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The Doing

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ROI by Frank J. Rich

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Frank J. Rich

 

 

Fancy Footwork

 

There once was a boy named Blue

Who sat around waiting his cue.

 

When the signal came,

He was stuck in his place.

 

Finding others to blame,

Or another to do it, thank Grace.

 

I recently walked around the workplace of a client. The invitation came after my question about the culture of the organization. I approached people in conversation to catch a piece of what they were saying. Not surprisingly, I walked in on a lot of “Little Boy Blue”s, that fabled boy who put his toys away, then outgrew the use of them.

I was struck by how many people want to know why they put off doing what they know they ought to do and are more than capable of doing. Despite this, they can’t seem to “find the time” to do them. It’s the disease of middle managers, though not unique to them. In fact, studies show that although 95% of managers say the right things, only 5% of them do them. The excuses are a kind of fancy footwork that deflects the MBO (management by objective) popular in the workplace. Indeed, putting things off is one of the two major reasons 70% of all organizations are in failure mode.

This model of achievement brings me to the general election and the question over what candidates either have accomplished or plan to achieve. When asked why after thirty plus years in public service and promises to accomplish the same things on her current platform, Hillary Clinton answered that a Republican Congress was the reason. Clearly, Donald Trump carries his own baggage to the race, but he responded thoughtfully in asking why that should matter for a person so gifted and determined as she.

The typical candidate makes promises, enters office and things happen. Just how much influence over those things is the office holder? Getting things done, while President of the United States, requires skills — decision making that first considers other’s views, encouraging open debate over issues, data management, advisory personnel management, and the self-esteem to act independent of the need to prove the last guy was wrong. As such, the President does not do the things s/he promises. S/he manages a multitude of issues for the decision making that aids initiatives and progress on them.

Much like the boy in the poem, most of us know what to do, maybe even how to do it. It’s what we were trained in, the functional, the tactical, and the strategy provided in formal schooling or OJT (on-the-job training). And, it’s simple enough, especially after doing it awhile.

I mean — if you want to lose those excess inches, you generally know how to do it. Eat less; move more. Throw out the boxed foods and start sweating. Right?

To have more money you must either earn more, invest more wisely, or spend more conservatively. Do all three, and you will be in good financial shape.

There is really no magic in it. Success in every area of life is this way. Just do it. As Albert Einstein is noted for saying, “Nothing happens until something moves.”

So, why don’t we just get to it? Move it? Get off our posteriors and make things happen? Step away from that apple fritter, chocolate miniatures at the office, ice cream at the end of the day? It’s just commons sense. Right?

Perhaps it’s because we are divided between the “do”s and the”do-not”s. There are those who get it done and those who, like the boy in the poem, wait for others to do the doing. But the sad reality is that those who get what they want do what they must do to get it. They don’t just have. They do, and then they have.

You’ll have to admit, the words have decisiveness in them. Perhaps, this is what achievers have in common with good politicians; they have perspective on the matters they face and openly share them in building consensus decisions.

We all know what to do; it’s slightly more than common sense. But knowledge isn’t enough. It must be used to have real value. It takes courage to take action, to express one’s view in public, to risk making a mistake, to get up off the floor having gained a better understanding of how to succeed and the confidence to execute on it, to conquer fear.

A famous tennis player once quipped when asked why seemingly talented people fail, that “losers are afraid to win, and winners can’t stand to lose.” I hold no stock in the cultural bias that “winning is everything.” It is not the vehicle to lasting success. However, just because you have been a certain way for a long time, don’t believe that you can’t change. You can. You must, if you hope to realize your dreams, at any level of accomplishment.

When you change the images in your mind, your actions will change. When you define yourself differently than you do in this moment, you will be different. When you understand how truly easy it is to do the things necessary to reach your goals, you will be able to do them.

Small steps, one at a time — the Kaizen way. Do it now, not later when things calm down, when spring arrives, when the weather is warmer. NOW!

Yesterday is gone; you can’t get it back. Redefine your life by what you know you can do, not by what you were afraid to do or by what others say you could do.

If you’re dulled by TV for hours a day, or eating to fill the time, or a big fan, but rarely put yourself in a position to win or lose, you’re only practicing the fancy footwork of the effete. It’s the winnowing of the spirit that empowers us to seek the opportunity in achievement. We must start here, with the inner mind. We must take advantage of the fact that the unconscious mind knows no difference between an actual experience and an imagined one. To succeed, we must begin to substitute the unproductive with the fruitful in our lives.

