John Hagel's conversation at TEDxBayArea [12:59] uses examples to illustrate how male archetypes need to be replaced by female archetypes to go from diminishing to increasing returns. Here are some highlights of the talk.
We'll then open a dialogue about why they matter to transform buyers (one transaction) into customers (relationship).
While we can all agree that technology has improved many things in our lives, making access to information easier, Hagel shares his thoughts on the challenges, or its dark side. The broader proposition is that technology intensifies competitive pressure on all of us and it will continue to intensify pressure for the foreseeable future.
One of the pieces of evidence Deloitte's Center for the Edge looked at was a basic question — how are companies doing? They looked at all public companies over a reasonably long period of time — since 1965 — at the return on assets (ROA), which has declined steadily by 75%.
There is no sign of it leveling off or turning around. Businesses are running faster and faster and falling further and further behind. In moments of intense economic pressure, bias tends to intensify. There is evidence of this everywhere — in the news and inside public and private organizations.
Jumping to conclusions
The image that emerges among male executives in a time of increased economic pressure is that of war — this is a zero-sum game, if we win, somebody else needs to lose. Does it sound familiar? "We'll rip their kidneys out" is what I heard being uttered by a CEO. It means we can't afford to lose.
When thinking about a zero-sum game, it shows up, as what Hagel defines, for lack of a better word, as the male archetype:
- putting emotions to the side, we're in war
- projecting strength at all times, you cannot show vulnerability
- being deeply analytical and pulling things apart/analyzing them in great detail
- and, based on that analysis, moving aggressively and ruthlessly into the marketplace to win
In that kind of mindset, the natural conclusion becomes "what we need is a few good men" and if women want to succeed, they need to adopt this masculine archetype. Hagel maintains that is exactly the wrong kind of conclusion to draw from the pressure we're in.
Understanding the question
Is fundamental if you want to move from challenge to opportunity. The right question to ask is why has this pressure been intensifying? Something more fundamental has occurred. During the time frame in which the change has happened, there has been a long term, big shift in that competition.
We have moved from a world where to succeed you developed proprietary knowledge stocks, aggressively protected that stock, and mined it to extract value from it. Organizations did that, got big, and generated enormous amount of wealth.
The problem is a world of increasingly more rapid change, the knowledge stocks you have today are depreciating at an accelerating rate. The only way you succeed in this kind of world is to move to a focus on knowledge flows.
The key is trust-based relationships
Participating into new flows of knowledge, more numerous and richer flows of knowledge. The paradox is at times when we have more and more information, what has more value is tacit knowledge. This is knowledge people have in their heads.
You just had an experience, you're not quite sure yet of what it means, and haven't categorized it into neat buckets of information. The challenge is tacit knowledge doesn't flow very easily. In fact, it is sticky, we have a very hard time expressing it even to ourselves.
It's very hard to engage in the effort, and the potential embarrassment of trying to articulate that tacit knowledge to somebody else. And we're only going to do that if we're in a trust-based relationship. If there is deep trust between two people, or a group of people, you will start to see tacit knowledge being shared.
In the absence of that trust, you will not get access to that tacit knowledge. The challenge then is having lots and lots of trust-based relationships that provide you access to that tacit knowledge and scale.
Zero-sum games will get you nowhere fast
Going back to the notion of a masculine archetype that thinks in terms of zero-sum games — we are at war. Hagel suggests this is not the kind of archetype that will gain access to those knowledge flows. In fact, it will deeply undermine those knowledge flows.
He suggests, what we need is what we call, for the sake of convenience, feminine archetypes. They start with the notion that the world is about relationships, not transactions. Masculine archetypes are about transactions, you know "buy low, sell high, squeeze as much as you can, move on".
In this new world, it's about relationships, not transactions. it's about the notion of these relationships being long term, sustainable relationships. Where the kind of communication that takes place is not about data charts, it's about stories, images, visual kinds of communication.
People come together to tell stories, and learn from those stories. Those feminine archetype qualities then are:
- showing emotions
- expressing vulnerability in relationships, or you won't build trust
- communicating on the basis of stories and visuals
- and developing long-term, sustained relationships
We're on the cusp of the opportunity to move from a diminishing return performance curve to one where by changing archetypes, practices, institutions, the more people participate, the faster everyone learns, the more rapidly the curve improves. The future belongs to the feminine archetype.
Those of us who adopt the feminine archetype will be those who will create enormous wealth and enjoy success.
Creating customers from buyers
I suggest therefore that in order to move from transactions or buyers to relationships or customers, you need to adopt the feminine archetype. Relationships form the basis for people to become customers — whether they are
- loyal customers who spend more with you, or buy more than one time, or
- social customers, who may not buy as much or at all, yet will recommend you, not once, many times, to their circle of friends because they believe in what you offer
Social networks and interactions are not the mechanism to squeeze more than you can out of people through transactions. They are opportunities to create an environment where relationships of trust start to occur and tacit knowledge is shared. Which in turn makes a customer out of a buyer.
(we'll get into idea-sharing sites, co-creation, and innovation another time)