Building Bridges

This post is a collaborative effort, not interview style, nor highlighting individual perspectives. While attending the VRM+CRM conference, we decided that if we were really going to build a bridge, it needed to be done together. Lauren Vargas and Mitch Lieberman

There has been a lot of talk, ‘he said she said’ unproductive sort of talk with respect to the different perspectives people take when talking about new technologies, buzzwords or business themes. There have even been some attempts to try and show people the other side, their perspective, the dark side (nope, not saying which is which!). We had the opportunity to spend a few days in Boston, at the VRM + CRM summit and decided we would try and do our part. The image below speaks so well to the issue at hand. The Flipper Bridge (part of the in-construction Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, link below) connects Hong Kong; where they drive on the left, with mainland China; where they drive on the right. Our goal here is not to talk about the differences, left or right, right or wrong, but what it will take to reach business harmony. We are not expecting people to join hands and join in singing a rendition of kumbaya, but different departments (sales, marketing, support) along with vendors, consultants and partners working together to understand each other and place the needs of the customers above petty in-fighting.

When you go to a meeting to state your position about a product, are you carefully listening your own words from the perspective audience? Are you considering what others could bring to the table, how they might approach the situation, problem, objective? What is great about the picture above, is that it not only needs to help drivers get across; pragmatism, but the bridge needs to put the drivers on the correct side of the road, safety. If the architects and designers did not consider the perspective of the drivers on the other side, this project would have failed. We know that seems obvious, but we believe in your daily work lives, the issues are equally obvious.

VRM + CRM Taught Us a Few Things

We each had the opportunity to attend the VRM+CRM conference hosted by Doc Searls and a few others at the Berkman Center.  Our attendance was an explicit gesture by the VRM leaders to reach out to the CRM side of the house and implicitly state ‘we can try to solve this on our own, or we can do it together.’  CRM is Customer Relationship Management, while VRM is Vendor Relationship Management. To some, they are mirror images, to others, they are hand-in-glove. One thing became clear, to move forward they need eachother.

VRM + CRM illustrated that this is not a problem unique to CRMers, marketers, PR folks and technologists. Having the opportunity to be a part of the work that is happening in the social business space is extremely invigorating. However, as hard and as much we push for faster development and evolution, we need to juggle the hats of a historian and an anthropologist. It is important to know where we have been, the mistakes made and lessons learned that have occurred over time, before we can progress to successful future. And in this future, it is essential we progress with caution and learn about the new developments and behaviors that have become reality in this online dimension. Bottom line, we need to understand the basics of history and current business functions before we can rush full speed ahead. Without such perspective, we risk jumping the shark and the maturity growth of our own industry and customers.

Can you put yourself in their shoes? Are the buzzwords, acronyms and terms helping or getting in the way? Acronyms and industry lingo were established to define processes within our specific business functions, but when carried to the extreme, such terms box us in and limit growth. We become so caught up in the term we have coined, we are oblivious to the walls we have build up around us and exclude others from experiencing the term as we do or exploring it in depths we could not. Throughout history there has not been one word or function that all people have agreed upon or experienced the same way. Diversity in thought and definition is how we evolve. This should be no different in business evolution. We are not advocating the extreme abolishment of acronyms and industry lingo, but encouraging all to be open and accepting of other interpretations, as well as, stepping outside our own comfort zone and learning the terminology and context surrounding other business functions within the organization and industry.

Let’s Lead By Example

We are all trying to accomplish the same thing. Goals and Objectives are the same (or they should be). You (company) cannot solve this problem in the best way possible without help and input from all sides. Your customers come in all shapes, sizes, gender. They have different needs, and they offer different perspectives, shouldn’t you do the same? We need to keep in mind each department within our organization, just as our customers, will adopt social business functions at different speeds. Sniping at each other about definitions and roles of responsibility will not replace the need to put theory into practice. A culture shift is evident, but it does not occur overnight. It is essential we each support the discovery process of our sister departments or industries. It is only in this collaborative approach we can truly see what will succeed and fail without being at the expense of our customers or community.

Fast Company wrote a piece on the flipper bridge, as did Wikipedia.The flipper bridge, as far as we can tell is being built, but the facts are not completely clear to me. That said, it makes our point quite nicely!

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