Can your business survive Digital Darwinism? Brian Solis reveals.
Updated on April 18th, 2013
Brian Solis is an AdAge Top 10 marketing blogger, keynote speaker, and acclaimed author of The End of Business as Usual and Engage. As principal at the Altimeter Group he is a digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist, and has studied and influenced the effects of emerging technology on business, marketing and culture.
We caught up via Skype to discuss what is causing businesses large and small to fall victim to Digital Darwinism.
And what is the future of business?
Here is the transcript:
Brian Solis: Thank you so much.
Adam Franklin: Now, Brian, when I say the acronym WTF, most of our viewers will think I’m being crude, but I’m not. Now can you tell me, what do you mean by WTF for business?
Brian Solis: Well let me first give you the quick background story. The book was called ‘What’s the Future of Business‘, and the subtitle is ‘Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences‘, and I thought, what better way to do that, not only with the design of the book, but also the title of the book? So it has a little wordplay there for WTF, which is also something that I constantly go into meetings with some executives, just kind of saying under my breath – ‘WTF?’
Adam Franklin: I’m guessing one of the reasons for that is this whole notion of Digital Darwinism, which is a concept that I really loved from your books. I normally would have a hard copy of the book, but I love listening to your books on audible and having an audible book. So I go out on runs and listen to your books as I jog. Can you tell us about this concept of Digital Darwinism?
Brian Solis: Absolutely. Digital Darwinism I define as this era when society and technology are evolving faster than the ability for many businesses to adapt. We’re seeing businesses incorporate new technology into the organisation, but it’s not just a technology solution. It’s a philosophical solution. It’s looking inside the organisation, maybe re-evaluating the vision and the mission of the company, and uniting what is really – today – disparate groups and functions within the company, to unite under a different or renewed goal, let’s just say. So Digital Darwinism, in order to thrive in this very competitive era, is going to take a much bigger approach.
Adam Franklin: Okay. There’s a book out in Australia that’s just been released and you’re featured in it. It’s called microDOMINATION, by one of my Aussie colleagues, Trevor Young, and you’ve been described as a micro maven. In it you’re saying that it’s not just about becoming social or getting a blog. The whole philosophy has fundamentally shifted to this idea of relentless giving. Now, how do organisations avoid Digital Darwinism and avoid becoming extinct? How do they go about relentless giving, and why should they?
Brian Solis: First of all, congratulations to Trevor. He’s a long time friend, and to be called a micro maven, I’m not sure if that means I’m short or that I’m focused. The reality is that he’s right. The way that the book unfolds, quite literally, is through what I distilled down to four moments of truth. In ‘The End of Business as Usual‘, which was my last book; I took a look at the entire dynamic consumer journey, and I introduced what essentially it is that you map. It’s this confluence of big data and what I call ‘the human algorithm’, to come up with that – essentially what is in old social circles, ethnography – to map and show how new touch points are affecting consumer decision making and also consumer impressions before, during, and after transactions: essentially, the new life cycle. The last book was a bit more academic, and with this book (WTF) I wanted to make it a bit more approachable. So I decided to take a look, revisit that map if you will, to see how can everybody else understand it? Not just academics and not just experienced executives, but everybody fighting for change.
The moment of truth is something that is very well understood by marketers and advertisers and public relations professionals, and even executives. I decided to then say, ‘What does the new world look like if we were able to break it down this way?‘ I realised that the thing that unites every moment of truth is shared experiences. So I introduced a fourth moment of truth, which is called the ultimate moment of truth. We can talk a little bit more about these ‘moments’ in a second, but it’s this idea that every step of the way – with blogs, YouTube videos, and mobile apps, mobile web surfing, everything – it’s being defined by what people experience, share what they’re looking for along the way, and that collects into this cloud-based repository that affects every other person’s moment of truth. Your experiences are there for me to see. If we’re connected, I see them as they happen. If we’re not connected and I’m going through this journey, I see them as I’m exploring, as I’m going through the discovery process. So the thing that becomes really important to business is that shared experiences are going to influence your brand, are going to influence people’s decisions for or against you. The thing about it though, is that most businesses don’t even know what those shared experiences are. They just keep pushing, to use Trevor’s words, relentlessly pushing their marketing message, their story, their branding, their creative, their products; not necessarily taking into account, ‘What is the experience we want you to have, what is the experience you are having, and what’s the gap, and how can we close it?’
Does size matter?
