I wrote this post before on deciding what is the problem we are trying to solve with Social X (where X represents media, CRM, Business, etc.).
Today I want to take a few moments to tackle something that is a pet peeve of mine: how to solve the problem you have identified. There are two schools of thought to solving problems: pragmatical and academic (at least from my perspective, I am sure someone can point me to 1,200 more models — but in my experience in the business world, one of these two is the approach chosen).
Pragmatical, my choice, focuses on what has worked in the past, how it has worked, the lessons learned, best practices gathered and applies all of them to a new problem. I did not say you attack each new problem the same way — that does not work. You just take the lessons your learned, deconstruct the new problem, and figure out how to use what worked before in this new problem.
Academic is the one that bothers me (I am being honest here). Yes, there are excellent pieces of research produced — most of it via observation and scientific methods. The vast majority of them were great conclusions of specific studies that were done at some time in the past 5-10 years. In controlled situations. Looking for a specific answer. Knowing what the results would or should look like (stop me when you see the flaw in this reasoning). In other words, if the world was perfect and we could simply produce the best possible scenario for each of these studies – we could replicate them and get the same benefits. Maybe.
Alas, the world is not perfect. A study that proved that in 2005 a group of retailers that applied a new theory of managing relationships got a 20% increase in sales is not likely to be applicable today. Not only has the economic situation changed, the retail industry has changed, the technologies we have available have changed — even the way we understand retail and customers has changed! How do you expect to have similar results? Or even close?
Besides, as the Generation C (or the Social Customer if you don’t like Paul Greenberg’s description of the generational shift we are undergoing) changes the way the interact with organization and the balance of power and control changes — don’t you think the previous theories will prove to be wrong under these new settings?
Of course, the cynical in you is asking, other than ranting — why is he going on-and on about academic versus pragmatic? We are reaching an inflection (sorry – 1.0 term, the 2.0 would be tipping) point in the market and this is the time when knowing what to do becomes critical. Action driven by knowledge of what works is essential to success. And what works in a new, unproven model is not what worked before. Simple, ain’t it?
So, where to now? Easy. Let’s collect the war stories (lesson learned, best practices, choose the word that you like best) from those who are doing something right (even those that did something wrong and learned from it) and begin to build a collective knowledge of what this new thing is and how to solve the problems. Let’s be very pragmatic about it, if it worked once it is likely to work again in somewhat similar circumstances. If it did not work the first time — well, it could still work under different circumstances. As my friends in Montana like to say – if you don’t like the weather now, wait five minutes. In other words, if it did not work before, wait for a change in market conditions and try again.
Through all this change keep in mind one thing: this is a business transformation — we are writing the theory that will be proven by academics and then drive business for the next several decades. At the very least, have fun doing it.
What do you think? I am wrong in claiming that there is a difference between academics and pragmatism? Are we really transforming the business and searching for new models? Would love to hear you thoughts…