Tag Archives: last analog generation

Getting to 2020 — Defining the Unknown (Part 2)

Today’s exercise focuses on the best concepts you can dream up so your organization can thrive in the future. You’ll then need to perform a reality test on those ideas, using research you’ve developed.

This article follows up on my first, in which I argue that now is the time to prepare for what I call “Agency 2020.” In other words, you need to prepare your organization for the leap that will be required for future prosperity.

In that first article, I asked dozens of questions to help define the current reality of 2014. We searched for the knowns – and the known unknowns – of today. This time around, almost every question will be about a discovery in the “unknown unknowns.”

Your challenge is about asking the right questions – and then stretching yourself beyond your comfort zone to find good answers for tomorrow. Use a flood light on the dark horizon of tomorrow. It’s premature to focus with laser-like intensity.

Pursue this process with enthusiasm and childlike curiosity. Forget what you know and believe. Ask “what if?” Don’t try to define “what isn’t.” My intent is to broaden your horizon, stimulate imaginative thought, encourage you to focus and help you act as you develop your new organization for 2020.

To keep the process simple and open-ended, we’ll focus on four issues:

  • people
  • technology
  • the global economy
  • innovation

PEOPLE: The overriding challenge and opportunity in 2020 will be people: who they are,  their values, the cultures they will create and their wants and needs in their own world. Do their worlds and your world overlap? Is there some common interest and opportunity? How do you communicate with many … as well as with a niche of one?

Research the generational mix in 2020. What percentage of the population will be Gen C, Millennials, Gen X and Boomers? Will the Greatest Generation be gone? What will be the influence of each group in the decision-making process as consumers, managers, leaders, etc.?

If they are clients or prospects, what products and services can you offer to meet their wants and needs? How do you profitably deliver this at a price they are willing to pay? What message, media, metrics are necessary to ensure you maintain intimacy continually with each person and affinity, as well as with their population (generation) – however they define it?

Where and how can your interests align – whether as employers, employees, collaborators, competitors, decision makers, policy leaders, educators, friends or social media group members, etc.? Who is now – or who will be – in your world tomorrow, in 2020?

Consider the following as you try to put your arms around a new digital universe that will see the LAGgards (Last Analog Generation) leaving the scene and new Gen C – digital natives – begin to assert their influence before they finish high school. (Before you roll your eyes, have you ever had to ask a teenager to show you how to use your device du jour?)

John Naisbitt painted the picture of this phenomenon in his book Megatrends when he talked about “balancing high tech and high touch.”

If you are unwilling or unable to accept the new world, demographics and diversity, enjoy your retirement.

TECHNOLOGY: Decades ago, the scholar and organizational consultant Warren Bennis observed: “The factory of the future will have two employees, a man and a dog. The man is there to feed the dog, and the dog is there to keep the man away from the machinery.” Could he be right?

To provide perspective, remember that in 2003 the BlackBerry was considered state-of–the-art technology. Some believed this device owned the future of social connection. There was no iPhone, iPad, Facebook, Twitter, etc. By 2012, BlackBerry’s parent – then known as Research in Motion – was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, and “i” technology, smart devices and social media were out-of-control adolescents.

Today, conversations are focusing on the Internet of Things, or IoT, where inanimate objects – smart watches, “intelligent” cars, home appliances, etc. – communicate without the intervention of people.

In 2020, will technology work for us, or will we work for technology? Will we know more and communicate better than Siri, or will artificial intelligence be the trusted advisers for most consumers? Will facial recognition technology allow your iPhone to read the mood of your clients better than you can, when you’re each sitting at the City Club texting each other over lunch?

Is this ridiculous? Can you afford to be wrong?

THE GLOBAL ECONOMY: Time and place are gone. The lights are always on, and the door is never locked in any place of business. That’s the good news: You can live on Main Street and still compete in Dublin, Dubai or Duson, La. The bad news is that your competitor and many hackers are on Main Street, peering into your shop. You can be a David in a world of Goliaths. But if you’re a Goliath, you’re more vulnerable than ever to a world of Davids. If your company is bureaucratic, you’re just a slower Goliath.

My best suggestion is to “capture population” and become the portal of choice for members of that universe. Don’t worry about selling products. Instead, focus on needs and solutions to problems. Facilitate the “buying,” or capture, of each individual in the group. Remember: If you control a large enough population, you can “insure” needs of the group – without the cost of issuing individual policies.

INNOVATION (the new power plays and power players): In a presentation on change in 1993, I declared: “Today GM, Sears and IBM are the kings of their respective jungles. In our lifetime, one of these companies will fail.” The audience shook their heads in disbelief. I was right, and in the long term I may win the trifecta.

From the Affordable Care Act, to Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, apps, artificial intelligence and IoT, the marketplace is being redesigned by the people who shop there. In other words, the deck is being reshuffled. Opportunities have never been greater, the stakes higher or the risks greater.

That the world will be different is a fact. Remember Einstein’s admonition: “Insanity is to continue to do what you’ve always done and expect a different result.” Don’t be insane. Be prepared.  It can work. As I noted in my first article, we’ve already walked on the moon!

With forethought, an organizational purpose, principles, a vision, a commitment and a plan that ropes you to that commitment, you can and will prevail.  Don’t try to conquer the world. Just identify and prevail in your part of that world.

