The fact that you are reading this blog shows that you have changed your behaviour at a personal level. Those of us who actively participate in the new online world are aware that we need to be more aware, so we go looking, out there, somewhere, for information, or capabilities, that will make a difference to our lives. We are confident that these things exist, and that when we see the right thing we will recognise it, and may be adapt our behaviour to make use of it. Why do we bother? Because we know that these changes will be of value to us

And there it is. The ‘adaptiveness’, or ‘agility’ word that has been a trademark of the last four or five years of describing how a business should behave. The interesting thing is the difference between the way I used the word to refer to personal behaviour, and the way the word is used to describe business behaviour. In the case of business its ‘adapt to’ meaning that as a separate exercise a choice has been made of a further ‘fixed’ business position, or state. The use of the word ‘adaptiveness’ is used to describe the ability to be able to change.
In a personal context the act of ‘adaptiveness’ is coupled to the ‘awareness’ of new things so the two are intrinsically linked. Find something of value, and adapting to use it, are all accomplished in one move. I have been thinking and comparing business and personal behaviour for a while now, and have decided that this difference marks one of the fundamental behaviours that can be used to decide if a business is really what I would term a ‘Service Oriented Business’.
In invoking the term ‘service oriented’ I am not going to bring in the technology because that’s the way we get the capabilities to be able to change, so its more, (but not completely), tied to the business definition of ‘adaptiveness’. The key difference here is actually ‘awareness’, the ability to behave in a manner that is more closely matched to the behaviour that individuals are increasingly showing. And it’s worth remembering that individuals make up both the customers and the employees of enterprises so it seems to me to be a relevant point to identify and investigate.
Lets return to the way Business handles change, or more correctly identifies the need to change, and makes the decisions on the change. When we get together; business managers and technologists, we normally have a focused issue for the meeting, either a new requirement, or a problem. Therefore we have a structure, maybe even a method, for deciding who should be at the meeting in the first place, evaluating options, making decisions, even maybe pre determining the way we will behave together, positive, negative, etc.
Well, how did the meeting go when eBay was first mooted as a business in 1996, or YouTube, or MySpace, or anyone of the other billion dollar businesses that are now in the news? There was no requirement at the time for any of these things! Yet they have all captured more than 100 million people as ‘customers’ in a few short years, so there clearly was a requirement for them, it just didn’t fit any existing business model. Must have been pretty similar for lots of things that we now recognise as era defining shifts starting with regular old wired telephones; how did you sell the idea of something that needed volume buy-in to create a network of users, what was the attraction to the first buyers? Actually that’s not a problem if the consumer behaviour has shifted to ‘awareness’ as all these businesses have proved that customers will actively seek them out.
The challenge for a business is that whatever it may say about ‘agility’ or ‘adaptivness’, etc, its basic model is ‘inside – out’, that is to say its positioning is always driven by its current position i.e. inside, and the examination of outside its business is generally based on the internal criteria.. Now before I get a load of flame responses from strategy consultants I am not suggesting this is all wrong, I am merely drawing attention to the increasing difference between personal behaviour and corporate behaviour.
As individuals we are all seeking out more and more information to help us to do, well, basically everything. We seem to become more outgoing with each new wave of technology capabilities. Our ability to absorb, and evaluate, the external world, to recognise new capabilities, to select and translate the most interesting into the ‘requirements’ that we need, just goes on growing. Our individual, and collective, capabilities to do this, and to handle ‘transformations’ in our own behaviour, seem to be increasing with each generation. In short we are focussed on a pattern based on ‘outside – in’, where we use things outside of our current experience to redefine how we behave ‘inside’.
In the next blog piece next week I want to develop this by comparing it with some of the less well known, but highly successful businesses that I believe are being based on ‘awareness’, and therefore I believe can be defined as ‘Service Oriented Business’.