icm2re logo. icm2:re (I Changed My Mind Reviewing Everything) is an ongoing web column edited and published by Brunella Longo

This column deals with some aspects of change management processes experienced almost in any industry impacted by the digital revolution: how to select, create, gather, manage, interpret, share data and information either because of internal and usually incremental scope - such learning, educational and re-engineering processes - or because of external forces, like mergers and acquisitions, restructuring goals, new regulations or disruptive technologies.

The title - I Changed My Mind Reviewing Everything - is a tribute to authors and scientists from different disciplinary fields that have illuminated my understanding of intentional change and decision making processes during the last thirty years, explaining how we think - or how we think about the way we think. The logo is a bit of a divertissement, from the latin divertere that means turn in separate ways.

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Repetita don't always iuvant

Open letter to my two Countries about digital innovation processes

How to cite this article?
Longo, Brunella (2014). Repetita don't always iuvant. Open letter to my two Countries about digital innovation processes. icm2re [I Changed my Mind Reviewing Everything ISSN 2059-688X (Print)], 3.9 (September).

How to cite this article?
Longo, Brunella (2014). Repetita don't always iuvant. Open letter to my two Countries about digital innovation processes. icm2re [I Changed my Mind Reviewing Everything ISSN 2059-688X (Online)], 3.9 (September).

30 September 2014 - Some changes occur in business, as in life, without warning. Others are anticipated, forecasted, predicted and managed carefully. Between the two types lies the absolute majority of changes we deal with, sometimes loaded down with lot of confusion and sometimes lighted up with signals of improbable revolutions or miracles.

I have had a summer full of opportunities to make big and little changes that required the application of previous learning in pivotal ways - an approach that I tend to consider British, sparkling creativity. In other circumstances it is advisable a pathway that I consider more Italian, based on perseverance and resilience. But I believe that in most cases it is exactly a combination of creativity and analysis that opens up consistent and sustainable change.

One of the reliable ways to deal with innovations and to practice the art of learning along the pathway of continuous improvements consists in managing iterations: from correcting spelling mistakes in primary schools to controlling meaningful data collected through sensors networks, as a notable latin phrase says, repetitions are often very useful (repetita iuvant) in many learning and development contexts.

And yet that is not always the case with digital goods and services. It is amazing to see, for example, that online sales have taken over traditional commercial channels faster than I myself I thought when I designed the contents of a training course aimed at entrepreneurs and directors willing to discover the commercial side of the internet. Those contents were grounded in the evidences I had learned through the first e-commerce projects I managed (virtual shops of publishers and other organisations that sold books, software, training products and services).

Nevertheless I must say that early adopters' lessons are far from being taken seriously and understood properly. On the contrary, it seems people enjoy the fascination of repeating trial and error approaches without any attempt to consolidate on previous layers or stacks. And the result is that brilliant digital leads and marketing experts cannot explain unpredicted changes in online customers habits: these remain either inexplicable mysteries or fortunate miracles - in spite of all the money invested in analytics and testing.

Variations and gaps in sales and consumers behaviours are interpreted considering the most random correlations, regressions and calculations but making sense of statistical assumptions turns often a waste of time and money. When is it convenient to dig deeper into the data? Does it make sense to invest in real time analytics with so volatile, confused and often imagined or fictionalised user expectations, perceptions and profiles?

Lessons learned from my pioneering e-commerce projects

In many occasions, diverse geographic and cultural contexts surrounding online users behaviours do not have such great impact on consumptions in economic terms as imagined, although they could be seen and presented as results of marketing strategies or binding communication tactics activated through social media. The ideas that lie behind successful social media campaigns can be quite poor for the long term success of a brand or a product. Ask yourself if those reactive results are due to real creative contributions. Most of the times, it is not the case. Results are obtained through scam psychology effects and wide word of mouth campaigns. If so, your brand is building up credentials on sand and all the advantages you gain will disappear at the first change of circumstances. When confronted with the reality of their wallets, digital customers opt for choices you may never see reflected in their data journeys, no matter how tricky and clever your communication has been set up.

Switching from Amazon to Sainsbury's websites and vice-versa is almost seamless for the digital buyer. That is the fundamental reason why requirements for brand differentiation and loyalty strategies work very differently for online outlets. So that the perils of overstating and overestimating web analytics - seeing intelligent design and intentional pathways in what is just network data and browsing / searching clutter - is endless.

The following is an anticipation extracted from my book 99 STARS: competencies and skills for personal and professional wellbeing and lifelong learning in the digital age, forthcoming).

The case is exactly about the lesson I learned from my pioneering e-commerce projects: digital repetitions are not always useful to secure and manage innovations in digital environments. Here is the case:


    SITUATION:  A publisher wanted to understand success factors  and differences between Wal-Mart and Amazon 
    before starting an e-commerce project.

    TASK: Although at the time (1998 -1999) we considered that the best case history was undoubtedly Amazon compared to Wal-Mart, 
    I had to devise a research plan and produce a report well documented and unbiased. 

    ACTION:  First, I  explained to my team we were not interested in the obvious, like press clippings, trade sources and  stats showing 
the Amazon supremacy.  If the customer had wanted to know the obvious they would have not asked advice to an internet research company.  
Secondly, I  redefined the problem stating we had to explain   differences  in buy rates among unique users of Wal-Mart and Amazon
 so that we could explain substantial aspects of their diverse internet strategies, addressing the core of the issue our customer had asked to explain. 
So we analysed architecture and design principles underpinning the two websites and wrote an original benchmarking report. 

    RESULTS: The customer was delighted with the report and gave me additional budget for training.  I used this case in a book
(La nuova editoria, 2001, p. 74-78) to explain differences between e-commerce models based on the notion of transaction  
and those based on the notion of user experience.  This in turn led me few years later to a new demand for advice by a transport 
company that had failed to introduce a  new platform, in spite of the fact they had invested on the idea of user
 experience for the provision of web terminals on board, exactly as I wrote in my book.   

By the way, this case was mentioned in documents I shared with a potential customer last year, a large organisation with a very porous perimeter of relationships and a magmatic, large crowd of potential suppliers. As far as I can see from the proliferation of blogs and various literature within the same circles of people that read it at first, it was passed on and on and reached some journalists and consultants too. Have all these repetitions of my little story, never contextualised and never quoted as mine, brought in further understanding of digital consumptions and digital marketing? The answer over to you.