CEO Be Nimble & Quick...The Customer is Watching

“Civilizations have clashed in an unexpected way this year, as ordinary people using Facebook and Twitter knocked down dictators in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya…”  This is the opening sentence of an article titled, “Social Power and the Coming Corporate Revolution,”  from Forbes magazine, September 2011.

The “Customer Spring” as it’s being called, is related to the ‘Arab Spring’ referenced above. Customers, like those protesters, are exerting their influence in unprecedented ways.

In the 1980’s Porter’s Five Forces model (see image) became a model “framework for industry analysis and business strategy development.” Porter’s widely-used tool helped businesses think through which competitive forces were the most potent.

The green square (the Bargaining Power of Customers)  appears equal to others,  but in the new social world order, customers (and employees!) have unparalleled leverage. Here’s an example:

Adidas recently found itself under attack when fans of a popular rugby team were outraged to learn that Adidas team jerseys were being sold for significantly more in their country than elsewhere in the world. Fans went online to research comparative prices and then organized fellow fans in protest.  People started returning Adidas clothing to stores in disgust, the New York Times reported.

For those of us who remember the ” Tylenol recall” of 1982, we know that building  trust through transparency may not easy or cheap, but it is worthwhile. The twist is that a similar episode today would ‘hit’ the Internet and be global in seconds. CEO be nimble, CEO be quick – but you better be honest and transparent as well. That green square is growing faster than you can imagine.

Image is Michael Porter, Harvard University, Five Forces Model


Isaac Asimov, author of over 500 books, is best known for his science fiction.  A scientist who poked and prodded his way into our subconscious – he wanted us to view the future with joy and possibility.

He wanted us to understand things that unified us. Surely the internet, more than any other invention (ok maybe movable type), has brought us together in ways we couldn’t have imagined, even in science fiction.

So today, when you’ve put away your laptop, phone, iPod or Kindle; remember what Isaac was trying to teach us.

— That we need think beyond our little corner of the world

— That together we can create the world we envision

— That one day robots really will rule the world… hehe

That it’s up to us to use  our imagination and creativity to understand a world and to make it better.

We’re all in this together.

Ok, so you’re thinking — I like my customers well enough but really, do I have to ask them what they think? What if they tell me?

Social media makes our interactions more transparent. So hearing their feedback directly can be good and bad.

What we know is that traditional market research (while it used to be better than nothing) has big flaws. Check out this research from Forrester, “Making Better Use of Customer Data.

Words like interactive,  adaptive and real-time are hardly ever used in conjunction with traditional market research. We’ll talk more about how customer feedback is being gathered in real time. In the meantime, check out Zappos realtime service on twitter.

Have fun talking to customers!







photo credit: thinkhappynow. com


The One Million Masterpiece is a world wide online art project.  Anyone can create a drawing and submit it to be part of a huge printed banner that joins images from a million other people.

What’s it all about?

“Get together one million ordinary people from all around the world, and get them to work on the picture  in the world’s largest ever artistic collaboration; where everyone is equal and all outcomes are valid.”

This is a great example of the power of collaboration.  Any one artist can make a statement about their point of view of the world.  This project uses the power of art, the ease of the computer and the web to create a global expression of where and who we are.

Check out the website. See the artwork. Sign up, draw something, be a part.  It’s free, it’s fun and you might just feel connected in ways you never expected.

And remember, we’re all in this together.

I have a friend who talks about the power of two. One person can make a huge difference in the lives of many people. However, 2 people, joined in purpose and intent, can move mountains.

I believe that the way that we work, play and innovate is undergoing a revolution and social media/web 2.0 are at the heart of it. Beyond Facebook, Twitter and Linked In are wikis, online communities, videos, ning groups, meet ups, blogs, podcasts and so many more cool ways to communicate that we have barely begun to scratch the surface.

Back in the mid-1990’s, we used altavista to search for information on the then new “world wide web.” Remember?  If we had to use a search tool like that today, we would be tearing our hair out. The tools we have for collaboration are similarly unsophisticated compared to what we’ll have at our fingertips in just a few short years. The ways we want to work together are already evolving faster than the toolkit.

I have started this blog to share ideas and get us thinking not only about tools for sharing ideas, but also how we work together. I came across a book called “The Power of Two” and from it, I took this excerpt;

Effective allies agree with these 3 statements:

  • We focus on each other’s strengths, not weaknesses.
  • We accept each other as we are and don’t try to change each other.
  • We are understanding of each other when one of us makes mistakes.

In those cases where you work with one other person, how effective are you as a partner? When we focus on the power we have to make great things happen, guess what; great things happen.