Will Customers Regain Control Over Their Lives?

Posted Friday, June 13, 2014 in Other by Patricia Seybold

I began thinking last week about all the ways in which the world seems to be spiraling out of our control. No matter how “together” or successful people are, we all seem to be deeply troubled by a number of seemingly inexorable trends that leave us all feeling quite powerless. The fact that a 700-page economics book rocketed to #1 on the bestseller list is a great indication that many people feel that something has gone profoundly wrong. Thomas Piketty’s book, Capital in the 21st Century, brilliantly articulates why income inequality is so great, why the gap is widening and why it is unsustainable. I have been delighted by the airtime and buzz this book and this author have received. This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart, and, it now appears, it’s one that has been troubling a lot of us.

The popular uptake of Piketty’s book is just one of many signs that lead me to believe we are on the cusp of another big shift in the power structures that are in play in many of our fundamental systems. Another indicator is the unsustainable amount of total debt that we are carrying as a society. Not just our national debt, nor our personal debt, but the total debt per capita—if you add it all up: national, corporate, municipal, personal, etc. In the U.S., the total debt we’re currently carrying comes out to $600,000 for a family of four. That’s $150,000 for every man, woman, and child. It’s unsustainable. We can’t get the economy going again by lending more money to consumers or businesses. We need to forgive a lot of this debt to get back to productivity. (This is all explained, quite well in my husband, Tom Hagan’s blog post, entitled “How Much Crop Can a Sharecropper Share?”)

The Customer Revolution book coverSo, as I thought about the structures of the systems that dominate our living conditions, I realized one basic truth: none of them place the needs of customers/users/citizens/patients at the center (or at the top). The ecosystems that are the most broken are the ones in which some other major players are calling the shots and the customers are being ignored. That imbalance won’t last forever. We’ve been through revolutions before. The last “customer revolution” occurred in the early 2000’s, precipitated by the Internet and the Web. We’re due for another one!


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