Making Sense of the Interconnected New World
Fasten your seatbelts: Within the next three years, the Internet will unleash a change so profound that it will rock the business world to its existential core. More than 70,000 people are joining the connected global economy every day. Experts predict that some time in 2011 the Internet will welcome its 3 billionth user.
That milestone will mark the first time the world’s work force will be unified in a single, integrated global system. Then, all 3 billion users will be able to communicate, collaborate and link with other like-minded citizens of the Internet community — without middlemen or gatekeepers.
But it’s not going to be one big happy party. There will be plenty of disruption, angst and unimagined new problems for us to deal with as we navigate this new terrain.
Power to the People
Enter Silicon Valley guru Tom Hayes, who has held executive positions at Hewlett-Packard, Applied Materials, AMD and Enea. In his groundbreaking new book, Jump Point: How Network Culture Is Revolutionizing Business, Hayes looks into his crystal ball to help make sense of the virulent market trends in store for this new interconnected world. His cogent analysis and provocative new perspective challenge old assumptions, debunk existing business models and offer insights on how to prosper in this convulsive new environment.
Peppering his discourse liberally with analysis and examples of the companies that are transforming the ways business is conducted on the Internet, Hayes prepares readers for a future of dynamic new communities that will form to give a voice to the ever-shifting desires of these new passionate consumers. He spells out the demise of command-and-control business relationships as the balance of power shifts to new coalitions of opinionated consumers.
Today, through the Internet, companies can let users discover new products and recommend them to each other, while at the same time cultivating new friendships with like-minded consumers. The point, writes Hayes, is that “we are likely to build communities of interest just as emotionally appealing as any other in our lives.”
People “have a primal need to get together, to share their thoughts, swap ideas, and to feel a part of something bigger than themselves,” he writes. “But historically, that impulse has been circumscribed by a host of factors: lack of mobility, differences in language, limited resources, and, ultimately, limited choices.” Hayes explains that the Internet has already helped to reduce most of these limitations for consumers. He also predicts that it will soon eliminate the rest. He adds that, in the near future, “affinity groups will quickly become the dominant social force in the emerging world economy, changing how we think about markets, fads, social movements, and, ultimately, power.”
The paradox for business is that while scale makes the value in the network greater, the value of the network to the individual grows as it becomes more intimate. In other words, individuals will flock to affinity groups within the wider network where they can hang out with others like themselves. Hayes writes that marketers will not enjoy unlimited access to these communities except by invitation.
Trust Is the New Currency
Within these communities, communication will no longer be broadcast but will travel virally, passed on from member to member. “This necessity creates huge challenges to traditional marketing methods,” Hayes writes. “And there is nothing worse than trying to manipulate this empowered public with its own tools.”
In this new dynamic, trust will become the most valuable currency, Hayes predicts. Customers want to trust: It removes doubt, complexity and extra layers of decision making. For today’s customers, trust must be earned. “They want to be allowed behind the curtain, to see, and even to participate in the inner workings,” Hayes writes. “[I]t is a paradox of the Jump Point: less control means more trust.”
Any company trying to manipulate this spirit of trust risks a quick demise. Hayes warns businesses that attempting to manufacture grassroots support by deceptive means — a practice known as “astroturfing” — is an anathema in the networked world “because it violates the code and spirit of peer-to-peer communications.”