The End of the World as We Know It (pt. 2)

Cough, cough…

Well, what started out as a minor illness a couple of weeks ago turned onto a bit more, then started knocking dominos in different directions. The blog, consequently, took a hit. So much for starting a revolution. C’est la vie.

But I’m back. Now, where were we? Ah, yes. Breaking down that infographic.

To begin, I want to discuss the concept of an economic philosophy. Let me define two things. First, let’s talk about “economic.” What I DON’T mean is simply the exchange of goods/services for money. What I DO mean is the entire system required to make economic exchanges possible. This includes things like labor, resources, trade, governance, and — perhaps most importantly – consumption. That last word is vitally important, because consumption is a major driver of economies. Whatever is being “consumed” becomes the basis of the economy, giving us examples like oil economies, tourism economies, and even war economies. Which explains why folks living in the farthest jungles could care less about money to buy things that they don’t need consume.

Second, let’s talk about “philosophy.” In my last post, Anthony Iannarino brought up the difference between philosophy and drivers. It’s an important distinction. Drivers are the elements that produce a shift. In terms of the three Ages (Agrarian, Industrial, and Information), the economic systems that were shifted in each age were driven by getting more out of nature, machines, and now information. But when I talk about philosophy, I am talking about the culmination of knowledge, values, beliefs, and lifestyles that are dedicated to a certain view of the world. And that’s what we have with an economic philosophy. People are dedicating whole chunks of their lives (or even more) to an economic worldview, driven primarily by what they consume (and the systems they build to support their consumption).

In (perhaps overly) simplistic terms: drivers create the philosophy.

This means that in the Agrarian Age, the wealthy (people who actually had more than they needed) transformed their lives around understanding — and even idolizing — Nature. Thomas Jefferson articulated this well when he said, “Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bonds.” This also means that every time I hear some old hippie talk about “it’s the earth, man,” I think to myself, “Ah, trying to get back to the 1700’s, are we?” But I digress…

In the Industrial Age, the shift went to understanding — and even idolizing — Machines. Nature got shoved into metal boxes as steam, coal, and oil were harnessed to change our lifestyles. Consequently, he (or she) who owned the machines built entire systems to both generate and protect wealth. And if you wanted to get wealthy, the best way was to attach yourself to the machine-based system.

But, now in the Information Age, the shift is going has gone to understanding — and even idolizing — Information. The reason Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and other nerds from high school tech gods became so wealthy isn’t because of their amazing machine-making skills. It was because of their great information-harnessing skills. And they have changed how we live as a result. Just consider how often you try to harness information to be successful at work/home/play/etc.

So what does all of this mean? A number of things.

First, we have moved as a society waaaaaay past meeting our basic needs (a la Maslow). The economy and our lifestyles that support it are now based on consuming Information. But to what end? Knowing the answer to that question, especially for your clients, will generate wealth for you.

Second, if you want to generate wealth in today’s age, you have to become a student of information. And that is not simply being able to spew facts (though there are many sales people who think this is the best way to sell). It’s about understanding how information is created, discovered, accessed, harnessed, leveraged, shared, and wasted. Being able to skillfully apply that understanding will give you (and your clients) a very bright future. Ignore it, and have fun drowning in the chaos.

Third, you likely work with someone who does not recognize this truth. This last point is the saddest one to me. Too many folks are stuck in the 1900’s. They push you into using machines to solve your problems (CRM, anyone?) without actually making sure that the information you need to be successful is available to you. Whole organizations (both buyers and sellers) try to hide information in siloes, never realizing the negative impact they are creating. Buyers struggle to follow your attempts to help them improve their use of information because that is not how they are defining their problem. It’s a sad topic, to be sure.

But there is hope.

Hope that more and more people are recognizing the problem needs to be redefined. That information is more than just a collection of data bits. That sharing information, collaborating with it, can create a whole new economy. This is the philosophy we are being steered toward. This is where the revolution is taking us.

I mua… Onward and upward.

The End of the World as We Know It (pt. 1)

I’m a context guy.  What I mean by that is I like to must see the big picture.  Some might call it the bottom line.  Whatever. If I don’t see the greater context, I struggle with listening to the details.  It’s like some form of torture, where I’ve been tied to a chair and have to listen to the endless explanation of some fraction of a micro-concept.  Just mind-numbing.

So, for me to explain myself better in this blog (and continue the revolution), I have to set the context.  For the blog.  For my whole philosophy.  For the modern profession of selling.

And the context is this.

We are the lucky few, in the entire history of mankind, who have been given the chance to live through MASSIVE change.  And not just change, but literally a global shift in what we commonly call “ages.”

Pause.  Think about that for a moment.  We use the term “ages” to describe some pretty cool things.  The Stone Age.  The Iron Age.  The Age of Reason.  The Age of Aquarius (sorry – I couldn’t resist).

Ages transcend generations.  They transcend geopolitical boundaries.  Shucks, they don’t just transcend them – they transform them.  And economies, too.  Which is why I’m going there (since this is a mostly-sales blog).

