Dec
11
Posted on 11-12-2010
Filed Under (BUSINESS) by Shombit

The OUTLOOK BUSINESS article

Strategy, goal, objective, attack, are military terms that converge to killing people at wartime. Western corporations, overwhelmed by World War II and its aftermath, borrowed and translated these terms into business. The West spent 1950s in post-war reconciliation, 1960s demanded infrastructure build-up; 1970s saw consumerism waft in, while 1980s had people returning to their roots, re-discovering the organic after OPEC’s oil crisis. Upto this time multinational companies dominated the world with their inventions and innovations that came every 20 years. The big departure into digital technology came 1990s, while the 21st century mood is globalization. The difference now is that innovations appear every 20 days, market rules have changed, people command industry with increased demand and aspiration. Have corporations kept up with these disruptive times? Corporate culture is still driven by war terms. But what’s crucial to running business today is to talk of cross cultural blend, soft skills for relationships, social connect, proactive customer sensitivity, outside-in corporate culture, employee promise to clients for the future, delivering extra benefit that’s tangible to customers.

Mismatch between war-influenced business terms and today’s digital world: The crushing war effect ravaged most of Europe’s beautiful terrain. North Americans have not witnessed the war this way, but of course they had plenty of loss that’s visible only in graveyards of their dead soldiers. What multinational corporations co-opted into business was the power of strategy, target, ammunition capacity, timing, the numbers and dedication of soldiers in winning the war. But war is different from business. It is a short-term mission, and thankfully not sustainable. However, the word ‘mission’ had a different dimension when used by Christian missionaries to convert people. In religion, mission is a belief, but used in the war, it becomes a ‘Do or die’ affair. That’s why a corporate mission usually serves no purpose.

Being of ambiguous origin, the action of ‘belief’ and ‘mission’ are vulnerable in corporations. Unable to clarify the difference, corporations indoctrinate military terms to bring discipline for achieving organizational results. Infusing such military tactics worked upto the eighties. From the nineties, digital technology started revolutionizing the world, taking it to a 21st century of diversity and the Zap generation. These under-30 youngsters have discarded military discipline. What jars them is that money is being spent on war. They detest reading in Wikipedia that the US 2010 defence cost is about a trillion dollars. Fighting against the Axis powers in WW II was a real cause, but when US military spending today exceeds the combined total of every other country in the world, amounting to $1.2 million per minute, or $1.7 billion per day according to business.gather.com, Zappers feel it merely demonstrates power hankering games. So business terms require radical change to match the digital century with its Zapper mentality.

Who are these Digital Zappers? At Shining Consulting, our global interactions with different people for different brands have shown us that living in this disruptive century are 3 distinct generations:

• Tech-born Digital Zap (born 1986 onwards, the span reverses to 1980, so all below 30)

• Compromise (born after 1965 upto 1980: 31- 45 years)

• Retro (born before 1965: 45+ years)

Engulfed in 21st century’s rapid social change, Digital Zappers have no attachment to anything in any sustaining way, but their thought process incorporates the multitudes of every sphere today. The corporate operating discipline and future direction should be driven by Zapper diversity instead of indoctrinating corporate processes like they do in military barracks that are totally disconnected from the external world. Today’s Digital Zappers cannot take this, they have brought in a century change, not generation change, and organisations cannot be isolated from it.

Disruptive 21st century: The process of change from 19th century’s mechanical era to 20th century’s electronic era was big, but evolutionary. Between the mechanical gramophone and electronic turntable, there’s no radical difference in looks, mechanism and functioning. But along came the iPod in the 21st century, the shock-of-the-new that broke every known system for operating a music player. The change iPod and the MP3 players have rushed in has been revolutionary, a disruptive way of thinking, acting and behaving with digital technology. Those who could not keep up had to leave the market. Entertainment giant Sony has just announced it is discontinuing production of the Walkman that had pioneered mobile music. This proves that even an inventor can fail if he lacks the vision to foresee cross industry digital trends. It’s amazing that a computer-engineering firm entered the entertainment business to change the market rule and defeat its ruling giant.

Connecting to Digital Zap: I’d ventured into Paris to fulfill my childhood dream of becoming an artist at age 19 in 1973. I found huge differences then with other 19-year-olds of French, Italian, English, German, Swiss, Belgian and American origin. Coming from a poor refugee colony in West Bengal, I was bound not to connect. But I later discovered that even people of the same generation in Europe and America did not connect to one another socially at that time. I’ve read that Churchill said it was not easy to make European and American youth connect to one another and the World War II cause, even as they called themselves the Allies.

Today, my business travels to different continents makes me realize that every country’s youth has more or less the same social connect. There is a certain coherency of the trend, a globalization of the mind and social context. But Retro or Compromise generations often take management decisions in corporate houses, which is why Digital Zap has a huge disconnect to many industries today. A few exceptions would be Google, Apple, Nike, Microsoft and Cisco.

Digital Zap at the cusp of the century: Differences in attitude are clearly visible: Retro reads a newspaper at home, Compromise gets the news via Internet at office, while Zap stays in touch with a mobile device while on-the-go. Retro writes letter, Compromise phones and Zappers text messages. But the Zap generation is in tune with the world’s diverse ways; the future of business is with them.

When the 1986-born became 5-year-olds, they were conscious of, and using, digital technology that had started overpowering the world. Digital waves being their primary impact, they became Digital Zappers. As they’ll drive tomorrow, Compromise or Retro generations may disappear; the generations may be Digital Zap Mature, Digital Zap Ripened and Digital Zap Youth. The way the US Baby Boomer generation dominated the second part of the 20th century, Digital Zap is set to dictate terms in the 21st century.

You have Digital Zapper employees, consumers or shareholders who command you, vendors who can be your customers. A consumer on the road could be your employee, shareholder, or activist. Of course such instances prevailed before, but today’s digital diversity has brought them out-in-the-open and pronounced. The more you think, act and align with the below-30, the more you connect to the world’s happenings. Irrespective of whether they are spenders, Zappers are the real influencers in decision making for every family purchase. Don’t ever consider this new civilization of digital connectors to have any gap. Drive the enterprise with Digital Zapper values, you’ll connect to take a positive move forward.

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