An interesting look at today’s “connected” generation, providing a compelling argument for adopting a new mindset and taking a different approach towards interacting with customers.
Businesses today are met with unique challenges and opportunities that warrant pause. For years, management models were developed to optimize the pursuit of business objectives. Processes were established, and hierarchies, technologies, and reporting systems supported them. Everything was business as usual until it wasn’t.
Nothing is permanent. As in life, things change. And so is true in the world of business. The models and practices that have been taught for generations are tested in a time when customer and employee behaviors and resulting expectations are evolving without official study, strategy, and systematic transformation.
Digital Darwinism: Survival of the Fitting
Technology permeated society where the vast separation between professional and personal access was obliterated. The line between online and offline was forever obscured, creating an always-on society with an insatiable appetite for consumption and connectedness.
Over the years, technology has impacted how everyday people communicate, share, discover, and learn. Some of you will read the previous sentence and think, “Yes, it’s completely ruined our society, and we are worse for it.” Others will read it and continue without contemplation as the sentence states the obvious, “and?”
This divide reveals a stunningly underappreciated challenge facing any organization that hopes to survive in an era of connectedness. With foresight, it’s clear that the situation before us is dire, and it is how decision-makers react now that either defines their destiny or seals their fate. In a world where Digital Darwinism rewards those who adapt as technology and society evolve, I believe many models governing how organizations are not only outdated but they also reflect management’s vision in how it competes for the future.
With the barrage of digital devices, services, networks, and apps, many organizations are merely reacting to trends with terminal skepticism or half-baked attempts to embrace new technologies and opportunities. In each case, what’s new is often interpreted or dealt with through the very perspective, methods, and practices that contribute to the business as usual.
Social media, mobile, and real-time have contributed to the digital lifestyle that everyday people, your consumers, and your employees embrace as second nature. It’s not just a Millennial or a Generation Z think; and it’s everyone who uses a smartphone, a tablet, or any smart device. It’s also that person who checks Twitter and Facebook each morning before email for mentions of their name and to see what they might have missed. It is, for all intents and purposes, you and me.
This isn’t about age; this is about a connected generation (Generation-C), and it represents a significant share of consumerism. Said, this category of consumers is different from the traditional customers and employees around which many organizations are modeled.
Reaching them requires a different approach. To see them and the value, they represent to an organization takes vision and a different philosophy. Instead, however, most executives or decision-makers employ an “us vs. them” mentality. They see the world as they know it rather than seeing the world for what it is or what it’s becoming.
#AdaptorDie – Lead by example, don’t lead by following examples
Let me put this
Traditional management practices and the structures that support them are aging, but they’re also liabilities and competitive disadvantages. It’s not just today’s competitors who will realize that connected consumers are a different breed. Unforeseen competitors, some that may not even exist today, will see what it is that you do not change market direction and, as a result, take market share.
This is a time that requires great introspection and empathy, which is a time for leadership.
The goal now is to open our perspective to explore a world that we do not know to lead our organization in the direction of greater relevance. We must discover what is valuable to Generation C, why, and how to use these insights to inspire more desirable products, services, and even stories and messages. The next step is, of course, to bring them to life through new processes, systems, and directives.
Therefore, I believe that the future of business takes leadership, not management. Executives, employees, and other stakeholders or shareholders who do not share in the desire to earn relevance with a different customer are standing in the way of progress.
Born Digital – We are the Champions
Well-meaning decision-makers don’t know what they don’t know. As such, they will need a little help, which is an opportunity for champions who believe in the need for organizational transformation.
The case for change won’t be won by new technology alone. It’s not social, mobile, or real-time that presents the answer, and it is the effect they have on consumer behavior that matters. Attempting to convince anyone of the need for change should never include mentions of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, iPhones, i-Pads, etc. These are means, but not a means to an end. What’s required is an understanding of market trends and impact, missed opportunities versus actual short and long-term losses, the balance of connected vs. traditional consumerism, and a better understanding of how innovation in the product roadmap will prevent disruption while disrupting others through innovation.
Technology is merely an enabler and a powerful one at that. But without vision, purpose, direction, or meaning, new channels are the conduits for old reasoning and convictions. Without understanding technology and its relationship with behavior, without aligning a bigger mission or vision with what we are trying to do — something that will matter to people — we are just managing businesses the way we always have. We are not progressing in any new direction.
This is a time to lead the next generation where ideas are “born digital.” Rather than discount how, when, and where people connect and innovate! Born digital is a mantra and a philosophy that invests in products, services, and supporting systems that align with the expectations and behaviors of Generation C consistently, across every screen, in the context of every scenario.
Born digital doesn’t take what exists and attempts to repackage it as something new. Born digital isn’t conceived by groups of strategists or executives who question the logic of a selfie. Seriously. Born digital is the result of empathy and inspiration to do something extraordinary in the truest meaning of the word, designed for a new generation purpose-built to deliver exceptional experiences.
Born digital is deliberate, and it is inspired. But to conceive, it takes vision to see what others do not and courage to do what others will not or cannot.
“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker.