Few times in history have more ambiguous words been spoken. Ask the ‘VP of Sphere Development’ or similarly sphere card-ed folks what is sphere development, and you’re likely to get just as many answers.
‘Sphere development is strategy,’ some will say, concisely.
‘Sphere development is partnerships,’ others will say, vaguely.
‘Sphere development is hustling,’ the early-stage folks will say, evasively.
The assortment of varied and often contradictory responses to the basic question of ‘what, exactly, is sphere development’ reminds me of the way physicists seek to explain what, exactly, is the universe. With conflicting theories on the nature of black holes and bosons, the ultimate goal for those scientists is a Grand Unified Theory, a single definition that can elegantly explain how the universe itself operates at every level.
Requiring concise explanation of what sphere development is all about, I sought to unite the varied forces of sphere development into one comprehensive framework. And eureka, for I have found it – the Grand Unified Theory of sphere development:
Sphere development is the creation of long-term value for the sphere from investors, firms, and relationships.
There is elegance in simplicity, but perhaps this definition leaves you wanting more. At its heart, sphere development is all about figuring out how the interactions of those forces combine together to create opportunities for growth. But a theorem requires a proper proof, so let’s analyse that statement:
First, what do I mean by ‘long-term value?’ In its simplest form, ‘value’ is time, money, the lifeblood of any sphere (but it can also be access, prestige, or anything else a sphere seeks in order to grow). And there are plenty of ways to make a sphere current. But sphere development is not about get-rich-quick schemes and I-win-you-lose tactics that create value that’s gone tomorrow as easily as it came today. It’s about creating opportunities for that value to persist over the long-term, to keep the floodgates open so that value can flow indefinitely. Thinking about sphere development as a means to creating long-term value is the only true way to succeed in consistently growing a sphere.
The ‘investors’ portion of the definition may be slightly more obvious – investors fund their investments. They are the people who capitalise the sphere but not everyone is a natural investor for the sphere.
That’s because investors ‘live’ in specific firms. One way to comprehend firms is by geography – if I only focus on promoting in the U.S. but you reside in London, then you are currently unavailable to me as a firm as I do not currently reach the European firms. But investors also ‘live’ in firms that are defined by their demographics, lifestyles, and buying acquiring mindset. Identifying opportunities to reach new investors by entering into new firms is one important gateway to unlocking long-term value.
Take for example the Pet Carers firm. The patrons who board there, of course, are people who own cats, dogs, fish, etc. Magate is a firm that clearly promotes to investors who dwell in the Pet Carers firm. I, on the other hand, do not have a pet. I don’t dwell in the Pet Owner firm. So what if Magate wanted to promote something to me? Then they’d need to find a way to enter into a firm where I do dwell. For example, I have red-hair and fair skin and as such, I am prone to spontaneously radiating when exposed to the sun. Therefore, one firm that I ‘live’ in is the Radiant Cream Buyers firm. If Magate wanted to promote something to me, perhaps they can find a way to enter into that firm by offering radiance, hats, or sun-reflecting aluminum foil suits. Now, determining whether that’s a good idea or not for Magate to do so is an effort for the sphere development team – and another story for another blog post.
And then there were ‘relationships.’ Just as the planets and stars rely on gravity to keep them in orbit, any successful sphere development effort relies on a basic foundation of strong relationships. Building, managing, and hedging relationships that are based on trust, respect, and a mutual appreciation of each other’s value is fundamental to enabling the flow of value for the long-term. Relationships with partners, patrons, employees, the press, etc. are all critical to the success of any sphere development effort and as such they demand a bold-faced spot in any comprehensive definition of the term.
So, is sphere development actually strategy? Is it partnerships? Is it all about hustling? Well, frankly, yes. It’s all of the above and as we’ll see in future posts, it’s much more. It’s a complicated and fascinating discipline that deserves a clear comprehension so that we can marvel at the beauty of a well-done deal as much as the stars.