Having a Dialogue with Your Customers

The world is undergoing the biggest change in a century, according to Don Tapscott. The rules to conduct business have been drastically altered and in order to keep pace companies are not only going to have to understand new technology, but be able to use these new tools to build environments that are trusting and engaging.

Tapscott, an authority on the strategic value and impact of information technology, presented “Dialogue vs. Monologue,” March 3 at The Plumb Club Forum @FIT. The objective of the two-day forum (March 2-3) was to define and spearhead an educational agenda for the jewelry industry, benefiting Plumb Club members and the industry at large.

Tapscott, coauthor of Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, says that Web 2.0 is making the physical world “smart and interconnected.” He said that to capitalize on Web 2.0, companies should look for opportunities for innovation in six technology segments:

Multimedia interfaces – Where people can use Web-based video, audio, and print technologies to communicate and collaborate. “True multimedia where you get to be the movie”;

* Web services – The new Web is based on xml language, which allow for the sharing of data throughout the Internet. Thus, making the Web, “A giant mobile computer,” he said. In his office, Tapscott said the slogan is, “We don’t build web sites, we build communities.”

* Pervasive computing – Tapscott said that soon, collaborating machines will thrive “in the wild,” forming relationships with other machines on the fly to accomplish ever more complex goals.

* Ubiquitous broadband networks – Meaning that the widespread availability of broadband has made ubiquitous access a reality. And the types of services, such as storage and on-demand applications, are easy and inexpensive to share and reuse;

* Geospatiality – GPS, RFID, and 3D technologies are early uses of new computing technology that will soon be able to interact with the physical world. “Where the location of all things are known in the network”; and

* Integration – Standardization of computing and communications technologies has led to new approaches to IT architecture. Many interfaces between the infrastructure and applications are now open, which means different modules can “speak” to each other. Or as Tapscott said, “We now have a global computer.”

Tapscott spent a lot of time talking about young computer users and how they are leading the change. The children of baby boomers “Is the first generation to be bathed in bits,” he said.

This demographic, the largest in U.S. history, have a lot of demands about how corporations should operate, as consumers and employers.

When it comes to the jewelry industry, they say they want jewelry and gems made in a way that is environmentally and humanly sound.

Overall, they want choice and freedom. In fact they already have that through their use of technology. They want to be entertained, even at work. They said that work and fun should be the same thing. And they are interested in speed and innovation.

“You put that together and you got a generation that is really different,” he said. “This is a demographic tsunami. What you have is a technology revolution that intersects with a demographic revolution. … It’s a profound change in how we add value.”

He advised companies to be more transparent and to operate in a manner that communicates trust. “Transparency is your friend,” he said. “Be accountable. That enables trust. If you have trust that strengthens relationships. Strengthened relationships add value.”

He said the traditional model of product, place, price, and promotion needs to be replaced with communities, goods and services, experiences, and transformations. And corporations in this new era of collaboration and transparency must adhere to integrity, honesty, consideration, and accountability.

He said that there’s a “crisis of leadership” in many companies. And finding the leadership to navigate through this change will be the key to success.

“How is your company going to find leadership for these changes? It comes from anywhere. It can come forward and needs to come forward.”