If disruption is on everyone’s lips and headlines many of today’s business conferences, the reality is that very few companies are really fully leveraging the disruptive forces in a way that they will succeed in a durable manner. That’s in part because of the changing and complex nature of the disruptive forces, but the bigger challenge is figuring out the necessary soft tissue cultural shifts and adopting the right mindset. Just as sales and marketing have undergone a seismic shift, the way executives lead and companies operate also needs to change.

While one of the trendier ideas has been to assign “digital” to a singular person, in the form of a Chief Digital Officer, there are other rather unorthodox or creative titles that have been adopted in an effort to signal if not lead change. These include the likes of Chief Customer Officer, Chief Innovation Officer or Chief Evangelist. However, transformation cannot be delegated to any one individual. And, more importantly, when it comes to onboarding many of these technological forces, there is a requisite transition if not transformation at an organizational level. For change to occur, the empirical evidence in larger organizations is that it must come from the top. Our conviction, if not obsession, is that all members of the C-suite must adopt the right mindset. Each should have the Chief Mindset Officer hat on in addition to their regular function.

These are the ten characteristics of the Chief Mindset Officer:

  • Relentless curiosity – with an insatiable desire for continuous learning
  • Openness – to new ideas, people, systems and platforms
  • Networker – connected with all types of people within and without the organization
  • Geek Quotient – a healthy appetite to become more techy, even to learn coding…
  • Jack of All Trades – moving from a master of one (T-shaped expertise) to a jack or master of many (comb-shaped expertises)
  • Empathy – with the heightened ability to think and feel in the shoes of others
  • Congruent – a personal sense of purpose that is aligned with company’s
  • Hands On – unafraid to roll up one’s sleeves and try things oneself
  • Connecting the Dots & People – making sure to look for patterns and to tie the seemingly disparate ideas and people together
  • Focused – making sure that one’s actions are tightly aligned with one’s North.

In our book, Futureproof, co-written with Caleb Storkey, we identify the12 technological forces we believe will be most disruptive over the coming 5 years. Not all the forces are relevant to everyone. In fact, none of the forces live in isolation, so it is absolutely vital to find the right cocktail of technologies that will help drive one’s strategic intent. For anyone in marketing, there are three forces – the web, the smartphone and big data analytics – that are most evident. However, even if we are keen to explore how marketers should be using these three areas differently going forward, we would like to focus on three other less obvious forces that will be increasingly important over the near to medium-term for marketers.

First, companies need to figure out how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be applied to their marketing. This can come, not just from a better analysis and treatment of the massive influx of data; but also in how customer service and customer relations are managed, and how social media – including in content creation and distribution — can be optimized. AI could have also its role in diverse areas such as research for new product development, dynamic digital pricing, or empathic chatbots. We like how Google Digital Marketing evangelist, Avinash Kaushik, implored in a podcast with Mitch Joel, “Have you got your AI army recruited, yet?”

Secondly, the Internet of Things (IoT) will provide scores of new ways to conceive of products and services. From an operational marketing standpoint, IoT is in the process of breaking out thanks to the growing penetration in homes of voice operated smart speakers, such as Amazon Echo, Google Home, etc… As more and more objects become connected with ever smaller sensors, the opportunities to collect new forms of data (especially on the move and at point of sale) and to interact with customers in different ways will multiply. As Jim Hunter (@iotguru) wrote, “The reason sensors are so important is because they provide context.” And with better context, content becomes decidedly more relevant and more effective. It is not hard to imagine how IoT could change the nature of digital storytelling, interactive communications and data collection. For example, what if your apparel were equipped to geo-locate and identify the wearer about new deals and, with a specified kinetic recognition, one could one-swipe a positive answer. 

Lastly, and more resolutely prospectively, we could start to see the impact on marketing from the huge advancements in genomics. As the price of gene sequencing becomes eminently accessible (e.g. dropping below $100), there will be opportunities to understand better not just how to develop more tailored products, but also to consider more appropriate and/or effective marketing messages. We all know that different profiles need and react differently to marketing messages. With genetic sequencing, it is far from inconceivable to see marketers (with permission) learning how to better service certain genetically predisposed people differently from other.

In any event, marketing is on the verge of major change and, as mentioned at the outset, the key will be configuring out the right cocktail of technologies to help address your strategic challenges and to drive your business in an effective – and responsible – manner going forward.

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