For almost 200 years we were in the Industrial Age, followed by four “Ages” in less than 40 years: The Post-Industrial/Service Age. The Technology Age, the very short 5-10 year Information Age, and what some including me are now calling the Participation Age.
The hallmark of the Participation Age is “Sharing”. Shared technologies, shared information, shared resources, and shared participation in developing new products. But most of all the Participation Age is identified by the re-development of the concept of community – people living and working together toward a common goal.
Linux, Druple communities, interactive media, blogs, and social media such as Twitter and Facebook are all examples of shared community. Independent programmers are meeting for a weekend and developing an application in just a few hours together.
The results? A big one is that we are now in the age of Two-Way Marketing. You can no longer afford to have a one-way “push” message. You must be listening as much or more than talking, asking more questions than you answer, and participating with your community in the development of your brand, not telling people what your brand is.
The Age of Participation – Social Entrepreneurship
An even bigger result is that the best companies will be focused on creating abundance and significance for the owner, the employees and the world around them. They will be returning to what we were taught in kindergarten, to re-learn how to share and participate with others in building a better world.
Besides two-way marketing, alert companies will understand that they can no longer afford to be interesting, but that they now must be interested – finding ways to promote the interests of their customers and their community to increase their profits.
It’s not a foo-foo idea anymore; it is becoming a staple of business. Social entrepreneurship is not a fad. It’s a result of living in the age of participation and the information sharing that is possible as a result. And those companies that put the interests of their customers and community first will make more money.
Selling a product or service doesn’t cut it anymore. Last year Wired Magazine ran a cover story on the need for people to reconnect with the concept of “meaning”. In the eighties the bumper sticker was “He who dies with the most toys wins” and in the nineties we got to try it and found it wanting. In the last ten years we have begun to reconnect with the idea that it’s not “He who dies with the most toys wins”, but “He who lives with the most significant goals wins.”
Great companies in the 21st century will move from Survival, through Success to Significance. And they will do so by changing the business mindset from one of scarcity – “I need to get mine first because there is only so much to go around”; to a mindset of abundance – “I will get mine as I help others get theirs.”
Use your business to do more than make money; you’ll make more money if you do. All the best businesses are growing as they give back. It creates the right leadership mindset for a business to grow.
You either live in a world of abundance or a world of scarcity. Whichever one you choose effects every decision you make.
Have a great finish to 2009 and an abundant and significant start to 2010!