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15th German Trend Day, Hamburg, 15 September 2010Flow.Control. The new source code of change.
By Peter Wippermann
In the Network Economy, the currency of a company’s success is Customer Lifetime Value and no longer the mass market as it was during the industrial culture. It is important for companies to realise that a permanent relationship with the customer is rapidly becoming a crucial economic factor. Anyone in search of an encouraging example from the world of global business should take a closer look at the triumph of Apple or Amazon. Media have changed their character. They are no longer primarily tools that help sell products but are evolving into a company’s central nervous system. The strategy of selling products is turning into relationship management of common interests. The new processes are geared towards individual dialogues with each and every customer, right across the globe. It is not the quantity of information that leads to success, but the quality of the communications.
The swelling data stream has burst the banks of the traditional media channels. The dikes between communication, transaction and production have given way under the conditions of the Internet. The boundaries between work and leisure are merging into a single flow. A virtual double life between work flow and life flow entails unknown opportunities and risks. Over the next few years, it will be particularly important not just to embrace the new technologies but to analyse their cultural acceptance as well. Companies can benefit enormously from the new digital real-time analysis of their customers’ life flow: geographic information, movement tracking, highly individualised needs and consumption profiles as well as consumers’ growing involvement with their brands on the social web all provide support for relationship management between companies and sovereign consumers. On the other hand, employees and consumers are developing new defence mechanisms to stop the work flow encroaching on their private life. There are growing reservations about the transparent customer and employees’ total digital availability. The desire for privacy is increasing along with the fear of losing control. At the same time, the fruits of digitisation and the new convenience of interconnectedness are still only available to a few.
Society will become increasingly polarised: over the last few years, Digital Immigrants have evolved into Digital Visitors and the young Digital Natives have grown into adult Digital Residents.
Digital Visitors are still looking for control and look to the banks of the real world for salvation and orientation – even if it is gradually being flooded by virtuality. Digital Visitors grew up with mass media and are occasional visitors to the new network world. They have a lot of relearning to do: they have to make the change to personal media, from monologue to dialogue, from hierarchies to networks. Losing control frightens them. The experience and success they gained in the industrial culture are rapidly losing value in the Network Economy. That’s why they love horror stories about burn-out and relish in nightmare reports about multitasking as a form of assault. They find it difficult to understand that networks cannot be controlled. They are the bottleneck of technological progress. For them, withdrawal to their analogue private sphere is like retreating to an isle of bliss. The sensational commercial success of “Landlust”* speaks volumes. For Digital Visitors, control means dropping out.
Digital Residents swim in the sea of data. They love the flow, the feeling of total absorption they get from networking. They have grown up with interactive media and experience the virtual world as second nature. They expect the right message at the right time in the right place. They combine the first reality of the physical world with the virtual, second world of Augmented Reality in real time. For them it is no longer science fiction but everyday life. Being able to act spontaneously and get immediate feedback makes them feel they are maintaining control over their activities. To them control no longer means the power of opinion, it means co-determination. They are no longer readers, listeners or spectators but co-players, they are metamorphosing from consumers into prosumers – companies’ new freelance employees. They are the pioneers of the Network Economy. They love cherry-picking rather than the daily grind and practice self-control instead of system control. Flow.Control. is their life philosophy.
Flow.Control. is an ambiguous notion of work. The flow that arises as a result of controlling complex, fast-moving systems is spreading to our lives: control stands for the attempt to maintain the balance between overload and underload. The goal is a personal life flow that the individual can cause to swell (via linkage), encircle with dikes (via filtering), but also allow to seep away (by making it invisible). Flow.Control. is a trend which, in a dynamic and flexible society, can lead to a competitive advantage in the business world and happiness in one’s private life.
*”Landlust” is a lifestyle magazine from the Living, Garden and Cooking segment. With a current circulation of 725,795 copies, it is one of the 20 top selling magazines in Germany.
Date: Wednesday, 15 September 2010
Venue: Bucerius Law School, Hamburg
Theme: Flow Control – The new source code of change.
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