In a recent episode of Boardwalk Empire, Chalky White’s wife was angry because he took his son to play with Jazz musicians at his nightclub. She feared that it would upset the order of his classical training.
Traditionally, business executives have felt the same way. They would bring in bright young prospects and make them “organization men”—and later women as well—who would work their way up through the system and then indoctrinate the next generation.
Yet the past few decades have altered things considerably. The LBO craze in the 80’s, the PC revolution in the 90’s and the digital disruptions of the 21st century have radically changed how we need to approach business problems. Strategic planning has become less tenable and we need to adopt more adaptive approach. Jazz holds important answers.
It’s been nearly half a century since Philip Kotler first published his Principles of Marketing, which has defined the practice of millions of professionals worldwide ever since. It’s no stretch to say that before Kotler, there was no true marketing profession.
What made Kotler different than what came before is that he took insights from other fields, such as economics, social science and analytics and applied them to the marketing arena. Although that may seem basic now, it was groundbreaking then.
Today technology is transforming marketing once again. Although up to this point, most of the impact has been tactical, over the next decade or so there will be a major strategic transformation. This, of course, will be a much harder task because we will not only have to change what we do, but how we think. Here’s a short guide to the change:
Tony Stark is a prototypical innovator. Brilliant and eccentric, he works alone in his lab and creates amazing things as if driven by a magical force. He then goes to a cocktail party, fights some crime, cracks a few jokes and has a few laughs. Alas, Iron Man is a cartoon.
The truth is that innovation is a messy business where confusion and uncertainty reign. There are late nights, petty arguments and a roller coaster of emotions ranging from euphoria to abject desperation.
Yet these days, innovation isn’t an option, it’s an imperative. Technology is changing so fast that, you can’t expect your business model to last anymore. Even if you’re successful, that success will turn to failure if it leads you to favor stability and the status quo over change. While there are no easy fixes, these 5 rules will set you in the right direction.
Terabytes, Petabytes, Exabytes. Who can keep track? These strange terms have just begun to enter the business lexicon, but the hype surrounding them has reached a fever pitch. We have undoubtedly entered the age of big data.
Yet it’s hard for many to take it seriously. While the blogosphere buzzes and millennials preach, most serious business people are focused on their jobs. They have partners, customers and employees to keep happy and all the techy mumbo jumbo just doesn’t seem relevant.
Yet big data is important because it will transform how we manage our enterprises. For most of the 20th century, business leaders relied on “scientific” studies and “statistical significance” to determine what information they could trust. Now, technology is making those assumptions obsolete and the practice of management will never be the same.
In the 20th century, nearly every marketing problem had one solution—the 30 second TV ad. If you had a product to sell, you could reach everybody you needed to with a powerful, highly polished message in a very short period of time.
Yet marketing in the digital age is different. Building awareness is no longer sufficient. In fact, it may even benefit your competitors more than it does your brand because once consumers react to your message, they will be retargeted using digital methods.
So the basic function of marketing promotion has changed. It is no longer enough to grab attention, you need to be able to hold attention and that’s where social strategy comes in. The age of catchy slogans and massive ad campaigns is over. Brands in the 21st century need to become more like publishers and strategy needs to follow from that.
Hundreds of consumers standing in line at your local Apple store. Thousands of protesters rushing to flood the streets of Cairo, Istanbul—or Manhattan. Millions of people choosing to watch a hit TV show streamed on Netflix.
Everywhere we turn our world is being disrupted. From the mightiest dictators to the biggest companies, no one is safe anymore. While revolutionary ideas and movements are nothing new, they have become more frequent, intense and far reaching.
Perhaps not surprisingly, when we seek to find why disruption happens, we look to the disruptors themselves— the Henry Fords, the Steve Jobs’s and the Elon Musks. The truth is that disruption has little to do with individuals, but is primarily a function of networks and, if we are to deal with disruption, it is the unseen connections we need to understand.
Professionals are supposed to be rational, serious people and we try to project an image which is highly optimized and data driven. In the cutthroat corporate world, the one thing we don’t want to be is corny. That would be undignified.
Yet we’re not as rational as we’d like to think. We’re driven by cognitive biases, base desires and petty rivalries as much as anything else. We try to keep up appearances, but it’s just a front. When we say we’re being practical, we really mean conventional.
As John Maynard Keynes once said, “Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.” In much the same way, relying on convention often blinds us to promising new approaches. That’s a shame, because some of the corniest ideas are also some of the best.
A while back, Bill Keller of The New York Times stirred up a hornet’s nest when he wrote a column worrying that joining Facebook would have a debilitating effect on his 13 year-old daughter’s intellectual faculties. Technology advocates, including me, pounced.
Now there are new studies out that seem to support his argument. One shows that using search engines decreases our memory and another suggests that GPS may atrophy our brains. Discovery magazine has collected a half-dozen similar examples on its site.
I think the question itself is misplaced. Clearly, we use technology to do things for us that we no longer are doing for ourselves and that means certain abilities degenerate. Yet, it also means that we are freeing up cognitive energy for other things. So what’s really important is not the skills we are losing but those that we need to develop.
When Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post, it meant the end of one of America’s great publishing dynasties. For 80 years, the Graham family ran the paper with dignity, grace and a commitment to public service. However, time had passed them by.
Some of the great old publishing empires remain, such as the Sulzbergers of The New York Times, the Newhouses of Conde Nast and, of course, the Forbes family. Yet they are now the exception rather than the rule.
Meanwhile, publishing itself is thriving—creating new fortunes in record time. Bleacher Report sold for almost $175 million after only 5 years; Huffington Post reaped $315 million in 6 years and these juggernauts were founded by people with scant experience in the industry. Clearly publishers have lost their way. Here’s how they can get back on track.
For most of his career, John Antioco had produced nothing but success. Starting out as a trainee working in a 7-11 stockroom, he had risen to the upper echelon of corporate America. When he pulled off impressive turnarounds of Circle K and Taco Bell, many considered him to be a retail genius.
Yet today, Antioco is widely assailed as a fool, a bungler and worse. As CEO of Blockbuster Video, his decades of retail experience led him to dismiss Netflix as a niche business. In due time, Antioco was fired and Blockbuster went bankrupt.
It’s easy to write off Antioco as a buffoon and leave it at that. However, it can happen to anyone. As Moisés Naím put it in The End of Power, “Power is easier to get, but harder to use or keep.” The truth is that now everybody gets disrupted sooner or later. The old playbooks are dead. We need new principles to adapt to an increasingly uncertain age.