Begin now. More powerful than the will to win is the courage to begin.

October 26, 2016 |

Focus

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ROI by Frank J. Rich

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Frank J. Rich

 

 

 

In an age when instant access to information is both “blessing and a bane,” most struggle with the question of how to manage it for productivity and priorities. The inveigling of information, often presented in the most titillating context, becomes a distraction as much as an education for productive ends. Information overload, notwithstanding, the natural tendency to overwork an initiative, concept development, or simple task, is near as common as underworking them. The methodologies in the remedy are too numerous to mention, but boil down to one underlying skill—the ability to focus or concentrate on the goal or task at hand, and to finish it.

Sadly, this kind of concentration is uncommon to most, leaving us with very little of the stuff that succeeds to work with. In fact, according to studies, (NeuroLeadership Institute), workers achieve true focus only six hours during a forty-five-hour workweek. Surely, this can’t mean that we don’t accomplish our goals, though this is another matter for discussion, but it does raise the question as to how and how better we might do so.

Since people tend to do their best thinking outside the office (when we feel more free to “think” instead of “doing”), and then mostly in the morning or late at night, it would suggest that work schedules would benefit from a change. Actually, the conclusion is a focus on the wrong issue. We do better to adjust how we work and not when we work, though it takes nothing away from the early morning and late night efficiencies. For instance, devoting some time, before and after work, to thinking about the work ahead, and a review of the day’s accomplishments and approach, helps narrow a focus on the differences between what we plan to do and what we actually accomplished that day. If the reasons for both are clearer, then so too, is the path to greater productivity. All of this requires a focus on improving our approach to work.

How We Concentrate

In deciding to prioritize our work—at home or on the job—we begin the process of focusing our energy and resources on what to do in a hierarchical manner. The next element of focus is to remove distractions that might change the order in which we operate most productively, followed by a visual model of the end result. This process is not so foreign to us as it might seem in the formal mention of it here. We naturally incline toward a complete picture of things when in “relate” mode. That is to say, that we consider more fully the beginning and the end of the things we do, such as driving a car through a turn. We first judge a clear path, then potential obstacles to the task. Finally, we map our view of the task against our actual experience. The clear image that forms, as the brain narrows on each aspect of the task, prepares us best for the focus necessary to achieve the expected result. Of course, when moving through life too quickly, we are often in “reaction” mode. This state of awareness usually produces different results entirely.

While it is desirable to maintain focus, especially when performing in sports and music, for example, breaking from it is useful and natural, as the brain will alert us to things that might need attention. Someone walking into your office, or your one-year old crying, is an example. Without question, survival and reward are natural urges, or desirable breaks for safety and encouragement.

Notwithstanding, it can take between five and twenty-five minutes to regain one’s focus, according to studies. So, it is important to reconsider the focused item for relevance to the task at hand. There may be no significant difference in the quality of work after interruptions, but they are frequent—every three to ten minutes for office workers—and likely to disrupt one’s workflow and concentration. Surprisingly, it is not others alone that cause our interruptions, as we are responsible for 44 percent of them ourselves. Multitasking is likely the culprit here, as most have accepted the mistaken view that the practice aids productivity. According to studies, it does not. This is not to suggest that breaks of twenty to thirty minutes after two hours of focused activity (the range of concentration for humans) are bad, but that frequent interruptions impede results.

According to a Stanford University study of multitaskers, they have more difficulty ignoring cues that are orthogonal to their primary tasks. As such, it may actually be training our brains to be unfocused, as though it were a good thing. Since most workers and homemakers are held in high esteem for being first up/in and last to bed or to leave the office, and able to handle a variety of tasks simultaneously, we have come to feel better (about ourselves) when in this category. Interestingly, the NeuroLeadership Institute concluded that multitasking actually “drops our IQ, causing us to make mistakes and miss subtle cues.” So, in effect, “it makes us stupid.”

Instead, try focusing on something for twenty-five minutes; then take a five-minute break—the Pomodoro Effect. It proposes that, after awhile, you won’t be aware that the twenty-five minutes have passed.

One of the reasons we lose our focus is fuzzy motivation. If we don’t know where we’re going, or why, it’s difficult to get there. When our motivation is clear, our attitudes change and we transform how we work. When truly interested and passionate about what we do, concentration comes easy.

