People trump tech

Greg Doone is PwC’s digital Strategy and Data Leader.

As published in the Sunday Star Times

Often “Millennials” born between 1980 and 1995 are painted as a technology-enabled different species who have grown up communicating via text, and entering the dating game in the age of Tinder.

YouTube and Spotify have replaced TV and radio at the centre of their media consumption. It all seems somewhat discomforting, half of them don’t even wear watches, something Apple seems to have noticed and as for their beards, don’t get me started.

It turns out however, that we humans are actually a pretty consistent bunch.

Behavioural psychologists argue we all have the same core desires and needs for self-esteem, love and belonging, safety, sustenance, shelter and sex.

And these are not changed in any way just because you grew up with a mobile phone permanently attached to your hand.

What is changing are our expectations around how those needs are fulfilled.

How we consume is changing much more than what we consume, and this may be most apparent in millennials, but it’s everywhere.

We call this wave of technology change the “outcome driven” wave. Consumers are using technology to get to their desired need or outcome quicker, easier, cheaper and more enjoyably.


This is at the heart of digital disruption, and is driven by a marked increase in consumer power and control.

It’s why an empathy for how people are leveraging technology to achieve their desired outcomes is so central to the success of new business models and services, and perhaps more crucially, to the survival of current ones.

To understand where disruption will come from in your industry, don’t think product, think outcome. People don’t want a taxi, they need a reliable and safe way to get from point A to point B. They don’t need to make a phone call, they need to connect. They’re not buying electricity, they are paying for a warm home, as easily and simply as they can. Utility trumps loyalty every time.

The reassuring thing is that our core human needs are the same as they have always been, but we need to look at how we service them, and perhaps critically, how others may be able to.

We talk to organisations about disruption coming from four possible sources. The first of these is a fairly known entity called “first to flex” effectively the most agile of your current competitor set. A role you may feel you need to play, however it is worth noting that PwC’s recent New Zealand CEO survey indicates that only 27 per cent of New Zealand organisations look to be the pioneer in their industry.

So if you do it, do it well.

The second set are the “augmentors”, these have existing presence and mass in a parallel market, but may be less burdened by legacy infrastructure or existing revenue protection.

The third set are the big disruptors like Google or Netflix.

They come with platforms and possibly even user bases, but trust and market intimacy may be their weakness.

The final group are the startups. The most volatile and unknown. They will be agile and focused, they’ll offer something simpler and cheaper, but will need reach and credibility which may just make them perfect partners in navigating this rapidly changing world of iBeacons, 3-D printing and smart watches.

Remember people are people in the end. Just ensure you have a heightened sense of empathy for how well your business is servicing their core needs, rather than just how well you are providing your products.

Greg Doone is PwC’s digital Strategy and Data Leader.

As published in the Sunday Star Times

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