Studying the impact of innovation on business and society

Dear [insert business name], what’s your promise?

You say you want to get closer to customers, but your actions are different than your words.

You say you want to “surprise and delight” customers, but your product development teams are too busy building against a roadmap without consideration of the 5th P of marketing…people.

Your employees are your number one asset, however the infrastructure of the organization has turned once optimistic and ambitious intrapreneurs into complacent cogs or worse, your greatest detractors.

You question the adoption of disruptive technology by your internal champions yet you’ve not tried to find the value for yourself.

You’re a change agent and you truly wish to bring about change, but you’ve not invested time or resources to answer “why” in your endeavors to become a connected or social business.

If we are to truly change, we must find purpose. We must uncover the essence of our business and the value it delivers to traditional and connected consumers. We must rethink the spirit of today’s embrace and clearly articulate how transformation is going to improve customer and employee experiences and relationships now and over time. Without doing so, any attempts at evolution will be thwarted by reality. In an era of Digital Darwinism, no business is too big to fail or too small to succeed.

These are undisciplined times which require alternative approaches to recognize and pursue new opportunities. But everything begins with acknowledging the 360 view of the world that you see today is actually a filtered view of managed and efficient convenience. Today, many organizations that were once inspired by innovation and engagement have fallen into a process of marketing, operationalizing, managing, and optimizing. That might have worked for the better part of the last century, but for the next 10 years and beyond, new vision, leadership and supporting business models will be written to move businesses from rigid frameworks to adaptive and agile entities.

I believe that today’s executives will undergo a great test; a test of character, vision, intention, and universal leadership. It starts with a simple, but essential question…what is your promise?

Notice, I didn’t ask about your brand promise. Nor did I ask for you to cite your mission and vision statements. This is much more than value propositions or manufactured marketing language designed to hook audiences and stakeholders. I asked for your promise to me as your consumer, stakeholder, and partner. This isn’t about B2B or B2C, but instead, people to people, person to person. It is this promise that will breathe new life into an organization that on the outside, could be misdiagnosed as catatonic by those who are disrupting your markets.

A promise, for example, is meant to inspire. It creates alignment. It serves as the foundation for your vision, mission, and all business strategies and it must come from the top to mean anything. For without it, we cannot genuinely voice what it is we stand for or stand behind. Think for a moment about the definition of community. It’s easy to confuse a workplace or a market where everyone simply shares common characteristics. However, a community in this day and age is much more than belonging to something, it’s about doing something together that makes belonging matter

The next few years will force a divide where companies are separated by intention as measured by actions and words. But, becoming a social business is not enough. Becoming more authentic and transparent doesn’t serve as a mantra for a renaissance. A promise is the ink that inscribes the spirit of the relationship between you and me. A promise serves as the words that influence change from within and change beyond the halls of our business. It is the foundation for a renewed embrace, one that must then find its way to every aspect of the organization. It’s the difference between a social business and an adaptive business. While an adaptive business can also be social, it is the culture of the organization that strives to not just use technology to extend current philosophies or processes into new domains, but instead give rise to a new culture where striving for relevance is among its goals. The tools and networks simply become enablers of a greater mission

You are reading this because you believe in something more than what you’re doing today. While you fight for change within your organization, remember to aim for a higher purpose. Organizations that strive for innovation, imagination, and relevance will outperform those that do not. Part of your job is to lead a missionary push that unites the groundswell with a top down cascade. Change will only happen because you and other internal champions see what others can’t and will do what other won’t. It takes resolve. It takes the ability to translate new opportunities into business value. And, it takes courage.

“This is a very noisy world, so we have to be very clear what we want them to know about us”
-Steve Jobs

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The End of Business as Usual is officially here…

Photo of matches courtesy of Shutterstock

26 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Dear [insert business name], what’s your promise?”

  1. James Debono says:

    Hi Brian,

    I think your article is never further from the truth especially
    considering all the furore around the Facebook IPO.

    What is Facebook’ promise? Will they stick true to providing a top draw
    user experience or will they be guided by the investor’s pockets and start the
    marketing machine in its full glory?


    The phrase “Pulled apart by horses springs to mind” and
    businesses of all sizes need to remember that they ultimately they have to
    deliver an excellent experience or the customer, employee, investors will
    simply walk away!




  2. “You say you want to get closer to customers, but your actions are different than your words.”

    “Your employees are your number one asset, however the infrastructure
    of the organization has turned once optimistic and ambitious intrapreneurs into complacent cogs or worse, your greatest detractors.”

    This basically sums up what it’s like working for–and being a customer of–Go Daddy.

    Thanks for an awesome post Brian. My time working for a corporate machine that pretends not to be led me directly to the world of self-employment. If companies continue to lie about their “true purpose” in order to line their pockets, I suspect many more employees and customers will follow my path.

