument. It' s something which complements the 'experience economy' and the money-can't-buy leisure sector that is growing. I am a museum professional, although not a curator of objects, I would categorise previous jobs as being a curator of people's experience.
    The Baedaker's started it in 19th Century Europe, Lonely Planet continue the trend in the trave industry by telling you the top 10 things to see in museums, cities, countries, etc. The magazine industry have been trying for years. Very interesting to see the new business model of groupon et. al following through too.
    • Richard Hershner
    • Independent Interior Designer, Historic Design Associates
    The idea of a successful marketer as a curator is valid in my experience. When I worked for the high-end bath company Waterworks in its early years, the company differentiated itself from traditional plumbing product showrooms by making aesthetic and quality choices and only offering those products. Also, the presentation--'how the showrooms looked'--changed what they were selling to a luxury good.

    Traditional plumbing stores did then and still do offer a host of products in often mind-numbing displays. The choices can easily overwhelm all but the most focused professional bath designer. Excellent products and good value are to be found amongst the mix--one just has to know what one is looking at to identify them.

    As an interior designer, I experience the same benefit from presenting my clients with only a few choices. In fact, I prefer to offer them one product or scheme rather than several between which to choose. That way I retain my role as the designer (or, curator, if you like) of their home. Afterall, it is my aesthetic point of view for which they hired me.
    • aman
    • student,12th, madhavrao scindia,BLY
    I think its a new concept for Business and really a nice one i feel.But this is for educated consumers only and we all know the status of India,so his will work in only big cities there is no doubt that people will like this but applicable to LTD. customers,products and places.
    • Anonymous
    The concept of "curators" has merit and can be a
    competitive advantage. Best Buy is an example
    of a company who could use curators. When I shop
    at Best Buy a curator would help me decided on
    a particular product. Any consumer who is not
    tech smart could certainly use one.
    Thank you.