Chasing Happy

What makes you happy? Are you happy about that? Will you be happy if that happens? We wish you all the happiness in the world…

Our preoccupation with "happiness" is not any new phenomenon, but can it really show the world what kind of people we are? Is what makes you happy is more personal than universal? Because though the topics (family, friends, wealth, etc.) are same for most, aren’t what they mean are vastly different in the context of a rapidly evolving global culture?

It is also evident that the amount of effort we put into becoming happy is proportional to how long we think that happiness is going to last. Why?

Somehow, we’ve convinced ourselves that happy is something we can chase and catch and every smart brand has been capitalizing on it ever since. How’d that happen? Well, for one, it’s written as a purpose in the beginning of the US constitution (you know, "…the pursuit of happiness" part)…but more importantly, I think it is because we are too emotionally involved in our own pursuit of it to see its relevance in the larger emotional context.

What if instead we focused on enjoying contentment from time to time as it arrived as a byproduct of a purposeful existence? Would that be a more accurate depiction of cause and effect easier to live with? If you don’t think so, just think about the old adage:

The pursuit of happiness is nothing more than a formula for misery.

Have you ever heard of: "When you stop looking for it, it finds you"?
Perhaps in the interconnected world, that’s truer than ever.

Voting For Originality?

"Invention is a Sudden Cessation of Stupidity"

Scientist Edwin Land made that statement, years ago and it is as profound then as it is now. But is there room for invention in areas like mainstream media where we have mass democratization? If we all decide things by committee, will what we vote on be original or merely acceptable enough? American Idol hardly produces the next Aretha Franklin or John Lennon, and Nielsen metrics keeps shows like Fear Factor on the air, so are we to expect more of the same?

Most marketers already know that people really can’t articulate what they want, largely because we’re not really sure of what we want until we see it. So if the truly new things never make it past the vote, will they ever be unique enough to delight? Do we stand the risk of living in an over homogenized world? A world that ironically enough, we didn’t vote for?

How about instead of asking for votes, we gauge by the discretion of people who are accountable and original by qualification?

Or even if the situation calls for public opinion, instead of asking multiple choice can we not ask by selecting pictures that represent the voter’s feelings? That way we’re not deciding upon finite uninformed responses, but rather a deeper reflection of our subconscious psyche that reveal closer to what we really feel. And thus what we will ultimately feel about receiving the experience in question. An example might be something like:
Check out this car. Does this make you feel "yellow" or "blue"?
I’d vote for that, how about you?

Is Saying Nothing More Telling?

Everyone knows that actions speak louder than words. But which actions, when and where and what they actually tell are often a mystery. Whether behavior really helps to find people to sell to, or attracting people that buy from you is a moot point. "Getting" how people really think defines contexts for cause and effect which moves all of us forward. For example, does the following seem true?

Miserly = Greedy
Late = Inconsiderate
Angry = Unfulfilled
Open Minded = Gullible
Trusting = Loyal
Loud = Insecure
Secretive = opportunistic
Abusive = Feels Helpless (in controlling others)

Maybe; but without the questions of context and motive, are they really rules that apply across the board?

Behavior per circumstance always brings unique variables to the mix. Though it can help to rely on these simple explanations, with life and business at stake, these actions may be the wrong place to look.

My feeling is that let people behave as they are. There are too many variables to gauge why someone exactly behaves the way they do. Seeing some of these patterns though is important in assessing your own behavior. If these observations help you close the gap from where you are and where you thought you were, then they are helpful. Trying to do that for those you may want to persuade is just too much work. If you are truly who you want to be, the right kind of people will be attracted to you. That’s a universal rule you can count on.


You wouldn’t use a bulldozer to manage your backyard garden or a toothbrush to scrub the floors; so why would you offer a blanket solution to the most efficient way to spend money?

The right answer to efficiency has nothing to do with down or up-scaling spending but asking the questions that really eliminates waste from the process. The best definition of waste I’ve heard to date is this:

Waste = Any human activity which absorbs resources but creates no value.

So what is efficient spending?

Maybe the first place to look is in nature. In nature, waste is food. True efficiency is not minimizing waste, but to get rid of it altogether. This brings to mind bigger questions of current forms of Capitalism that ignores human and natural capital, but the indicators are clear. Rightsizing is about seeing the entire system at play and see where your particular function fits in to add value. Only from that perspective can one see what is inefficient and adjust accordingly. Otherwise we might as well be bringing a bulldozer to manage Petunias.

Ticket to Ride Waiting for Arrival

The Cluetrain Manifesto inspired people like me to understand the bigger force at play in interconnected markets and I’d never looked back to producer driven economic thinking since. But the promise of conversation and the no bullshit authenticity is hitting roadblocks everywhere I look. The mainstream media is filled with spin and it seems that it is fueled by people’s desire to actually buy this crap!

