The decision to write Crowd Surfing began with a drunken conversation in a bar about why it was that nobody had written a considered and, ironically given the circumstances, sober view of the consequences of consumer empowerment. Everyone appeared to accept the reality that the balance of power between institutions and the public had shifted and that the ‘command and control’ model of business was no longer relevant, but what did this empowerment trend really mean for companies and other institutions? Was it truly the end of business and politics as we knew it, which was certainly the view of many of the more excitable social media evangelists?
We think it was the historian A.J.P. Taylor who, when asked what motivated him to write, said that he wrote so he knew what to think. And the act of writing this book has certainly helped us better understand what is happening within the business and political world. We have also been fortunate in having close access to some of the world’s largest corporations and people involved in political campaigns on both sides of the Atlantic.
We would therefore like to welcome you to the world of the crowd surfer: a world in which a new generation of business and political leaders have learned how to harness the energy, ideas and enthusiasm of today’s empowered consumers. They are not manipulators, demagogues or mere populists. They have been smart enough to recognise that people around the globe – emboldened and enthused by a new spirit of enquiry and self-expression, and powered by the internet – have changed the rules of the game. They realise that surrendering absolute control – giving their customers, partners and employees a greater say in the way that their businesses operate – is paradoxically, the most effective way to manage their corporate or political destiny.
In Crowd Surfing, we examine what it takes to become a crowd surfer. What are the lessons that can be learned from the world of business and politics, including Barrack Obama’s campaign for the Democratic Party nomination and the public outcry that followed the unveiling of the London 2012 Olympic logo. The failed attempts by some businesses to stand in the way of consumer empowerment are explained in graphic detail. We also describe why Dell went to hell and back before learning how to embrace the crowd and why a Blue Monster has come to symbolise Microsoft’s new spirit of openness. We analyse the leadership skills required in this new era of participation, collaboration and dialogue and also ask what it means for marketing professionals.
Crowd Surfing is a book for anyone in business, marketing, politics or simply interested in what is happening in the world around them.