October 19, 2016 |

The Finish

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ROI by Frank J. Rich

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Frank J. Rich

 

 

When focused on the completion of a skillful act, Allen Iverson of NBA fame, watched every shot attempt to the very end of its flight, as though an electronic guidance system were directing its course. Tennis champions patiently approach their shots with the concentration of a cat after prey, riveted on the small spherical missile headed their way, calculating the backswing that will measure pace, distance, trajectory, placement, and spin, while watching the ball into and through the racket. Decision leaders carefully consider the views and experience of others, the moment’s dynamics, and the ROI in decision making with the focus and aplomb of the uniquely self-assured.

Finish is defined as the effective completion of something; and which most often contributes to a planned result. Though very similar to the definition of success—the achievement of a planned goal—the finish (in all things) is that moment of accomplishment that meets the goal, apart from all else that is going on around it.

Inexorably tied to focus, the finish requires concentration on something until it is done. This applies most to accomplishments achieved in short moments; the accurate shooting of a basketball, summarizing the views of many to reduce the ardor in re-examining each in detail, evenly slicing bread, or managing the ingredients of a recipe coming together. Longer-reach accomplishments are best achieved after several breaks to refresh the mind and clarify base understandings such as task goals and the motivation in achieving them.

The finish is so uniquely qualifying that the success of a task is largely dependent on it. One may spend hours on a project that is late against its deadline only to discover that the direction of the initiative has changed without benefit of that work. Every writer must come to a conclusion that both restates the theme and summarizes the meaning in the work. Airline passengers don’t applaud a successful flight, but rather, a successful landing. Rewards follow the finish, which is why when asked if he was happy with the scoring of 40 points in a game, Allen Iverson would typically say that he missed too many shots.

Perhaps, the greatest obstacle to finishing what we start is ultimately us—our fears, anxieties, and doubts. This does not count the pause to consider one’s experience or the approach of others known for successful behavior. It isn’t about making it the best that it can be. It is most often our fears that keep us from the finish line.

We learn most from our failures; this, largely because judgment suffers most when we succeed at something, when the adulation of others washes us with an overactive sense of ourselves. Success seldom reveals improvements. It too often suggests that we have no growth to achieve. This seldom is the case for any endeavor. There is always more to learn. Even a perfect score on a test can be undone by questions of historicity—how we know what we know. In the end, the longer it takes us to get to the finish of things, the longer it takes us to improve and to move the indicative along.

A fundamental part of the finish is giving one’s work over to another. This most often grows perspective on the work and its approach, nuance, clarity, and completeness. Every writer needs an editor, as the saying goes. This fundamental adds accountability and a deeper sense of commitment to the work, usually an interdependent collaborative. Giving the work over to review aids a better result. It eases the fear of exposure by valuing others. This most often increases the desire for team members to be helpful, and less competitive. Ultimately, review reduces risks and criticism, replacing it with encouragement and constructive alternative views.

Many are known for their ideation ways; more still believe this is the contribution necessary to organizational endeavors. The well-known TV commercial about how consultants pop in, drop their ideas, then disappear, leaving the work to others, rings true, though not the method of serious consultants. Nonetheless, we are too often the victims of a low self-esteem, grasping at “home run” models, while others do the plodding. The best practice hard, and perfect the finish.

When things don’t work out we feel it, especially if we prepared hard and invested heavily in the outcome, only to have failed to deliver on the promise. This reality encourages a drive-by ethic that hits hard but stays little. Clearly, it’s easier to come up with ideas than to finish what we start, but the results are seldom equally rewarded, at least in real terms. This is why our real identity needs a secure foundation before tying it to one thing alone, such as our roles. When the goal eludes us we are best to consider the elements of the next try, and not our self-worth. Allen Iverson never stopped believing in himself, that he could make every shot he took. He did not think of himself as less for failing to achieve that goal despite his failure to do so. Very few NBA players shoot better than 50 percent.

In the end, we mean to make a difference, however small. Remember, the definition of success is the accomplishment of a planned goal. At times it requires that we go at it again and again. We might all be reading by candlelight had not Thomas Edison performed 10,000 experiments before his light bulb succeeded.

October 12, 2016 |

Let’s Advertise, But Where?

