FlexState or Thriving In The Age of Disruption
In a world of increasing algorithm-driven precision, instability is still ironically, or perhaps understandably, a persistent form of normal. It seems that shocks to the system, outliers and just inherent human fears of change are triggering wild swings across the board.
We see this volatility most prominently in the powerful anti-establishment waves that have ushered radical voices in governments around the world. We also see it in the continued disruption across industries by the combination of digital and social media, lower barriers to entry for smart new players, and an increasingly informed, sophisticated and determined consumer.
This degree of instability, triggered by the settling of powerful tectonic shifts of technology, demographics, changing cultural mores and engagement models, is the new normal companies must face, navigate and thrive in. The following is a set of primers around these big shifts, along with initial business and creative implications.
ACROSS THE BOARD
Return to the core. Complexity and noise are creating unnecessary obstacles and mounting pressures for most of us. We are dealing with this stress by simplifying things around us and returning to the core: values, relationships, and more inspiring experiences. This tilt towards simplicity is carrying over to the business side as companies are finding ways to simplify their corporate structures as they also work to make their consumer journey more powerfully simple. We see this hunger for directness in the continued rise of human interaction, as evidenced by the rise of conversational design and new innovation including voice assistants and smarter bots.
Return To The Core will prize: simplicity, design thinking, purpose-driven plays, smaller influencer circles, next gen loyalty programs. Think also of better integration of services, systems around more nimble intelligence and intuition. Home, wellness and experiential industries will find deeper meaning and potential in this shift.
FLexState. The ability to shape-shift will be the most prized skill in the near future. As models of engagement evolve, it will be those individuals and organizations with broader transcendental skills, creative vision, and network that will thrive. We are seeing flexibility rise across the board, whether it be the gig economy and its pool of freelancers, corporations exploring new adjacent opportunity spaces and channels strategies. In an always disrupted era a spirit of experimental play will be critical for growth.
FlexState will prize: personalization, deep learning, multi-dimensional experiences, hybrid materials and interfaces, omnichannel and omni-personal approaches, new forms of business collaborations, new forms of engagement, the arts meet business and tech such as MFA meets the MBA in new business skills.
Radical innovation: Competition is heating up and most industries are facing a moment of reckoning, with most summoned to drastically reduce multiple inputs including resources, time, investments, and environmental impact at a time when the consumer wants more of everything. Companies that turn this challenge into an open innovation exercise will thrive. Early winners seem to be those with a strong purpose, fluid ecosystem and planning culture, and an intuitive command of culture and society and the role they play. The smarter ones will also bring in the consumer into solving the riddle, creating the ultimate form of engagement.
Radical Innovation will prize: the human company, talent-based strategic design, sustainability as the ultimate challenge, the circular company, purpose-led design, more direct forms of consumer/customer engagement.
Post-Hype: Hype has helped fuel our economy during the past 10 years, with an increasing set of direct to consumer change-makers now facing the moment of reckoning around their ability to scale up, be profitable, and perhaps most challenging, reign in and reshape their founder-led culture. We have high hopes that as these companies mature, they will form a new hybrid between the best of the challenger values that gave them life and a next generation corporation that is more human and agile across the board.
Post-hype will prize: new emotional connected CEO and management, new success metrics, work-life balance, the circular/sustainable company, conversational design, transparency and measurement.
Trust Economy. With trust hitting all time low levels and our digital footprints percolating throughout the ether, consumers will increasingly make trust an important factor in the brand consideration and purchase journey. Companies will up their ante on the security front and dial up the story of security to their customers. Next generation security brands like Lifelock will become more commonplace and current brand leaders will get more serious around their security plays.
Trust economy will prize: data privacy and control, emotional commerce, peer to peer selling, smaller circles of trust, next level block chain.
As you navigate these shifts, it's most important to see the changes from the lens of your brand and what you stand for. Timeless brands owe that essence to their ability to leverage their values to navigate change but most importantly, to lead and become the change. Think of ways in which your brand can become a disruptor by listening, getting of comfort zones, and dreaming up new, formidable ways to bring consistent value to your customer. For in that space begins the power of relationships that can result in transformative groundswells.