There is no way to fix a broken mirror

“The increase of disorder or entropy is what distinguishes the past from the future, giving a direction to time.”

— Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time

I can see it happening every day. People waiting and expecting that sooner than later the pre-Covid situation will come back. They talk about “the new normality”, “coming back to the office”, “coming back to the old good days”,…

I have important news from them: that won’t be the case. Period.

And it won’t be the case for a very powerful reason. It is not my very personal view or a subjective criterion.

The reason why the past situation won’t be back is just that it would be against the laws of Nature, against the fundamental principles of Physics, against what has happened every time a deep disruptive event has introduced chaos in a complex system.

If a mirror is broken, it is absolutely impossible to recover it to the previous status. You can glue it or use it for making a beautiful ornamental device, but it won’t be the same mirror anymore.

It is the Entropy, my friend

The law of entropy increase was first born out of thermodynamics and was discovered when studying the efficiency of perpetual motion machines and heat engines.

The second law of thermodynamics states that “as one goes forward in time, the net entropy (degree of disorder) of any isolated or closed system will always increase (or at least stay the same).

Well, but in the business world, Physics don’t apply…

You think so? OK, just please tell me any mayor industry disruption that ended into a situation close to the original one (same market dynamics, same competitors, same customer behavior,…). I bet you won’t come with any example, because that simply does not happen.

Physics do apply to every process in the world, and business is not any different. In fact, I believe a key element of business success has very much to do with how team leaders manage energy

OK, so as the future will be a disaster, I just give up

No way!!!. I haven’t said the future will be terrible, I just said that it will be different, by definition. So, the sooner we all stop moaning and focus on observing how this complex system is evolving and how to capture the bright opportunities to come, the better.

Time to mentally reset

It is over. Your bright past business is gone. Those customers won’t be back, those prices won’t be the same. The full ecosystem has changed massively and there is much more disorder. But grief and mourning won’t help us building the brilliant future ahead.

It is time for us to rethink the industries in which we are competing and the value proposition that we deliver. For example, in the airlines world where I work:

  • Classic approach (the aircraft being in the center of the strategy):
    • Competing in the “60 tons aluminum tubes transportation from A to B” business
  • Potential new approaches (the customer being in the center of the strategy)
    • Competing in the “time saving” industry
    • Competing in the “experiential” industry

You competitors will change according to the industry in which you define you will be competing. In the first case, you would compete against other aircraft operators, while in the second you would compete against players in the videoconferencing world, or in the media industry. We need to understand in which industries does our brand have legitimacy to pretend to occupy a space in the customer top of mind, and be brave and go for it.

But it is not fair

I don’t know if it is fair or not, or how much effort you made building what you had before. We should defer judgement. It is not about what we think it should happen if the world was “fair” but embracing what will happen. Nature does not care about what you did in the past but acts on the situation as from now and builds from here to the future according to its fundamental laws.

Why I’m so optimistic

There is a human tendency towards believing that what happens to us now is the most relevant phenomena that has ever happened to the human kind. But that’s always far from being true. The world used to be a much more terrible place. We have now strong assets that we can fully utilize to build from where we are. Never the human kind has had better access to education, to medical care, to technology.

Businesses have also access to an enormous and worldwide pool of talent and customers, and any new challenge opens the opportunity to new products and services to be delivered.

Next time I want to be prepared

Let’s learn something from what we have just went through. For example, I have personally decided to heavily invest in:

  • Building an “anti-fragile” life. Instead of a rigid architecture that may suffer when the next storm will hit (and it will), a flexible backbone for your personal life will help pivoting if necessary. For example, avoiding leverage heavily on non-liquid assets or teaching your kids languages so they could eventually start a new life anywhere.
  • Personal development. Relevant knowledge fields are endless, and very accessible. For example, I want to be self-sufficient when conceptualizing new digital products and services so I’m considering training myself on “no code” software development.
  • Ecosystems. I’m convinced about the fundamental power of networks and ecosystems in every aspect of life in the years to come. Competitors will suddenly become co-opetitors, industries will merge to deliver new unique value propositions. The definition of what a country or a company or any other institution as aggregators of human volition will be blurred. Associations between individuals will be much more related to achieving a certain goal.
  • Working on the variables under control and explore scenarios. As an engineer, I never forget that for controlling a complex system, your focus must be on input variables under your control. All the others should be understood and observed, but if there is not much you can do about them, they shouldn’t occupy much mental bandwidth. At the same time, spending some time on “futures thinking” can help you understand potential outcomes of current course of action. The future will never be as you imagined, but preparing for several future situations will very much help you to act rapidly as circumstances will change.

Life is too important to adopt an attitude of “wait and see”. We normally have more levers to press than we think, and it is by far so much interesting. Let’s recover the control of our “aircraft”. Let’s do it, and let’s do it now.

Food for thought:

Sales Velocity and your Innovation Funnel

“Life is like a ten speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use”

Charles Schulz

I remember back in my MBA days when our IE Business School professor Rafael Pampillón insisted in the enormous difference between “flow variables” and “stock variables” in Macroeconomy.

