What we have here is a failure to communicate!

by David Johnson on March 17, 2010

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs lately from the social media thought-leaders; I’ve been watching what’s been coming out of SXSW; and I’ve been talking to numerous business executives – and I think we have a failure to communicate.

I’ve seen this movie before; a young generation pitching new technology to an older generation. This time the millennials are the ones driving innovation, and this time its social media, mobile engagement and measurement, to name a few.  However, just as in the past, and perhaps more so now, innovation adoption curves lag dramatically behind in the business world.  Why?  Well my hypothesis is that the millennials understand the technology, and the executives understand the business issues.  Doesn’t sound like such a big deal, just get them in a room together and work it out.  But it’s not that easy.  Millennials talk about bots, widgets, plugins, forums and mashups, and business executives talk about process, service, quality, value, cost, revenue and ROI.  As a result, when a millennial with a good idea gets their “15 minutes” with an executive, they typically end up getting pushed down in the organization to another junior millennial who understands what they are talking about (because the executive sure didn’t), but has no juice, and that’s where they stay.

My perspective is that millennials and executives speak two different languages, and in many cases both groups are either unwilling or incapable of moving to the center in order to make a connection that creates value.  What does “move to the center” mean?  For the millennial it means taking time to understand the business or market you are trying to penetrate and understand the value of your solution in the context of the business process, opportunity, issue or challenge.  Executives, on the other hand, need to take an active interest in trying to understand the value of new innovations from the millennial entrepreneurs and idea people inside their own companies.

Who should make the first move?  Executives, you need to run to the center!  Why? You have the most to gain, and virtually nothing to lose.  I understand the desire to delegate something like social media and contain it in yet another marketing silo; however, you need to suppress the urge to take the easy way out.  Because if you don’t personally take the time to understand what these solutions make possible or what opportunities these solutions unlock, it will become challenging to create high value campaigns that benefit from your collective experiences and from others around you.

Millennials, for your part, tone down the tech speak. Drill into the details of the business environment you are trying to penetrate and the value your solution can provide…oh yeah, one more thing for the SXSW crowd, enough with the T-shirts and pumas – it’s really not a statement…lol (the backstroke did look fun).

David

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Linda JD March 20, 2010 at 2:06 am

Great advice for millenials and execs–they need to change their minds about how they are thinking about marketing… Howard Gardner, from Harvard, talks about the process of ‘changing minds’ in his book of the same title. Your post reflects his points on resonance and reasoning. The millenials need to adjust their tech speak so that their understanding of the power of social media will resonate with the execs and the execs need to reason with tried and true business strategies to help the millenials understand the value of the strategies. In the end, it is about teaching and learning! And, as you persuasively state David, the leaders (execs) have the upper hand…when they reach out to millenials and social media specialists they will find the synergy of integration that you have described in this blog!

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