I was watching and listening to the keynote conversation (just click on the links that say 750, 300 or 100 on the side) by Guy Kawasaki with Steve Ballmer of Microsoft at MIX'08 last night, and something jumped at me.
At one point Kawasaki says that 14 year olds do not know about the OS wars and the antitrust. They know Xbox and Halo and think that Microsoft is pretty cool. They have no history with OS and productivity. There is opportunity there for Microsoft to ride a different image.
Later in the video, Ballmer talks about the Mountain View Campus where the company lets people touch and see its products at events. The key is to keep making great products and hiring people who want to get up in the morning and change the world. It was refreshing to hear and see a CEO unplugged without PowerPoint presentation with bullet points. Garr Raynolds at Presentation Zen has his take on the odd couple.
The big a-ha to me was to think that to new customers your company has no legacy. No history in what you may have not done right, nor in what you used to do. That is both great and scary. The opportunity is enormous. You can decide to stretch and change. Or you can fear change, become protective of your history and be on your way to irrelevancy.
"In this industry, you either move forward or you become irrelevant," said Ballmer, "I don't think that there is one option that says do one thing, do the same thing for 100 years, never broaden your footprint... software is this funny thing, it never wears out, so you've got to keep pushing."
The thing is that with new generations of customers you have a blank slate. If it is an unnatural act for you to change in the midst of a relationship with current customers, you have the chance to learn how to be different with new ones. They think you're cool.
You may think about new customers as 14 year olds, who don't see all the history and (sometimes) the mistakes you've made to get there. With their help, you can start thinking of yourself and your business differently.
You can then borrow that energy and willingness to change for existing customers. Xbox may very well have been the inspiration for SharePoint's open platform to serve business. Kawasaki himself talked about Microsoft being a different company to work with now - none of the arrogance that used to be associated with the brand is there. I was impressed with Ballmer's ability to respond to questions with such clarity.
The dream of every company is for its customers to reconsider them as a viable purchase. What Microsoft is doing by being so open, on top of visible, is allowing that. I switched to Mac last fall after years of disappointments with Windows-based PCs, which I still use. Yet, I might consider Microsoft's new products and will be watching for innovative things from them.
How open are you to listening to what new generations of customers are telling you about your business? Are you making the leap to the future of your business?
© 2006-2009 Valeria Maltoni. All rights reserved.