Some voices of reason crop up from time to time, but truth is often hidden behind hype and it requires too much digging by most to make a difference. Recently, George Galloway let the US Senate have it, and it was absolutely brilliant! But it took some Googling to finally get to it. According to Mediaweek, The Feds are requiring the practice of product placements to be fully disclosed as to not mislead the public, but how do people see the manipulation when the story of a music star’s domestic abuse is featured on ExtraTV? Especially when an ad for her next CD follows during the commercial break? I have great respect for Fast Company magazine for its innovative approach to what I thought was unbiased business journalism, but recently I’ve been seeing FC ads from, an online gambling site as if it was a smart, hip activity. That now makes me question the authenticity of the content…

People in power seldom cede it on their own accord. So idealism aside, the world is not fair, or at least it doesn’t seem fair to those on the other side of the power divide. Interestingly though, as most advertisers can see, the power is obviously shifting to the people.

But as best said by Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben in Spiderman: "…with great power comes great responsibility." Today’s empowered customer can easily go the way of the ancient kings of India who thought they were too smart to be fooled by foreigners. Just as that miscalculation led to many centuries of foreign domination, the newly empowered customer needs foresight before buying into what seems to be in their best interest.

Blogs may seem empowering, but check who’s actually writing them. The same goes for customer reviews, and products that just happen to be available at your favorite hangout. True conversations like the ones promised in the Cluetrain can happen, but before that the wiser amongst us need to point the way. Democratization assumes that each of our inputs equal and indeed they are not. There will be a time when the cycle of mediocrity as perpetuated by the "American Idols" of the world becomes unbearable enough for people to give up their rightful voices to the next charismatic leader that leads them down another doomed path.

Trader or Landlord?

No matter how sophisticated business seems to get, the driving forces behind the people who write the cheques are clear behavioral motivators that are always apparent. It seems that every businessman or woman I’ve met subscribes to either the "trader" or "landlord" mentality at the core.

A "trader" is motivated by moving inventory, whether product(s) or service(s). They have little or no ownership of what they are moving, and for the most part, it doesn’t matter to them whether its porn or priceless paintings. The longer it stays on their side of the door, the longer they feel they are losing out on exchanging it for revenue.Think Wall Street, M&A, and the neighborhood Tony Montana wannabe.

On the other hand, a "landlord" is someone motivated by ownership. Acquisition of property of any kind is the measure of success for them and the revenue paradigm is about creating more value over time for the things that they acquire.Think Wynn, Trump, and even BhulaBhai at the corner motel.

Now I realize that these generalities can be just as pretentious sounding as all the branding and marketing books at Borders that claim 8 principles of this, and 22 laws of that; so how is this observation so different and absolute? Doesn’t an hotelier trade time in their rooms for cash? Doesn’t a trader of merchandise take ownership of their brand? Yes. But we are talking motivation and not just the apparent action on the surface.

I think the main reason these two motivators are prevalent in business today is a narrow view of capitalism as practiced. Capitalism today DOES NOT take into account where the capital ultimately comes from, and it liquidates it in the current form and calls it income. What da Faa?

OK. It’s like this. As long as people seem to profit from moving products and transferring ownership ("owning" is just a longer form of moving product), the wasteful inefficient behavior continues. But when a manufacturer realizes that a supplier of key components is overextended and running behind on deliveries, he takes action to address that does he not? In a connected world, that’s exactly what we have. Our economies are cashing cheques our ecology is failing to cash.

Take the US auto industry for example. It requires paved area equal to all the farmable land in Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania that costs $200 million per day to maintain. It kills a million wild animals per week, and creates 7billion pounds of unrecycled scrap a year. It threatens global climatic stability and agriculture. All to move people from point A to B. Is that really smart? Especially given what we now know about how systems in nature work so well to do the same thing without creating waste and inefficiency? Nature doesn’t have life forms other than us who are traders or landlords, but rather "agents" and "carriers". Hmm interesting…

The previous argument may be a logical scientific view, but even from a human POV, as we see more and more of how cause and effect really work, operating from these core drivers (trading and owning) are quite apparently becoming passé. The pride in ownership (at least the perceived version of it) creates more value than the willingness to turn it over. The ownership of ideas also becomes more important than the ownership of things when dealing with the connected world at large.

So will the purist trader or landlord survive? Perhaps the question is not so much about sticking to their roots, but seeing the benefit of alternate thinking to adapt to a better version of the behavior that survives. It’s not enough to say that: "Just think of the hemophiliac pure breeds that lost their monarchies, and maybe history already has your answer" because that implies most people are willing to analyze their mistakes and think deeply about their predicament. They are not. They will mimic what works and follow the leader. So if you are a leader, reading this, perhaps the thing to think about is something more along the lines of this:

You wouldn’t cash a cheque that your funds can’t cover, so why would you engage in an activity like trading or owning when the market system you operate in can’t bear the burden? Especially if you already know that it will come back to bite you in the ass, is it really worth it?

