As a society, we’ve never had more access to information and share our opinions. And more, our brands have access to more data than ever before. Over the last few weeks I’ve seen a cultural shift in recognizing and being open to how we must evolve, use this in our favor and acknowledge that consumer driven co-creation is happening. A true bottom-up approach. It seems that learning is at the center of understanding and capitalizing on the opportunities that these cultural shifts present.
The principle that learning has to be greater than or equal to change is the essence of a bottom-up strategy. The one constant in these turbulent times is that change is happening faster than ever; thus, learning has to happen even more quickly. Part of the learning process requires knowing what to do with the intelligence you acquire; this is the step that facilitates real change. This idea may seem quite simple, yet it may be challenging to many people who have traditionally been involved in product or process development.
While learning has always needed to be greater than change in order for a company to grow, the rate of this change has accelerated from the old business environment, where change occurred gradually, during a decade or over the course of someone’s career. Today, change seems to happen overnight. One day you are ahead of the pack and the very next day you are struggling to keep up.
This means that the rate of learning has to be greater in order for any company to survive. So what do you do? With more information available, people have to acknowledge that what they perceive as being the whole picture is only a small slice of reality. Any company’s world can be segmented into three areas: what we know, what we know we don’t know and what we don’t know we don’t know.
One of the problems that we all face in today’s more dynamic world is that the area of what we don’t know we don’t know cannot be blissfully ignored, due to its disruptive potential. Companies need to recognize this segment of their world and try to reduce it, using inspiration from the bottom-up.
Businesses often approach strategic planning as a very top-down, rigid process; even the language they use is far too structured and solemn. Planning, in its nature, requires an acceptance of the unknown and receptiveness to new ideas. Unfortunately, many companies’ reaction to an influx of new information is to fall into the ‘paralysis by analysis’ syndrome. Other companies react by panicking and making important decisions too quickly based on data alone.
The ideal solution, but one that doesn’t come easily to most organizations (or people, for that matter), is to rely more heavily on intuition. This is a huge paradigm shift for most businesses. Intuition is a honed collective learning through all of your experience. People need bottom-up tools and coaching that give them the confidence to rely on their intuition when exploring the world. Businesses need fast, real and connected ways of adapting to their quickly changing realities.
Bottom-up learning demands that companies are prepared to make mistakes will when exploring their ecosystems with their customers. It means that people inside companies need to be unintimidated, permeable, spontaneous, unconditioned, and expressive in these explorations. They need to be allowed the space to learn through stories from their communities. Companies need to revel in these stories and be creative in their interactions with other community members.
Learning > Change is the key to growth and remaining adaptable in our ever-changing landscape. The only thing we know about tomorrow is that it won’t look like today. So how can you be open to learn?
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Forbes.