Altimeter Group and the syndrome of the deaf corporation...

Altimeter Group is a band of consultants trying to educate corporate America about the value of social business -- paying attention to customers. It should be obvious but it's not.
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor

(Charlene Li, founder of Altimeter Group listens to Patrice Lamothe, CEO of Pearltrees.)
I have a soft spot for the Altimeter Group, a pioneering band of consultants founded by the impressive Charlene Li, with a mission to educate corporate America about the value of listening and engaging with customers.

It's tough work. Wednesday evening we heard Susan Etlinger, Industry Analyst at Altimeter, speak about her latest research and lamenting the fact that most corporations have no frameworks or methods in place to make sure that everyone "listens" to customers. There's no incentive built into company cultures to "listen."

Afterwards, I chatted with Charlene Li, who spoke about the slow pace of change within large organizations, towards listening and engaging with customers.

This is not a new topic, it's several years old and it's covered very well in Ms Li's bestseller: "Open Leadership," which tries to encourage company leaders to build a new culture, one that can help their organizations transition into social business models.

It's very noble work trying to educate large organizations about the massive disruptive trends within nearly every aspect of their business. But I also think it's a lost cause in many cases, because most companies won't be able to change even though they become aware of what's going on.

I often hear from companies that they see the disruptive trends in their markets and industries and that they will adapt and co-opt those trends when the time comes. "We see it," they say.

However, seeing a disruptive trend is commonly mistaken for being able to do something about it. That's a false logic because people forget that disruptive technologies disrupt. That's the key quality of a disruptive technology -- It's not just an "edgy" name. Disruptive technologies disrupt businesses even if they see them coming.

Why? Because most businesses can't pivot their internal culture, and their business models fast enough. That's why god invented startups.

There will be a lot of corporations, that the combined and formidable talents of Charlene Li, Jeremiah Owyang, Brian Solis, Susan Etlinger, and the rest of the now 40 analysts at Altimeter, won't be able to save.

No matter how convincing Altimeter are in their arguments to the management teams, or how great their PowerPoints, a lot of corporations won't make it through this game-breaking transition in commerce.

The winning companies will be what I call new rules enterprises -- they follow ten rules, the first rule is that it's a new enterprise, with a new team and new culture baked-in fresh from the start. (I'll share the next nine rules at another time...)

Congratulations to Altimeter for growing to more than 40 consultants!

Also, it was great to see Matt Ceniceros, Shelley Risk, Ken Kaplan, Michael Brito, and Flipboard's Christel Vanderboom. (I mentioned my recent discovery that Flipboard shared Marshall McLuhan's birthday, she said it was accidental and a result of Apple's erratic app approval process. Still, it could prove to be a significant date, but we'll have to wait and see if Flipboard is a new form of media company, and if it has the ability to build a revenue stream that's as impressive as its app.)

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