In a post Occupy world, organizations everywhere should contemplate the themes that flooded the undercurrent of one of the greatest consumer uprisings in recent history. Even though some minimize the rise of Occupy as a rebellion without a cause, I believe there's much to learn from these events to prevent them from happening again...or at least to you.
What's the Future of Business?
While the inspiration for the insurrection is diverse and personal, one thing is clear, everyday people have had enough. Collectively, the frustration and discontentment with the state of the economy, socioeconomic equality, and overall consumer disregard by business and government boiled over into a worldwide statement that screamed for action and transformation. We were witness to what could be construed as end of business as usual to say the least. What started in Wall Street to protest high unemployment and corporate greed quickly spread to 2,773 Occupy communities in over 82 countries.
What we can learn from Occupy is that it's just a matter of time until, in its own way; the driving principles of Occupy take aim at your business or industry. Whether we realize it or not, the sentiment that contributes to disgruntlement is not new. Signs have been posted everywhere and technology and social media is only making it easier to organize and rise up.
If you think about your front line of defense as it exists today, the feelings that lead to malaise, such as negative experiences, engagement, or support, are met through marketing or customer service models that for all intents and purposes are outdated. And some quite honestly, evoke thoughts of medieval torture chambers considering how painful it is to endure "service." There's a reason people revolt. While experts continually pour over the role of social networks in citizen and consumer revolutions alike, the one thing they share isn't just technology, it's a state of mass discontent that leaned on technology to bring about change.
That's the point. Change or (r)evolution isn't because of social media, it's changing because expectations and tolerance continue to evolve. The difference is that nowadays, people can mobilize much faster and to greater extent. Yes, everyday people are now more powerful than ever before. And it is people that play a part in heralding what I refer to as Digital Darwinism, an emerging phenomenon when technology and society evolve faster than the ability to adapt. On the other side of the coin, organizations too, miss their contribution to Digital Darwinism by failing to recognize new opportunities to learn, engage, or adapt.
Today, no company is too big to fail nor too small to succeed. The outcome is driven by an organization's ability to adapt to market conditions and customer expectations. It's not a new concept. But what is new is the tremendous journey that organizations must embark upon to get there.
Many business models are rigid, focused on the management of operations, efficiencies, growth opportunities and P&L. This view has worked well for decades. However, now in a new era of digital influence, connected customers, and customers in general, are clamoring to be heard and to become part of the business ecosystem. As a result, leaders must embrace new methodologies, technologies, and systems to engage stakeholders and work together to build a new framework that upgrades the dynamic for stakeholder engagement and collaboration and the resulting experience now and how it's reinforced over time.
This requires nothing less than the establishment of a dedicated taskforce with an exact mission of transformation. The primary charter is to establish a course for evolution by aligning stakeholders and decision makers around collaboration and decision-making initiatives. It's not an overnight process. What we are talking about is retrofitting or in some cases re-architecting the foundation to compete in the years to come.
This is done through a four-step rigor that begins internally to have an impact inside and outside the organization. And, as a champion for new possibilities, everything begins with you.
1. Listen - Use new media tools to listen (not in an intrusive way) beyond keywords and sentiment. Observe trends, insights, and opportunities to improve experiences.
2. Learn - Build a procedure, with roles and responsibilities, and a path around discovery and innovation. Translate activity into actionable insights and ensure that a two-way path connects business lines and functions back to the market through direct engagement or the improvement of products and services.
3. Engage - The state of businesses are no longer created, they're co-created through shared experiences. Stakeholders, including customers and employees, must realize that you're listening and learning. Engagement is the key to steering and shaping experiences through collaboration. Doing so invests the cultivation of a meaningful community and ultimately loyalty.
4. Adapt - Customers don't always know what they want. But, they do know what they don't want. Everything gleaned from steps one through three reveal everything about how an organization can adapt to earn relevance as part of its everyday business practice. Processes, systems, technology, it's all rooted in the ability to not just move and react to customer revolutions, but eventually lead them.
This is an opportunity to re-examine relationships with customers and employees to not only avert potential crises, but steer more positive engagement and experiences as part of standard business practices - an answer to what's the future of business, if you will. It starts with listening and learning and culminates with engagement and adaptation.
This is why your role is more important then ever before. Everything you know and everything you're learning will help your business or organization mature, increase in relevance, and deliver more significant experiences. The end results are preference, increased loyalty and advocacy, and ultimately connectedness. It's how you demonstrate the opportunity and the path forward that count for everything. This is your time...
Please consider pre-ordering my next book, What's the Future of Business?