We began studying the impact of technology on culture back in 2016, when we launched our first Culture & Technology Intersection study. Our findings have helped us better understand the collapse of trust, the evolving definition of authenticity and credibility, the tension between privacy and sharing, and the nature of brand values alignment, amongst other insights. Out of this research, we have identified three major macro trends, each of which is important as a stand-alone concept – but when viewed together as a holistic system provides a blueprint for leading in a digitally immersed workplace.
As a matter of fact, these insights are the basis of our upcoming book, Unfiltered Marketing: 5 Rules to Win Back Trust, Credibility, and Customers in an Age of Digital Distraction (Weiser/Career Press, November 2020).
How do we approach our jobs as leaders in a complex, distracted workplace, where everything surrounding us – and our stakeholder employees – is bound by technology? Workers no longer show up at 9AM ready to be instructed. Many are remote, all have immediate access to information that workers a generation ago would never have been able to grasp, and some are brands in and of themselves. All have choices, expectations, and requirements. Every worker you see in the modern office today has the same complexity that our customers do.
So how does a leader expect to lead in this new world?
We mined 3 major megatrends out of our 4 years of research that define how we need to lead in this complex age. Let’s introduce these trends one at a time and then see how they work as an integrated whole.
Macro Trend #1: “Seeking Control in an Out-of-Control World”
The collapse of trust has been well-reported by us and others over the years. Technology has played a central role in this shift, with every connected citizen able to receive and re-broadcast video clips and news pick-ups with a flick of a finger. Our data shows that we believe that many of the smart devices around us are listening in without our consent or knowledge. We strongly believe that the big tech companies have too much power to influence society.
But against all of this, it’s important to note that we are not content to let this define us. We strive for control over our own outcomes and circumstances, doing all we can to ensure we can live a more self-sufficient lifestyle.
Macro Trend #2: “Raw”
Because we are seeking control in an out-of-control world, the only expert source of information and truth that we trust is ourselves – our own senses and intuition. We want access to the raw data, whether it’s the raw video or the leaked emails, so we can make up our own minds. We no longer want to be told what to believe by “experts” since we now have the technological tools to get the source material ourselves.
This shifts the responsibility of brands from being heroes to teachers, from telling our market what to believe to providing context around the evidence we’re sharing with our customers.
Macro Trend #3: “Heroic Credibility”
Because we’re seeking control in an out-of-control world – and because we only trust raw evidence – the only messages that break through are those that are truly heroic and that align with deep, personal values. We want to know what a brand stands for just as much as we want to know what it can do for us. We want brands that show bravery in the marketplace and that don’t back down when faced with push-back.
This does not mean that messages and brand positions need to be provocative, political, or even taking a radicalized position on controversial social issues – which is a major reversal of a trend. We’ve seen support for brands taking polarizing political and social positions precipitously drop year over year.
Synthesizing These 3 Trends
When viewed as a whole, these 3 macro trends illustrate an emerging blueprint of how smart leaders need to approach marshalling the efforts of their teams at work.
How can we push control back into the hands of our people? We need to give them a sense of visibility and control over their outcomes and remove the mystery and stress of unseen metrics and hidden data.
How can we be as raw and unscripted as possible? We need to show rather than tell our people what we all face together and remove the artifice around “corporate speak.”
How can we align ourselves and our messages with the values of our people? We need to ensure we’re crafting a bold vision that represents something bigger than ourselves.
We can look to several business leaders as examples of this three-part strategy, from GoDaddy’s former CEO Blake Irving to T-Mobile’s John Legere to Patagonia’s Yvon Choinard.
We have to be mindful that in this current day and age, where every member of our team is technologically enabled, immersed in information, and able to receive and rebroadcast information in second, that we need to give as much attention to them as we do to our customers.
(The original post can be found at Inc.com, entitled, New Research Uncovers 3 Rules that Define Leadership in a Digital Age).