Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Beware the business bots

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In the future every business will be digital.

For many that future has already arrived. You know you have arrived in that future when 50.1% or more of your revenue comes via digital. You can probably draw a line on your revenue growth and decline charts to identify the point at which that becomes true for you.

In the future every business will be a technology company. Being digitally, socially connected, always on via the cloud and mobile will be an essential of even the most mom & pop business.

Yes those businesses which require your corporeal presence (those that will congregate in High Streets) may feel this effect later than most, but feel it they will. If I can choose to book a haircut via my mobile vs turn-up and hope, over time even the strongest habits and relationships will be challenged. You can be sure new habits and relationships will more likely be established via the technology route. Old habits die hard - but time kills even the oldest in the end.

So it would be sensible to prepare for your digital and technological future.
But in doing so never lose sight of what will make all this technology work for you - the scalable human relationships it empowers.

Without the human heart of your business - its purpose, your belief, your demonstration of your values through what you do (not what you say) you'll end up with a business which acts like a bot.

In a dark, bleak future there is a world of business bots all following each other and trying to sell to each other based on the faked behaviours each is demonstrating to each other- rather like twitter would become if all the humans left over night.

It's easy to imagine organisations sleep walking into this future - focused on getting technology to do everything for you and for your customer. Bots see and bots do but there is no meaning for them or those they interact with in what they do. Transaction after transaction without meaning.

In the bright, belief-filled future, businesses are using technology to enable and enhance rather than to mechanically do. Here humans are connecting with humans building trust through relationships in which each has the other's best interests at heart. They are partners. They are working together to achieve a shared purpose. They generate meaning.

The role of technology is to reduce the friction in each transaction - whether that be purchasing goods, connecting people with shared purpose, or sharing ideas.  Reduce the transaction cost and you reduce the cost of action.

But we must always be careful to keep the meaning in. Industrialisation took it out. We have the opportunity to rediscover it through the human connectedness the web enables. We can take advantage - or we can build bots.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?