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ROI by Frank J. Rich

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Frank J. Rich

 

 

 

Advertisers may be getting smarter or just more courageous in commenting on just how poorly much of their “digital” media spending is falling on deaf ears. Either way, smarter is the result. Before we get our knickers in a wad, this is no indictment against the use of digital media. But like all things the choice of “marketing” tools has its place.

For SMBs (small and medium size businesses) there is growing awareness that Facebook’s changing EdgeRank algorithms are yielding less and less from posting and “like” drumming than most realized. Not unlike Google’s system for ranking search results, dictating what content will appear at the top of each user’s news feed based on a sliding scale of relevance, these algorithms have meant declining “post and like” responses from consumers, according to reports. Broken down, every piece of content is an object and every interaction with said content is an “edge”—hence the idiom “EdgeRank.”

If brands were to produce vast amounts of content, typical users would be overwhelmed by it as they attempted to connect with their friends. It could dissuade those users from liking certain pages that post a lot just so they appear more in a feed. It isn’t just large brands that aren’t reaching their audiences—small businesses are feeling the hurt as well. The decline in posts is now reaching, on average, less than 10 percent of followers across all businesses—large and small. How does it make you feel to know that 90 percent of your target audience will never see your latest message? And the real effect on SMBs has yet to dawn on this group that may not be aware of Facebook’s tinkering with their algorithms. It’s a little like a soup on high that has boiled all of the flavor out of its ingredients.

Recent moves by Time magazine and others to place advertising on hallowed ground, heretofore reserved for editorial, has many wondering over the obvious—is advertising really so important to consumers’ decision making, or are advertisers such as Time hurting so badly that help is anywhere you can find it?

Expanding the ad hole is, well, what every media product has always sought to do; so what’s all the fuss? Advertiser-supported publications selling advertising space to advertisers, magazines and newspapers have always put editorial up for sale.

Called “native advertising,” it is content that looks just like editorial and is surrounded by editorial but is created for or by an advertiser, usually with minimal disclosure—ads as stories.

The goal is the same: the publication’s credibility and the reader’s trust might move to the advertiser. It’s what publications have always done… because ad-supported media needs the money.

The appeal of a borderless fan base may have more advertisers spending their marketing dollars elsewhere, such as on search. But for local businesses and brands as well, the ROI on print remains the best bet. Print is a browse media that warms the senses more than all other media forms, and so, relates more easily to the reader. When in consumer mode, the readers, who spend the overwhelming majority of their disposable income locally, naturally find the goods and services they need within a short walk or car ride. The nine-tenths of those who don’t “post or like” on company Facebook pages are the ones responding to print advertising, the biggest delivery system in the marketplace.

October 5, 2016 |

The Best

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ROI by Frank J. Rich

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Frank J. Rich

 

I am taking a break from the series on John Naisbitt’s book Mind Set! today to deliver a contemplative message of opportunity. I trust you found interesting and exciting Naisbett’s look into the future.

For most of us, an expression of our ideal image is the way we like to see ourselves. It’s a kind of “best look” at the individual we imagine in our “ideal” mind. When we project “ideal behavior” we tend to think of ourselves in the “best” possible light, the way we’d like others to see us. Our self-image forms of it—at least in the way we like others to see us.

We often confront, growing up, a comparison between our potential and our actual performance. The process is self-assessment, and those serious about their performance will do it on a regular basis. Among other things, it provides a way of measuring our contribution to the goals we have, a kind of “system check” of how we’re doing at any given point in time. Socrates went so far as to say: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Fair enough, but what is our best, and how do we achieve it?

Among those who think about this issue—including most of you reading this column—is Chris Widener, a well-known speaker and thinker on matters of behavior in the workplace. In addition to his role as a radio host, he is the author of five books, an audio series, and over 350 success articles. Having written nearly as many articles on the subject myself, I am familiar with his work and his ethic in preparing people for their greatest achievement. When asked recently to speak to a group about how to become “simply the best,” he came up with the idea of a “best” test, that is, “what are the characteristics of those who become the “best” at what they do?” Following is a written summary of that talk, which I pass on as it was given to me. I trust you will find it useful in your own efforts to be the best that you can be.

