Reversing Ideas About Engagement

by Jay Deragon on 10/03/2013

reverse thinkingIt seems like every business wants to “engage” us. Engagement has become the new management mantra and piles of money are being spent on learning from engagement experts who will show you how your business can engage a market. As stated in an earlier post, the web has become the petri dish of social engagements for brands.

While there are significant bottom line business benefits from effectively engaging stakeholders companies really don’t engage anyone only people do.

You can study how people engage online and dissect their behavior based on demographics, product offerings, market segment and every kind of metric you can imagine. But all the market studies in the world and you can add all the latest social technology to your web site but none of that will make your company more engaging. So what makes a company more engaging?  Let’s look at engagement from a different perspective.

The Three P’s

Engagement is part of intangible capital that stems from the emotional involvement of human capital. Human capital is an total economic view of the human being acting within economies, which is an attempt to capture the social, biological, cultural and psychological complexity as they interact in explicit and/or economic transactions.  Economic transactions represent an exchange of value between two or more parties. The exchange of value includes people, processes and products/services that create transactions from the exchanges.

Certainly companies represent people, processes and products/services but a company is merely the container of the things that people actually engage with.  Let’s look at three different companies as an example:

  1. Apple makes outstanding products that people engage with. There processes create unique experiences that people fall in love with and competitors chase. Their people inside the company clearly show their love for the products. The people who buy the products do the same. Both engage with the product every day hundreds of times a day.  The company’s value benefits from these engagements but doesn’t really engage with anyone. They enable people to engage.
  2. Zappo’s creates outstanding service through its people and processes. They carry the same shoes, products, as many of the major retailers.  The people inside love working at Zappo’s. The people outside love the service. The processes are refreshing and unique and they stand behind every product sold, no questions asked. They build the most valuable intangible product, trust. Trust enables everyone to engage.
  3. Comcast sells cable services. The company promises good service. You call for service and waste time going through many prompts to get to a real person. When you finally talk to someone they show little emotional investment in solving your problem or feeling your pain.  They end up passing you to another person who puts you on hold while you listen to instructions on how to solve your own problems by going online and reviewing their FAQ’s. And they wonder why people don’t like engaging with Comcast.

The difference between these three companies is two unleashed the power of human capital which enabled the evidence and influence of relationship capital on the markets. They also created a new experience for buyers by empowering them with choices and capabilities others could not provide. Apple actual enabled the human network to expand engagements by using their products. Meanwhile the third company chose to not enable people to engage at all.

The best engagement strategy is not to try and get people to engage with you rather enable them to engage with anyone because of your people, processes or products.


Matthew Alston October 10, 2013 at 11:17 am


Many companies say their most important resource is their people.

Sadly many companies use a compliance based top down management model that destroys the trust, team building, and synergy that could have existed.

A simple observation is that customers interact with people not companies. If your people hate their job and feel no autonomy, no growth in their job and feel no affinity for the purpose the company is acting out then you get dull lifeless employees and that leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the customer.

Classic case of getting what you deserve if you run your company that way.

I find it comical that companies think compliance is better than making happy customers. After all, all revenue comes from customers.

Companies need to see their employees as the customers from an executive point of view and do what makes them feel valued and excited then give them the tools to do their job and get out of the way.

Matt Alston

Arnold October 3, 2013 at 10:05 am

While engagement is intangible capital, I take from this article engagement is desired objective for extended engagement with others. It seems to me the premise of engagement is because of one’s people, processes or products are really vehicles for something greater, the intangible capital of the “value” created through the people, processes and products. Should not the focus be value creation? Indirectly, the article speaks of value creation through products and services but the focus seems to be more on the products and services rather than the value creation of “enable….” (Apple) and “trust” (Zappo’s) in contrast to “pain” (Comcast0. Shouldn’t we be asking what “value” are we creating on behalf of another and use our measures of “engagement” not as an end in itself but to assess the success of value creation?

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