Studying the impact of innovation on business and society

Sorry, We’re Closed: The Rise of Digital Darwinism

I am not a social media expert and my new book, The End of Business as Usual, is not about Social Media. If you’re looking for the Top 10 ways your business can succeed on Facebook or Twitter, secrets to attracting more followers or likes, creating viral videos, or the best practices for creating infographics that over simplify the complex world of business, save your money. There is no shortage of useful books and resources out there.

Don’t get me wrong. While important, social media only plays a part in this (r)evolution. The customer journey is evolving. How businesses react and ultimately lead the enhancement of relationships is not determined by technology. To get closer to customers takes a culture of customer-centricity, a culture of empowerment, and a culture of innovation. But that’s hardly enough to convince business leaders that the customer revolution they hear about is literally steps away from their front door. Someone has to make the case however.

The reality is that most executives don’t use social networks. And, to be honest, most don’t read their own emails. Many won’t ever see this post. Trying to convince decision makers that this is a war fought on the battleground of social networks is in of itself fighting a losing battle. That’s because the future of business isn’t tied to the permeation of Facebook, Twitter, smartphones, tablets or real-time geo-location check-ins. The future of business comes down to relevance and the ability to understand how technology affects decision making and behavior to the point where the recognition of new opportunities and the ability to strategically adapt to them becomes a competitive advantage.

But make no mistake, this is as much a technology revolution as it is a series of real world revolutions that have and will continue to spring up in front of governments, businesses, and anywhere else it takes to be heard and bring about change.

Occupy: Madrid, Spain

A recent advertisement produced by Babson College cited a rather humbling statistic: “Over 40 percent of the companies that were at the top of the Fortune 500 in 2000 were no longer there in 2010.” As we’re often painfully reminded, history has a way of repeating itself.  Forbes published an article in early 2011 that served as a harbinger for the turbulent and transformative times that lie ahead. The opening line read, “The End is Near: Why 70% of the Fortune 1000 Will Be Replaced in a Few Years.” Startling and sensational yes. But far-fetched? No.

The author cited a study published in the book Built to Change by Edward E. Lawler and Christopher G. Worley. The study found that between 1973 and 1983, 35 percent of the top companies in the Fortune 1000 companies were new to the list. Over the next decade from 1983 to 1993, churn jumped to 45 percent, and then soared again to an astounding 60 percent between 1993 and 2003. If the current trend continues, over 70 percent of Fortune 1000 companies will turnover from 2003 to 2013. As the author observes, “In other words, over 3/4ths of the existing captains of industry will fall from their throne.”

This is about Digital Darwinism, when technology and society evolve faster than the ability to adapt.

In this video alone, try to count the number of companies that you’ve supported over the years. The number of companies no longer here or on the verge of obsolescence is unsettling. There were so many in fact, that not all could make the cut.

This a about the survival of both the fittest and the fitting. And it take more than a presence in new channels to improve customer experiences and relationships. It takes courage. It takes persistence to break through resistance. Everything starts with articulating a vision for how your business will invest in customer relationships and experiences. From there, technology, processes, and systems will serve as enablers for that vision. In the end however, it is leadership and an empowered culture that will bring about transformation.

Many follow, but very few lead.
Many compete to survive, but few compete for relevance.
Do we listen to our customers? Do we truly understand them?
Do we create experiences or do we simply react?
The future of business comes down to one word…change.
This is a new era that redefines everything.
An era of empowered consumers and employees.
Will we fall to natural selection or will we rise to lead the revolution.
This is our time to make business relevant.
Because people, after all, are everything.


Order The End of Business as Usual today…

54 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Sorry, We’re Closed: The Rise of Digital Darwinism”

  1. interesting! information! thanks a for sharing!

  2. Great Video Brian, and the book look great to, we need to CHANGE in everything, greatings from Venezuela

  3. Diego says:

    Cheesy. Yes, I said cheest

  4. Great article Brian, Great words…as usual 🙂

    The future of business comes down to one word…change!
    This is a new era that redefines everything….I add to reinvent!!
    An era of empowered consumers and employees…. managing relations for branding and  employer branding goals is king! 

  5. Bfeldma says:

    Awesome post. As customers become more aware and are given easier access to information, the business world is becoming more competitive. It is making it harder for these businesses to maintain success. But more importantly, as the article points out, good strategy starts with a vision. Smart businesses use technology in creative ways. Adapting means really learning how to use your resources in a way that will connect with customers!

    Britten Feldman
    Freeman School Student

  6. Jay Oza says:

    CEOs spend lot of time with other CEOs, because that’s where they believe power resides.  This is not the case today.  They can’t understand that a person with a Facebook page or a Twitter account has power to make them very uncomfortable or reverse their decisions.  This is not what they have been taught or seen before.  They need to spend time on SM and Internet and be actively involved otherwise they are hurting their company.  

    • Jacob says:

       I’d agree, but I also think CEO’s need some degree of SM training before you fling them into the field. It might be better in most cases to just allocate these activities to someone in marketing or communication. Create a “Mouth of the CEO”, as it were. I don’t know if every CEO is ready for the fluid sort of conversation that arises online. Would you agree?

  7. Matt Brennan says:

    Looks interesting. Can’t wait to check it out.

  8. Napda2 says:

    This article is interesting. Most people talk about how Facebook and Twitter and the social media are changing businesses, but I found it interesting that this article mentions that most CEO’s and executives don’t even know how to use these sources. Technology is expanding and changing, and the heads of companies need to be trained to take advantage of new resources.

  9. Thank you so much for this post.I found lots of interesting information here.

  10. Joy Schoeph Helfrich says:

    How can we ignore such a rally cry? Well said, Brian. 

  11. Madeleine Kingston says:

    A brilliant post Brian Solis and powerful video. The importance of citizencentricity, though not a new concept can never be too often stressed. In terms of promoting a message, sharing links and information with the view to influencing policy change or at least trigger action though, I think social media has an important social marketing role if effectively used.

  12. Cameron Franey says:

    Digital Darwinism is a very strong idea. The idea that a
    company is now forced to listen to its customers is something that it seems the
    dinosaurs of the corporate world are finding hard to grasp. The Mad Men
    mentality of those that spend the most money on advertising get the most
    profits seems to still persist throughout the business world. Just look at the
    Super Bowl for example; companies are still spending millions of dollars on
    outrageous advertisements in the hopes of catching the eyes of viewers
    everywhere. That’s not the case anymore though. It’s more important for
    companies to listen and interact with their customers than ever before. The
    Darwinian reference of adapt or die is the perfect metaphor for current public
    relations and advertising.

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