What Is The Access To Customer-Centricity and Innovation?


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I have been reflecting over 20+ years of experience centred on enabling, effecting, facilitating business change and improving business performance. During this time I have been involved with a whole range of management panaceas:

  • business process re-engineering;
  • management information systems;
  • ERP systems;
  • shared services
  • knowledge management systems;
  • kaizen, lean and six sigma;
  • quality;
  • the internet;
  • database marketing;
  • permission marketing;
  • relationship marketing;
  • 1:1 marketing;
  • customer relationship management;
  • data mining and predictive analytics;
  • organisational development;
  • change management;
  • leadership development;
  • strategy and strategic planning;
  • scenario planning;
  • balanced scorecard;
  • zero based budgeting;
  • matrix organisations;
  • customer experience;
  • customer loyalty schemes;
  • employee engagement;
  • teamwork;
  • corporate social responsibility;
  • social business;
  • digital transformation …

What shoes up for me when I reflect on this experience?

I am present to the gulf between the promise of each of these ‘tools’ and the reality of that which showed up when these tools were introduced-applied in business settings. Rarely did the reality match up to the promise of these ‘tools’. Why? Were these ‘tools’ defective?

It occurs to me that few of these ‘tools’ are fundamentally flawed in themselves. The one that comes to mind is the area of knowledge management. There a huge gulf between information and knowledge. Knowledge management systems are great at holding information. They cannot ever hold-distribute knowledge. Knowledge is contextual, largely tacit and embodied. If you get this then you get that the premise of knowledge management systems is fundamentally flawed.

If most of these tools are sound then why has there been such a gap between the promise and the reality?

Take just one example: CRM. Why is it that whilst CRM systems have become essential part of the corporate infrastructure, they have not fulfilled on their promise: to drive marketing, sales and service effectiveness; and generate sound relationships thus contributing to higher revenues and profit margins?

Before I provide my answer to this question, I pose another question. Why is it that whilst so much is known about Steve Jobs (the way he went about doing what he did at Apple) there will never be another Steve Jobs? Why is it that you can copy Steve Jobs’ techniques and not generate the results that Steve Jobs generated? Why is it that pretty much all one needs to know about Zappos is widely available yet there is only one Zappos? For that matter, why is it that USAA is still in a league of its own?

Here’s my pointer to solving this riddle:

All we have is who we ‘are’, and this in turn shapes what we do. Being is sometimes though of as something intangible, abstract, or even ineffable, but it is actually quite real ….. Being is the context from which all of our thinking and actions spring, as opposed to doing, which is just a content that flows from the context.

Robert Hargrove, Masterful Coaching

The access to empowerment, customer-centricity, and innovation lies in being

Let me put this bluntly, the access to customer-centric organisations lies in being. Not in the ‘tools and techniques’ (the doing, the content). The same applies to cultivating a loyal, motivated, engaged, high performing workforce. And it is no different when it comes to innovation.

If empowerment, customer-centricity and innovation is not your being then all the ‘tools and techniques’ will make little difference. On the other hand if empowerment, customer-centricity, and innovation are your being then you will find or create all the ‘tools and techniques’ that you need as you need them.

There are people in leadership positions whose being is in tune with talk of enlightened leadership, customer focus, and empowerment. I dedicate this post to my friend Lonnie Mayne. I am clear that Lonnie’s being is a clearing for the best of our humanity and our greatness to show up. And as such I find Lonnie to be a source of inspiration.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Maz Iqbal
Experienced management consultant and customer strategist who has been grappling with 'customer-centric business' since early 1999.


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