So back to the rant topic at hand.  As the infographic below shows (Lord, I hope it got attached – don’t even get me started on my technical deficiencies.  Starting this blog was hard enough), the most recent ages we have dealt with (and was prominently displayed for us at the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics) are the Agrarian Age (from as early as 10,000 BC to the early 1700’s AD), which gave way to the Industrial Age (from the mid 1700’s AD to late 1900’s AD), which has now given way to the Information Age (late 1900’s AD to current).  Or as the Olympics tried to brainwash tell us, enabled digital technology so that we could listen to British rock (and since U2 is Irish, I say “rubbish” to the whole lot).

What’s the big deal?  Simple.  The transition from Agrarian Age to Industrial Age was full of upheaval.  Some might even say it was chaotic.  And that is the point I am making now. About the current transition.  From Industrial Age to Information Age, that is.

You see, every time I hear some leader try to tell me how to leverage an Industrial Age solution to make an Information Age problem go away, I think to myself, “This guy’s trying to sell me a loom. An honest to goodness LOOM. With steam-powered attachments.”  I shudder even now as I think about it.  What in Miss Molly’s underwear drawer are they thinking?!  Get away from me, 1900’s thinking!  And take your pencils, telegraph, and sales funnel with you!  You are just creating more chaos.  Clearly, sir (or madam), you do not understand the chaos of the current Age.

And how does one understand this chaos?  By understanding the threads that create it.  By looking at the patterns that appear in each age and analyzing how the patterns have evolved.  By identifying where old rules have become outdated so that new rules can take their place.

Since I am not some full-blown futurist, I can only speak to the threads that tie directly to generating revenue in the swirling mass of today’s chaos.  And of those, I would like to highlight the following six topics:

  • The economic philosophy (of each age)
  • The key economic generator (of each age)
  • Where to find customers (in each age)
  • The phases of labor (of each age)
  • The target of innovation (for each age)
  • The source of energy and thrust (in each age)

Obviously, you can see some of my thoughts already in the infographic that I hope was successfully added to this post (I’m still twitching from the g-force on my learning curve here).  But I will also tackle each topic individually, sharing my own observations and dumb-luck discoveries research, over the coming weeks.  My hope is that by understanding how the chaos works, we can all begin to harness it.  And actually enjoy it for a change.

I mua… Onward and upward.

Viva La Revolucion!

I want to start a revolution. Not some rise against corrupt, imperial authority. And not some post-modern rant against the machine. I’m talking about the  kind of revolution that describes a worldwide  shift in how we live. And more specifically, sell.

Technically, the revolution has already begun  –  and  I  didn’t  start  it.  When computers were reduced in the 1970’s and 1980’s from vacuum-tube monstrosities that filled entire buildings to become compact, desk-top devices that slowly took over our lives, something happened that has largely been overlooked. Or worse, been intentionally ignored. The complexity of the world around us was exposed grew.

I’m NOT talking about the complexity in terms of the massive wave of information that has bombarded us.  You know what I mean. People often reduce the complexity that I’m talking about to the evolution of getting our data with the tap of a button or swipe of the finger until all the tapping and swiping became an addiction. (Seriously, though – ever lose your smart phone for a day? Torture.)

No, I’m talking about the complexity of being connected to a global system of relationships.  Before the complexity, people could literally live (and sell) in a bubble.  Your customers had the same last names as the kids who grew up in your neighborhood, you mocked the Canadian dollar, and most international experiences were limited to the annual vacation to Mexico or the proverbial backpacking trip through Europe. Now, people are trying to figure out the different tones in Mandarin, Canadians vacation in the U.S. to “get a good deal,” and you speak to India on an almost daily basis (Help Desk, anyone?).  With this rise in complexity, a new part of the human brain was unleashed, one that screamed “more” and “faster” in the same breath.  The connections became 24/7. And the demands expectations of everyone became just as hard-wired.

And these expectation-driven connections are not just constant.

They’re also non-linear.  Nothing happens as planned any more.  You can tell yourself that you will plan your week in advance, but how often has the calendar morphed between Monday and Friday with cancellations, additions, and adjustments?  Shucks, how about since lunch?  Straight lines have become legends the greybeards at executive row the soda/pop/coke machine tell us.

And that is exactly my point.

People still act as if the complexity is just an obstacle to be overcome. As if it’s just a passing phase of increased noise. We say that we can work our way through it all. Just keep on keeping on.  In the mean time, go fill out that sales planner, play the numbers game, and follow that sales process.  And remember, it’s easy to do because that’s how I did it when I was a kid.

Frankly, I’m tired of it.

The rules of “more” and “faster” have become ingrained in every aspect of life. But the complexity of the world today has seeped into every buyer’s world, creating more chaos than can reasonably be “managed.” If we (as people who sell for a living) don’t change how we live, we will get buried in the chaos.  And I can’t watch that happen. Not when I genuinely believe that I think I have figured out how the chaos works.

This blog is dedicated to living and selling differently.  To embracing the chaos instead of trying to shut the door on it.  If that doesn’t intrigue you, well… I hope you really enjoy the ride you’re on.  The seat belts don’t get bigger.  But if that does intrigue you, stay tuned.  And join me.  Be a part of shifting how we live and sell.

And viva la revolucion.