Friday, 9 September 2011

Surviving the cataclysmic shift
Everyone lives life by their own set of rules, usually based on their own perceptions and preconceived beliefs. The stronger ones amongst us manage to convince or bend the rest of us to their way of thinking……and this pattern is repeated in all aspects of life from our personal lives to our professional ones. 
Some years ago, workshops began springing up everywhere, that divided employees into 2 categories, 'leaders or followers', and taught them how to make the most of the role they identify with, in order to contribute to the success of the company. Added to those 2 categories, should be one for 'impartial' people,a category for those who opt to take a back seat. 
The propensity to take a ‘back seat’ or ‘sit on the fence’ and watch, from a safe distance, as life unfolds around us, is sadly becoming the more popular option for many of us. Of course, from that distance, there is no responsibility or accountability if anything goes wrong. Neither does this behaviour allow for a ‘live and let live’ mentality; on the contrary, it almost seems that by choosing to be impartial, one is automatically awarded the right to remotely point, blame and criticise the rest of us who actually are out there participating in life.

The rise in popularity of reality shows is a good example of this conduct. On Big Brother, X Factor and the myriad of similar shows, we feel justified to freely criticise and judge the participants: be it their personalities, talents, decisions, personal relationships and style.  The fact that those on the receiving end have no means to defend themselves, nor are they expected to, makes this behaviour very self-serving and indeed, dangerous.  
With social media here to stay, the ‘sitting on the fence’ population may very well become mainstream and this, I believe, is cause for alarm. For example, the current generation of Facebookers only have to click on ‘a thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ icon to express their approval or disapproval on anything and if so inclined, write a derogatory or complimentary 2 to 5 word  comment  on why they choose that verdict.   Usually their comment or selection is not based on anything more than a passing emotion and how they are feeling towards the person or product at the time or an even worse reason - just because they can.
We have transformed from active participants to passive critical bystanders, and we are now in the process of becoming ‘passively controlling’.  For business, the ramifications of this behaviour are catastrophic. The massive numbers of passive critical bystanders and soon to become passively controlling are a business’s consumers, clients, vendors, employees and investors. Will a business's success or failure be imperilled by impartial clicks and tweets?  Will a business become captive to the whims of clicks and tweets in order to survive? We have already experienced the effect a few well-chosen clicks and tweets can achieve in the right social context and environment - the wider Arab Spring and the London Riots are a good example of this. 
Today 16 to 25 year olds think they can control their world from their mobile phones. Which in actual fact, yes they can….as they can socialise with hundreds of friends simultaneously and globally, without being physically present. They can purchase their favourite brands, book movie tickets and concerts, download movies and songs,order food and be on line 24/7.  And they can successfully manipulate viral marketing by simply ‘liking’ or ‘disliking’ anything and everything (a celebrity, beer, venue, friend), and then transmit their choice worldwide in seconds to their thousands of ‘friends’, who in turn will click their choice. The speed and ease with which this can happen is because technology today has become extremely user friendly and intuitive.  
This passively controlling group are a business’s potential consumers, clients, stakeholders, employees and/or investors. Perhaps the time has come, to throw out the antediluvian business models we are still using, business models that are primarlity product or service driven. It is not enough for business to become consumer driven, a growing popular trend that focuses on implicit brand and customer engagement strategies. A business must also remodel its sales, management and operational strategies to reflect a rapidly changing society.
In order to survive this cataclysmic shift business must 1) develop a comprehensive society-focused business model that will encompass every one of their stakeholders from consumers, clients, vendors, partners to employees and investors and 2) reconstruct their business models to ones that are innovative, practical and  results driven. Finally a business must also continuously monitor and recalculate its position in order to keep up with the fluidity of today and tomorrow’s market expectations.  

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