Amongst the challenges that management has in the 21st Century, which are shared, of course, by specific functions such as Communications and HR, this one represents perhaps the best summary I can think of. How can we master each of these four areas and the connection between them? (1) Messaging, Communicating (2) Triggering behaviours (3) Sustaining actions, and (4) Shaping cultures. We have been stuck for a long time on the first, and people are reasonably good at it. Indeed, this (1), Messaging, would be the core of Communications for many people. Also, triggering behaviours via our communications is not bad. But we are not sure when and how it happens, Sustaining anything, however, is far from mastered. What we have become Masters of are the One Offs (communication, event, Town Hall, offsite, powerpoint stack). Beyond sustaining, shaping/creating new cultures, is even more of a question mark. Be careful you know ‘which box you are in’; you can’t shape cultures (4) remaining in the Messaging (1) area.
The problem is that the answers to all these, in isolation or combination, are hardly to be found in the traditional management disciplines. These, and their toolkits, were crafted in a time when business life was predictable and relatively stable. In the new fast moving environment, we don’t have very good toolkits. So we are applying the old ones to the new problems, new pace and new scope of today’s business life.
Where to go for an upgrade? There are 10 disciplines that I call ‘The New Classics’. Some are, strictly speaking, far from ‘new’. But they are new for us in management and the communication /HR/other functions. They are not completely off the radar screen, we have not done much about them. In fact, many people would see them as alien to the kinds of things ‘we do’ inside organizations.
These are ‘The New Classics’. I will mention one single area in each, as an example, from where we can draw immediate learning and applications. It’s just one example of a rich learning from all of them.
I will mention 2 today, and the rest on Friday:
1. Behavioural Economics. Born from the failure of traditional economics to explain and deal with irrational behaviour, this new discipline is rich in content. Reframing messages is a big deal in Behavioural Economics. The classical example is the switch from ‘Don’t use towels that you don’t need’ (hotel rooms) to ‘The last people in this room used only one towel’. Caricature as it may sound, the second message triggers significant behavioural change whilst the former does not. Reframing and triggering behaviours, all in one. Some reframing works, some do not, and we know quite a lot about this, even if we don’t apply it. This is a bad caricature of the whole Behavioural Economics field but wanted to point towards the ‘irrational behaviour’ area (of insights and knowledge), which is now a New Classic. Many of our HR systems and processes are still the equivalent of Neoclassical Economics that assumes rationality and logic.
2. Political Marketing. Segmentation of people inside the organization, other than by performance, is almost zero. We have one single top down vision, mission and narrative that is ‘good for everybody’. Here we go. You would not survive one week in Political Marketing where all messages are segmented. In the US, for example, you don’t talk to a 25 year old about Medicare, and you don’t talk to a 65 year old about job creation. In our organizations, we talk about everything to everybody, for some peculiar views about ‘equity’ and ‘democracy’ which are completely misplaced. Most activity within the organization is tribal.
More next on:
3. Network Theory.
4. Viral Change
5. Social Movements.
6. Social Anthropology.
7. Digital Activism.
8. Generation (and urban) anthropology.
9. Social Media technologies
10. Critical Thinking
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