While “flow variable” is a variable whose value depends on a period of time rather than an instant (example being the gross domestic product), a “stock variable” is a variable whose value depends on an instant rather than on a period of time (example being foreign debts).

Managers and Executives frequently confuse the two different variables. A quite relevant difference is that while you can “pile” stock variables, flow variables are gone as you enter into a new accounting period of time.

In the sales world, every January you start from scratch. Well, you can argue that you have invested in creating relationships and some assets that eventually will let you grow the next year faster, but the truth is that you need to “pile” again your new sales quota in order to hit your numbers.

Old school sales managers kept some deals “disguised” in December in order to bring them up new and shiny when the new sales year started in January, which was something quite disturbing for me in my early days as a Marketing Manager at 3M, as I was used to go full speed and I couldn’t understand why they didn’t want to play big in December.

So the question is: “how can you try to avoid the artificial interruption of sales cycles and measure results not based on quota attainment during a specific period but based on the health of the opportunities pipeline?» or in other words, how can you use smart flow variables to “stock” sales capabilities?

Back in the Sales world when I was managing a B2B business at 3M, we introduced the concept “Sales Velocity” in our sales enablement tools for sales reps. It was very relevant, as it allowed sales managers to understand the speed at which they were creating new business for 3M.

Sales Velocity is defined as:

And it measures the speed at which you are creating new business and therefore the health of your pipeline. More important, it shows how to drive that pipeline by:

  • Increasing the number of active leads
  • Increasing the average deal size
  • Improving the conversion rate
  • Reducing the conversion time

Now in my current role as Incremental Innovation Lead for Iberia Airlines, I tend to see Sales and Innovation pipelines in quite a similar way. Innovation requires betting on a number of initiatives with the hope they will be successful and fundamentally change the business, which is not far from the Sales Rep. taking care and nurturing his key accounts.

So why are Innovation areas frequently not able to traction real impact initiatives?. Well, let’s go back to the “Sales Velocity” concept and let’s make an analogy with the Innovation world:

ACTIVE LEADS = INNOVATION INNITIATIVES

Are you capable of covering the number of Innovation initiatives that are needed based on your teams bandwidth? Are you able to traction Innovation initiatives across every area within the company or you just left some of them unexplored because they are just impossible to cover with the team you have?

DEAL SIZE = BUSINESS CASE

Are you betting on the right projects or are you focusing on those that you fall in love with although they can’t deliver a significant economic impact? Are you supporting those areas in the company that “shout louder” to capture your attention or do you have a strategic process to cherry pick those which make real sense for the corporation?

CONVERSION RATE = IMPLEMENTATION CAPABILITIES

Do you have the right IT capabilities to deliver on the business commitment that you make? Are the systems prepared for the integrations which are needed? Do you have the budget, the Capex, the Opex to support those implementations?

CONVERSION TIME = TIME TO MARKET

Are your internal processes fast enough to deliver according to market needs or are you always one step behind? Are you lost in bureaucracy or are your Innovation squads empowered for fast decision making?

Speed is very often confronted with Control, supported by the famous quote from Mario Andretti “if everything seems under control, you are not going fast enough”, and adopted by Silicon Valley executives for a number of years (“move fast and break things” by Zuckerberg). But that is a very limited vision of speed.

When the right processes to orchestrate Sales Funnels or Innovation Pipelines are implemented, Speed and Control can go together, and that is in my view, the only sustainable way to be in business. Be in charge of your Innovation Funnel and the rest will follow…

Hoy en el mercado, evita comprar limones

limones_marketingstorming_aklof

¿Qué precio estarías dispuesto a pagar por un coche de segunda mano? La pregunta parece en principio sencilla, pero ciertamente tiene mucha “miga”.

El gran problema al tratar de valorar un coche de segunda mano es que como compradores, no conocemos si el conductor anterior castigaba el motor a fondo o por el contrario era un auténtico “manitas” que hacía un mantenimiento ejemplar del mismo.

En un vehículo, al permanecer toda la mecánica oculta bajo la chapa, resulta complicado para un profano evaluar su estado de conservación. Al final, el comprador realiza una especie de apuesta en la que asume un cierto estado del vehículo y se arriesga a que aparezcan defectos posteriores.

Reflexionar sobre este dilema aparentemente mundano, le valió a George Akerlof el Nobel de Economía en el año 2001. A partir de la publicación en 1971 de su famoso artículo «The Market for Lemons: Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism», Akerlof ha reflexionado durante toda su brillante carrera como economista acerca de la eficiencia de los mercados y la información asimétrica.

En efecto, el gran problema de los “mercados de limones” (en Inglés se denomina popularmente “limón” a un coche aparentemente en buen estado pero al que tras la compra le surgen numerosos defectos), es que la información sobre el bien que se vende es asimétrica. El vendedor conoce todo el historial de su producto: si ha necesitado ser reparado en el pasado, si la mecánica ha fallado con anterioridad, si ha sufrido algún accidente con él,… Por el contrario, el comprador está casi ciego, debiéndose fiar del aspecto exterior de lo que compra.

