Is it true that “the more things stay the same, the more they change?” We believe that flipped version of the old cliché more and more all the time. We see businesses large and small struggling with holding on to the stability and order of the industrial age. Yet, things don’t stay the same; they never really did. Even as good and standardized and organized and productive as we got in the industrial age, things were in constant flux. New tools and processes were invented daily. The industrial age claimed the world as quickly and completely as it did because marketers convinced us that we needed more, that what is truly desirable is scarce and hard to get.
We are moving into a new era. It’s just starting to take shape, but the change is moving so quickly that it’s almost impossible to keep up – or to understand the full impact on our lives and businesses. But, like us, you may be feeling that a major shift is under way. That shift is the result of enormous increases in connectivity over the past decade. The old economy based on scarcity is giving way to the new connectivity economy that embraces abundance. Abundance of choice in who and how and what we connect with. We have abundant access to knowledge. If knowledge is power, then we are becoming more powerful minute by minute with the growth of connectivity not only in our own country but around the globe.
This abundance of input creates a scarcity of time for everyone who leads an organization. Decisions need to be made quickly to stay competitive and relevant. The connection economy offers opportunities, but no guarantees of certainty. And it increases in value and power as more people connect in more ways. Of course, that value accrues to all stakeholders: not only our businesses, but our customers and our competitors. Our customers have more choice than ever. They’re making their way through the changing connection landscape just as we are.
To be successful in the new connectivity economy, we’ll need new skills, new ways of doing business, new habits. Marketing now requires so much more than a good tagline and catchy ads. What matters now? Author, marketer, innovator, Seth Godin, lists them: “Trust, permission, remarkability, leadership, stories that spread, humanity: connection, compassion, and humility.” These, according to Godin, “are the result of successful work by humans who refuse to follow industrial-age rules. These assets aren’t generated by external strategies and MBAs and positioning memos. These are the results of internal struggle, of brave decisions and the willingness to allow others to live with dignity. They are about standing out, not fitting in, about inventing, not duplicating.”
Connectivity opens the marketplace to pretty much anyone, but we listen to the people we choose to hear. And whom do we listen to? We choose people we trust. We donate and do business with people who have earned our attention. We crave stories that resonate, satisfy and fulfill. We find them, and engage with companies and people that delight us and satisfy and sometimes surprise us in a positive way.
This will require true leadership. Leadership is not management. Management is about producing the same results over and over. Maybe a little faster or more economically. We mandate cost cutting, limit variation, and exalt obedience. The connection economy invites you to invent your own game. On the line with no rule book, no guidelines, and no one to point to when things go wrong, the leader is the risk taker who takes us to a new place, away from cheap, fast, and the safety of compliance.
It’s an exciting time. We’re in the throes of huge changes to almost every aspect of business. The new customers, employees, the people we seek to connect with, are right now defining the way businesses will succeed. They want our humanity, our realness, our compassion, caring, and genuine regard for their well being more than our sales spiels and discounts. We’re all in this together, making our way and inventing the connection economy as we go.
• Anne Ward and Bob Sandidge, CreativeCore Media in Algonquin, are marketing, communication, management and training consultants who help small business and non-profits overcome the marketing and motivational myths that are keeping them and their businesses from unbounded success. AnneBob@CreativeCore.com – www.NLPeople.com.