I do not know if this applies to you, but I can sometimes be a victim of ‘shiny syndrome’ where the lure of something new temporarily blinds me to common sense and the obvious.  I find this syndrome even more common in business, where continual changes are the norm, and it is impossible for us to hold mastery of every area essential to our effective performance as businesses.  Strive to look beyond the superficial do not mistake the symptom for the disease, cause for effect, etc.

We often hear how we are in the age of communication, from the early days of the internet, email and social media the world’s increasingly a smaller place.  Every new generation of laptop, a smartphone, and tablet offering a convergence of multiple devices into one.  Businesses are offering BYOD, so we need only carry one phone and not one for home and one for work. Innovations on the horizon suggest further rapid change we have seen the first examples of augmented reality and VR finally appears to be something people can use.  Beyond this, looms the internet of things, where your fridge can not just tell you-you are running out of milk but place the order and have it delivered it via drone.  People speak in awe of disruptive technologies and the implication this will have for changes in the workplace.

However, rapid changes I see is also creating gaps in traditional skills sets.  Essential skills that remain core to business today.  If we buy into the hype, we are now a connected planet everything and everyone a click away swimming in a sea of digital information.  I wish this were the case, yet I fear it is still a very fragile connectivity, built upon shaky foundations as new skills supersede traditional ones in a global case of ‘shiny syndrome.’ I can best illustrate this via a story, so if we’re sitting comfortably, I will begin (If you are old enough and from the UK you will know that TV reference).

Let us set the scene, the heroine of our piece is Cheyenne fresh-faced 20 years old with a 2:1 Hons degree in Marketing & Brand Development.  When we meet her she wearing a smart charcoal grey trouser suit with her favourite set of Christian Louboutin that gives her a little extra height, confidence and a killer set of designer glasses.

“So Cheyenne tell us what your marketing approach will be to our growth strategy?”

“It’s very straightforward really; we build an integrated marketing strategy that seamlessly blends your traditional print media with the new digital platforms!  We leverage your social presence to drive your Instagram customer to your Facebook, Facebook to Twitter via LinkedIn, Periscope and Pinterest.”  A quick intake of breath.  “We focus on outbound via print while driving inbound on your digital platforms.  I can then use Adwords, PPC, sponsored content enhanced by robust SEO to create a peerless high-value brand while simultaneously raising you to thought leader status across the globe!” And Breathe.

“Ahh, I see….”

Ok, so I see that her response is 99% jargon, and chances are the MD has absolutely no idea what any of it was really about but what for goodness sake Neil is the point of this story?  Obviously, I am surprised you have not already spotted it.  Well, I am a great believer in using at least a 1000 words where 500 would do so I beg your patience for a little while longer.  You see this issue isn’t what Cheyenne says but rather what she doesn’t even know.

Cheyenne assembles her team of super smart, immaculately turned out A team.  Each is bursting with thousands of ideas, stylistically distinct and a world-weariness born from higher education.  She delivers on every single claim she outlined in her interview and increased enquiries accordingly to google analytics by 1000% and is somewhat surprised therefore at being fired and escorted from the business barely three months later.

What? 1000 % growth and enquiries what are you on about, I thought Hapless Bob was bad enough, but now you are taking the proverbial biscuit!  Any business would kill for that type of volume you are a gibbering buffoon Sir and some more colourful metaphors, similes, etc.  As always your, absolutely correct but this is where I dramatically pull back a metaphorical curtain shout ‘TA DAAA’ and reveal the fundamental flaw, the Achilles Heel of everything Cheyenne did.  However, I cannot resist a final visit to the surprised Cheyenne.

Cheyenne complete with killer heels is being dragged backward by two kindly security guards holding her firmly, yet appropriately, by the arms. Her genuine look of surprise magnified subtly by her killer glasses, “1000 % increase in unique site visits, bounce rate down to 40 %, 1645 new follows on Twitter, 798 new likes on Facebook today alone… what more could I do?”  Watching her go her fellow teammates are busy changing the name on the next marketing plan and picking out a new set of killer specs.

You see although the level of connectivity to the various digital platforms is high something is going awry. Look at the majority of social scenes, and you will have observed people hunched over phones and tablet, tapping away whether texting, emoji, gif, etc.  Greater connectivity heralded as a cohesive liberating revolution can just as easily create new boundaries, destroying the art of conversation.  So when the 1000% increase in customer enquiries occurs and the phones start to ring, the phone rings, and the millennial generation starts to sweat.  Like rabbits in the headlights a split second before being flattened by a car, they lack the experience to say hello, let alone carry out a sale.

Yes, technology has made significant changes to the way we do business but the old sales cliché that people buy people remain true. Virtually every B2B sale involves people to carry out the close, a complete contrast to our experience as home consumers where we can buy everything by clicking a mouse and need never see another human being let alone interact.  Therefore, it seems evident to me that the company that invests in all the latest bells and whistles may not realise the expected results by merely neglecting another section of the transactional process that they, possessing an older skill set, take for granted in newly hired staff.  The Tragedy here is that Cheyenne was very good at her job and delivered as promised her failure was one common within the business where the axe falls on the result rather than the cause.   Avoid Shiny Syndrome, ensure you review the entire business channel before potentially losing your own, equally brilliant, Cheyenne.

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