As my coworker Candace “The Whiz” Hudson says, we need to be on the lookout for “next level” innovations. But when searching for the next big thing in the business world, it can be easy to get distracted by the actions of your competitors. Not a day goes by that Satori doesn’t weigh-in on developments in the marketing world, such as Instagram’s new logo, Twitter’s gradual journey towards ditching the 140-character limit, or Facebook’s new(ish) reaction emojis. Understanding how the business world is moving is important, but we can’t lose sight of the catalyzing factor behind all these changes: how customers interact with new technology.
If your business is watching the competition or industry thought leaders for new trends, you could find yourself eternally behind the times. The only way to be on the cusp of that illusive “next level” stuff is to monitor the behavior of your customers, and see what they need next, not what you’ll provide next.
It’s a simple idea that’s monumentally important in the digital age: individuals are adapting to new technology faster than organizations. Think of the last ten years or so; people have changed the way they live far more extensively than companies have changed the way they work. They’ve restructured basic procurement with online shopping, collaboration with social networking, market research with peer reviews, finance with mobile payments, and travel with room and ride sharing. What business can claim that degree of innovation in its personal operations?
In Candace’s words, “next level” means the future of everything. The digital era has changed the business world from being about huge corporate entities to being about individual consumers. Next level ideas center around customer service, at their core.
When thinking like your customers, it’s important to realize they think in “and,” not “or.” A traditional manager is used to thinking in terms of tough decisions, what benefit is worth what loss. But individuals don’t limit themselves to the old adage of “cheap, good or fast, pick any two.” A modern consumer can find a cheap and good Chris Evans-shaped body pillow online (for example), and get it from Amazon Prime Now within two hours. (Fast!)
While businesses have a different viewpoint in their production process, it’s important to realize how the customer can obtain these products without having to sacrifice anything. After one viewing of Captain America: Civil War, a consumer can lambast the screenwriters on Rotten Tomatoes, reblog seventeen screengrabs of Cap’n Chris himself on Tumblr, and pay back their friend for the cost of the movie ticket through a mobile banking app, all on the Uber ride home. (The above example may or may not be a portrait of The Whiz herself).
The modern business must focus on transcending tradeoffs to focus on the customer’s overall experience. What is sacrificed on the production side doesn’t matter anymore. Understanding the customer’s world and interacting on their level is the only way to stay in the game.