I recently had a chance to read a book written by Richard Butterfield, “It’s Show Time”, on the power of persuasion. In one of the chapters, he was confounded that the art of storytelling seems to be lost in today’s business and professional presentations. In a world full with advanced technology and access to a vast amounts of data, business and sales professionals tend to concentrate on relevant business figures in digits and percentages rather than building the compelling story how or why the customer needs them. They then wonder why the presentation didn’t leave a lasting impression but only a chance for the audience to jot down a few data points which are either outdated or will be as soon as the session is over.
At one of a major software vendor’s conferences, I attended a session on the future of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. My expectations for this session was a demo of their products and some business cases where business benefits such as increased productivity or a new business model would be realized. A typical sales pitch, that is. To my surprise, the speaker started with a story of how pilots used to fly back in the day between the 1910s and 1970s when computer and GPS didn’t exist. In order to navigate, the flight cockpit usually had at least one or two flight navigators responsible for plotting check points throughout the journey to ensure the plane was on the right path to its destination. Compare that to today where financial management operation is the flight cockpit, the business is the plane, and the vision for ML and AI is to play the role of those flight navigators, plotting and monitoring check points to ensure the organization will achieve its financial goal. Two years after attending this conference, I really didn’t remember much about the other technical sessions I attended but that storytelling session stayed in my memory forever.
A digital ecosystem comes in many forms. Although most businesses think that they need to build or adopt one, many still often wonder why. Let’s revive our storytelling skill, shall we?
Jane Snow is very busy as a professional sales executive in NYC. She has meetings with clients and colleagues all day long. At the end of a work day, she likes to pre-plan her activities to get away from those long working hours and enjoy as much as possible her short, precious personal time. Let’s take a peek into her pre-planned activities where she is planning to get off work and join her friends for dinner at an Italian restaurant in Midtown at 5:30pm. Based on her social calendar which she grants access to a number of services, she will attend a concert in at 8pm which is scheduled to end at midnight. She has a VIP backstage pass.
At 4:30pm, Jane’s cab arrives at the office ready to pick her up, based on her social calendar event (no phone call or waiting on a curb hoping a cab on a busy NYC street will notice her). While in the cab, Jane looks up the restaurant’s menu and pre-orders her drinks and food through a restaurant service app. Her social app allows her to communicate with friends and perhaps placed an order for them. They arrive at the restaurant at 5:30pm together and did not have to wait for their food and drinks (she did have a hard stop by 8pm for a concert). At 7:15pm, another cab arrives to the restaurant and drives the Jane to the concert arena. Jane’s social app allows the event staff to know that a VIP was arriving and they are prepared to greet her at the entrance with flowers and a gift (enhanced user experience.) The staff escorts them to the back of the stage for the pre-concert party. Another cab will arrive at midnight at a designated area to drive her safely home after a wonderful and exciting evening.
I may not understand what are the technical building blocks needed for a digital ecosystem, but I do know there are millions of Jane Snows who will love the convenience and the ability to spend less time planning and more time enjoying their precious personal time. Do you not think businesses like that Cab Company, the restaurant, the event organizer, and many others out there wouldn’t think for one second to take advantage of such an opportunity? The digital ecosystem presents a tremendous way to sustain and growth their businesses. Not because of the underlying technology, but because I just told you a story of Jane Snow.