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Cultural Revolution

To stay fresh in a sour economy, create new social structures that harness the power of technological innovation.

The coming year promises a new equilibrium. The halcyon days of the Internet economy have ended, and the revolution has forced an evolution. Information technology has irrevocably changed what “successful” individuals and companies look like and how they act. To be sure, out of this period will come cultural fossils (think B2C or B2B). Yet survivors will also emerge: cultural innovators who adapt and create new social structures that harness the power of our new technology.

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Here are the adaptive behaviors cultural innovators will adopt this year.

Networking. The Internet has created a networked society in which primary transactions happen through peer-to-peer exchanges. Cultural innovators lead these networks, learning from them but also exercising great influence through them. Want to change the establishment? Participate in a chat. Corporate and political leaders are listening in on these conversations.
Resolution: I will join an email list or chat room that intrigues me.

Hyperactive listening. The Internet has democratized information, enabling us to access more information faster than before. However, we miss the benefits of this information if we don’t listen. Cultural innovators are hyperactive listeners; they learn more because they ask more questions.
Resolution: I will ask more questions.

Global awareness. Despite the global economy, few Americans travel outside the continental United States. According to the most recent Department of Transportation travel survey, only 4% of the 685 million long-distance trips Americans took were to destinations outside the United States, and half of those were to our closest neighbors, Canada and Mexico. Cultural innovators learn about other cultures by visiting them.
Resolution: I will travel overseas this year.

Passion. In the Internet economy, power comes from passion, and passion comes from vision. Cultural innovators dream big.
Resolution: I will let myself get excited about the future — and the present — and will write a personal vision statement.

Execution. If the Internet economy rewards those who dream big, it also punishes those who execute poorly or slowly. Cultural innovators fail. The key is that they use their failures to make their products and services stronger.
Resolution: I will recognize my failures quickly, learn from them, and move on.

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Idea markets. Innovation is the beating heart of the information revolution. It’s a romantic movement in which creative freedom and originality fuel cultural and economic advances. Cultural innovators take risks, break rules, and have few impediments to delivering on their ideas.
Resolution: I will challenge the status quo, discarding one sacred cow process and inventing a better approach.

Customer centricity. Information technology has made it possible to learn more about our “customers” — whether those customers are inside or outside of our company. Value in the new economy derives directly from a deep knowledge of our customers and a high regard for customer service. Cultural innovators know their customers and care for them.
Resolution: I will learn more about my customers’ businesses, and their needs and wants.

Network effects. In the Internet economy, the value of ideas increases as more people use them. If power in the industrial economy came from hoarding information, power in the Internet economy comes from sharing information. Cultural innovators actively distribute their knowledge by not only being fast learners but also being fast teachers.
Resolution: I will share what I learn with my colleagues more freely and more frequently this year.

Psychological flow. Ten years ago, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a brilliant psychologist, described the true joy that comes when artists are engaged in the act of creating. He called that peak state of mind a “flow state.” In this state of mind, concentration is so focused that it absorbs everything during an activity. The key to achieving that state, he found, is setting goals that are neither too difficult nor too simple for our abilities. In the new economy, true quality of life comes from the right blend of challenge and mastery — not coasting but not working in overdrive either. Cultural innovators achieve this optimal experience by setting challenging goals and continuously improving their skills to meet them.
Resolution: I will set a “stretch” goal and invest in learning the skills that are necessary to reach it.

Personal renaissance. The new age we are entering promises continued and even accelerated change that we will all be required to adapt to. Most of us dislike change, though, and if you believe the research, we start ossifying by the age of 30. Don’t believe it? When was the last time you listened to a new radio station? Tried a new food? Started a new hobby? By 30, most people have developed the habits and preferences they live with for the rest of their lives. Cultural innovators fight this by experimenting throughout their lives.
Resolution: I will change a personal routine. I will try something new.

As the president and CEO of InMomentum Inc., Lynne Waldera (LWaldera@inmomentum.com) focuses on organizational change management.

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