Social Media, Big Data, Marketing Automation, and Mobile are the only things that matter now, and all the “cool kids” are heavily investing in gamification and customer experience initiatives.
Of course none of the above are true, but if we are to believe the media around us, you’d think that if you’re not doing all or most of the above, you’re going out of business next year.
It brings to mind the ridiculous valuations of the dot com bubble, or the real estate boom, or those that invested millions in CRM or ERP, only to see a negative return. Fueled by craze and hype, we see valuable resources misallocated, resulting in personal and organizational demise.
As I’ve traveled around the globe, I’ve realized that most people are relatively similar. They work. They eat. They play. They spend time with family and friends and they generally just want to be loved and respected. Whether we’re in Switzerland or Bolivia or Thailand, we all do and want similar things, although these often manifest themselves in slightly different ways. These differences are more pronounced on the edges and that’s where we seem to focus our attention. Everyone in California surfs. Everyone in Texas is a cowboy. Everyone in Manhattan works on Wall Street. We amplify differences because they are…interesting, and attempt to make sense of the world around us.
Highlighted in several past studies, the media effect amplifies the spread and perception of these differences, while influencing where many of us spend our attention.
Images, videos, infographics, blogs, and tweets spreading quickly via network messengers have the propensity to create their own reality as they spread. Many of these Ideaviruses are more potent than they’ve ever been, influencing their recipients in new and different ways that the average citizen can’t quite put their finger on yet.
For creators of ideas, digital content or products, the potential to leverage the effects of emerging digital networks holds tremendous promise. We’ve never experienced a world where billions of people can connect to billions of people instantly. Conversely, as a recipient, the amount of information racing through our streams can be daunting.
Business leaders have the unenviable position of trying separate the signals from the noise, which is increasingly easier said than done.
In an era where the impact and exposure to digital objects, ideas, and content can be exponentially amplified in near real time, how can we know which reverberations will continue to grow louder and more important, and which echoes will simply come and go as quickly as they came, replaced by the next reverberation of the times?
The irony and convincing truth is that some of the things bubbling up from the edges actually matter a lot. In fact, all of the things listed in the opening of this post ARE very important, which is why I spend so much time studying, sharing, and consulting in each of those domains. The people who recognize them first are usually able to capitalize on them the most. One could argue that the only places ripe for innovation in the coming era are indeed the edges, since we continue to normalize innovations with increasing efficiency.
A significant challenge, then, is not whether to recognize or not, or to adopt or not. Those options are too rudimentary and crude. The real issue is how much weight to apply to each of these new technologies and opportunities that present themselves. Not enough, and you will indeed likely fall behind. Overweight the shiny new objects and your core will suffer, and perhaps terminally. The answer to this, my friends, is highly contextual.
On one end of the continuum are the uber-pragmatists who ignore everything new, holding tightly to the traditional until overwhelmingly proven otherwise. On the other end are those who see promise in everything, chasing trends, and bouncing from one idea to another without ever focusing on what really matters. The herd of echo chamber enthusiasts bounce from idea to idea, trumpeting to each other and dancing to the beat of the next new thing.
As we strive for balance between focusing on what matters most while simultaneously keeping a keen eye fixed on emerging opportunities, here are some guidelines that might be helpful:
- (1) Remind yourself that the fundamentals of business likely won’t change. It’s almost never “different this time”.
- (2) If you don’t have a solid use case or two, the latest shiny gadget likely isn’t likely for you (at least not yet).
- (3) Recognize that the “Outlier Amplifier” effect is alive and well. The fringes are repeatedly over-exaggerated to satisfy the media’s gluttonous quest for eyeballs (every company is a media company). In the race for attention, those seeking it will often exaggerate for effect. It’s also important to note that there are no qualifications required to setup a blog, twitter, or youtube account. Sift shrewdly.
- (4) No one knows your business as well as you do. Seek to continually understand your prospects and customers better, and systematically build and align your capabilities to create and provide more value for them. This guiding principle will help stay focused on what matters most for you and your organization now and for the foreseeable future.
What else would you add to this list?