  1. The Best Are Optimists. You can’t get to the top if you don’t think that there is a top, or if you think you can’t make it. One characteristic of those who reach the peak is that they always believe that things can get better or be done better. This pushes them on to be their best.
  1. The Best Have Vision. They can see ahead of the pack. Their eyes aren’t locked into the here and now. They see the bright future and what things will look like when they reach their destiny. While working hard for today, they live for the future! They do what Stephen Covey calls “begin with the end in mind.”
  1. The Best Relentlessly Pursue Excellence. The status quo is not for them. They want to be the best and experience the best. And that means giving their best. They go the extra mile so that in everything they do, in everything they say and think, they are striving for excellence.
  1. The Best Have a Life Long Habit of Personal Growth. They avoid becoming stuck. They want to grow in their work, their intellect, their spirituality, their relationships, and in every area of their lives. And they find the discipline to put themselves in situations wherein they grow. Personal growth doesn’t “just happen.” You choose to grow. I always suggest what Zig Ziglar does and that is to enroll in “Automobile University.” Whenever you are driving around, listen to a personal or professional growth CD. Over the long run you will grow. Also, read more. The old saying is true: Leaders are readers. So are those who pass the “Best” test.
  1. The Best Understand That They Will Be Pushed by the Competition, and They Welcome It. Like the lead runner in the race who has someone on his heels, the best know that the competition is right behind them. They love it though, because they know that the competition keeps them from indolence and resting on laurels. Instead, the competition pushes them to go faster and to achieve more, to remain the best by forging ahead.
  1. The Best Have a Quest for Leadership. Someone has to lead; it may as well be the best! Those who attain it get there because they want to. They want to lead and help make a difference. And they want to be equipped with the skills necessary to lead others on to a better place.
  1. The Best Leave a Legacy. They aren’t in it just for themselves, though they will surely reap the rewards of being the best. Rather, they build things that last beyond themselves, things enjoyed by others as well.
  1. The Best Are Adept at the Two Most Important Pieces of Time and Personal Management: Prioritize and Execute. Just as weight loss boils down to eat right and exercise, personal management boils down to prioritize and execute. First, prioritize your activities. The important stuff goes on the top. Then, execute: do them. The best have habits and discipline that get them to the top by doing the best things and doing them first.
  1. The Best Focus on Building Relationships. Success does not come alone. Everyone who achieves much does it with the help of countless others. How do the Best get others to help them? They treat them right. They embrace them and help them. People become the best because they help other people, and people like them.
  1. The Best Make No Excuses. When they fail, they admit it and move on. They get back up and do it right the next time. They let their actions speak louder than their words. They stand tall and do the right thing the next time. No excuses, just results.
  1. The Best Don’t Settle. “Good” becomes the enemy when we settle for it instead of striving for the best. When it keeps us from the best, “good” is the enemy. We choose to grow (look at #4 above). We must choose to be the best, if “good” is to be improved upon. The Best choose, you guessed it, the Best.
  1. The Best Dare to Dream. While others live the mundane and settle into a life they never bargained for—a rut—the best dream of a better life. And then they take the risks necessary to achieve their dreams. They live by one of Teddy Roosevelt’s encouragements: “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs though checkered by failure, then to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

Want to be the best at what you do? Take inventory on the above characteristics and then start moving to bring your life in line with the characteristics of the “best.” Then when you get to the top you will know that you have passed the “Best” test.

In the midst of this upcoming holiday season, in which we consider our lives and purpose going forward, Roosevelt’s words are the prescient redux in the hearts of all “men” of good will. Not coincidentally, the founder of this “paper” was often heard recanting this very sentiment in his drive to excellence—“First we will be Best, then we will be First.”

 

September 28, 2016 |

Ready or Not, Here I Come (Part II)

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ROI by Frank J. Rich

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Frank J. Rich

 

 

Last week, in introducing John Naisbitt’s vision of the future we focused on the cultural aspects of his insightful look at the world we live and work in. This week, we draw attention to the economic and evolutionary aspects of his extraordinary vision.

From Nation-States to Economic Domains

We are fast creating a world whose produce is GDP (Gross Domain Product), according to Mr. Naisbitt. This world shares not only the natural resources of all nations, but also their talent. Globalization and decentralization are the magma causing this eruption of traditional economic models, and giving impetus to a fundamental economic underpinning: “It is not countries, but entrepreneurs and companies that create and revitalize economies.” Governments, like corporate management, have but a single overarching goal—to create motivational environments that foster growth and opportunity.

