Peak Absolutely Everything

by Daniel Batten on June 16, 2010

This is an article about a new trend in business – closely following a global resource-trend happening right now.

There is increasing evidence that not only has oil, phosphorous, copper and many of the world’s resources peaked – so has something else that we hadn’t considered until now. The business techniques that we used to create companies when the world’s resources seemed unlimited has also peaked.

Lets take peak oil as a metaphor. This means that we’ve reached the point where the energy required to extract oil from the ground is getting progressively harder. While we can still extract oil – it is more expensive and time-consuming and there is less oil of the same quality to extract.

Have you noticed that the exact same phenomenon is concurrently happening in sales, marketing, management – in short every facet of business involving people?

Sales, marketing, management and PR all used to be about “what can we extract?”

  • In account management, language was used like “how can mine our database for more referrals?” In other words: extracting sales.
  • In marketing and advertising, principles was used like “interruption, repetition, the 7-touch rule, and imprinting a message in the head of the buyer. In other words: extracting customer loyalty.
  • In management, questions were asked such as “How can I get the most out of my team”, “I know there’s gold in this person, but how do I get to it?”. In other words:  extracting performance.
  • In PR: teams would get around a table and brainstorm “How do we extract maximum value from this opportunity”. In other words: extracting interest.

Sometimes in business I was guilty of talking this way myself – because it used to work to an extent, and I didn’t know the more effective alternative.

The problem is this: sales, customer loyalty, team performance and market interest are becoming increasingly difficult to extract. For example, marketers are now saying that the 7-touch rule no longer applies – it now takes as many as 13 “touches” before a consumer will buy. Each touch is less effective, because loyalty is getting more difficult to extract. It is more expensive to extract. And the quality of what gets extracted is going down.

At the same time, there are a huge number of new businesses forming every day, that are not based on the old metaphors of extraction, that are positively thriving.

So what is the difference.

The difference is that the thriving businesses do not operate by the metaphor of extraction, they operate by the metaphor of involvement. Involvement does not treat the customer, team-member, prospect or wider marketplace as a “thing to be got” but a “human to be engaged”.

Budweiser vs Colgate
Here is another illustration of how involvment has replaced “extraction”. In the past, an awful advertisement could raise sales because it had an annoying jingle I couldn’t get out of my head. This ad would “extract” buyers through the principle of interrupt and repeat a message until the subconscious mind is beaten into submission and accepts the message as true.

Now, its unlikely I watch it on TV in the first place. If I do, with all the other online ways I use my time, I won’t watch enough for the bad ad to become memorable. And even then, I’ll prerecord and ffwd through the Ads. Whereas a genuinely entertaining Ad will get upwards of 10 Million unique views on Youtube. The Ad that seeks involvement wins.

On Youtube, Budweiser ads are consistently viewed in the millions. The Colgate ads are consistently viewed in the hundreds.

Same principle applies to team management: From Apple to BP

The old philosophy is to treat a staff member as an open cast mine to extract productivity from. Social media tools are viewed as a threat – like protesters around an open cast coal pit – so they are removed.

Staff are assumed to be extractable when they are visible: in front of a computer looking busy. Hours of day, and days-of-week are locked down. There is little investment in training. There is talk about a “company culture” – but really each company is utterly indistinguishable from another company because culture can only exist where team members are treated from the standpoint of involvement, not extraction.

By contrast, thriving companies invest heavily in their teams, provide flexible hours, give senior members time to do their own research, provide all the tools they’d expect to have on their home computers and work by the principle “I’m not going to even monitor how many hours you work – I will set objectives and as long as you are meeting these, its up to you where, how and why you do it.”

The business case to move from an extraction-model to an involvement-model is that your company will still exist in five years, and that you will enjoy your job more in the process, and your economic performance will go up as surely as night follows day. Because involvement is exactly the principle Apple have used for some time, and Apple is now the world’s largest technology company. Close behind is fellow involvement-based company Google.

Compare and contrast that with companies with “extraction” based models such as BP – who cut corners and compromised employee safety repeatedly, for short term economic gain.

So what trends are emerging that you must use today if you are to stay alive and thrive in business

1. Remove all extraction-based principles in business. Treat customers, prospects, team as you would your own family. Love them – genuinely: not just because you have been told that “love” is a good technique to improve sales. And if you can’t love them genuinely then learn. Otherwise, you have no business being in business. We have entered the age of social-media-induced transparency. You just can’t spin anymore. Its either get genuine, or perish.

2. Stop trying to “get the most out of yourself” too. Short term motivational training works no better than a brief hit of gasoline on a burnt out fire.

3. Learn to be authentic in all action. Authenticity is the fuel that makes the vehicle called involvement run. Authentic doesn’t mean “being yourself” – it means that you and your whole business is

a. congruent, and

b. dedicated to becoming the best possible version of you that you can
That means what you say, how you speak, how you think, relate, respond and behave have to be congruent. That means only ever have a mission statement if you live it. That means only ever promise what you can deliver. That means don’t waste your time asking PR companies to present a picture of your company to the world; invest your time in listening to what your customers are saying about how and spend your dollar improving whatever they don’t like and thanking them for their input.

4. Learn to be an influencer of others – again, authentically. You still need to be in business, and to involve customers in buying, and to involve top talent through hiring. And you can’t involve great customers and great team members if you can’t inspire them with your vision. More than ever before – customers and employees are looking to their leaders for inspiration and vision. Invest in being as influential and inspirational as you possibly can.

But do this by learning to tell the truth in a compelling way. Because in this world of technology-induced-transparency, an inarticulate truth is ignored and an articulate half-truth is suicide.

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