Any book with “Delete” in the title is bound to catch my eye. Which is why I picked up Mitch Joel’s new book, CTRL ALT Delete. I’m glad I did, because I liked the book. (Disclosure: I’m a fan Mitch’s writing, and spoke to him at length last year on the subject of subtraction.)
According to Mitch, we are in business purgatory. “The transition of all industries into the fully-digital future leaves everybody caught in a middle ground,” he writes. “It’s not heaven, it’s not hell, and it’s very confusing. Businesses and employees are not sure where things are headed or what they must do to survive and thrive.”
Mitch believes he has a way of navigating out of this business purgatory: reboot. Hence the title, a retro reference to the original Windows keyboard combination you’d use when your computer was frozen. Rebooting never moved you forward, but it did allow you to regain stable footing and position you to move in whichever direction you wished.
5 Key Movements Reshaping Business
The book is in two parts, Reboot: Business and Reboot: You, and describes the five movements underway that Mitch believes are changing business, and the reason a reboot is necessary.
1. Direct relationships. Consumers expect not just a direct relationship but, increasingly, an on-demand one. “It’s less about simply responding in a timely fashion to a customer service issue and much more about how to build a true and sustainable lifelong value with customers.”
2. Consumer utility. People don’t want your products and services. They want help solving a problem. They want the kind of practical value that simple utility brings.
3. Active media. One-way communication is a thing of the past. “We have moved well beyond the shiny, bright object of social media,” Joel writes, “and into a world where consumers not only are publishers of their own content, but engage with media in an active way.”
4. Beyond data. If you’re not converting data into insight and information, and actively addressing the paradox between oversharing, consumer privacy and the ability to deliver highly personalized marketing, you’re already behind.
5. One screen. “It’s not about three screens or four screens,” Mitch argues. “It’s not about the Web, mobile, touch, and what consumers are doing in their physical lives. It’s about the reality that the only screen that matters, going forward, is the one screen in front of the consumer’s face. This one-screen world is going to make the Web, social media, and e-commerce … look like a joke in terms of size, magnitude and business opportunity.”
7 Ways to Become Invaluable
“The five movements have happened and their unfolding is beginning to take place now,” Mitch writes. “To take advantage of them, you will have to change as well.”
According to Mitch, you need to embrace seven things to be an invaluable entrepreneur.
1. Digital first. Take a digital-first posture, which demands transparency, openness and kindness. As Mitch states, “If you’re not listening, monitoring and responding to people and their concerns (or accolades), your competitors will. Currently, the act of being kind to consumers is being forced on companies, and we should all look to change—not because our consumers are demanding it, but because it’s the right thing to do. Because it’s who we really are.”
2. Get squiggly. Forget the linear path to success: school, job, up the ladder. “The most successful and interesting entrepreneurs and businesspeople don’t have a very linear path,” writes Mitch. “In fact, it’s actually very squiggly. Always bear that in mind. Embrace the squiggle.”
3. Be entrepreneurial. Waiting for an opportunity won’t cut it. As Mitch defines it, “An entrepreneur is someone who has an uncanny desire to create the future.”
4. Market yourself. Rapid, consistent, compelling content and storytelling is the new advertising. “If you’re looking to create a true mark and to get people to remark about everything that you’re doing,” Joel urges, “you only have one major mission when it comes to marketing yourself and the business that you represent: Go out there and create some great stories. Please.”
5. Work anywhere. The modern workspace isn’t focused on square footage, but on flexibility and agility, to be “more actively in tune with the digital nomad that is the new employee and the ‘anywhere’ work space.” Think beyond “the office” and design your space to promote creative connection, collision and collaboration.
6. Think startup. You don’t have to run a startup to think and act like one. Mitch argues that, “What we’re seeing is a world where the next generation is not looking for (or even concerned with) job security and a pension, but rather governing their careers and guiding their future by the lessons learned from some of Silicon Valley’s most successful entrepreneurs and innovators. It makes you wonder if being a small startup (in your professional attitude and in how you run your day-to-day business) is the future of big business.”
7. Embrace what’s next. Mitch lists a handful of emerging trends to watch and capitalize on: the hacker culture, horizontal marketing, the rise of the indie brand, less-is-more marketing, controlling technology and virtual goods.
CTRL ALT Delete is chock full of practical takeaways in the form of multiple lessons, tips and techniques for each movement and trigger. And that’s what makes it an effective manual on rebooting your business and your life.
(Note: A version of this post appeared on my OPEN column.)