Do You Have Trapped Thinking?

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 Since I left Dell, I’ve had conversations with several friends who were looking to take  their careers outside of Dell. They asked how I did it nearly 5 years ago. I told them I spent 2 years networking and evaluating ideas outside of Dell.  That’s not to say I didn’t perform during that time…in fact I ran a marketing department and helped grow a $1B business by 50%. However, just by ‘getting out’ I met great people and evaluated several opportunities. At first it was exploratory, but in the end it opened my eyes to the fact there was a world outside of the world my head was in 8 hours a day (er…make that 10 hours a day). 

What I observed after these lunches with my ex-Dell friends was discouraging. They took no action. They didn’t research companies or ask for contacts or set up lunches with people outside of Dell. They were absorbed inside the walls of their company. Their scope was trapped inside the company, inside their division, inside their team, and inside of their roles in aforementioned team, division and company! Their thinking was trapped, and therefore their action was trapped…therefore their career was trapped.

There is a similar problem of becoming more customer-centric as a marketer. When you are absorbed in the internal, your thinking is trapped in the rules of your day-to-day job. Internal measures, internal meetings, and internal perspectives. You’re surrounded by the 3-4 walls of your cube, surrounded by the four walls of your building, surrounded by a company perspective. For Pete’s sake (pretend that’s your customer), how are you able to think about the customer…let alone act on their behalf?

Break out! Change your day to day to include interaction with customers, their voice, and their data. Change the topics of your team meetings and 1x1s. Start with customer-centric measures rather than financial measures. Read reviews on your products every week, and do something about that. Attend a focus group, usability study and conduct a survey. Set up the Google alerts on your brand and set up a time on your calendar to read Tweets and other social media about your company.

Once you make a decision to get out of trapped thinking, and start breathing customer oxygen, it will change the way you look at your job and change the decisions you make. Just imagine if everyone in your company did that!

One Response

  1. Great post, Sam. Lots of angles that compel a response. While it lacks brevity, my post regarding frame-error (http://www.stagirainc.com/2010/05/identifying-and-leveraging-frame-error-response-to-brogans-frames-and-assumptions/ ) is worth a look. (Should you read it, I would appreciate your feedback on my evolving/(devolving?) style and tone.
    In summary, I’m becoming more and more interested in ontologies and praxeology as they relate to business communication, branding, marketing and social business.
    I recently revisited Martin Buber’s _I and Thou_ (1923). Buber presents a philosophy of personal dialog, in that it describes how personal dialog can define the nature of reality. Buber’s premise is that human existence may be defined by the way in which we engage in dialogue with each other, with the world, and with God.
    According to Buber, human beings may adopt two attitudes toward the world: I-Thou or I-It. I-Thou is a relation of subject-to-subject, while I-It is a relation of subject-to-object. In the I-Thou relationship, human beings are aware of each oher as having a unity of being. In the I-Thou relationship, human beings do not perceive each other as consisting of specific, isolated qualities, but engage in a dialog involving each other’s whole being. In the I-It relationship, on the other hand, human beings perceive each other as consisting of specific, isolated qualities, and view themselves as part of a world which consists of things. I-Thou is a relationship of mutuality and reciprocity, while I-It is a relationship of separateness and detachment.
    Relating Buber to the “practical” present, think about your own successes as an individual and with BazaarVoice: People relate to people, not brands. Polling conducted around influence enjoins that a person is more like to act after a dialog with a person they know and in the best case scenario, trust. Sentiment, as a relation between I and Thou, is a subject-to-subject relation. Buber claims that sentiment is not a relation of subject-to-object. In the I-Thou relation, subjects do not perceive each other as objects, but perceive each other’s unity of being. Sentiment is an I-Thou relation in which subjects share this unity of being. Sentiment is also a relation in which I and Thou share a sense of caring, respect, commitment, community, and personal responsibility. This is I-Thou.
    Intuit’s presentation at Dachis’ Social Business Summit touched on this dynamic. I was astounded when the presenter told the attendees that a retired CPA had posted over 5,000 times in their community forum. But after revisiting Buber, it really should come as no surprise. Said retired CPA is and was engaged as a person, not an object, and an empowered affinity developed.
    I think this dynamic by and large is the secret sauce of BazaarVoice’s success and offering. The culture is I and Thou and this parlays into the community engagement–people to people.
    On the other hand, whereas Dell’s success was driven by personalized technology, Dell’s internal culture was not, by and large, I-Thou over the last ten years, though the I-Thou dynamic is making a come back in their thinking. If you talk with people employed by Dell and stakeholders during its hay-day in the early to late 90’s they’ll tell you that while they worked their respective tails off, there was a sense of family. A sense of self. A culture of I-Thou. As Dell scaled and began to outsource in an effort to extract more value from every transaction for it’s isolated shareholders, the I-Thou dynamic evaporated and morphed into more of an It-It or I-It culture. This perhaps was just about the time you saw the writing on the wall and looked to make a personal change.
    I-Thou is a relation in which I and Thou have a shared reality. Buber contends that the I which has no Thou has a reality which is less complete than that of the I in the I-and-Thou. The more that I-and-Thou share their reality, the more complete is their reality.
    The more complete the share reality between people in any given community-culture, the more that community-culture proliferates.
    Whereas a deeper dive into Buber is on my editorial calendar, I can’t make any promises. Should I post, I’ll let you know. Hope you’re well and staying cool.
    Towards a more complete reality in the business of life and the life of business…

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