This is part 5 of an occasional series. The initial post is here.
At the end of my marketing rant a few weeks ago, I suggested that corporations might need to reimagine their places in the universe in order to be effective in the new marketing world order—not as central sources of information, but as minor nodes in a much larger network.
I know, I know. That’s kind of a big blow to the corporate ego. But let’s be honest, with few exceptions, potential and even actual users of your products just aren’t that into you. They may like your products just fine because they serve a useful purpose somehow. That’s a different thing than being into a “brand” in itself. But so what? Everybody talks about customer-centricity and solution selling, right? So what really needs to change?
Well, almost everything about how a typical corporation runs, really.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
If you were in networking a decade ago, you might remember the Jericho Project. The project was conceived as a response to the first wave of deperimeterization, which was driven by three things:
- Internet commerce (both B2B and B2C) was punching holes in corporate firewalls as fast as they were implemented in order to allow corporate users to do business with the outside world.
- In the US, corporations started employing contract workers in large numbers, even for highly skilled labor that would require access to material corporate documents and assets.
- The cost of mobile devices dropped rapidly. First laptops, then later cell phones, made it easier for workers to work anywhere, which in turn drove demand for public internet connections, which in turn made security people’s hair turn white prematurely.
The whole reason any of this was even an issue is that the corporation we inherited from the 20th century was founded on a motte-and-bailey architecture: it assumed everyone inside was an official employee, and that everyone did their work physically inside the corporate offices or factory floor under the watchful eye of a supervisor. There was a clear demarcation between insider and outsider. At the same time, the corporation/castle expected to be the control point for its immediate environs.
Because those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it, we’ve since re-evolved through the corporate equivalents of concentric castles and walled towns that allowed quasi-trusted entities—suppliers, OEM partners, app developers for software companies—access to certain info in highly quarantined environments (remember EDI?).
Slowly, over decades, our medieval corporate structures have been catching up with our social mores. Command-and-control has gone out of fashion in Western management circles. Worker productivity is assumed to be predicated on the pursuit of happiness. Everyone needs to be entrepreneurial because lifetime employment (serfdom!) is a thing of the past. Co-opetition is the new normal. Everyone has to be trusted a little bit, but no one too much.
And yet still, we persist in clinging to the time-honored illusion of corporate control: controlling “the message”, whom else our channel partners—even suppliers–do business with, whom employees talk to, what they talk about, the route of the “customer journey” through the buying cycle.
But seriously, in a global, networked economy, where there’s almost always another source of either materials or information—or one can be stood up in short order? Where everyone has their own agenda and loyalties are of short duration due to the ready availability of alternatives? What will happen to companies whose commercial tactics and processes continue to be predicated on that illusion of control despite all evidence to the contrary?