Keeping up with the Times

N°193a – Synopsis (8p.) – Foresight
Keeping up with the Times
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In addition to specific shifts in customer expectations, technology, etc., how to integrate cultural shifts that affect the company's strategic environment?

When people speak of the 60’s, The Beatles, flower children, Vietnam War protests and the May 1968 Paris student riots naturally spring to mind. The go-go eighties, on the other hand, are likely evoke “the money years,” big hair, punk culture, and Michael Jackson. And if we ask ourselves what people will remember about our current era a few years down the road, we might venture “Reality TV,” low-riding jeans, the organic product boom, Barack Obama, etc.

Different periods generate specific cultural references, and the business impact of this phenomenon is far from trivial. Each era’s zeitgeist gives rise to specific aspirations and needs which are expressed in many different ways, and notably through the products people choose to buy. The VW Beetle, the Rolex watch, the walkman or the iPod have thus become icons of the times in which they were created. These emblematic examples aside, every era is concretely represented by an infinite number of objects, brands and even strategies which rise or fall with the shifting waves of culture.

Companies would thus be well advised to take account of their cultural environment. Our selected publications suggest three types of initiative to do precisely that:

– Keep close track of major cultural trends. Society as a whole is affected by a few sweeping trends, which in our current era would include phenomena like social networks, increasingly active customer participation in company life, societal fragmentation, etc.

– Look at your strategy through a cultural lens to identify new opportunities and potential risks.

– Ensure that your internal company culture enables the organization to keep abreast of the surrounding cultural context.

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