Interop Video: Management Guru With A Heart Of Globe - InformationWeek

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4/30/2008
03:09 AM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Interop Video: Management Guru With A Heart Of Globe

Tuesday's morning keynote at the killer Interop conference was given by C.K. Prahalad, a business professor who's not only got a keen sense of how technology impacts the globalized marketplace, but a social conscience and a sense of humanity, too. Who knew such a powerful combo was even possible?

Tuesday's morning keynote at the killer Interop conference was given by C.K. Prahalad, a business professor who's not only got a keen sense of how technology impacts the globalized marketplace, but a social conscience and a sense of humanity, too. Who knew such a powerful combo was even possible?C.K. is introduced wherever he goes a management guru, and has been widely hailed as one of the world's top thinkers on business strategy. (His day job is as Distinguished University Professor of Business at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business.) He was speaking at Interop in conjunction with the launch of his latest book, The New Age of Innovation.

But where others of his ilk blather, C.K. lays out rules and processes consultants can apply to streamline businesses so they can compete in the global marketplace. This is no small deal because, as C.K., explains, globalization means that the way companies relate to consumers -- the way they sell stuff -- has changed. Big time.

No longer is it enough to foist a one-size fits all product (or a bland coffee blend) upon all your customers. Today, your customers tell you what they want.

Meaning that, far from the land of "push" marketing, every customer interaction has to be customizable. "Google may have 100 million consumers, but [they] still have to treat each consumer as unique," says C.K.

The coinage he's come up with to encapsulate this new mode of interaction is "co-creation of experience." As in: "The new game is co-creation of experience. Two entities construct the consumer experience -- the company, and me."

I know, by now you're asking: Where does technology enter into this? In his keynote, C.K. gave a bunch of examples, mostly about how his method of streamlining a business's processes can save it a lot of money and, more important, allow it to get out of its own way. Once it does the latter, it's positioned to offer this "co-creative" consumer experience, because said company is no longer locked into its rigid, legacy way of working, where its back end is too screwed up to support flexibility.

But what really grabbed me was not how C.K. focused on what his streamlining could do for businesses. It was how he clearly appeared much more energized by what businesses could do for global consumers. (That's Kennedy-esque, as in "Ask not what you can do for business; ask what business can do for you!")

C.K. is particularly interested in the 4 billion global citizens who make less than $2 a day, and who we (to our detriment) rarely think of as even living in our economy. These people, too, will increasingly participate in this co-creative engagement, to their benefit and to the benefit of the companies wise enough to engage with them. (Remember, billions of micropayments add up to real money.)

"We really don't have to help the rich," C.K. said. "We have to help the 4 billion people who are left behind."

He also encouraged all of us to engage with the young, saying: "If you want to lead, you must imagine this world, you must look at what this world will be in 10 years for those now 15 years old."

Looping back to The New Age of Innovation, C.K. offered two messages which really resonated with me, and will with you, too, I suspect. "Talent matters more than we than we thought, IT matters more than we thought. That is the substance of the book."

Me, I plan to read C.K.'s book on the plane back to New York, just as soon as I finish Mary Roach's "Stiff," a book about the unusual (after)life of human cadavers. Now please check out my short video interview with C.K. , where he provides some quick insight into his ideas, and what kind of impact they can have.

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