Era of Choice - Today's New Leadership Priorities

Era of Choice

Today’s New Leadership Priorities

Among the most difficult decision for an executive is determining where to focus organizational energy. Leaders decide what problems to solve, and today's leadership priorities are brand meaning and customer experience.
With changing market dynamics, leaders face new challenges. Organizations will feel new pressures as they navigate these market changes. These problems reveal themselves in various ways and may be familiar to business thinkers, but others as apparent. Taken as a whole, these symptoms paint a picture of a larger problem, though a path forward may not be clear.

As we emerge from an industrial era, the information age brings new variables and complexity to organizational challenges. Leaders will have to make new decisions to remain vital and stay ahead, but change is hard. The momentum of previous decisions can be the most difficult obstacle. Organizations need to think differently about their markets, competitors, priorities, process, and brands.

When manufacturing at scale was new, organizations would make something, then find something to say about it. They would DO, then SAY.

Marketing grew out of the SAY part – what do we need to say in order to sell what we’re doing? This led to “generic” brand offer names: General Electric, General Motors, Standard Oil. If you wanted to get electricity, buy a car, or buy oil, these are your guys.

The industrial era was about solving the problem of scarcity. For GM, like Henry Ford, it wasn’t a matter of choosing which car to buy, rather, it was a question of if you had one at all. In that context, a brand name that was descriptive and broad made sense. These brands were synonymous with the category. If you want a car, we're the General Motors car company, so you can buy the car from us. It was fairly straightforward transaction.

In this older approach, what you DO is a given. Most time has been spend achieving scale and optimizing processes, the business or offer. When it comes to marketing and selling, you feel compelled to get the message out.

If you start to dig a little deeper into how you communicate the offer, you start talking about how to brand the offer, how to position the offer, what's the value proposition of the offer, which really begs the question: What exactly is the offer? That wasn’t a question a hundred years ago, but it is now.
Peopledesign - SAY vs DO
In the search for connection with customers based on meaning, brand claims (what you SAY), is more important. Saying you’re a general (or generic) company isn’t as relevant as a brand claim that reflects a customer mindset.

In the information era, this dynamic has flipped. The new approach starts with sources of value, and then walking the talk. Rather than assuming what you DO is a given, start with what customers truly value today and build new value propositions. Start with SAY in order to DO something different.

SAY: Not just what it is, reframe what it means.

Find those sources of value or find your value proposition around those sources of value and create a more feature-focused platform.
    Peopledesign SAY vs DO - iPod 1000 Songs

    Rather than calling it an MP3 Player (a technical product), it's an iPod with “1,000 songs in your pocket” (personal music).

    Peopledesign SAY vs DO - Nike Just Do It

    Rather than buying running shoes (product), "Just Do It" (motivation).

    DO: Not just a transaction, rethink the experience.

    Customer expectations have changed – people notice what companies DO because actions speak louder than words. You cannot not communicate. Define customer touchpoints, and then express and deliver on that claim.

    Call it the Amazon Effect: Customers are buying products late at night, in bed, on the phone, and expect it tomorrow. Consumers expect direct access to information, transparency of providers, and a holistic customer experience. Many industries will witness the collapse or evolution of the traditional value chain

    Rather than go to the store, download a song or have a product shipped to my house. I want to track the shipment and manage my library.

    Rather than buying software in a box or a car in a showroom, pay for a monthly service and get free upgrades.

    Rather than hailing a taxi, order one with your smart phone and pay for it, track my ride, and rate my driver, etc.

    SAY and DO work together – they are two sides of a coin, but a focused and aligned strategy starts with SAY.

    Clearly, Amazon focused on DO – redesigning the retail experience. On the other hand, they didn’t name the company Books Inc. The Amazon the largest river in the world. Life as we know it depends on water, and all water flows in rivers to get to the ocean. What a metaphor for the flow of commerce.

    In fact, SAYing something different often helps organizations to change, enabling teams to adapt and grow.

    The New Organization will switch from DO→ SAY to SAY→ DO.
    Think big
    The New Organization is a more cohesive whole, starting with a few key decisions. In the simplest terms, it comes down to The Big Idea, and Big Bets.

    Healthy organizations are built to serve an unmet need. Where there is no need, or the need has been met by alternatives, organizations struggle to survive. The Big Idea is what creates companies and markets. This may seem self evident, but many organizations genuinely loose track of how they add value to their customer.

    It’s not that surprising. After all, business categories or industries are formed by similar organizations competing to supply to that need or demand. In a mature industrial economy, new competitors enter a mature marketplace where the conditions are relatively static and customer needs are well understood. In the past, to compete is to optimize, but yesterday's Big Idea may not suit tomorrow's customer.
    Peopledesign - Big Ideas, Big Bets

    Yesterday’s Big Idea may not suit tomorrow’s customer

    Organizations following a historical pattern may lose sight of the Big Idea, instead being focused around the edges. The risk of not being focused on the unmet need is that customer needs is becoming greater.

    Big Ideas are always based on customer insights. Apple understood that people don’t want albums, they want songs. Amazon understood that people don’t need to go to stores to buy books (or, perhaps, anything else). Facebook understood that people value connections and communication above nearly all else. These innovators delivered customer experiences through technology, but the Big Idea was about customer motives and values. Value propositions are based on values.

    Big Bets are deliberate attempts to create value based on the Big Idea. Leaders may not wish to go all in on a single bet, but these bets need to be big enough to make a difference. A common mistake among more stagnant industrial companies is to place too many bets, spreading themselves too thin and losing the narrative thread with the Big Idea. Business investments are like retirement portfolios, with a relationship between near-term safe bets and long-term riskier bets. InJumping the S-Curve, Nunes and Breene highlight the need for a “Big Enough Market Insight” (BEMI), which is to say, an insight worthy of investment. We would add that there is a second choice to make a big enough bet based on that insight.

    In the industrial era, Big Ideas were about scale. Assembly lines were an incredibly significant Big Idea. Big Bets by early industrialists in this kind of manufacturing innovation was an incredible return on their investment.

    The post-industrial economy has new rules. The focus has shifted from transactions to transformation, and Big Ideas are about choice.

    There are two critical needs for any business to remain vital today: Brand Meaning and Customer Experience.

    New Leadership Priorities

    In most organizations today, these key objectives are nobody’s job. There may be a brand team and even a customer experience team, but neither has enough information or influence to affect change. The New Organization will have a team dynamic that is agile and responsive to these changes. Leaders will recognize that the work ahead involves these two primary parts and will organize to focus on customer meaning and align customer experiences.

    It is helpful to think of an organization as an iceberg. From a customer standpoint, most of it lies beneath the surface. What we typically think of as brand – and what we SAY in the marketplace – are just the most visible parts. What happens below the waterline starts with a clear focus on Brand Meaning, but the long-term work is creating a New Organization that can deliver the ideal Customer Experience.

    Ways to get started.