Tagged: flows

Forty two


You have been influenced when you think something you wouldn’t otherwise have thought or do something you wouldn’t otherwise have done.

The report then documents the idea I’d put forward in the planning meeting – about the ‘i’ of IT really being the ‘i’ of influence. So we’ll skip down to Saket’s first major contribution of the day.

Organizations have invested in ERP systems since they emerged in the early-90s, and their preceding technologies before that. Enterprise Resource Planning is all about using IT to track the flows of time, money and materials. However, with the advent of social media and related technologies, and with the extension of today’s social monitoring and analytics services, we increasingly have the nascent facility to track the flow of influence.

Saket described six influence flows:

  1. Our organization’s influence with stakeholders
  2. Our stakeholders’ influence with each other with respect to us
  3. Our stakeholders’ influence with our organization
  4. Our competitors’ influence with stakeholders
  5. Stakeholders’ influence with each other with respect to our competitors
  6. Stakeholders’ influence with our competitors.

I remember BB asking for an explanation of “stakeholder”, although that didn’t make the final report. Perhaps it should have. A stakeholder is anyone with an interest in an organization or something the organization is involved in – a customer, shareholder, employee, local resident, etc.

Saket summed up the value of tracking the flow of influence: “The ease and effectiveness with which we can manage and learn from influence flows is integral to the process by which customers, citizens and all stakeholders interact with organizations to broker mutually valuable, beneficial relationships.”

In plainer English, it’s central to doing business; always has been, always will be, except now we can be better at it, more scientific, more joined up, more disciplined.

Thirty (iii)

“There are flows of resources – which I generally think of as time, money and materials. That definition of marketing you referenced Michelle means that we work out what the market wants or might want, and what we can deliver, and then plan to exchange products and services for money. Reciprocal flows. For example, the product flows out and the money flows in. And we hope to keep that up.

“And that’s where another kind of flow comes in, to do with reputation Yvonne. After all, without a decent reputation we can’t hope to keep those sales up. I’m talking about influence flows. Influence goes around comes around.”

“Yes!” John got our attention. “Of course, data, information and knowledge flow. I meant to say that. And when they do so usefully, which we now think of as when someone changes what they’d have thought or done otherwise, that’s influence.”

“That’s really interesting,” said Michelle. “So some influence flows through my department, some through the separate discipline of public relations,” (I couldn’t work out whether the emphasis was sarcastic or respectful towards Yvonne but I had my suspicion) “and some through IT.”

“And…?” challenged Saket. Given the silence, he continued. “And there’s influence flowing in the actions of customer service, procurement, logistics, HR, sales. In fact, in everything. There’s influence in everything an organization does, and sometimes in what it does not do. Let me read you something.”

It was Saket’s turn to find something on his computer.

“Reputation management does not actually mean managing reputation, and brand management does not actually mean managing a brand. They mean actively attending to the business of influencing and being influenced such that the resultant beliefs or opinions held about us and our products are conducive to our achieving organizational objectives.”

“When you say it like that,” said Michelle, “it really puts the customer on a pedestal for sure.”

“There’s no such thing as ‘for sure’. That’s the only sure thing I do know. A Beautiful Mind, 2001.”

After a few seconds of adjusting to Saket’s movie speak, Michelle asked him to explain.

“Well, maybe this whole so-called ‘customer-centric’ way of thinking is an over simplification. The quote I just read out didn’t reference the customer. It didn’t put the customer ahead of employees past, present and future, or suppliers or partners or shareholders, past, present and future. Or the general public interest. Or the planet. All stakeholders matter, and to put one consistently ahead of all the others sounds increasingly stupid to me. It doesn’t appear to recognize the complexities of the world we live in.”

My conversation with Dom about complexity crashed back into my mind, and I had a feeling of clarity, even if I couldn’t actually articulate it. One thing I did know is that I’d had about as much mental stimulation as I could cope with on one call, and I directed the remainder of the call to planning the away day.

Thirty (ii)

“Public relations theory has moved on, particularly following what was known as the Excellence study twenty odd years ago. And the theory is translating into practice, at least where and when it’s encouraged. In this instance we’re not talking ‘spin’. We’re talking about…”, she looked down at her laptop to read something verbatim, “the planned and sustained effort to influence opinion and behavior, and to be influenced similarly, in order to build mutual understanding and goodwill.”

Yvonne looked around the room to make sure we got that. “So good public relations tries to get the organization to understand the people out there as much as we try to get them to understand us. It’s open, transparent, honest.”

Michelle had tapped something into her Macbook and now jumped in again. “Well that’s marketing’s job,” she asserted. “If we’re making academic references here,” (ouch), “I have the definition for marketing: the process by which companies create value for customers and build strong customer relationships in order to capture value from customers in return.

“That’s from ‘Principles of Marketing’,” she continued, “we can’t create value without understanding customers, and a relationship can’t be one-way. So that’s why market research and PR come under this definition.”

“PR is different from marketing.”

“No it isn’t.”

“Oh yes, PR is quite separate.”

“Of course it isn’t. PR is a sub-discipline of marketing.”

“Are you for real?! And besides customers are just one public…”

I blew my whistle, figuratively speaking: “Could we stop there please. My gut tells me this isn’t a productive line of argument.”

There was probably only four or five seconds of silence, but it felt a bit longer, and I was thankful when Saket piped up.

“If I may suggest a way in which all the topics you raised Eli are connected, and that encompasses definitions of marketing and PR come to that.”

We were all ears.

“No organization is an island. Rather, it must interact with all those parties around it in order to pursue and achieve its objectives. There is interaction. Movement. Flow. But flows of what?”

The question appeared rhetorical, but at the same time we wanted to answer it.

“Product”, said John.

“And services”, said Michelle.

“And materials to build the products”, John added.

“And flows of money, when we buy materials, and sell products”, I said. “And when we buy services, including employing people, and when we sell services.”

“And reputation? No. Reputation doesn’t flow, does it? Well not all which ways.” Yvonne was challenging her own contribution.

Saket responded but had moved too far from his mic. I asked him to repeat what he was saying.