Whatever you do, you are always competing with tomorrow
Yesterday we headed to Amsterdam for a conversation with Micael Dahlén, Professor at the Stockholm School of Economics and author of the upcoming book Nextopia. In Nextopia Dahlén describes the so-called ‘expectations society’ we’re living in, and our evolutionary drive to strive for the next big thing – which will always be the best one, a utopian hope that affects lives today.
The idea of Nextopia and the expectations society is rooted in consumer behavior and consumer psychology, but it’s not just a business story. It basically affects everything we do: how we date, how we progress in life, how we manage our careers, etc.
We really enjoyed the talk, this is what we’ve learned:
We are living in a world of endless opportunities in which we are all IBL – ‘Involved But Looking’
As a metaphor to our current state of mind, Dahlén refers to the way people are categorizing themselves on dating sites & social communities: ‘involved but looking’ (IBL). We are in some kind of a relationship, but always open for new things.
We were not programmed to stick to routines in the first place. But in this world of endless opportunities it becomes very compelling to switch to new things. All the time we are being reminded of things we haven’t tried before.
The expectations society established itself around the millennium, with the diffusion and adoption of the Internet. And it hasn’t stopped growing ever since. Unfortunately we’re not adapting, and still doing business as usual. We interact in the exact same way we did before the millennium, when the world was really completely different.
There is nothing that can make you unique for a considerable amount of time. Whatever you do, you are always competing with tomorrow
From a business point of view we can’t make anything perfect anymore. The standards and expectations are just changing too quickly. And we have to deal with that perspective.
Consumers think: ‘I’m happy with you, but if something better comes up, I might go for that’. Loyalty is less flexible than before. Hence, as a business it’s crucial to challenge the status quo more than ever before. Basically what people really buy into is not what we’re offering today, but what we’re offering tomorrow.
The launch of a product is not the beginning of business, it’s basically the end of it
‘As soon as you launch a product, it’s more or less dead’, says Dahlén. Anyone, anywhere can do something similar anytime. The traditional product life cycle belongs to the Yestermillennium.
We have to move the business more before the launch, selling the idea of the product and inviting consumers to be part of that story. Consumers, or anypreneurs according to Dahlén, can be a force beyond everything what has been possible before. We have to collaborate with them, after all they are our best marketers if we just activate them in the right way.
Dahlén refers to the iPhone & iPad launch as an example. In both cases the entire set of sales figures was based on presales. The iPhone had no less than 17 million Google hits before it was actually launched. Everyone was adding bits & pieces to the story, driving the conversations around the product. We clearly need to think about new ways of involving people in order to subscribe to the future.
We are all working in B2B today
Within this expectations society, consumers have become very smart, sophisticated & demanding. Actually, tables have turned: they are tendering offers to us now (check out etsy.com as an example).
You can be terrified and do everything to stop or control it. But it’s a fight you can’t win. Instead let’s start thinking about how we can leverage this renewed context. Nextopia provides us with interesting insights to understand ourselves and tap into the Conversation Age. The book will be launched in the second half of November.