Can Business (You) Really Change?

There’s been rumors of revolution!

Scratch that, there’s been widespread advertising of revolution.

From Richard Florida’s "The Flight of the Creative Class" to Thomas Friedman’s "The World is Flat" to the recent Bob Garfield’s "Chaos Theory" article, to even the humble stuff I write... it seems that we are all aware of the impending destruction and recreation of business, society, culture and more with the arrival of the connection economy. But is the world really gonna change the way we think that it might?

The answer to that is perhaps best inspired by the latest article by Alan Deutschman of Fast Company called " Making Change". In it, Alan offers new insights from psychology and neuroscience about why it is so hard to change our ways, and what actually works to make changes happen.

This one struck home. Especially having known people (including myself) who repeat counterproductive patterns despite knowing better. The key finding from current research is quite interesting.

It basically states that the odds of changing are 9 to 1 against you.

It goes on state that resistance to change is not hardwired from childhood like we’d previously thought but rather, we need to change our emotional frame of reference about why we should make that change. Facts don’t change our ways as most smokers or overeaters will tell you, and neither does fear of impending doom. Small gradual changes almost never work, as they don’t show us dramatic enough results for us to stick to them.

It must be about changing one’s frame of reference. It must be radical and sufficiently supported in order to sustain. Knowing all that is great, but the real question now is how do we apply it?

How do we get CEOs who revert to methodologies of their prior success in the face of adverse market conditions? Why do CMOs still insist on spending for TV media buys when the stats are to the contrary? Or COOs who still think operational efficiencies give them the competitive edge when we already know opportunities come from exploration and not process management?

The only thing anyone can predict for certain is the inevitability of change.

The ones mentioned here and elsewhere relating to the changing nature of business are real. It’s going to be a requirement for survival in the connection age. So how can you think different about the emotional context of it so you can make it happen?

The real question may not be about if business can change, but rather can the people who lead business change? I believe people can. They just need a real emotional reason to do so.

I can offer some of those reasons, how about you?

Give it Away, Give it Away, Give it Away Now!

Give strategically.

As we get more and more connected, the real and relevant way to reach those that care about what you have to offer is to give it away for FREE.

The strategic part is creating value with the new revenue channels the "FREE" creates. Google gave search away for free so that Adwords can generate revenue. Give away mobile phones and earn from ringtones. Give away printers and make more on the cartridges. Give away hotel rooms and make it up on the selling of services and get the idea.

The point is about understanding where the "real value" in the connected economy is. Compelling ideas inspire more of the same. That's all good. If you give it away while having a plan to sell the execution of them, even better.

Any clues as to why I'm giving articles and ideas out? Can you think of the same for your business? The core of what you have to offer is gonna be demanded for cheaper and cheaper as competition rages on. The smart thing to do is not insist that your "branded" core service is worth more, but that it is worth more because of all the other services it enables. Have a plan to profit from those, and...

Give it way. Now.

Introverts are the New Extroverts

Most marketers covet the 20% influencers of any 80% inclusive hive. The belief is that they shape opinions of those who follow because they are outspoken "informed extroverts". If you understand the basics of human nature, you’ll also probably agree that it is true. We can all relate to the extroverted "cool" kids setting the trends in high school, so why shouldn’t it be true in real life?

Perhaps, but let’s think about those who truly influence the world today. Whose recommendation got you to buy that book? Whose review influenced you to see that movie? Whose outfit influenced your new wardrobe? Whose ideas are still spinning in your mind?

Chances are, these influencers are not the chest thumping glory seekers we’re used to looking up to, but people just like you and me who write reviews for Amazon, rate content on P2P networks, post life catching pics on their homepage and voice their insights in the blogosphere. They are often the introverted and introspective people who now have a voice and a forum for exchanging the passions that only flickered inside before. They are you and I and a whole bunch of others who express themselves through personalizeable media and their opinions are slowly but surely leading the pack.

As the connected world becomes interactive rather than unidirectional (from producer or broadcaster to the masses) in the way it communicates to the marketplace, the introverts are having it hands down. In fact, the trend is no new phenomena…the often overlooked and passed over have historically always sought ways to have their voices heard.

From monarchies to democracies, communication advances have always shifted the power from the bottom up, and the recent trends that influence the world are no different. We’ve seen the transition of influence from the jocks to the nerds who rule the world. Examples like the Dalai Lama and Bill Gates, make it abundantly clear that we give up our world to people who introspectively identify our innate desires over those who just act like they do.

It’s also interesting to me that when otherwise shy individuals are given a medium to be heard, they start to resemble the persona befitting their voice. From the mechanic who comments on geopolitics, to the maid who voices her expertise on psychology; people with access to the information and opportunities start becoming that which they can put out there and get feedback on. The mechanic who never had the confidence to talk geopolitics can now become more confident about it, because a noted social scientist and economist have reacted positively to his opinions on his social networking web forum.

That’s just the beginning of the changes the connection economy has in store for us. The people who influence our opinion now are nothing like those who influenced them before. They are informed about things we care about, their authority is real relevance over inflated pedigrees, and they are more real to us over institutional ratings. They become so because they can now speak more personally to us while being introverted and introspective than any extroverted orator ever could.

The introverts are the new extroverts.
Got any ideas of how to reach them? I might have a few, being one myself…

I don’t get numbers and you don’t get pictures?

When Picasso said that we are all born artists and it was a up to us whether or not we stay that way, maybe he was onto something we missed altogether during our collective de-skilling during the industrial age.

We marvel at the DaVincis and Ben Franklins of the world because they seemed to have defied convention to play both right and left side of their brains to the fullest, yet we still don’t encourage such in our current educational system.

The tech guy doesn’t get graphics or the creative guy doesn’t get business has become so insidiously etched into our belief systems that we as creative types or vice versa are actually limited by it.

The need to put us in slots may have helped us serve the machine of industrial production lines, but is that really necessary any longer? Was it ever? As we transition from the globalization of countries and the globalization of corporations to the now globalization of individuals, how do such individuals in a global economy create value for themselves and the innovations they create with others?

The answers may be as simple as the assets you were born with. If we can unlearn the crap that says we are either right brained OR left brained, logical OR whimsical, playful OR serious, and realize that it is more of an "AND" equation, we can actually harness our real powers and contribute something meaningful.

Sure it’s difficult to "undo" a lifetime’s worth of conditioning, but at least being open to the possibility of it will do wonders for you, your brand and everything else you do. Take it from someone who was always told he couldn’t do much more than draw pictures…

Are you 100% sure?

As much my personal pet peeve with references about 110% effort or 200% commitment (there’s only 100% of a whole, people!) bug me, leaders who believe in 100% certainty about their actions actually frighten me.

If one makes the effort of convincing oneself that they are absolutely right, it automatically closes them off to other possibilities that may be critical to innovating in a world of ever increasing variables. Worse yet, people who believe in such absolutes, generally also think that they are smarter than everyone else is.

No is as smart as everyone.

As many a financial advisor will tell you that the personality type who believes that they are the smartest ones in the room (the 100% right people) inevitably make bad investments, because their arrogance keeps them on the wrong path until it is too late.

In business as in life, absolute beliefs are often concepts that may put the mind to rest, but they also close off the possibilities for improvement. In a world where duplication is becoming easier, resources are becoming accessible to all; innovation is probably the only true asset for survival.

Given that, it may be much smarter to be "reasonably sure" and "somewhat convinced" before making your move. If you at least give credence to Darwin’s statement that it’s not the smartest or strongest who survive, but the most adaptive…to adapt in the connection age may just mean that it’s actually a good thing to not be 100% sure.

© 2006 GROW |