Somebody save these people from themselves
Recently I saw the movie "The Queen" (I caught it late, it was released in '06). If you haven't seen it, the film chronicles Britain's monarchy--most especially Queen Elizabeth--during the week following Princess Diana's death in 1997.
Due to keeping mum and stoic in her mourning, the Queen was harshly criticized by the nation (and the world). After all, a
nation world had lost its princess, was deep in grief...and looking to the Queen for consolation. But she wanted to abide by protocols of duty and nobility. That was tradition and tradition was sacred.
The Queen was struggling with a world imploring her to 'modernize' the monarchy into one based less on dignity, much more on sensitivity. Especially given the person that people most related to was Princess Diana--and Diana was the "People's Princess" because she signified personality (not protocol) and vulnerability (not regal values).
This was a display of emotion and outreach that the Queen couldn't relate to; it wasn't how she was raised, and it wasn't true to tradition. But the world was changing around her, the death of Diana just made her resistance to change...or her insistence on maintaining tradition...more pronounced.
What struck me about the film were its parallels to the current business environment, and its struggles with the dynamic changes of Web 2.0. In essence, we have the liberalist movement of consumers being connected and, hence, in more control. And then we many businesses simply not able to relate...which positions them as cold (or just plain irrelevant).
While some businesses are modernizing, many others are sticking to tradition through:
- waiting for it to 'go away', just as the Queen's husband tells her "just wait and see, the public cries will go away in 48 hours" (they didn't).
- sticking to 'policy', like with the Queen saying "My role means duty first, self second." (she let go of duty in the end).
- staying behind their walls, as with the Queen saying "Restraint and dignity must be shown since that is what England is admired for." (and yet the public only started admiring her when she reached-out to them).
At one point in the film when the royal family refuses to reach-out to the people, amid their consistent cries, Prime Minister Blair exclaims to his staff, "Will somebody please save these people from themselves!" I found that especially telling as I've felt this frustration when trying to explain how the trends of Web 2.0--not just the tools--signal a mandate to modernize (along with a bunch of opportunity).
But then again, when the polls show the monarchy's popularity has plummeted, the Queen finally acknowledges, "But I can see the world has changed...and one must modernize." So if a one-thousand year old monarchy can take some steps towards change, then maybe even the most traditional businesses can too.
(And if they don't they should regard this film as a cautionary tale.)
PS: MarketingProfs featured this piece--and their take on it--right here.