In his work over 20 years, Michael Shuman, author, speaker, and economic model maker, has defined the model of resurgence that has populated economic growth at the grass roots level.  His book The Small-Mart Revolution, is a milestone work that touches the very soul of human nature in suggesting that the unique qualities in each are the driving forces of a market economy; it alone is enabling the economic revolution that creates more jobs and unique products and services than a thousand Walmarts. The winner in this new (and old) economic order is “smart, small, and flexible.”

China: The Periphery Is the Center

Make no mistake about it; the transforming of China into the fastest growing economy in the world (24% annually, till recently) has been on the back of solid economic policies. There may be no communists in China anymore; the private sector is the most vibrant and significant economic force in the nation, and its sheer force of being will cause political reforms that prepare it even better for its extraordinary growth into the future.

Economic zones are a common reality in a nation still struggling to lift its population out of poverty. With this view in mind the government has spawned economic opportunity models that reach into agrarian pockets to extract the most marketable elements of them for distribution to its more mechanized areas, as if confident in the knowledge that when the tide rises all boats rise with it. The “tide” in China is “capitalism in Chinese characters.” China has 166 cities with greater than 1 million people, compared with 12 in Japan and 9 in the U.S. Almost all have been turned into vast construction zones, and nary a person in them is reluctant about the transformation that is occurring—a far cry from the disenfranchised worker in most industrialized nations who hates his job.

Everything in America—the rich, cars, tourism, filmmaking, educational and artistic classlessness—is now evident (in some form) in China, and the people are enjoying it as though value in everything is a given. Strangely, if China faces a problem, it may be a shortage of the 300 million people necessary to keep the economic boom afloat over the next ten years of growth.

Europe: Mutually Assured Decline

I am likened to say that the higher the price we pay for the positions we take, the harder it is to relinquish them. As John Naisbitt puts it: “The ‘Statue of Europe’ has two hearts and 25 mindsets.” The 25 country mindsets are stirring a mixture with ingredients that do not blend: tradition, ambition, welfare, and economic leadership. Her two hearts beat in different rhythms, one for economic supremacy and one for social welfare. Proud and ambitious, each one wants to be right. To reach either goal, they have to compromise, and neither side is willing to do so. My experience makes me believe that Europe is much more likely to become a history theme park for Americans and Asians than the world’s most economically dynamic region as it has proclaimed it wants to be. Economically, Europe is on the path of  “mutually assured decline.” Enough said! Brexit may be the first pillar to crumble.

Our Evolutionary Era

The era of “discontinuous changes,” Peter Drucker’s view of innovation emanating from every corner of thought and endeavor, has laid the foundation for the practical realization of a vast store of it. Ninety percent of the greatest scientific minds the world has ever known are alive today. The next big thing, according to Mr. Naisbitt, may not come along for some time. Rather, the world will learn to use what it has in extraordinary and new ways.

The great tool that is the internet has a dark side. For all of its power and ability to bring the world into our homes and offices, the sheer weight of it is too much. We need to harness its greatness in practical ways that serve our interests and work with intuitive and more specific and useful data. If we fail, literacy and the power in knowledge will elude us.

The Lockheed L-1011 aircraft was the first commercial plane that could take off, land, and fly a course without human intervention. It was prescient in its practice, even as far back as the 80s. The joke in aviation circles today is that the future will bring planes with only a pilot and a dog in the cockpit. The pilot’s job will be to feed the dog. The dog’s job will be to bite the pilot if he touches anything.

The extraordinary technology that gave rise to the iPod’s success was well developed a decade before its debut. Its exciting form, functionality, and design are what made it the choice of the world for MP3 players, accounting for 40% of Apple’s revenues at the time.

It is time for the evolutionary process to improve our lives, to unify peoples, to perform against the promise of peace in the world. It is time to face the dark side—literacy is waning. It is time to face the bright side—to question what we are, and to use the technology and insight we have spawned to serve the greater good.

 

September 21, 2016 |

Ready or Not, Here I Come (Part I)

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ROI by Frank J. Rich

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Frank J. Rich

 

 

Most of us remember the lyrics in the phrase above; it’s the warning that follows the count in a game of “hide and seek.” It causes all (not yet hidden) to select a final hidey-hole in order to improve the hope of survival—to “not be discovered without protection.” Those hiding would do well to anticipate the end of the count so to increase their chances of winning the game. In the final chapters of his book, Mind Set!, John Naisbitt draws a bead on the future, and in the revealing of it means to give us some “warning” about what is to come. Much as the game described above, he believes that it is necessary to prepare for what is coming to improve our chances of survival in the game of life. Ready or not, here it comes!

