I talk to a lot of people about business and new business models. One phrase I’ve heard for many years is; “It’s in the company’s DNA.”. What that used to mean is that the business is a reflection of the employees that build & manage the business. Businesses can only accomplish what employees (and vendors) can accomplish. As the walls of business become more porous, their employees participate even more by not just ┬árepresenting the company, but defining it. Zappos and Icelantic Skis, First Tracks Program are prime examples. Currently, through social media, customers are having a more direct impact on the business.

Everything up to this point in this post is old news. I’ve posted about it many times starting 2+ years ago.

What’s new is, the corporate realization that this is the new norm (dependent upon your business model). In other words – if there is a choice here – the choice to ignore your customers (aka not allow them to participate in defining and building your company) can cause your business to fail. (See Digg) You’re company’s DNA is now your customers DNA.

At this point it’s important to recognize that I’m not a geneticist. AND based on what I understand of genetics, there are incidents or conditions that occur that challenge the organism and slight variations are made to DNA adapt to that challenge; long-term. (This is a massive oversimplification from a non-geneticist.) So if the DNA of your business is actually your customers what impact can you have? I think you’re role in the new paradigm (pronounced pa-RA-digg’em!) is to challenge them. Create new products. Take existing products in new directions. Alter the brand message to include more personalization. Frame things in different perspectives. Make them apart of the story. Remember, the goal is to challenge them in a positive way not destroy existing perceived value.

Now, how you do that is totally up to you and again, dependent upon your business model. It won’t be easy and you should start with something small. Don’t be afraid. What’s the worst that could happen!?!?!?!?

Your companies DNA isn’t yours. It’s your customer’s.