Our instincts are key to survival but as we explore in this blog post, we don’t believe they are enough for us to thrive in such rapidly and dramatically changing digital times.

Last month we delivered a lecture for the London Marketing Academy entitled “From Surviving to Thriving, Sharpening your Instincts for the Digital Age,” in which we covered 4 instincts we need to sharpen for success in the digital age:

1. Reawaken a ‘New Hunter Gatherer’ within us
2. Follow the ‘New Laws of Attraction’ and explore new partnerships and collaborations
3. Shift from retrospective focused intuition to ‘Forward Focused Judgments’
4. Overcome fight or flight and become ‘Constructively Curious’ about all new developments

We use our instincts to de-risk situations. No one would argue this is a bad thing, however let’s take a moment to reflect on what this means within a brand and business context. If we consistently seek to de-risk situations we often miss new opportunities. A consistently de-risking approach seldom leads brands and businesses to new growth.

Reawaken a ‘New Hunter Gatherer’ within us

It is not difficult to find businesses, indeed entire industries; significantly disrupted by the digital transformation we are experiencing. From video rental company Blockbuster filing for bankruptcy in the face of competition from the likes of Netflix to the hotel industry challenged by the incredible rise of Airbnb. When we see signs of disruption we need to see them as signs to go hunting for new areas of growth for our brands and businesses. A ‘New Hunter Gatherer’ is needed to find the sources of transient competitive advantages to exploit before the disruptor becomes disrupted and the advantage is gone. Nike is one company which has successfully embraced this moving from a sports apparel business to a sports and software one, entering and exiting new segments when the timing is right.

Follow the ‘New Laws of Attraction’

In nature we are instinctively attracted to people who are visually similar to ourselves, even smell the same. Many of the digital tools we use today find even more people ‘like us,’ guiding our experiences into virtual swim lanes of commonality. However, with the scale of opportunity in today’s digital world, a world with constant change, we need to find new partners in business to help us find, interpret and leverage new opportunities. Telefonica’s Wayra programme incubates start-ups bringing in new thinking and talent. In London The Bakery brings start-ups and brands such as Unilever, BMW and HSBC together through their Open Innovation and Accelerator Programmes. The same teams typically produce the same type of outputs. The new digital reality needs different outputs so find, and be, a new partner for someone.

Shift from retrospective focused intuition to ‘Forward Focused Judgments’

Intuition draws heavily on past experience, however, the past is becoming less & less able to help us predict the future. This creates a need to develop a more forward focused ability to judge where you will be and what will be needed. As the great Canadian professional ice-hockey player Wayne Gretzky declared, “a great hockey player plays where the puck will be.” We all need to understand where the puck will be for our businesses, which relies on many different sources of information and data. The signposts for tomorrow are all around us, often buried in the data inside our organisations but they are there. We need to retrieve them and use them to make forward focused judgments, which steer our brands and businesses ahead.

Overcome fight or flight and become ‘Constructively Curious’ about all new developments

The new reality of the digital age requires us to be acutely self-aware as everything starts with our own personal reactions, influenced heavily by instinct. Typically disruptions and change within organisations lead to a drop in performance before people find the transformational idea, which becomes their key to moving forwards. In a world of ongoing significant disruption we cannot continually absorb these drops in performance. We must get better at dealing with change. This starts with us being aware of our own unmeasured reactions and becoming ‘Constructively Curious’ about the new developments, looking for the opportunities that lie within. Some could dismiss fiber optics woven into materials as a gimmick; however, British Airways is trialing a ‘Happiness Blanket’ that glows different colours depending on how relaxed the passenger is feeling. It’s a truly exciting world, reinventing itself at pace. We need to do the same with ourselves and become Constructive Curiosity about change.

The lecture presentation is available on Slideshare:

For more information about how Brand Learning can help you lift your organisation’s digital capabilities, see our roundup on Marketing in the Digital Age.

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This post is by Stephen Ingram, Digital Development Director at Brand Learning