A Visual Culture Is Emerging

“It is an MTV world, a world where visual narrative is overwhelming literary narrative.” These words usher us into the future. Mr. Naisbitt unfolds his view of it by a discussion of five areas: culture, economics, China, Europe, and our evolutionary era. It is fitting that he begins with “culture,” pronouncing that, increasingly people are becoming more visually oriented and less literally biased. This means that folks read less (the novel is in rapid decline), and rely more heavily on what they can garner quickly, and by the hand of visual mediums—TV, billboard-like communiqués, email, instant messaging, etc. The resurgent comic book may be a leading indicator of things to come. Indeed, the only category of novel gaining ground is the graphic novel. A graphic novel (GN) is a long-form work in the comics form, usually with lengthy and complex storylines, and often aimed at mature audiences. Works created and published as a single narrative, without prior appearance in magazines, comic books or newspapers, are called original graphic novels (OGN). National Book Awards for the past 3 years have gone to books that sold less than 2500 copies—one fewer than 200 copies. Not even the National Book Foundation (sponsor of the annual Awards) has awakened to the fact that America is losing its literacy.

America faces a literacy challenge that favors a “visual” world with education in technology and the arts, because these areas deliver the kinds of products that feed a visual society. How can we be sure this shift is occurring, Mr. Naisbitt asks and answers with eight forces he believes are pushing us toward a visually dominant world:

•    The slow death of the newspaper culture—Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp., once described classified ad revenues as a “river of gold.” “I don’t know anyone under 30 who has ever looked at a classified ad in a newspaper,” he said recently.

•    Advertising—back to “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Advertising is rushing away from copy to “visual narrative.” As Andre Agassi, the tennis great, used to say: “Everything is image.” For Benetton, the clothier, selling the theme of racial harmony and world peace means selling a lot more clothing.  When you can draw attention to social issues, you generate discussions, creating a kind of social network with a strong identity. Sales to that group then just happen. Ads are everywhere—even on eggs in the supermarket. Thinking sports? Forget uniforms and race cars! Says Naisbitt, “skin is in.” Anything that is packaged is fair game—pharmaceuticals, shampoos, takeout food, lunch bags.

•    Upscale design for common goods—“Fifteen years ago companies competed on the basis of price. Now it’s quality. Tomorrow it’s design.” Just take a look at what Apple Computer has done over the years, especially after the return of its founder Steve Jobs. The company opens a new Apple Store every 9 days.

•    Architecture as visual art—Identity through design has made architecture a standout model over the years. More than ever before it is a way to express the unique quality in societies, and an economic boon to locals surrounding it.  Even nations find opportunity in an identity through it, as apparent in democratically resurgent Spain. The new Guggenheim in Bilbao, outside Madrid, is part of a reconstruction that includes a new airport, a cultural and business center, and is helping to transform the Basque region from the anti-modern, autocratic and orthodox state of the fascist era to a new democratic empowerment.

•    Fashion, architecture, and art—A confluence of saturating and beautiful visual effects is quickly transforming luxury product introductions into events of such celebrity that customers are compelled to buying en masse. This is in contrast to a waning market for luxury items whose differences have homogenized their appeal.

•    Music, video, and film—It’s simple—anytime, anywhere. Soon, we will be treated to any information in any format without need of moving any body part but the eyes. The handheld device will deliver it all.

•   The changing role of photography—The camera once only caught what one could see; now the medium is valued for capturing what cannot be seen. And thus, photographs have become art, selling for as high as $2.92 million  (The Pond, Moonlight by Edward Steichen.)

  •  The democratization of the American art museum—“Contemporary art is neither just a product nor a private cultural pleasure: it has become a way of life.” Once, the sports car, racehorses, and the yacht were the signs of chic aristocrats. Today, it is an art collection, and the museums are full to overflowing with the product of a visually oriented world—from every walk-of-life.

 

Next week, we’ll close this summary of Mr. Naisbitt’s look into the future with a focus on the economic and evolutionary aspect of his vision. I hope you will join me. Those of you that do may claim a ½-OFF Classified Ad in the PennySaver by emailing me of your interest in the columns. Write: I enjoyed most (choose one or more aspects of the columns) the “ ……………………” in the columns.

 

 

 

September 14, 2016 |
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