Unleash the Punks in your Business
Last week at the Lunatick Society of Newcastle’s Social 2.0 event, Roger (@pryorcommitment) & Dave (@bogusjimmy) included in their presentation this clip - Social Media is the New Punk. This got me thinking almost straight away about the similarities between the development of punk and the way in which it was used by managers and the music industry, and the way business owners/managers should be looking at the intellectual capital and capabilities in their business.
In a nutshell, there was a discontent among a generation against the economic environment of the time that resulted in a rebellion against the flashy mainstream of disco, glam, and other mainstream artists. The rebellion took shape in trash, simple musical expression, and filthy attitude. It was individuals expressing themselves in such numbers that it became a movement. This movement went beyond music to fashion and art.
Punk spread by smart marketing, primarily from the likes of Malcolm McLaren who recognised that the Sex Pistols spoke (or yelled) to a disaffected youth who sought to rebel against the authority and mainstream society suffering under economic hardships of the times.
McLaren tapped into a community of punk and formed the Sex Pistols to create a music revolution that was harnessed by the recording industry and diffused via the technological advances of the age (colour TV and tape distribution) for other managers, and bands to join the movement.
I Wanna Be Me
The punk scene was a community, musical ideas, fashion, creativity was shared through participating in community. Individuals sought to assert their individuality and rebellion through sharing ideas creating an environment of creativity, innovation which lead to expression via artistic content creation.
Similarly, a powerful way to increase the intellectual capital stocks of a business or organisation is to encourage its talent to use social media tools and events to network and participate in professional and social discussions. Often staff have friends and associates that work in similar industries, possibly for competitors, or in potential or existing customers. By allowing a connection from within the organisation to the world of information, intellectual capital, and opinion of related worlds outside the organisation, the organisation have barnacles that filter and receive information that can be used for its own advantage.
New ideas can be harnessed, improvements in process efficiencies, new products developed, more effective suppliers and supply chains can all result from allowing staff to expand their participation in communities. A strategy of empowering staff to act on their increased capacity and facilitating their energy is key to success, as it being willing to takes risks and rebel against the traditional way of doing business. The higher the intellectual capital stocks, the better the competitive position. The better quality and capacity of communications infrastructure, the more connected a business can be, even with geographically dispersed staff.
The Modern World
The corporates in the punk scene were good at analysing their competitors. Their competitors were tired, bland, stale, safe mainstream music producers. They were smart enough to realise that the barrier to entry was low: three chords and the truth. The production quality was low as was it’s effort so it could quickly mobilise and expand to reach new markets or react to developments in the trend, or to new out-punk new entrants.
For business in the digital generation, the challenge is to out-innovate the competition. Because of technology, traditional competitive advantages and points of difference are quickly replicated and eroded.
What can’t be duplicated so easily is the competitive advantage derive from the individuals within the business that together create intellectual capital. It is in the strategic management of people toward leveraging innovation and creativity to create new opportunities and advantage particularly in fields dominated by traditional business types such as local government and large corporates.
Small businesses are getting it, social media tools are providing free and easy means of marketing, of connecting to their customers and conversing with their customers, suppliers, partners regularly and effectively. These businesses are developing fast and taking market share from their traditional dominant competitors. Creative industries, technology companies, and some new professional service businesses exist to demonstrate punk business.
The time was right for the punk bands. It mid and late 70s were a time of economic pressure, conservative government dominance was drawing to a close. It is fair to say that the environment was conducive for a movement that needed to make a statement of difference and technology was advancing to advance it’s message.
The time is upon us now and the technology is coming, the traditional business models and hierarchical structures are ageing fast, they are conservative and risk averse, they lack creativity and rarely encourage innovation. High capacity broadband will be the lifeblood for new product development and innovation.
The time is right for businesses to take advantage of an environment of connectivity, digital natives, and a connected generation ready to develop themselves. The businesses for whom they will commit and the industries that will develop because of them.
There is vacant blue ocean to occupy and create new product, service and market opportunities. Businesses that do will have the agility and resilience that is surely required to forge success in the future and influence future generations of innovators.
You can be Manager McLaren of your business and enjoy the energy of revolution.