Subtitle: Why L33Ts don’t buy from N00Bs
Brad Szollose and I want to engage you in a discussion about how culture shapes technology [cross post link]. We connected over Brad’s best-selling book, Liquid Leadership, and we’ve been geeking about cultural impacts in tech since 2011.
In these 8 posts, we explore what drives the next generation of IT decision makers starting from the framework of Millennials and Boomers. Recently, we’ve seen that these “age based generations” are artificially limiting; however, they provide a workable context this series that we will revisit in the future.
Our target is leaders who were raised with computers as Digital Natives. They approach business decisions from a new perspective that has been honed by thousands of hours of interactive games, collaboration with global communities, and intuitive mastery of all things digital.
The members of this “Generation Cloud” are not just more comfortable with technology; they use it differently and interact with each other in highly connected communities. They function easily with minimal supervision, self-organize into diverse teams, dive into new situations, take risks easily, and adapt strategies fluidly. Using cloud technologies and computer games, they have become very effective winners.
In this series, we examine three key aspects of next-generation leaders and offer five points to get to the top of your game. Our goal is to find, nurture, and collaborate with them because they are rewriting the script for success.
We have seen that there is a technology-driven culture change that is reshaping how business is being practiced. Let’s dig in!
What is Liquid Leadership?
“a fluid style of leadership that continuously sustains the flow of ideas in an organization in order to create opportunities in an ever-shifting marketplace.”
In his groundbreaking 1970s book, Future Shock, Alvin Toffler pointed out that in the not too distant future, technology would inundate the human race with all its demands, overwhelming those not prepared for it. He compared this overwhelming feeling to culture shock.
Welcome to the future!
Part of the journey in discussing this topic is to embrace the digital lexicon. To help with translations we are offering numerous subtitles and sidebars. For example, the subtitle “L33Ts don’t buy from N00Bs” translates to “Digital elites don’t buy from technical newcomers.”
Loosen your tie and relax; we’re going to have some fun together. We’ve got 7 more posts in this cloud culture series: 2: ToC > 3: Video Reality > 4: Authority > 5: On The Game Training > 6: Win by Failing > 7: Go Digital Native > 8: Three Takeaways
We’ve also included more background about the series and authors…
Culture is not about graphs and numbers, it’s about people and stories. So we begin by retelling the event that sparked Rob’s realization that selling next-generation technology like cloud is not about the technology but the culture of the customer.
A few years ago, I (Rob) was asked to join an executive briefing to present our, at the time, nascent OpenStack™ Powered Cloud solution to a longtime customer. As a non-profit with a huge Web presence, the customer was in an elite class and rated high ranking presenters with highly refined PowerPoint decks; unfortunately, these executive presentations also tend to be very formal and scripted. By the time I entered late in the day, the members of the audience were looking fatigued and grumpy.
Unlike other presenters, I didn’t have prepared slides, scripted demos, or even a fully working product. Even worse, the customer was known as highly technical and impatient. Frankly, the sales team was already making contingency plans and lining up a backup presenter when the customer chewed me up and spit me out. Given all these deficits, my only strategy was to ask questions and rely on my experience.
That strategy was a game changer.
My opening question (about DevOps) completely changed the dynamic. Throughout our entire presentation, I was the first presenter ready to collaborate with them in real time about their technology environment. They were not looking for answers; they wanted a discussion about the dynamics of the market with an expert who was also in the field.
We went back and forth about DevOps, OpenStack, and cloud technologies for the next hour. For some points, I was the expert with specific technical details. For others, they shared their deep expertise and challenges on running a top Web property. It was a conversation in which Dell demonstrated we had the collaboration and innovation that this customer was looking for in a technology partner.
When my slot was over, they left the next speaker standing alone following me out of the room to continue the discussion. It was not the product that excited them; it was that had I addressed them according to their internal cultural norms, and immediately they noticed the difference.
What is DevOps?
DevOps (from merging Development and Operations) is a paradigm shift for information technology. Our objective is to eliminate the barriers between creating software and delivering it to the data center. The result is that value created by software engineers gets to market more quickly with higher quality.
This level of reaction caught us by surprise at the time, but it makes perfect sense looking back with a cultural lens. It wasn’t that Rob was some sort of superstar—those who know him know that he’s too mild-mannered for that (according to Brad, at least). What has caused the excitement was Rob had hit their cultural engagement hot button!
Rob Hirschfeld and Brad Szollose are both proud technology geeks, but they’re geeks from different generations who enjoy each other’s perspective on this brave new world.
Rob is a first-generation Digital Native. He grew up in Baltimore reprogramming anything with a keyboard—from a Casio VL-Tone and beyond. In 2000, he learned about server virtualization and never looked back. In 2008, he realized his teen ambition to convert a gas car to run electric (a.k.a. RAVolt.com). Today, from his Dell offices and local coffee shops, he creates highly disruptive open source cloud technologies for Dell’s customers.
Brad is a Cusp Baby Boomer who grew up watching the original Star Trek series, secretly wishing he would be commanding a Constitution Class Starship in the not-too-distant future. Since that would take a while, Brad became a technology-driven creative director who cofounded one of the very first Internet development agencies during the dot-com boom. As a Web pioneer, Brad was forced to invent a new management model that engaged the first wave of Digital Workers. Today, Brad helps organizations like Dell close the digital divide by understanding it as a cultural divide created by new tech-savvy workers … and customers.
Beyond the fun of understanding each other better, we are collaborating on this white paper for different reasons.
- Brad is fostering liquid leaders who have the vision to span cultures and to close the gap between cultures.
- Rob is building communities with the vision to use cloud products that fit the Digital Native culture.