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[Review] Ctrl Alt Delete


What will the future of business be like? More importantly, what will your life be like?

Armed with a (digital?) crystal ball, renowned marketing blogger Mitch Joel’s latest book “Ctrl Alt Delete” attempts to address these questions. With the catchy subtitle“Reboot Your Business. Reboot Your Life. Your Future Depends On It.”, Mitch’s volume focuses on how shifts in mobile and social technologies, data, content, marketing and jobs makes it necessary for us to transform the way we run our businesses and do our work.

Providing a “road map” for businesses which navigates them through this “time of purgatory” in a constantly transforming “post-disruption world” (Mitch sure knows how to wax lyrical!), “Ctrl Alt Delete” is divided into two sections. The first section of the book (Reboot: Business) covers five major trends in business. These are:

1. The growth in direct and personal relationships, mediated by platforms such as Kickstarter. In such a world, businesses are advised to deliver value, be open and transparent, follow a clear and consistent path, create a mutually beneficial world, and focus on true fans.

2. The need to provide utility in marketing. Similar in concept to Jay Baer’s “Youtility“, the notion here is to be useful to one’s customers by being customer focused, pain-free, simple to use, fast, and convenient without any expectations of a return. Ultimately, this leads to greater word-of-mouth recommendations.

3. Understanding how passive and active media works. While “blasting” (christened “spray and pray” in the book) may work in passive channels (like TV and radio), the direct engagement of “touching” is preferred on social media networks. Here, we’re advised to define our media landscape, know what our brands are trying to achieve, and see things from our customers’ angle.

4. With the growth of big data parked in the “cloud”, companies like Amazon have leveraged on apps like Price Check to understand buyers and their buying habits in an unprecedented fashion. The goal here is to have “sex with the data”, i.e. to crunch both linear (e.g. e-commerce purchases) and circular (e.g. social chatter) data, put them on dashboards, and distill meaning.

5. We’re now living in a one-screen world, where the only screen that matters is the one in front of the consumer’s face. Instead of merely optimizing for different screen sizes, businesses should study customer behaviors, provide simplicity and utility, follow “social rules” to improve findability, sharability and engagement, and consider the contexts of their world.

With the above scenarios painted, the second chunkier section of the book (Reboot: You) highlights seven triggers in this new world of entrepreneurship and work. Namely:

1. We need to adopt a “digital-first” posture, that is, consider how people behave in online spaces, become a digital native ourselves, determine our social scores (e.g. Klout), be humble, and embrace simple elegant solutions.

2. We need to traverse the long and squiggly road in our careers and our work. This means that we need to “learn as we earn” and do short, powerful projects that may require us to embrace change, be artists, be revolutionary, and even be a misfit if necessary.

3. We need to work like perpetual entrepreneurs and create collisions where work, play and everything else in between blends in a beautifully harmonious manner.

4. We need to market ourselves through powerful and consistent content. Here, the idea isn’t just about starting a blog, Facebook page or Twitter account nor spamming everybody in our network. Rather, it is about understanding the intent of our networks, pitching ourselves to win, and building influence in an organic – rather than automated – fashion.

5. We now work in multiple spaces anywhere, anytime. To facilitate this, offices should be optimized for agile layouts, encourage collisions between colleagues, and be empowered by social media connections (for example, through corporate intranets with social elements).

6. We no longer just work in jobs but endless start-up stints. As a startup of one, we should look to the edges to discern ideas and philosophies, invest in our ideas, find the right people, lead a 24/7 lifestyle (work-life balance is a dream), work with a “head down” attitude, and embrace risks and mistakes.

7. Finally, we need to consider 6 key trends in the future of business. They are: the growth of hacker culture; the switch from vertical to horizontal social businesses(where serving customers matter hugely); the rise of independent brands; the importance of optimizing for speed, simplicity and convenience; the eminence of technology; and the rise of virtual digital goods.

Like other business books focusing on social businesses, “Ctrl Alt Delete” illustrates its points with the usual heroes of the “post-disruption world”. These digital stalwarts include Apple, Google, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Zappos and their ilk. Fortunately, the citing of these familiar favorites was done sparingly and doesn’t overwhelm one with the “been there read that” feeling.

Written in Mitch Joel’s trademark conversational and intimate style, “Ctrl Alt Delete gives readers a glimpse into how the future of marketing and business could be like. Reading it certainly reinforced my belief that business and work as usual aren’t going to cut it.

A long time follower of Mitch’s podcast Six Pixels of Separation, I have blogged about his first book with the same title a couple of years ago. As the President of Twist Image – one of North America’s biggest digital agency – Mitch certainly knew his stuff and this showed itself in the coverage of topics in his book. While it doesn’t provide clear-cut answers to business dilemmas in the new “social age”, “Ctrl Alt Delete” does provide much food for thought for anybody considering how he or she can ride the new wave of business.

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