Leonardo da Vinci was a change agent. You probably know it already, it's worth repeating. At the time of birth, you are endowed with the same potential he had. Today, we need more than genius to make things happen though.
We need collaboration and co-creation at the highest levels. In the conceptual age, there is a lot of brain power at all levels in organizations, cities, and countries. Are we open to collaborating across such expanses? There were two readings that led me to make the connection between change and Da Vinci - they seem unrelated, but are they?
Let's take a look.
The editorial page of the January/February 2009 issue of Foreign Policy magazine is titled "our change, his (Obama) challenge". That gave me pause. I think a more apt title would have been - our challenge is change. If indeed the country voted for change, it would behoove everyone to align behind it. And that will be a challenge. We know the reality is much more complex. Individual interests, balance of power, and global relations will need careful navigating.
Everyone is looking for the magic wand in business - we probably got used to the nice returns. It's important to set a distinction between what we hope for and what we can actually execute. It's important especially to note that distinction when we think and talk about marketing and social media. It's no magic wand. You put an increasingly disciplined and scientific approach like marketing into an environment that facilitates the free form nature of humans and what do you have?
Science and art - rationality and emotion.
One would think economics rational, yet markets are so very emotional. With recent events, we also rediscovered that we're all connected. Yet those connections are welcomed only when we can make that choice on our own - who we interact with, where we buy, what we favor, follow, add, support.
Change is harder to do than it is to talk about
One year ago, Dell announced it was going to form a super agency choosing WPP as the holding company responsible to help create such venture. We talked about it here as a potential answer to the woes of client-agency relations. Casey Jones, Dell's VP of marketing, told PRWeek in 2007,
"I've been striving for integration for twenty years, and I've decided to give it up. Because integration means you're trying to glue things together that are not organically part of the same thing. We're looking for an agency relationship where PR, media, Web site analytics, creative, planning are all fixed on one objective - shareholder value for Dell."
Is dis-integration an option? Perfect-world scenarios meet real world challenges.
There is only way way I know of to face that - working through it. I'm not picking on Dell/WPP. They had a very ambitious and aggressive goal and no doubt many feathers got ruffled in the process. The change was too visible, too public to succeed. On the other hand, Dell's social media strategy is right on the money. It has grown from individual efforts and gestures. One conversation at a time.
Chapter two is how does social media revolutionize the business infrastructure?
I discussed how Dell was using social media to regain its mojo in September of 2007. From that post:
It’s 2004 you are Dell computers and you’re king of the world. But to be frank, you were also a bit boring. A year ago, Dells had the reputation as the cheap, utilitarian PC that you buy when price is everything. Dell was the ultimate commodity brand – serviceable, cost-effective, and a little dull. Along comes HP. In the course of a couple of years, HP using superior retail channels muscled past Dell to capture the number one position in the consumer PC marketplace.
So how does Dell react?
With a change in leadership – Michael Dell taking the reins of the company again and he is talking about taking a long term view of the business he helped launch. One response was to begin selling Dell through traditional retail channels. Another was to start listening to what customers are really saying about their products.
That’s when Dell turned to social media.
My conversation with Dell began after the publication of the Top Ten Reasons why your customer service fails in early July. Richard Binhammer in the corporate communications group at Dell sent me an email to volunteer his experience in using social media. [read the rest here]
The rest is the sum total of decisions that got Dell to being king of the social media execution. And I, too could be Richard @ Dell. A business needs to want to make that change for it to work. And for business I mean the people in it - at every level, collaborating and co-creating that change. That is a tougher proposition. And don't think that it's easier with services than it is with physical products. Can a company design a business through interactions?
Marketers are still looking for the definitive way to tie their work into business functions like market share and direct sales. The relationships between metrics, measurement and success are still quite undefined. Because now we must also start to ask - what are the right things to be measured? We are indeed all suffering from a glut of unrelated marketing messages - then again, unrelated may not be a bad thing with social media where experience is a-la-carte.
Our challenge is change. Whenever we consider writing anything, the hard part is coming up with the ideas, doing the writing is easy. Making things happen is quite the opposite - coming up with the ideas of what we don't like or want to change is fairly easy. It's the execution part that gives us pause. Yet the writing is on the wall.
In an interconnected world, it may turn out that getting change done is more art than science. It takes intuition and experience, the ability to broker - actually inspire - and attract relationships, along with superb unrelenting work. The art of conversation may just be the imperfect rescue the perfect world of expertise and science needs at the moment.
Yes, economists will need to revise the models and methods unquestioned during the boom years. It will force them to produce new tools suited to a new era and reinvigorate their thinking by borrowing more intensively from other disciplines such as psychology and political science, writes Moises Naim, editor in chief of Foreign Policy in the closing article.
Our marketing strategies and tactics are also bankrupt. We need not just fresh ideas to bail out the profession. We need marketers and communicators to lead the creation of what's next, not simply come up with solutions to patch what is now. We need to borrow from other disciplines and learn to be more like Da Vinci - inventors, scientists, change agents, opinion leaders.
[Leonardo da Vinci 1515 AD depicted parabolic mirrors in his now famous cryptic diagrams]
© 2006-2009 Valeria Maltoni. All rights reserved.