If anything proves that the world has changed, it’s the current presidential campaign. What used to work is no longer effective. And what shouldn’t work suddenly does. We are operating in what The Economist has called a post-truth world. The campaign seems to prove Marshall McLuhan’s prediction that electronic media would move us from a written to oral culture. In so doing, truth would become more subjective and our relationships would become more tribal. This month’s newsletter covers four of my recent articles, each related to new kinds of relationships and the ways in which we need to rethink the tried and true.
The first article, “From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg: The Transformation of Business,” appeared on Techonomy.
(If you aren’t familiar with Techonomy, I encourage you to do so. David Kirkpatrick and his team create remarkable conversations and community at the intersection of technology, business and society).
In this article I describe how the digital shift in communication from one-to-many (Gutenberg) to many-to-many (Zuckerberg) forces us to rethink the very nature of our relationships. In the public sphere, this affects government and citizens, politicians and voters. In business, we need to change how we relate to both customers and employees.
The second article, “Build your Brand as Relationship,” explores how this change affects the concept of brand and the relationship a company has with its stakeholders. I argue that brand relationships in a one-to-many world are transactional and asymmetrical. The relationship is provider/consumer. In a many-to-many world, brand relationships need to be more collaborative and reciprocal. Brands such as Airbnb, Lyft, Nest and Virgin America illustrate this shift.
“Letting Go Without Losing Control” explores the employee relationship. In a many-to-many world, the networked dimension of an organization becomes as important as the hierarchy. But this poses a problem for managers and leaders. In a hierarchy, autonomy is sacrificed for alignment. In a network, alignment tends to be sacrificed for autonomy. Is there a way to have both? In the article, I draw on lessons from biology and the military to create a new model of governance and culture based on decision principles.
Finally, my most recent article, “What if You Could Learn Design from Apple?” is about flipping the corporate university inside out. Companies need to build relationships with customers that go beyond the transaction. This strategy blends marketing and learning, so that you not only sell the bait, but also teach them to fish. Disney, Ritz-Carlton and Zappos have already embraced this model. I’ve personally been involved in efforts to engage senior executives in the tech sector, and one can imagine it in many other areas as well, whether design from Apple, sustainability from Patagonia, or digital marketing from Adobe.
In all of these areas, whether marketing or learning, strategy or culture, business or politics, our world is turning upside down and inside out. But in the midst of all these changes, some things stay the same. As humans, we still have a desire to find meaning, purpose, and connection. But we need to fulfill these needs in new ways.
As always, I welcome your ideas and opportunities on how to put Shift Thinking into practice. I’m particularly enjoying my work designing strategic narratives, and finally have a book concept I’m really excited about. More on that in the next newsletter.
Chief Epiphany Officer
P.S. If you have run out of shows to binge, I encourage you to watch the movie Network. It may be from 1976, but it is still the most penetrating commentary on modern society you will find. Plus you get to see Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch, William Holden, Ned Beatty and Robert Duvall in a Paddy Chayefsky script directed by Sidney Lumet. It doesn’t get much better than that. Look for it on YouTube or Amazon.