Studying the impact of innovation on business and society

Digital prophet Brian Solis on what post-digital people want


by Mark Cameron, BRW

I spoke to Brian last week to get his views on how and why social media is having such a dramatic impact on the way that businesses are evolving.

Our discussion centred around how businesses are dealing with managing the changes in communication that social media has brought, and the economics of relationships at scale – a fundamental issue in today’s environment. This is not a technology issue. To quote Brian, it revolves instead around the fact that society is beginning to “rethink the nature of the transaction”. All transactions involve the trading of data and unless every party walks away from this trading with a sense of value the whole engine will stop working.

The mindsets of two broad groups of consumers are shaping the evolution of the nature of transactions. The first group is the “Pre-Digital Lifestyle” group. This encompasses baby boomers and much of the generation X segment. This group (including myself) grew up in the world before the internet and the ubiquity of smart phones. Their world view is one where privacy is a right and public notoriety is earned. To many in this group the term “data” arouses feelings of concern and even paranoia.

Then we have the “Post-Digital Lifestyle” group. This group comprises most of the world’s population – Generation Y and everyone born after this generation. This group has only experienced a world driven by the internet, connectivity and social media. These “always on” people know that their data has value and take a dim view of brands that don’t respect that fact. To them data is currency – something to be traded.

The “Post-Digital Lifestyle” group are empowered with information like no other in history. They don’t want to join organisations and are progressively moving through the ranks of society. They are looking for short-cuts. Their default setting is to think “I don’t care if it has always been done this way – I think it can be done better”.

This may sound arrogant and confirm the views of those who believe that “the younger generation doesn’t know how the world works”. It is nonetheless the truth and businesses need to know how to deal with this thinking, both internally and from a customer facing perspective. Dated processes and a centralised command and control mentality won’t work. The “Post-Digital Lifestyle” group are looking to be empowered. And increasingly the “Pre-Digital Lifestyle” group are now coming along for the ride.

Businesses need to build a culture that is focused on empowering their stakeholders through their brand. They need to be facilitating this change in mindset. They must focus less on control and more on managing relationships. They need to decouple themselves from the use of technology for its own sake and start deploying technology to become more human. They need to stop thinking about data as something to be collected and mined. Businesses should treat it instead as a private asset that can be unlocked to provide value for your customers – if they give permission.

The world continues to evolve and businesses must strive to keep up with the pace of change. They should bear in mind a comment Brian Solis made at the outset of our discussion : “As we have become more digital we have also become more human”.

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