In Gaurav Marya’s, author of Franchising and Take Charge, third book, “It Takes Two To Tango”, which builds a case for how we have emerged into a customer dominated, shape-shifting world, there’s a mention of Karl Fisch’s “Shift Happens” video that sets up the premise behind the changing world demographics and the technological shift. Let’s read what it is all about:

Go to your favourite search engine on the Internet and type out the words “Shift Happens”. Amongst the first five items will be a presentation with the same title. Watch it! The moment I first saw it I liked it. It was this that inspired the foundation of this book. Let me tell you the story behind this presentation. In 2006, Karl Fisch, a schoolteacher in the United States was invited by his school administration to address the beginning-of-the-year faculty meeting. He decided to take the help of a friend and prepared a presentation that confronted his colleagues with dramatic, thought-provoking facts. A copy of the slideshow was placed on Karl Fisch’s blog on August 15, 2006, and it went viral.

By June 2007, five million people across the globe had seen an improved version of the original slideshow. Over the years, many versions of the audio-visual have been made. David S. Rose, who is the Chair for Finance and Entrepreneurship at Singularity University, and is also the Chairman of the New York Angels investment association, did version 6.0 in January 2012. By that time, more than 20 million people had viewed one or the other edition of the presentation. The structure of the AV is very simple. It starts with a simple question: “Did you know?” And then it presents facts based on a theme. This structure is repeated across various themes. In the original slideshow, though, the first part pertained specifically to Karl’s school, it has been removed from the versions available on the Internet.

One of the themes dealt with is changing world demographics. The case is made that in the foreseeable future, a majority of educated English-speaking population in the world will be from India and China. Looking back at history, we are reminded that the leading country in the world in 1990s was the United Kingdom. The implication is that USA need not always be the leading economy or paramount nation. The inference that viewers draw is that soon Asia, led by China and India, will be the centre of the economic world. The message is reinforced by facts showing that the US is lagging behind other countries in Internet penetration. This is a significant point as world over the Internet users are growing to become communities even larger than most nations. With 800 million accounts in December 2011, a nation of Facebook community is now the world’s third-largest country.

Technological change is making the twenty-first-century world witness exponential change. The first text message was sent in December 1992; the number of text messages sent and received today exceeds the population of the planet. The years it took to reach a market audience of 50 million in the era of radio was 38 years, for TV – 13 years, for the Internet – 4 years, for the iPod – 3 years, for the Facebook – 2 years and for Google+ — just a year!

The conclusion of Karl Fisch’s message is a simple yet profound one. He takes the American slang version of the philosophical French phase c’est la vie! (Such is life), which is “Sh_t happens!” and adds an “f” to it, saying, “Shift Happens”.

We have for too long measured customer impact in terms of demographics and market share. We need to focus deeper into the impact we make in the lives of individual customers. This calls for a more intimate knowledge of our customer. Write in to us in the comments’ section for your opinions on this.

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