Today, the pace at which organizations can gather, process, protect, and disseminate data and knowledge can be their greatest indicator of longevity.
For decades, organizations have talked about and understood collaboration as an internal function or a partnering strategy. But that approach is insular in an age where sustaining the health of the organization requires looking outside itself for a deeper, more personal level of knowledge about and connection with the customer. Collaboration is now a platform built on three core legs – internal teams, partner organizations, and customers.
Our ability to amass and manipulate data has contributed in large part to this shift. Nonetheless, executing on it successfully takes more than analytics. It requires vision and an organizational structure that can filter an abundance of data into useful, actionable knowledge. With this in mind, a discussion about what it means to pivot in this Third Wave is actually more a conversation about vision, strategy, and agility.
How far does your foresight reach?
Not all that long ago, innovation was a relatively tactical endeavor. Concepts like “if you build it, they will come” justified the value of ideas. Innovations were more incremental, building upon past iterations to improve the customer experience. The process was relatively fixed - consider objectives, look at partner initiatives, and then send your team off to create. The presumption was that customers would learn to love (or at least adapt to) what you had to offer.
Today is not that time. Today, successful companies are stepping outside themselves to meet customers where they are. Innovation has shifted from satisfying dictates to producing solutions for higher level, genuine market needs.
The customer inspires this market. (Note that we didn’t say customers in the plural. Each customer is a segment of one – this is collaboration on the most personal of levels.) Successfully engaging this customer requires that you understand what drives him. It’s insight into what makes her act, buy, or behave in the way she does. Certainly, data can uncover some of that insight, but transforming insight into useful intelligence takes knowing what data to use. That comes from taking the time to do the headwork and build relationships that enable you to understand what is behind your customers’ drivers.
We can find great examples of this approach in the hospitality industry. Forward-thinking companies in this space are acting on the belief that their objective is not to sell a room or even an experience. They are setting about to create a tailored experience for each individual customer. They are collecting and leveraging data with that in mind. Yet they know that data alone can’t satisfy their objective. They continue to do the work to build actual human relationships that can then inform what analytics are most useful.
While it may look like a pivot from a traditional mindset, this is actually an agility framework that enables continual, purposeful innovation. It is part of the culture and infuses decision-making at every level, and is imperative to becoming Future Proof®.
Does your organizational structure enable productive innovation?
Agility comes down to the ability to ask the right questions. Data can’t answer a question that hasn’t yet been identified. That process takes a discipline of building relationships that create customers who become longer-term relationships, which create more customer data and opportunity for personal engagement. It’s a relationship/data cycle necessary for parsing the intelligence that drives innovation your customers want.
This relational, filtered approach to the use of data engages three main efforts:
With all of this in mind, we propose that in the Knowledge Age, pivoting is no longer a singular effort. It is an ongoing, iterative act that involves the whole organization in solving challenges and staying ahead of opportunities. It requires data, relationships, an ability to look outside the organization and its partners, and multi-directional collaboration.
The market continues to change. You can build it, but they may not come. How is your organization using data and dialogue to think about, address, and innovate the ideas that will keep you Future Proof®?
It’s time to know and iterate for the customers you are working to support.
Nina Martire is a Senior Associate who advises on strategy development, business planning and change management. She is focused particularly on the nexus of transformational change and strategic foresight, guiding leaders in commercial and government sectors to a better understanding of and an ability to plan for the future of their organizations. Nina holds an MBA from the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University and has a deep background in corporate and commercial finance.
Toffler Associates is a future-focused strategic advisory firm. Our Future Proof® business consulting approach helps global leaders understand how future shifts impact current decisions so they can take advantage of opportunity, manage risk, and create future value.
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