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The end of business as usual

AN employee at a formerly hot company said: “The cluetrain stopped there four times a day for 10 years and they never took delivery.”

Four editors of two web-zines: Entropy Gradient Reversals, and the Journal of the Hyperlinked Organisation, have built a site for The Cluetrain, http://www.cluetrain.com, a discussion of what they see happening in business today – the successful new paradigm. Christopher Locke, David Weinberger, Doc Searls and Rick Levine have created the Cluetrain Manifesto, a 95-point thesis which boldly differentiates between the traditional business world and the new. The Manifesto of business in our information age begins:

1. Markets are conversations.

2. Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.

3. Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.

4. Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.

5. People recognise each other as such from the sound of this voice.

6. The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.

7. Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.

8. In both Internet-worked markets and among intranet-worked employees, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way.

9. These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organisation and knowledge exchange to emerge.

10. As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organised. Participation in a networked market changes people funda-mentally.

11. People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. And this is just the warm-up.

The remaining 84 points emphasise that the companies who think they know more than their networked market about anything, including their own products, are doomed to fail.

The new paradigm conversations — business transactions in the old paradigm — are between those who speak with the specific knowledge that the networked consumer wants. Corporations, says the Cluetrain Manifesto, now get in the way. Their language is obsolete, sounding flat, inhuman, and hollow.

In just a few more years, reads Point 15, the existing homogenised “voice” of business — the sound of mission statements and brochures — will seem as contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th century French court.

Traditional companies that continue to speak in the language of pitch are no longer speaking to anyone. The networked market is a person-to-person conversation, between smart, deeply connected, and often laughing consumers who are looking for companies with a genuine point of view about values other than profits.

Brand loyalty, says Point 30, is the corporate version of going steady; break-up is inevitable and coming fast. Because they are networked, smart markets are able to renegotiate relationships with blinding speed.

Networked markets can change suppliers overnight; networked knowledge workers can change employers over lunch.

Manifesto’s final statement: We have better tools, more new ideas, no rules to slow us down. We are waking up and linking to each other. We are watching. But we are not waiting

n Ann Macbeth is a futurist and executive coach with Annnimac Consultants. She can be reached on 9384 0687 or by email at annimac@annimac.com.au

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