[Quote] Markets are conversations

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“Markets are conversations”

That’s the first these of the cluetrain manifesto. No matter the documents dates from 1999, it’s been used to trigger the earliest phase of the digital transformation. Not at the society level (it was only taking account of the ongoing trends even if it was quite visionary) but at the enterprise level, saying “the world is changing, you must take account of this”.

From the web to the digital transformation, including enterprise 2.0 or social business, this these has been one of the founding blocks of many transformation initiatives. First towards the customer, then towards the employee. But if it’s been quite efficient in the first case, it’s often been counterproductive in the second.

From the customer perspective, things look obvious. Businesses have understood that web has become a huge conversation that impacts their reputation, sales and customer experience, only to mention the most obvious matters. They also understood that these conversations will happen anyway, with or without them and that they won’t be in control of all their communication. Join the conversation or suffer it. With a little downside : by focusing on conversations and so on communication some brands forgot to include servicing in their initiatives in the first times while customers were expecting more than postures and messages. Hence the issues many brands faced in their early times on the social web, on blogs, Facebook or Twitter. They wanted to communicate while customers were expecting services and answer. One’s message vs the other’s needs. But they finally got the point.

From the employee perspective, everything starts with a big misunderstanding on which the collaborative and social enterprise was supposed to be built. Often in vain.

Markets are conversations, businesses are not markets

A market is a place where resources are exchanged, the place where an offer meets a demand, a place where both get balanced and even optimized. In this perspective, conversations are key to make one meet the other, as a knowledge, recognition and transaction facilitator. But, in their most common configuration, businesses are anything but markets.

More than a place when resources flow to better meet needs, businesses are places where ownership and property is more important than exchanges. My resources, my staff, my budget, my time, my knowledge, my information. They all belong to me, I own them, it makes me what I am, tell how important I am, determines my power, so there’s no way in which I’ll exchange, share or trade them with anyone, whatever the price, even for the highest benefit of the company.

With enterprise social software we tried to make conversations enter a market while there was no market. And technology was blamed while the problem was the organization.

Some may also have believed that conversations were going to turn organizations into markets while they had to be turned into markets first so conversations could start and companies could make sense of them.

The question, however, is what is a “market enterprise”.

Among the current trends, some good ideas could be found in design thinking applied to organization and Holacracy. Years ago I also coined the term “service oriented organization“. In all cases theres the idea of replacing a strict and proprietary resource allocation that dictates the way an organization responds to the need of an internal or external customer by a continuously recomposing organization based on goals, needs, missions and the ability of internal talents to join the right project.

The Cluetrain Manifesto was right. It’s just been applied at the wrong place sometimes.

By the way it should remind us all that resource allocation is key in the transformation we’re facing. Very few are trying to address this point but it won’t be fixed by magic.

Image Credit : Markets conversations by Macrovector via Shutterstock