Understanding Customers: Shaping Our Future through Understanding Social Change


October 24, 2005


Mary Ann Allison


How do you make sure you can see and understand the critical social processes of your customers-both the millions who have adapted to the emerging social age and the millions who haven’t yet made this change? The way in which you and others understand and automate our social processes will shape human beings for centuries: not just your children or your grandchildren but whole societies.

Each social age automates the prior age: during the Agricultural Revolution with farming, we “automated” hunting and gathering by growing plants and animals where we were living; during the Industrial Revolution, we automated manual labor in steam engines and factories; and now in the Information Revolution with social software we humans are automating social processes. Microsoft is on the forefront of this automation.

If you are over 20, you are a digital immigrant living in a world where all the rules have changed. Most of what you learned so far in life fit a society that no longer exists. Why is logic no longer enough for good decision making? Why are trade agreements that protect American jobs bad for your company’s and your children’s future? How are terrorist groups and other-more beneficial-groups of purpose better organized than most businesses and governments in a wired world? Why should you make sure your children learn to multi-task and speed date?


Mary Ann Allison

Dr. Mary Ann Allison’s research is into the nature of societal change and changes in community, with a focus on virtual community. She has developed a robust model which enables individuals, groups, and organizations to understand and ground themselves in the current changes taking place in Western society. The model has shown itself to be highly predictive and she is now exploring these capabilities.When talking about globalization, communication technologies, and changing markets, Allison draws on her experience as a VP at Citigroup where she developed emerging technologies on a global basis. She opened the first virtual branch bank, built Citi’s online banking service, and created their global banking-by-telephone offering.Allison is a futurist who conducts research into the nature of community and social change and a principal of the Allison Group, a New York-based international consulting firm which works with businesses, governments, and NGOs to improve their capacity to generate positive results in rapidly-changing environments.Allison co-wrote The Complexity Advantage: How the Science of Complexity Can Help Your Business Achieve Peak Performance. In addition Allison has presented numerous articles and papers, as well as writing Managing Up, Managing Down, a practical book on middle management techniques. She has both an M.B.A. and a Ph.D., the latter in Culture and Communications from New York University. She is a certified New York City Artist-in-Residence for her poetry and is profiled in Who’s Who in America.