For those who have the foresight to actually see this, the world might belong to you after all. Not to trade or own, but integrated into how your business creates value for yourself and the system it feeds. A "trader" or "landlord" are outdated concepts you don’t have to subscribe to anymore…

Freakonomics, Bionomics, Nanonomics, Whaaa?

Did crime in the 1990s go down because the number of abortions in the 1970s went up? If drug dealers make so much cash why do they live with their moms? Why do kids of high income parents do better on tests than those from less privileged backgrounds who get exposed to learning and carted off to museums just as much if not more? Questions like these and more are the result of some extensive empirical evidence studies by economist Steven Levitt who wrote "Freakonomics". Do I find it interesting? Obviously. Does it really explain causality as Levitt presents it? It’s somewhere in the realm of "I’m not sure" to "probably not" in my mind.

Why? Largely because of my belief in Bionomics; the study of economics from a biologically interconnected model of cause and effect. I’m more certain of bionomic theories because our planet’s ecosystem already runs on it. It’s a fairly uncrashable OS (for you techie types). Freakonmics is intriguing because it seems to make causation and correlation indistinguishable. After all it has unbiased measurements, so what else can it be?

The problem isn’t with validity the measurements, but the isolated context of how science measures things today. Without feeling the full impact of an interconnected economy, scientific thought to date has largely been de-constructive when it comes to gathering empirical data. If we isolate and study the parts and then put it back together we can understand it right? That may have been true in a pre-connected world, but as we get clearer understanding of the impact of every variable at play, it begs the question of whether or not we might be putting the "right things" back together? Hmmm…

Perhaps a better measure is yet to come. True cause and effect may be best presented as a situational case than a rule. There may be patterns that are consistent, but does that really mean they are true in your unique case? Should you go by general rule, or know for certain? Do you ever really need to?

It may be a bigger question than just considering the risk of missing the mark in a marketplace where customers want unique relevance in real time…but it’s probably one worth asking. My guess is that these models will be called something like "Nanonomics" where it can cross reference billions of variables in real time much like predicting what happens next in the real world. How valuable is that prediction? Well, that all depends on the premise of whether or not you believe we need to understand everything about the customer or just be equipped to listen and react to all the customer has to say….

I think its somewhere in between…that too I’m putting way too much importance in the importance of commerce in the larger quest for purpose.

Web Headed?

The "Blog or Die" credo has finally made it to the front page of Businessweek, but will blogs really change everything? Adobe bought Macromedia and there are talks of websites and all their respective media content being contained within PDFs that can be optimized and managed via DRM. I was at Ad-Tech SF last week and "Search" is what most everyone believes can change the world. The world of marketing at least…

From my perspective, there are no answers here but there must and should be questions. Blogs (including this one) are pretty boring to drill down into for most even if you like the topics presented. Who really has that kind of time to find out what "supposedly insightful" thing I posted months back? I also dig the idea of portable web content that is technically server independent, but I’m not sure the next version of "flashpaper" is gonna change the web. Does search have to be an action one takes or a filter parameter?

I think instead of jumping on the next bandwagon of what might be we should ask what people want and need it to be. Blogs won’t go away because people need conversation. About what, how often, when and for how long should be questions that will determine their relevancy. I think discussions about the means (blogs, flash embedded pdfs, or whatever…) are always short sighted. Let’s talk purpose based behavior, the things people do to search for meaning as the "means" present themselves, and I think we might get to some questions that reveal real answers.

Are You Flowing Through or Floating Extras?

In the new book called "YOU: The Owner’s Manual" Dr. Michael F. Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz state that the primary indicators of good health is optimum blood pressure and waste elimination. Before you wonder what pressure and bowel movements have to do with your business just consider this:

In the medical context, the logic of benchmarking based on blood pressure is that it is interconnected to the efficient regulation of all of your bodily functions. And as far as waste elimination goes, it provides conclusive proof that the system is working efficiently.

Now, interestingly enough I see this quite applicable to business in today’s scenario. The optimum flow of customer satisfaction to internal satisfaction is a fairly close analogy to blood pressure is it not? And understanding the root of company waste is definitely a clear indicator of efficiency? BTW, in the broader connected sense shouldn’t waste ideally be a nutrient back into the system? How do our wasted byproducts from marketing, operations or innovations benefit global marketplace at large? Do you still think I’m talking "shit" or can you see the correlation?

© 2006 GROW |