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Table 1 Selected quotes from interviews

From: Transitioning from a hierarchical product organization to an open platform organization: a Chinese case study

a. Role clarity
No. Quotation
1 The payment to the workers … is decided by the consumer evaluation.
2 There was a geek user who talked his personal life with our team member [Name] for more than two hours at the midnight. If such a thing happened in the past, [Name] might hung up cause it’s obviously a disruption. As to now, they appreciate each other, they are more like friends who have common interest.
3 In the past, we focus on product promotion. As for now, we gain added value from user engagement and user flows.
4 We started interaction with our customer at the very beginning. Some functions like aromatherapy and coupling are generated from interaction.
5 We change and focus all our energy towards the users. We very closely deal with them, from product design, development and production, all stages are closely interacted with users. All incomes for all team members are decided by the user interactions. How much you’d earn, and what’s your value added...The mode of user interaction introduces a lot of new ideas. Because users are not constrained by whether the idea can be realized or not. And thus there are lots of unbounded creativity.
b. Risks and compensations
No. Quotation
6 The vital thing is the entrepreneurship, passion to realize your own dream. Meanwhile, an entrepreneur should be responsible and fearless of risks.
7 Employees become partners or stakeholders now, such as [employee A] and [employee B] of [Me A], they have shares and option. Capital can be powerful.
8 The company should be willing to take more risks on treating employees and setting strategies. For example, I think we don’t dare to award a worker who originally make ten thousand yuan a year with ten million yuan, but we actually should do that. Employees must be creating ten times more economic returns when he is rewarded well. I believe this will be an improvement on our way of transforming, and it will encourage our MEs and employees to develop well.
9 We will not disband micro-enterprises if they are not profiting in a few months. The establish of these micro-enterprises are based on our main strategy, so it must succeed. What we will do is try to adjust it and try to figure out where does the problem come from, solve it, and make it profit soon. Actually the platforms should also be responsible for those who cannot profit. As a manager of the platform, we are also trying hard to help.
c. Independence vs. coordination
10 Many people ask us why don’t we move out of the Firm’s campus. I say why do we move? This is not important. Suppose I move to a place that is not far from the Firm’s Road, rent an office and work from there. What it means is that the cost the setup, human resources, as well as traffic is going to be very costly. The communication cost becomes much higher that way. Because we are in the Firm’s campus. If there is any dispute, we can solve quickly and early. Of course, strictly speaking, we have contractual arrangements such that all disputes can be solved in courts. But the probability of that happening is very small. We have the legal arrangement, but mostly we solve issues through communications (say, if this customer is not satisfied and what happened with after-sales service). Having such informal relationship is a huge advantage to us.
11 We have many MEs for functional areas (i.e., after-sales, quality). This is because we are taking the areas that all MEs need, and then combine them to create a new ME. This way we minimize the cost for each ME, and let them focus on what they need to focus on, and what they are good at doing. In the internet era, it is not about how big you are, it is about what you are good at, and whether you can maximize your strength and be differentiated. Specialized MEs can take care of things, and you just need a contractual relationship with them.
12 Our product is different from air-condition. But we share the same channel cause for now, we can’t afford an independent channel. However, same channel results in resource competition. It’s a very tough situation.
13 I do agree with the altruism and win-win spirit. At this Internet Age, we can’t do things alone, we need allies. So, mutual help and mutual promotion are essential.
  1. Source: Interview conducted by the research team, February–March 2015; quotes were translated into English