Dr Herman Gyr is a founding partner of the
Enterprise Development Group
and creator of the Enterprise Development Framework, a model for engaging leaders and other stakeholders in the transformation of their enterprise.
He is also the co-author of The Dynamic Enterprise: Tools for Turning Chaos into Strategy and Strategy into Action and hosts workshops on strategic thinking and business transformation in the digital era.
Can you briefly explain the main characteristics and differences between the four different digital consumers you have identified in your framework?
The fundamental idea is that every “digitally enhanced” consumer today shows four characteristics at one time or another. This is somewhat distinct from classic demographic categories, which aim to differentiate consumers along more stable parameters.
The different characteristics in themselves do not constitute “new” behavior. They are natural to our human expression. It’s just that we previously expressed them in different forms and venues. For example, as a young man, I expressed my creative urges by setting up a photography darkroom in our basement, but today I can go into this mode on my digital platform with much greater ease and much less investment (I don’t even have to get out of my chair).
Living in the digital world, consumers today are more dynamic in their expectations and consumption habits, and can seamlessly switch from one state to another. Still, each state is quite discrete, with specific needs and interests that are best served by certain products and services which are distinct from those that best serve the needs and interests of the other states.
For example, Ana (analog) is looking to be enriched within a passive-reflective state of mind. When in that mode of being, I find high quality content most valuable and relevant: something that is relaxing or inspiring that I can consume passively.
As I shift into the Andi (analog-digital) mode of being, I want to engage with the world in an interactive-playful way. Once my interest has shifted in this direction the content I may have quite enjoyed as an Ana no longer suits me. I now want interactive stimulation.
And once I become a D.J. (digital Jane or Joe), my interest has once again shifted quite dramatically: I want to use my own creativity and impact the world with it in some way. I want an audience and a platform for expressing myself.
And finally, if I shift to being Syndi (oriented towards synthesis, connecting ideas and people), I want to be with others and share. This is typically a more altruistic state that is best served by an inviting environment for social exchange.
The point of this framework is to present a simple description of the distinctive interests, motivations and behaviours of the digital consumer that can help identify potential new opportunities for engagement with these customers – and thus new business opportunities.
In practical terms, how can companies apply this to their digital strategy in order to reap tangible benefits?
Typically, companies have a fairly unidimensional view of their customers. This framework makes explicit the possibility of a more multi-dimensional relationship with customers around distinctly different products, services, processes and business models that can span the breadth of the consumer’s interests.
By better understanding the nature of the “digitally enhanced consumer” companies can consider value-propositions for these customers that cover a wider range of their interests.
While the market space related to the current relationship may be quite saturated, there may be opportunities they have not considered in relation to the expanded interests of their customers.
For example, not long ago, I was working with a media enterprise that was struggling with the erosion of their audience numbers. Once they understood the changing nature of their audience along the lines of these characteristics, the mystery of the digital market place dissolved, and they gained the confidence to develop a focused set of offerings that would enhance their relevance to their customers across a much wider range of interests.
Which of course also impacted their brand. By doing this, they were able to expand the deepest promise of their existing brand into new relationships with their customers.
Do you think that traditional media companies such as the BBC and CNN are doing enough to enable people to create and share content?
They are evolving. And there is a lot of room for further development. But they are learning and responsive to their audiences’ changing interests. From my perspective all this is just the beginning. It’s still early, and there is so much more to come. But they are “in the game”.
I know that the BBC in particular experimented early on with having a presence on Second Life and developed platforms for content uploading and participation by their audiences. These early experiments have evolved into competent platforms that continue to evolve.
In which sectors do you think there is most innovation?
It’s happening everywhere: we are in pioneering times in nearly all industries. Everyone is being disrupted. Many are taking advantage of this reality.
Do companies really need to be truly innovative in their digital strategy or should they just wait to see what is working and what isn’t working for others?
As my colleague Curtis Carlson (CEO of SRI International) says: “In the exponential (digital) economy, if you improve your performance incrementally, you actually fall behind exponentially.”
So, make sure you keep an eye on what’s happening, and figure out what you need to do to stay in the game. And create an environment where your people have their eyes open, are naturally curious and supported to come up with new ideas.
Really smart companies go beyond focusing on product or service innovation, constantly tracking emerging business models, and looking for signals of new paths worth pursuing.
Do you see anything disruptive on the horizon which could disrupt Google’s dominance of the internet landscape?
The most profound disruption coming our way at the moment is probably the Grid. May 2008 might be seen as a month, where everything will be reset once again. And I imagine Google will be there – they are very smart. But it will give others a chance to step in as well.
What steps should companies take if they want to be more innovative?
Firstly, leadership needs to establish a blueprint for the enterprise in the digital age. Innovation needs to be declared as fundamental to the company’s future.
Secondly, in support of this commitment, a simple and coherent innovation infrastructure needs to be established [with the following features]:
- A straight-forward innovation process and common language that is used by everyone in the company and naturally focuses innovation efforts on value creation - for the customers and for the company.
- A team of facilitators that boost, mentor and accelerate innovation initiatives throughout the company.
- A review and investment mechanism for progressing (or ending) emerging ideas along a path from initial idea to new product, service or process.
- An intelligence-gathering “outpost” that monitors the ecosystem for disruptive developments and opportunities, and feeds these discoveries and opportunities back into the enterprise.
Leadership must remain single-mindedly committed to the expression of its brand in innovative ways that create compelling value for its many and multi-dimensional customers.
Herman Gyr is running a 2-day workshop (link to pdf) at The Work Foundation in London in May.