By Pete Krainik, October 08, 2012
This past weekend I had the privilege of being invited to attend an intimate breakfast with writer, and best-selling author, Malcolm Gladwell and Jon Iwata, SVP Marketing and Communications at IBM. The breakfast was hosted by IBM just prior to Malcolm’s talk at The New Yorker Festival. Listening to Malcolm share his thoughts and answer questions from the small group that attended the breakfast, I was energized by his perspectives on group decision making, individuality vs. hierarchy, and the impact of social media on today’s society. See post..
As marketing executives, we are focused on new ways to improve our relationships with customers and consumers plus making the right decisions on how to best engage customers with new social networks and changing consumer engagement patterns. Malcolm shared a number of valuable perspectives.
1) The first thing Malcolm shared was a different perspective on analyzing bad approaches to decision making in today’s world. Take, for example, the focus on small class sizes and the perspective that the smaller the class size, the more one on one time with students and their teachers. But can classes be too small? Recent studies have shown that classes too small are suboptimal for learning. Why? It’s not just about students engaging with teachers, but students engaging with other students. A great example of the power of community. On the flip side, the US has the highest % of criminals housed in prisons than anywhere else in the world. Studies here have shown the negative impact of community as crime rates go up with more criminals together in prisons.
Valuable Insight for Marketing Execs: When developing segmentation and customer relationship strategies, don’t miss out on the power of the community when developing “one to one” marketing approaches. Directionally one to one is valuable but in the context of one to one plus community.
2) Malcolm shared an interesting perspective on celebrating individuality while still respecting and needing hierarchy. Younger generations are all about celebrating individuality, challenging the status quo, and the desire and interest to see across vs. deep. The dilemma is the need for hierarchy to see change through successfully. He shared the example of the April Egyptian revolution a few years back and the success leveraging first twitter, then when the internet was shut down, how this decision facilitated people to leave their homes and meet face to face, resulting in the revolution. Fast forward to today with the issues currently surrounding the region. Once the revolution forced change, they needed a hierarchy to decide and bring forth the best leader and organization to see the change through. A key component of the problems today.
Valuable Insight for Marketing Execs: Both internally within your organizations and externally with customers and partners, provide them all with the ability to show their individuality for improving products and services, and improved customer relationships, but hierarchy and organization expertise and focus required for all to be successful. For example, when you create communities for employees and customers and encourage game changing ideas, make sure the processes and organization in place to support and drive changes back through your organization.
3) Malcolm shared a number of other insights.
Approach to interviewing people – No one should ever regret talking with you. The best ideas and insights can come from anywhere.
Significant worldwide shifts occur infrequently but we are entering the next big shift around the rejection of traditional hierarchy. The level of anxiety in 20 year olds about their future has never been higher. Their natural reaction is to seek comfort in their tribe (peers).
Big ideas and AHA moments area a result of trolling through many ideas and continue to be shaped by the more you talk with others.
Malcolm was intrigued with the real impact of Occupy Wall Street, and while being the exact opposite of, say, the civil rights movement of years back, having an effect on today’s perspectives on the haves and have nots. He noted Romney’s 47% comment and the effect Occupy Wall Street had on people’s reaction today to that video.
I was impressed not only with Malcolm’s insights and thoughts, but, his genuine interest in the cause and effect of human behavior. You can tell his mind never stops thinking about why things occur and what’s coming next. As marketing executives we need to strive for a similar interest in the cause and effect of human behavior and how our decision making and leadership impacts not only our products and services, but our relationships with employees and customers.
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