  3. Pamela Vitale says:

    You are so my hero…I keep all my version of these concepts and truths, these opinions, research and information on my laptop and in my gut waiting for some lightening to strike…you just do it and make it happen, speaking loud and clear. Thank you! I am going to kick my ass now!

  4. Jackfmckenna says:

    OK can you dumb this down for me. I am an Intergrated Marketing student and studing the use of social media as a marketing tool.  I understand that you have to consider the 5th P. people. What are your suggestions and recommendations for small business?

  5. I totally love this. It inspires me. I’m thinking about how to really be relevant.  What do people want and need?  How do we figure it out… almost before they do? I work in nonprofit. People are jaded. They’re fatigued. Everyone is asking for money, and there are so many good causes. How do we prove that we’re worth the investment? What separates the wheat from the chaff? What am I doing that’s not just a band-aid, but that’s realy tipping the world with a new solution?  What am I doing that’s not just “nice”, but essential?  You really get me thinking… It’s a good thing.  Thank you.

    • briansolis says:

      Claire, you’re asking the right questions…and in the exploration of the answers, you will not only find what you seek, but uncover relevance in the actions you take as a result. I’m on the same path…

  6. Great post and I totally agree with you doing marketing and promoting your product should match each other. Certainly this not only build trust from your customer but also builts the credibility of your business.

  7. Everyone should be in the game of making relationships when approaching any business. I don’t repeat visit restaurants because the service was functional and I got my food. I like the atmosphere and the personality of a place so I come back. A customer for life is worth 5 or more one offs. Take pride in your clientele and it will come back to kiss you.

  8. Brian, Thanks for another great post. After the economic shifts of the past half decade, it seems that society is moving more in the direction of transparency, authenticity, and value. “Show me what you’re going to do for me, show me how you’re going to do it, and then do it for a fair price”. Couple that with innovation and you’ve got the recipe for success. With respect to finding out what works…well, that would be the role of research…but not blind research for the next silver bullet campaign strategy. Rather, research that is carefully aligned with the purpose of the organization, its constituents, and their shared values. Thanks again for a great post.

  9. Couldn’t agree more, Brian

    I’m actually creating a free ebook that focusses on this. I call it a 21st Century Brand, and this is not something you inherit, but earn.

    It’s about taking your Core Values and what you truly promise the world, and making it happen. You need more than intention, you need doing!

    The Brands who fail to do this will get caught out in the next few years. It will be interesting to see who adapts

    Great post 🙂

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

  10. icon infosolutions says:

    Icon Web Services Private Limited is an established IT-Web
    Based Company specializing in Web Design and Development, Mobile Application
    Development, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and Social Media Optimization.

  11. Another great post.  I love your 5th “p”. I work in nonprofit, and this applies. There’s too much griping about how donors “should be more generous” and too little consideration of what we offer to them that would inspire them towards this generosity.  In the world of social benefit, the value is usually intangible.  Yet it’s equally important. So we must be crystal clear about what those values are (and what would happen were we to cease to exist).

    To acquire donors (aka “buyers”; “investors”) demands that we uncover folks who share the values we enact.  The digital revolution has given us great new tools to do this.  We can now ‘pull’ en masse, rather than having to get folks physically into a room or at a table. That’s exciting! Yet we can’t lose sight of the fact that this is still a people-to-people endeavor.  When we engage with a group… tribe… fan base… whatever… we have to do so with the same purpose and directness and relevance and personalization as we would were we sitting face-to-face.

    One problem I see is internal siloing.  People in different departments are not aligned.  They’re off doing their own thing, and the shared sense of purpose that would create a dynamic, compelling, integrated customer experience is missing. This has a chilling effect on passion — inside and outside the organization. Different departments become different layers, making the customer’s contact with the organization’s heart more remote.  In this sense, technology becomes yet one more layer putting our would-be investors at arms length.

    I love having my thinking provoked by you!

    • briansolis says:

      Hello Clarie, I love this comment. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with use. Siloing is a very real challenge. And, while we can’t break down the walls, we can start to open doors. I just wrote an article on this very subject that I’m trying to publish. I think you’ll find it interesting to say the least.

    • Thanks Brian. I’ll look forward to seeing the article.
      I like to think of knocking the silos down on their sides; then placing them together, end to end, so they’re a free-flowing conduit.

  12. MikeJones says:

    Hello Clarie, I love this comment. Thank you for taking the time to
    share your thoughts with use. Siloing is a very real challenge. And,
    while we can’t break down the walls, we can start to open doors. I just
    wrote an article on this very subject that I’m trying to publish. I
    think you’ll find it interesting to say the least.

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