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June 25, 2009

Moving to a task-based focus for organizations

Marketers often talk about the brand as being an experience. Brands are experiences because they’re based on a set of perceptions that live in the minds of others, and experiences that are worth paying for because they capture the stuff of life, those special moments that make life worth living.

But with that concept comes some ethical issues and questions. Can marketers actually make credible promises about the kind of experience they’ll be delivering? And does an ‘experience provider’ have a genuine interest in an experiential outcome over and above being paid for it?

The brand as an experience is at least to some extent behind the shortfall in trust that many brands are experiencing, the drop in attention that people are being prepared to give them, the overall economic constriction and increasing cynicism that many organizations are grappling with. After all, in a depression the experience can be something that often isn’t up to much.

We are in the midst of an experiential burnout that’s manifest in the financial, economic and occupational health of many companies.

According to Aviva Risk Management Solutions, in 2007/08, a total of 13.5 million working days were lost to work-related stress, depression and anxiety and nearly 60% of workers think that the current climate is making both them and their colleagues feel stressed and under pressure. The Trade Union Congress says half of employers (59%) do not associate long hours with productivity and nine out of 10 G.P.s believe that stress-related illness will increase due to the recession and be the biggest occupational health issue of 2009.

As organizations evolve I think what we’re seeing is a more sentient kind of organization that's more conscious of its creative capabilities. We’re getting a sense of the emerging opportunities of co-ordination via social media. Initiatives like Reboot Britain, for example, are crowdsourcing progressive, innovative and creative ways around entrenched problems.

With these factors in mind, and with a sense of consumption at all costs having had its day, the future success for organizations and their evolution may be dependent on them recalibrating their sense of purpose to revolve around tasks.

A task-based organization, the next stage of organizational growth, means shifting from the delivery of products and services and of using consumption as the primary propellant of economic exchange, to the creation of ideas and inventions that focus more on engendering achievement and efficiency.

Task-based perceptions of organization are less about a controlled brand promise pushed out from the centre, and more about a co-opted brand promise that collaboratively people focus towards being a part of.

So, if you’re the Tate Modern, for example, the focus is on how can all those who are part of the Tate Modern community create the best and most exciting home for modern art in London? It’s about who else is going to be there, it's about cause and about belonging.

If you’re Tate and Lyle, the focus is on what’s going to be the most replenishing route to sweetening and owning that. It’s about being a player in an ecosystem that people believe in, harnessing the ideas and activities of the many as part of developing a valued resource. Ideas become dialogues and communities form around shared values. Cafe Direct's a good example of an FMCG organization that's doing this.

It is what we do that matters, not what we say we will do. Marketing as I see it is simply that vision delivered as a service and corporate worth is what collectively we’re able to achieve collaboratively, as opposed to taking, competitively, from one another. Tasks, big meaningful and important tasks, make sense of that. They give people something to engage in.

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The picture of Amish house builders is courtesy of the Wall Street Journal. The article touches on some elements of task-based organizations this way: 'Amish builders trim costs by using family members as workers and keeping their overhead low. Many don't buy insurance, since their communities often have insurance pools to help pay hospital and other medical bills if a member gets sick or injured. Unlike many general contractors who use subcontractors, Amish builders tend to do all the construction themselves. That cuts out middlemen and allows them to immediately correct any problems on a job.'

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Very nicely put. Now I better understand why I bought this painting titled "Amish Dudes." http://www.martijonesdixon.com/large-single-view//61201--/Painting/Oil/Figurative.html Makes perfect sense now. Thanking you.

That's quite an inspiring blogpost, Anne.

Great questions! "Can marketers actually make credible promises about the kind of experience they’ll be delivering?" Have a go at this:

"A code of ethics is never a handicap."
-Duke Leto Atreides, character in Frank Herbert's "Dune" novel.

The world has changed, and it seems more and more to me that a strong and consistent code of ethics in business is actually no less than a requirement for success. This includes marketing that is absolutely congruent with the actual experience of dealing with the business in question. Anything less will cause increasing numbers of customers to seek a better experience somewhere else.

When you say "it's about cause and about belonging", is it possible that this is the most important cancept that organizations should now focus on?

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