Professor William Carney

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Professor of International Marketing, Instituto de Empresa, Madrid; formerly Visiting Assistant Professor at George Washington University,Washington,DC

Introduction to Section Three: Re-Inspire

In a world where economic and technological expansion is driving trade and commerce towards one economic system, organisations have not only to rethink their business models but also to rethink their approaches to customers and differentiation.

Driving critical mass and volume are outmoded strategies for growth; only by the creation of differentiation through the insights and creativity of the entire organisation can businesses hope to stay alive.

In order to survive, nothing less than the engagement of the whole organisation with the process of understanding and responding to customers is required. This raises two issues. One, how do organisations encourage, capture and utilise the creativity of their staff? And secondly, how do they create business models that can rapidly change in response to a world where discontinuous change is prevalent?

Leaders at all levels need to embrace the type of entrepreneurship that is usually the preserve of the small business. Market drivers are now creating businesses capable of seeking out the real needs of customers and rapidly bringing to market differentiated approaches.

This calls for a shift in power – from command-and-control structures to providing frameworks for rapid prototyping and experimentation.

During the course of my research, one issue became blindingly clear, and that was that while much had been written about the importance of customer focus and the potential impact upon profitability, very few approaches existed that would actually allow an organisation to capture customers’ problems and desires and subsequently to turn that input into products or services that delivered value to customers.

While simple in concept, the capability to become customer-focused often implied a change in company mindset as well as activities and processes that many organisations were loath to embrace.

Most, if not all, managers believe that customers really drive their business, and most believe that they cannot exploit many of the opportunities that present themselves because of the lack of organisational flexibility. The concepts outlined in Sense and Respond: the Journey to Customer Purpose demonstrate alternatives to operating organisations.

Leaders and managers need to rethink their roles and to view employees and customers from a new angle. Nothing less will do in a world where economic power and markets are constantly shifting.