Be bold and wise in your research and positioning for 2020. Today’s world includes unlimited data, much less useable information and less still actionable knowledge. By 2020 – if you’re willing to try – you’ll be able to take the actionable knowledge, shape it to the wants and needs of a specific group, align your offerings (helping them buy) and innovate your processes to ensure you can deliver at a price they are willing to pay. Align your message, media, meaning, etc. to each specific group. Test the concept. And then act – meaning experiment. Remember, wisdom exists at the intersection of knowledge and experimentation. When you fall down, stand back up.

As business management columnist Dale Dauten states: “Different isn’t always better, but better is always different.” Be better in 2020. Differentiate yourself from the sameness of today and tomorrow!  Take the giant leap of discovery for yourself … and all of mankind!

Look Up, Look Out, Think New!

“The stalking weasel has its nose to the ground. It never hears the descent of the hawk.       Until. . . ”  

-Andrew Vachss, author

Are you like the weasel? Are you so focused on what you’re doing that you don’t hear the hawk that will soon take you out of the marketplace?

You may very well be staring at your hawk as you read this article!

You see, one of the “hawks” in today’s world is technology — iPhones, iPads, other mobile devices, the Internet, social media, Siri, artificial intelligence, big data, 3-D printing, etc. These “hawks,” along with a global economy, shifting demographics and new power players, have made the world a very dangerous place for “weasels” like you and me.

From Mohan Nair’s book, Strategic Business Transformation, we learn that the following companies were all profitable in 2007 and by 2010 were dead:

American Home Mortgage
Bombay Company
Comp USA
Circuit City
Lehman Brothers
Levitz Furniture
Linens and Things
Sharper Image
Ziff Davis
Bearing Point
Charter Communications
KB Toys
Monaco Coach
R.H. Donnelley
Silicon Graphics
Hollywood Video

From this same source, we also learn that in yesterday’s world 80% of change was cyclical and 20% was structural or transformational. Tomorrow, the opposite will be true – 80% will be structural and only 20% incremental.

Time, place and pace have changed. Today we live in a 24/7/365 world without borders and with an expectation of instant gratification. We want what we want, and we want it now! Don’t believe me? Google it!

In the days of Ozzie and Harriet, big threes dictated to a mass market. The auto industry was defined by GM, Ford and Chrysler. Broadcast television was owned by CBS, NBC and ABC. The magazine industry was controlled by Time, Life and Look.

Fast forward two or three decades, and power has fragmented. Today, more than 40 automobile manufacturers sell hundreds of models of cars in the U.S. Visit any newsstand in your town or the equivalent on your computer, and you can find magazines specializing in everything from fly-fishing to quilting to cigars to Sudoku. You can view hundreds of broadcast, cable or other channels — and from any screen you own, not just from a TV.

We are no longer a mass market but rather are a series of niches being served by specialty manufacturers and distributers using mass customization to meet the demands of each niche. In fact, as we walk toward the horizon of unlimited possibilities that is tomorrow, we see where each of us is a niche of one whose needs will be served uniquely.

Big data allows manufacturers and distributors (and others) to know our wants and needs before we even express them. (Yes, we are sacrificing privacy for convenience.) Innovation is now at the point where 3-D printers can manufacture body parts for us.

The market has switched from selling to facilitating buying: A Wall Street Journal headline in July 2012 read, “The Customer as a God.”

The Baby Boomers (a.k.a. hippies) are finally on the “center stage” of life but are being told to exit stage left so Gen Xers can have their turn. Waiting behind the curtain with the Gen Xers are the Millennials and the Gen C — and they will not be as patient as the Gen Xers have been. The Millennials and Gen C are the new world. They don’t want to intern under us. They want to do their own thing. Now.

The boomers and their world of analog are about yesterday. Selling products, developing relationships, drinks at the City Club, civic and church groups, letters, prospecting and cold calls: These are not tomorrow’s world.

As Scott Walchek wrote on this site, “The Last Analog Generation — let’s call them LAGards — are departing, and in their wake a fascinating new world is emerging.”

Gen C — the newest generation and the only digital natives currently on the planet — were born into tomorrow and don’t give a damn how we did it back in the day. As a Booz & Co. study says, “They are Generation C (born after 1990) — connected, communicating, content-centric, computerized, community-oriented, always clicking. By 2020, they will make up 40% of the population in the U.S., Europe and the BRIC countries, and 10% of the rest of the world, and by then they will constitute the largest group of consumers worldwide.”

Their biggest impact is that as teenagers they are not learning from us (their parents and grandparents) how to be good consumers. They are teaching us: how to use the power of technology and social media to be great consumers. They are teaching us how to buy in a digital and nonverbal world.

As a result, every manufacturer, distributor and salesperson will be changed sooner rather than later and much more deeply than they would change if left to their own devices.

Today is/was a world driven by products and services and product and service sellers. Tomorrow is about being defined and driven by clients. Siri will know more about products and services (even those you offer) than you do. Product knowledge will not be as important as understanding a client — a finger on their pulse. Tomorrow, you must be an expert in your client and their industry. You must build intimacy with each client and affinity with his or her world. Within this focus and framework, they will choose to buy from you — you won’t sell to them.

Each of us is who, what and where we are today because of the way we think. If we want to change, survive, prosper and enjoy longevity, we must think new! We must innovate or evaporate.