More than a taxi ride

On a recent trip to South Africa, I had the pleasure of a conversation with my Uber driver in Johannesburg. A discussion that, upon exit from his vehicle, sat me down with pen and paper and plenty to ponder.

“Uber changed my life,” the kind driver said when I asked him about his employer. “I have a job that earns me good income with a fast growing global company and, more importantly, I can balance this job with my two other jobs.” In a short sentence, the story access point opened up and our conversation would not stop until I reached my destination (… the usually congested streets were, unfortunately, quiet on this Sunday evening…I wanted to hear more!)

The Uberization of our world is real. A simple business model (a story), that perfectly matches the demands of our new economy on many levels that far exceed just a taxi service. What Uber and others (particularly Airbnb) has created, is a business that understands that individuals are much more empowered now to make decisions and choices to solve their problems…maybe even change their life. We live in a micro-economy world where all of us have access to the same news and information (go ahead, Google that). We have always made choices based on trust, but now that process has been significantly enhanced because so much of what we want to participate in is just a click away. Rapid decision-making needs strong storytelling (stories that solve to involve.)

Companies that are not prepared to collaborate with the micro-economy (it doesn’t take much to be a collaborator – just a story!) will quickly find themselves out-of-date – and it is not just with customers and clients. Uber collaborates with people who want a taxi: you tell us where you are and where you want to go and we will find a car to match that at a fixed price. As my driver in Joburg also told me, “I can choose when to switch on my phone and take rides, I have that power in my job.” That might frighten some employers, but it shouldn’t because the traditional phrase is “employee motivation.” We have long known that motivated employees work harder. Any employee who feels that their needs are being acknowledged (see my post on this site about the “power of acknowledge”) will be motivated to – as my driver said – “switch on” (and he was clearly very motivated).

Our human needs are not only practical (far more than that, in fact) – i.e. earn money – but they are, more importantly, emotional: real, relevant and relatable. He must feel connected to his place of work or he won’t want to participate (as I remind my clients, “We have to relate to participate”). In those 3Rs are the simple needs of an employee who is either motivated – or not. Are my stories appreciated by the company? Can my stories help to grow our business? The short answer is yes: stories are, after-all, just a series of histories and experiences – says so on your resume. We hired you for your stories! Now let’s build on that.

Uber relates to the new economy, so they have created a product, a company, a “job”, that gives access to a story that motivates participation (a nice illustration of the SpeakingEnergy STAMP methodology™). Uber drivers are collaborating with their employer to solve problems. When he’s “switched on” there is a very practical process of triangular decision-making going on: Uber-customer-driver. All parts working in unison, very fluid, very solutions focused. Collaboration creates trust. The driver was collaborating further by sharing his motivated story with me. Needless to say, that story made me more trusting of his employer (I will “buy” more from them) – and now I am sharing that story with you…on and on it goes. We share what we trust…and maybe now we will “like”, “follow”, “re-tweet”…

As I advise my clients, Story access points are where we must focus our attention in 2016 – and beyond. It is at those points where discoveries are made (we love discoveries!) For me, the discovery started with a simple conversation with a driver who gave me access to the world in which he is employed. Once inside, I was motivated to participate further by digging deeper into that story. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t participate, right? Thankfully my participation has opened up a huge area for me to explore (motivated to participate!) – and work on with my clients, especially the large organizations who are being awakened – indeed challenged (in a healthy way) by the demands of the digital economy.

Participation is everything; it is the ultimate story action that every company wants: buy, sell, invest, partner, listen, meet, learn, work-for…. Collaboration is democratization: the choice is always ours…do I feel like I can trust you? Because of its accessible structure, relatable story, Uber can be described in these favorable new economy terms: collaborative, flexible, evolving, efficient, empowering, different, democratic and powerful. As we also know, Uber has had its share of problems, challenges to its trust. Serious issues that cannot be ignored and must be solved if they want to continue to grow. Overcoming obstacles is a daily process for any company, though. We either solve them – adjust to the demands of the new economy – or the decision to participate in your company’s story will be taken elsewhere, to your competitors – at digital speeds, no less.

The good news is, we can all participate in the new economy – if we so choose. Uber is showing us that some story journeys are worth investing in. Do your customers and employees feel the same about your stories? If not, why not? Questions that, if professionally answered, will show measurable results in 2016.

I will be conducting workshops throughout Asia on “Uberization: what it means to your company and how you can make your story fit the demands of the new economy real, relevant, relatable.” Happy to discuss the options with you at time. Contact me for an immediate reply – or simply to share your story, ask a few questions. Best wishes for a great year everyone!

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