We’ve all been there. The future. Our lives. What’s next?  How do we achieve our dreams? What even are our dreams? Our hopes? Our real desires? Then how do we get there? All too often we ask these deep questions of ourselves, but not often do we see results. We wonder how we got where are and if we even want to be here. Organizations often find themselves in the exact same place and these often far more often than we do as people.   Organizations, especially companies – from the corner baker to the behemoths don’t truly make the effort to understand who they are, what they are uniquely good at and what they need to achieve their goals, their dreams. Even more importantly, they don’t understand their customers’, their collective stakeholders’ views and challenges in this big stuff. Again, it seems, context is at the heart of all decisions and deep context at the heart of the truly impactful ones. I’ve written before on big or deep context, but here I’m not looking at the nuts and bolts but rather at the world itself these decisions are contained in. Indeed, understanding and developing insights on how you or your firm’s capabilities, dreams and then story fit into the that hyper local to global world and it’s ever changing up down and all around trends key developing deep context. This is a never ending activity – not a challenge, not an ideation session, not a consultant for a million bucks or a strategic plan.  It’s about just like yourself personally developing truly authentic relationships with all the stakeholders, influencers in your life and a company’s, and an organization’s.   Want understanding?  Develop deep context. Want big impact?  Develop deep connections. Here’s a few ways to get started and grow from there 1. Connect deeply and persistently with your total ecosystem Too many folks look for the quick bite, the class, the course or the one group to talk to. Screw that.  Thre are few quick fixes or big his without connections, relationships. Successful companies – truly long lived, persistently profitable ones – make deliberate decisions based upon typically consistently, constantly engaging not just their customers but their whole ecosystem.  Supply chain, staff, alternative products, approaches and technologies, their customers and their customer’s customers and on and on. Does your firm have regular, persistent contact like this?  Or is it just sales calls, occasional exec meetings and fishing trips?  Big Data consultants and technically disconnected branding firms thinking that they innovate products.  All staff – the whole organization – should be finding ways to get out and make contact and get a far better notion of how they did and what their world wants. 2. Focus on the Ecosystem’s Success Forget about selling your product.  You can’t sell anything well at maximum margins day in in and day out if you don’t know what that person’s and that company’s ecosystem looks like.  What do they really need, really want, how can you specifically help, make a real difference and meaningfully advance their cause.   A genuine conversation. You sell to people, not companies, so it’s not just company A’s world – it’s the person across the desk, the table, the phone.  If you’re not genuinely interested in them, their world, how are you really, again long term, persistently going to help them let alone not offend or annoy them inexorably over time – “oh, not her again” I’m also not talking about little changes or improvements.  That’s not the big stuff, that’s not innovation or transformation.  Connecting on the things that might change the world they live in, their customers and theirs – that’s what we are looking for here. 3. Engage Your Customer’s Customers and Everyone Else Just like great product development, you need to understand best your various personas’ customer journeys and experiences by doing your best to go on them yourselves. Few do this. I’ve spoken on Bally Design’s terrific examples in fire-fighting where their staff literally went into fires with the full equipment to do the exact job and spent hours and hours living with the fire fighter lifestyle and the associated factors around that of who funded them, who bought and approved the equipment and on and on. It’s about more than facts.  It’s about emotion, connection, motivation.   You only know by that old adage – walk in a person’s shoes. 4. Understand Alternatives – Truly Don’t sit in your customer’s industry and way of doing things.  Set into all pf the alternatives.  That may not be just what the [product or service achieves but also what they could instead period.  Ten ways to wash a floor – or just a hire someone.  Ten ways to install, finish and paint millwork – or simply put in prefinished, labor free millwork.  Of maybe none at all.  An example today? Improve that restaurant experience – or just set up delivery instead.   Or show people how to cook but do all the prep.  Or make cooking easier in other ways.  Maybe instead of eating out, it’s grab a protein bar and go dancing instead.  Know your ecosystem.  Know your alternatives.  Live them.  Know them. 5. Develop the Context, Abstract the Solutions and Test Them Do the above and you’ll develop deep context persistently, perceiving actual trends others may not and before they may.  This ground up activity delivers the context of your world and the ecosystem’s and allows then for abstracted need versus those filled with paradigms.  Get this right and now one can imagine and then specify for abstracted product and service concepts, new business models. The latter then enables one to conceive of paradigm free alternatives within the aforementioned context together with the ecosystem and to test drive the concepts.  This can then lead to understanding what must be true in a solution and thus allow for the very specific ideas and tactics for implementation, whether now or for the future as the what must be trues emerge.  Abstraction allows one to seek solution components anywhere, not simply within the ecosystem and to then leverage that into faster, more effective and profitable implementation. Apply it all to Strategy! Do the latter, and all together that profound, constantly evolving awareness facilitates a far superior approach to one’s overall business strategy.  It now becomes a strategy based upon intimate knowledge of an ecosystem you live in.  This versus a bunch of Big Data chunks delivering over generalized insights sitting on their own or massive, often disconnected and lacking truly specific, actionable recommendations from marketing studies costing millions. Close… That’s it.  It’s simple, straight forward but complex often in its implementation. Want understanding?  Develop deep context. Want big impact?  Develop deep connections. Leverage your ecosystem! Seem obvious but then again why do so few do it and of those, so few actually succeed? Would love to see comments and thoughts, ideas and your insights!   Be Well! Adam

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