This blog entry is about the death of standardized compliance.
We’ve gone a long way from mass marketing and categorization to the individualization and long tail choices as defining digital traits, where each one of us is a micro universe of one. To the institutions we interact with – from commercial suppliers, through brands and government based services, we, users, are largely still links in chains of commercial, organizational and governmental goal achievements processes. The non uniformity of the people that comprise the client base, audience, market share… may already seem obvious , but it still not taken as an axiomatic key stand point .
Seth Godin’s new book We are all weird is a tale of individuality, of celebrating the uniqueness of each one in every food chain. Weird, as not standardized, talks to generalizing providers and institutions, and praises individuality as a stand point for interactions with people with a cynical reference to normality, as an outdated lens for definitions and processes.
Yes, the future belongs to individuals, to a mindset that replaces standardization with the humanification of interactions. Once the user is put at the center, not as a usability and marketing communication cliché’ of form, but as a fundamental matter, the real human value of user centricity and citizen centricity comes to life. To each of us our individually significant actions and choices are our own tales of individuality that strengthen our meaningful and valuable choices and interactions.
Icentricity is a philosophical identity definition that exceeds the individual yet gives a personal print and control on who, what, where, when and why. Taking an independent yet very personal prism, enables a framework of the unique individual ecosystem of one that interacts with everybody else.
When each one of us has so many personal expressions across so many platforms, we need to take the individual fingerprint that on one hand sets us apart as individuals but on the other hands defines us and our say as parts of collectives in these frameworks.
The Icentered lens is an individual grasp for interactions, a prism that helps separate the wheat from the chaff in the overload of seemingly not connected interactions. It is a framework for a larger process that gives a context for the place of the individual in relations with providers, peers, friends, organizations….. Godin’s book is yet another call to start and exercise this distinct personal mark that sets me apart from everyone else and makes categorizing, segmenting, profiling me…. Impossible.
With the ubiquitous connectedness that enables us to be distributed across many platforms, across many contexts and interactions, Icentricity provides a looking glass that sometimes takes a step back to oversee and sometime to focus on how I am in a particular set of interactions – social, professional, or information based and how I relate to other people in social circles and in service providing systems.
The glue that held together dynamic yet balanced relations between providers and users, citizens and states begins to disintegrate, as the rich providers, financiers and states get richer and continue with business as usual, yet we, users get more frustrated and as citizens, get poorer and the middle class can no longer take countries on its back. One thing is clear – more of the same gluing mix will not push it back into place.
Corporates and governing institutions are losing their ruling grip. When it’s about us , our values should be the blueprint of such systems created for us and around us.
A gap is forming, widening, and becoming unbridgeable both as consumers and citizens. Leaders and governors, asleep at the wheel, brought us downhill, sometimes close to ditches, and now we can’t passively count on them anymore to take us up again.
We, people, can no longer be treated as means to ends.
Connecting the dots is moving from the serving parties who controlled the balances and gained power, to the users/citizens who claim what in their eyes is theirs to start with. The greater collective trail that encompasses us is populated by individuals with personal needs and hopes.
There is no clear destination point on which all agree. We are reaching a fork in the road where different paths are clearly formulated. The corporate or the user – the state or the citizen – whose well being is to be served? Is it necessarily a dichotomy? What is the price to be paid?
Over 15 years ago I started to look into personalization in the then emerging digital world. At first it was about segmentation. In a world of mass marketing ruled by one fits all, adapting to specific needs of segmented populations was disruptive at first and then gradually became mainstream. With the maturity of CRM technologies, center stage segmentation became natural and personalization was gradually built as the next marketing promise. That, in turn, depends on its performance, that depends on the offering, and eventually on its relevance depended on us, users, and our willingness to accept it.
All that was led under a corporate world: the corporate’s existence depends first and foremost on the financial strength of the company. Fortifying that justifies marketing means.
Web 2.0 pushed us, users, more towards the center of the system. From user centricity as a marketing lip service we demanded more, full user centered personalization, equal partnership in the food chains created around us, transparency and active control over our data and privacy sharing.
In parallel our relations with our governing institutions changed. In non democratic countries it was easier to detach the process. Autocrats can’t hold the power forever, build private fortunes and control state mechanisms as a means for their personal enrichment while their people have nothing to base a better future on.
The capitalistic democratic countries of the western world favored the state over the citizens. Let the free market throne and dethrone. Once labor was replaced by financial schemes, the middle class was promised mirage economy based on shallow foundations. Pay day is here for the states that allowed it in the name of economic ideologies that are going bankrupt and deluded individuals who did not see the writing on the wall.
Now this fluctuating balance is being thrown against the wall on all fronts. User or provided centricity? State or citizen centricity? Whose thriving are we to serve? People’s or institutions’? What is the tipping point from which new ideologies will gain mass acceptance? Are all parties concerned aware of the dangers of populism and appeasing commitments that states can’t stand behind?
The feeling of betrayal is strong. Both as users and as citizens, we have been abused. Well financed companies used us as means in their private fights over market hegemony. A crooked and corrupt financial system robbed us of the welfare contracts that democratic states seemingly had with us, their citizens. The financial credits of the middle class have gone down the drain, sweeping with them dreams of an affordable future and sustainable personal growth and with them was flushed the credit we gave our leaders.
The concepts of the state as a paternal entity, taking care of its citizens’ welfare is severely damaged. The system, the democratic system has been abused, the debts of sovereign states, together with the soaring poverty lines of citizens is a Tsunami that will shake everybody on the personal level. No one can predict the future and the global ramifications of the financial geo political fracture rattles the foundations of the contract between state and citizen. The economic insecurity and the flourishing social unrest take many faces, and threaten political stability, as protestors climb over the closed gates of corporates and governors.
The infrastructure for the existence of a functional democracy that ensures economic security and freedom to its citizens is dramatically shaken when people fear that there is no affordable future, social security and housing menace.
It needs rewriting. Attempts are starting all over. For whom will it be too little and too late?
The current debates on can capitalism and a welfare state co-exist demanding going back to socialist values that empowered coexistence and welfare, not out of Marxist ideology but because of an urge to reclaim citizen centricity as a major driving force in societies where capitalism, privatization and speculative economics have shaken the social foundations of states, putting the welfare of the citizens as a secondary consideration to neo liberal ideologies.
Citizen centricity is about putting the human factor, the citizen, back at the center of the equation.
Connecting the dots to rebuild this balance is a mutual and reciprocal process. Citizens alone, rioting and claiming populist solutions out of frustration can lead to throwing out the baby with the bath water. WE should all opt for gradual and mutual constructiveness where all work together based on open dialogs, pragmatism and citizen centered recovery proposals instead of clashing ideologies.