El problema de este tipo de mercados según Akerlof, es que los precios sufren una espiral descendente. Como el comprador no se fía del historial del vehículo, asume que tiene una cantidad de defectos ocultos media y reduce el importe de su oferta. Al ser el precio bajo, si el vendedor tiene un vehículo en un magnífico estado, decide no venderlo. Al final, solo quedan en el mercado los vehículos con mayor cantidad de defectos y por lo tanto el potencial comprador reduce aún más su puja.

Recordaba hace unos días estas teorías sobre los mercados de información asimétrica al leer el magnífico post de Deborah Mills-Scofield sobre los costes de la desconfianza en las transacciones comerciales. Utilizando una bonita metáfora de una jam-session en la que un grupo de músicos de jazz  a pesar de no conocerse son capaces de improvisar un magnífico recital, Mills-Scofield habla de la pérdida de energía que supone no fiarse de las personas con las que interactuamos.

La no confianza genera irremediablemente:

  • Estructuras de supervisión de la red de ventas
  • Reuniones continuas de seguimiento con clientes
  • Mecanismos de control en todos los procesos
  • Fijaciones de precios “absurdas” muy por debajo del justi-precio (como consecuencia de los mercados de limones)
  • Inversión en publicidad para persuadir de la bondad del producto

La confianza por el contrario es una fuente de eficiencia y eficacia. Se dedica mucha menos energía en cada eslabón del proceso (eficiencia) y se enfocan los recursos a lo que de verdad importa (eficacia).

¿Y cómo podemos reducir la incertidumbre y mejorar la confianza del consumidor en nuestros productos para evitar la creación de “mercados de limones”? Dejo un espacio para la reflexión en forma de comentarios de los amables lectores, aunque puedo adelantar que en sucesivos post daremos algunas pistas…

El bueno, el feo y el malo. Las marcas y los arquetipos de Jung

Arquetipos de Jung

“De una manera u otra somos partes de una sola mente que todo lo abarca, un único gran hombre”

Carl Gustav Jung

¿Por qué los cuentos de niños tienen siempre un héroe y un villano? ¿Cómo es que en muchas películas americanas hay personajes que habitualmente se repiten: el chico corriente, el fuera de la ley, el amante? ¿Por qué motivo en el circo siempre hay tres payasos: un «clown», un «augusto» y un «contraugusto»?

Hay fórmulas narrativas que siempre funcionan bien y la utilización de estos personajes ha sido una poderosa herramienta para transmitir historias a lo largo de generaciones. En el mundo del Branding ocurre exactamente lo mismo.

Carl Gustav Jung identificó 12 arquetipos universales que definen conductas humanas típicas presentes en cualquier lugar del Mundo. Trascienden más allá de cierta cultura, religión o área geográfica, es decir, funcionan bien en todas partes. Estos arquetipos se agrupan según cuatro dimensiones básicas: Cambio, Orden, Pertenencia e Independencia.

Las marcas buscan alinearse con alguno de estos 12 arquetipos para facilitar el entendimiento por parte del consumidor de su propuesta de valor. Sirven de palanca fundamental para articular la personalidad de la marca. A veces la utilización de una combinación de ellos puede ser efectiva, pero deben mantaner coherencia y estar situados en una dimensión próxima para tener consistencia en el mensaje. Estos 12 arquetipos de Jung son:

1. El Inocente (optimismo, candidez): McDonalds

2. El Sabio (certeza, pureza): CNN

3. El Creador (visión, creatividad): Lego

4. El Héroe (amante del reto, orientado a resultados): Nike

5. El Gobernante (poder, responsabilidad): Rolex

6. El Amante (deseo): Martini

7. El Cuidador (protección): Volvo

8. El Hombre Corriente (pertenencia, dependencia): IKEA

9. El Bufón (divertimento): Fanta

10. El Fuera de la Ley (rebeldía): Harley Davidson

11. El Mago (poder transformador): Axe

12. El Explorador (independencia, descubrimiento): Jeep

Si observas con atención casi todos los arquetipos están muy relacionados con el mundo de las emociones. En nuestro post «Ethos, Pathos, Logos» hablábamos de cómo estas tres palancas clásicas descritas por Aristóteles ayudaban a nuestras marcas a conseguir la persuasión del cliente. Sin embargo, los arquetipos de Jung muestran cómo la baza más potente debe de jugarse con el Pathos (Emoción).

¿Y cuántas emociones básicas existen? Algunos psicólogos como Paul Ekman identifican 6 emociones fundamentales: alegría, tristeza, miedo, ira, sorpresa y asco. Sin embargo, investigaciones recientes indican a partir del análisis de expresiones faciales que miedo y sorpresa así como ira y asco comparten los mismos gestos faciales por lo que podrían ser 4 las emociones básicas.

¿Eres responsable de la gestión de una marca (recuerda que todos lo somos, al menos de la «marca personal«). ¿Con qué emociones quieres que el consumidor identifique tus productos? ¿A través de qué arquetipos lo comunicas?

***

Lecturas adicionales:

* «What is your story? And who is your brand?». http://www.livingbrands.com

* «Brand identity and brand meaning». http://www.inspectorinsight.com

* «Branding y arquetipos. La mente y la marca«. http://www.branzai.com

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