Adam Franklin: And is that the same situation for big corporates, startups, and everything in between? Does it matter what size you are?
Brian Solis: Doesn’t matter. It affects every business of every size. The connected society is only becoming increasingly connected. When you look at, say, how business was done, and how business needs to be done in the future, at the end of the day not everybody is connected. But certainly a significant amount – especially everybody in Australia – connectedness is becoming much more profound, right? This is a mission, for example, that my friends at Telstra are leading, and when you look at what that means, once you become connected, once you’ve lived the digital lifestyle, you no longer behave like a traditional consumer, aka the audience.
You now start to get more connected. As a result of that you become more informed. Once you become more informed, you become more empowered. That nets out to an increased expectation. All of this is happening psychologically. This is affecting behaviour. All of that provides understanding from the business standpoint how much this is changing. So if they’re not changing along with it, they’re forever going to react to it. This contributes to Digital Darwinism.
Think about this for a moment. Businesses are embracing social media. They’re embracing mobile apps, but they’re essentially still reacting to what’s taking place. A customer said this, we better respond. Customers are over in this network now, we better go have a presence over there. They haven’t taken a moment to step back and say, “Wow. Look, we’re already in a game of catch-up. Technology isn’t slowing down, it’s only accelerating. So how long are we playing this game of catch-up until we say we’ve got to get in front of it?” In order to get in front of it, it’s not just anticipating what the next trends are. It’s anticipating and better understanding what the needs and expectations are within these new technology channels, so that you can then reinforce (going back to Trevor’s term) relentlessly, the value you want to provide, the vision you want to provide, the experience you want to provide; because they’re going to share those experiences if they’re searching for a product, any friction that they come along the way, after they become a customer. So if you’re not in front of it, if you’re not proactively defining what those experiences should be, then the experiences are theirs to define, and at some point what you say your brand is and what they say your brand is, there’s an incredible delta between them.
On stage with Shaq at SXSW
Adam Franklin: Thank you for sharing those tips, Brian. That’s a really good starting point for a lot of – particularly Australian – businesses to be focusing on and rather than this playing catch-up, actually getting ahead and helping shape that opinion of their companies. One quick final question is, what was the best story to emerge out of South by Southwest last week?
Brian Solis: I’m going to have to be a little bit selfish with that one. I invited Shaq, Shaquille O’Neal, to join me on the keynote stage on Sunday, and it was an amazing experience. We presented in front of what had to have been at least 1,000 people in this beautiful auditorium. We had a witty bit of banter between us for about an hour, and he is just an adorable human being, very charming, very smart, very witty, very entertaining, and we had the entire audience laughing throughout. That generated stories all over the place, including CNN, TechCrunch, Mashable, and I have to say that, not only was that one of the hotter moments at South by Southwest, but the two of us emerged as better friends because of it. It was just such a great experience for both of us.
Adam Franklin: That is awesome. I love hearing stories about that. And I’m going to be cheeky and say: Did you guys work out the height difference between you and Shaq?
Brian Solis: It’s funny you should say that. For all of you who are watching this right now, you can actively search the web, you can search my Facebook page, and you’ll see some very, we’ll just say that they’re funny pictures, to say the least, including one where he literally has me completely bench pressed over his head. It’s an incredible picture.
Adam Franklin: I’ll look them up, Brian. They sound like a lot of fun. And finally, where can people go to find out more about the book and more about yourself?
Brian Solis: Excellent. I’m just going to have 5 seconds on this. You can find the book at wtfbusiness.com, and just in closing, it’s not just a book. I put a lot into the design. The publisher gave me the rights to basically take over creative control, and I worked with the folks at Mekanism. They designed the Beyonce Super Bowl commercial, just such a clever group of creative professionals; and also worked with Gapingvoid, who’s a tremendous artist. Together what we worked on was a book that is essentially, I call it an analog app.
If you rethink how people are reading books today and how they’re reading information, say on the web or on their small screens, the behaviour has changed. They need things differently. It’s got to be incredibly visual, it’s got your fore color, data has to be presented in a certain way so they don’t feel like they’re taking on too much. That you can make the book an experience in, and of itself, is really what I wanted to do: was to have people think about the importance of print again. If I can make a print book matter in the business world, in a technology driven world, imagine what you can do with your business.
Adam Franklin: Thank you for those thoughts, Brian. It’s been an absolute pleasure, and I look forward to seeing you again sometime soon.
Brian Solis: Pleasure is all mine. Thank you.