The Greek God Janus is depicted with two faces. One faces left, the other a 180 degree right look. Janus is the God of doors, windows, and locks. He sees the past and the future.
Dr. Morris Beverage, a charismatic for sure, points to the nature of most educators. They want to study, index and have control over known information. Their face is looking toward the past. But when the unknown, the bold strategic direction is needed . . . they often wilt.
My conversation with the head of one of the largest university libraries in the country was a lesson in being one faced. They realize that past information is available in formats that today”s student doesn”t care about. Books. It is harder to search through an inventory of 4 million books than it is to search Google. So the books move off-site where they can be requested. The 5 miles of bookshelves that are freed up so that tables/computers can replace them.
The marketing wizard for this library saw charisma as the great new thing, the ultimate message and marketing tool and facilitated a meeting with the library honcho. The conversation stalled when the head of the library stated, “we are really just reactionary to our staff and faculty.” They were trying a few new things, but it is early in their morphing process, and the comfortable past is too welcoming in the culture. But the looking at the past and what everyone else is doing is derivative. Fresh, creative, fun, are not found in the derivative.
The customer today wants both the past and the future. For those legacy processes and systems that no longer have any value, the customer will be polite, but ultimately think, “get me out of here so I can do what I really want to do.” When you finally realize the customer got off your boat and has gone somewhere else, it is too late.
Charisma is about time travel. Taking the customer to a different place. It is vision and delivering the dream in disruptive ways. When there is a lack of vision and creativity, they won”t tell you that you are missing the boat. They will vote with their time, the new currency of business, and that time will not be with you. “How do we get them to buy our beta max players, our SEARS charge card, our mini-computers, our tape cassettes?” Too late.
The tougher question is, why are you trying to keep the status quo going? If you want to be charismatic, with customer experiences that have them singing your praises (both in the real world and the virtual world . . . which are the same) you have got to be about change. You cannot preach that you want your customers and stakeholders to change when you are afraid to boldly step out yourself. I think that is called hypocritical, and that is not moral and ethical. Drat, honestly looking at our beliefs, practices and values in the bright noon day sun can really screw up our well laid plans.
If you are afraid of the future, but want change you will need to surround yourself with others who are not inside the jar with you as you try to read the label. Calling all Mavericks, Misfits, and Mavens.