Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Power of One: One to Many, Many to One

If there were any doubts left about the power of the individual via the internet to make a greater impact on the world than larger media organizations, the last week should have removed them. Ashton Kutcher beating out CNN as the first to reach 1MM followers on Twitter and Susan Boyle becoming an instant international success through YouTube are two stunning examples of how an individual can achieve far-reaching impact now through technology. True, Mr. Kutcher is a celebrity with a flair for geekiness, but it is conceivable that any savvy internet user with determination could have accomplished the same feat.

Power now resides in companies that are developing open platforms that allow individuals to build on, find fame, create new products, connect with friends, and reach new contacts and ideas. But this power is open, not controlling (See Jeff Jarvis, What would Google Do?). It finds value by holding people with a velvet glove. It embraces them and sends them on. It appears suddenly as a nudge, not necessarily as a banner hammer. Google, in fact, does no advertising, but controls most of it on the internet. Your success is their success. It’s shared. As is, Twitter’s, and Flickr’s, and Glam’s.

Sharing and openness are not ideas that we normally associate with capitalism, but the new economy and the new wave of retailing will utilize sharing and openness as cornerstones of business. The sooner retailers understand that the blueprint for building successful retail organizations has fundamentally altered, the sooner we will see all retail outlets—bricks and mortar, catalogs, and ecommerce—accommodating the individual rather than winning them over for a one-time purchase often at a discounted price or with free shipping.

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