Surviving and the Feedback Loop

Life imitates art imitates life.

Till now, the media has been powerful enough to feed people what they want them to see based on what marketers have learned from media users on a group by group basis. Even the reorganization and self-governance once promised by the Internet seems to bow to the machine. When bloggers make money by having their blogs sponsored, don’t they start becoming biased? So if the underground Internet becomes main stream faster than packaged rebellion gets on MTV, what then becomes the next compelling story?

The feedback loop of media selling us images of ourselves, which we sell back to the media and so on, is nothing new. Mimicry is critical to the survival of any species. We copy what we think is surviving and those that do it well adapt and survive themselves.
It explains everything from mentoring to young people everywhere relating to the "bling-bling" lifestyle. But what happens when the veil is lifted? When we get to find out that our mentors may be hacks or the "bling" shown on hip-hop videos is mostly rented?

The frays are showing at the edges. But it’s not a unidirectional toppling of "the establishment" the great Internet prophets predicted. I’m not entirely sure that it can ever be. Burning man, the anti-commercial festival started a few years back in California is a managed event today. But it is still true to itself.

That’s the interesting part.

We are experiencing the whole loop as marketer and customer together.
Don’t overreached markets start their own personal hunt for authenticity? Yes.
Does what they discover in significant numbers then become commercialized? Yes. Both scenarios are valid and true as the media feedback loop starts to behave no differently than an ecosystem fine- tuning itself for survival.

What does that mean for stories we want to be a part of? It means that they eventually get shared in the general global consciousness. The feedback loop affects everyone but no longer all at once. Thanks to unprecedented connectivity, we share fewer common stories simultaneously. The "story" has moved beyond what they’re selling, it’s about what we want to buy.

Art imitates life imitating art.

Maybe it’s time for brands to stop "selling" stories and actually "becoming" what media skeptic customers fit into versions of their own respective realities….

Best In Planet Brands: Gimmick or Advantage?

What makes you so unique from the billions of your co-habitants on this planet? Before you go to answer that with poetry, genetics or simply your unique perspective just consider why that’s even relevant. Why are we as a global society shifting more value towards individuality than we’d done so when we defined ourselves closer to region, tribe or clan?

Maybe because now we are all instantly global?

All of a sudden we are swimming in a bigger pond, nay ocean and what do we come up with to survive? Best of breed? Category or market leader? Suddenly fitting in seems way more lame than ever before. It seems we don’t have much of a choice but to be the only one in the planet who does what you do. A "Best-In-Planet" Brand.

Sure that’s easy to say for emerging technology, but what if you’re toothpaste or arthritis OTC medicine, what’s so "Best In Planet" about that? How are you going to "position" yourself into that? How about forget the "position" and actually "be" the "tastiest toothpaste" or the "easiest to open" aspirin bottle for starters? Do you see what I’m getting at?

Being best in planet is an attitude we can all afford to have if we embrace innovation as an absolutely must-have ingredient for our brand. A continuous improvement factory led by a big insight that drives the next big ideas and the brand forward.

It’s not a gimmick or "position". It’s real by virtue of brand purpose. The only kind of brand to be in an interconnected world is the best in the world. Can you step up?

To Commodity or Not to Commodity?

A lot of people will tell you that being in a saturated market is a one way ticket to becoming a commodity. I say no way. If and it’s a big IF…If you refuse to be in the "saturated" market. Do you have a choice? Yes.

What? Explain!

OK so here’s the deal:
I think they are absolutely right if you do nothing but what everyone else does.
But wait? Isn’t there a market leader in every market, saturated or not?
Why do you think this is?
Who defined the market for them, they or the market?
Now are you seeing it?

Stop bitching. Commoditization is no one’s fault but yours.

If you’ve not already picked up on the reality that ideas are more important than things in the world v2.0, you’re already behind. You are only what people THINK you are, and they won’t think much if you can’t deliver what they believe they want.

Q: So how do you deliver what they believe they want?

A: By being in charge of defining your greatness.

If your industry’s standard is to be big, then you make it cool to be small, not bigger.
Be what you must be to create customers. It’s that simple (and that difficult).

The mind is infinite in terms of what possibilities it can accept. How you define possibilities is entirely up to you. Saturated markets are like herds. The best you can ever do with a "be the top in my category" mentality is possibly stay towards front. That won’t make you great. That won’t make you loved. That won’t even make your relevant past the next downturn. That will just get you to commodityville faster.

Are you getting me? Do you see why "innovate or die" is a ral credo and not a tired buzzword like the others? As the world becomes more and more connected survival no longer means fitting in it means standing out. To stand out you have to be outstanding in people’s minds. But to build your empire of the mind (the killer brand), today’s new world demands that you follow your own path. There is no other option. Without any aspiration for the unique greatness latent in you to come out, you will fade. The world is tired of commodities, and if you stay one, it will tire of you.

If you think you are a commodity, you will be.

Think Sync?

I’m reading Tom Peters last month and he mentions Rolf Jensen’s Dream Society. WTF (What the f***)? I was just reading that. I read Seth Godin and he’s talking about stories we tell ourselves. WTF? I was just thinking of writing a paper about it. I was thinking about a business idea where people could vote on relevant news based on interest, and the people at Headshift ( are talking about the same shit. WTF?

Sure, sometimes I have an idea different from others, as do they when they surprise me with some interesting insight, but overall I find it fascinating that seemingly disconnected people arrive at similar conclusions albeit from different directions.

Why is that?

I remember reading Krishnamurthi back in the day, and his saying something to the effect of the answer being right there if you clear your mind and listen. Hmmm, very interesting. Maybe being connected is enabling us to listen with a little more ease? Perhaps thinkers everywhere are arriving at similar insights because our connected whole propagated by connection technologies such as the Internet touches all of us?

Think about it, we are using the same collective to search for the same answers. Peter Drucker or Bill Gates does the same search I do to look for the clues to the same question. The same question in fact spurred by the shared consciousness of us all. Maybe the idea of Internet being our collective mind isn’t as far fetched as Kevin Kelly recently proclaimed in the Wired anniversary issue.

Maybe this is just the beginning of amazing things to come. I’d like to hope anyway…with you all, if that’s cool.

What’s the Next?

Innovation is the biggest buzzword of recent times. The predictions of a global shift in society, cultures and individuals fueled by infotech, biotech and nanotech is the proverbial writing on the wall according to any visionary du jour who happens to be your favorite. But is the future really headed the way we’d like to think so? Camera phones came out two years ago, but how come all of us (at least in the developed world) aren’t walking around with them? The plans for fuel-efficient vehicles have been around since Bucky Fuller days, as much as plans to make global hunger a thing of the past. But gas-guzzlers, genocide and forgotten tragedy victims of all varieties still do exist.

Sure, the answers aren’t easy, and any new insight into the problem is not going to make anything go away overnight, but maybe hope is more readily attainable if we look to the root of the problem.

In functional ecology, there is what’s called "indicator species". The life forms that take the first hit when a bigger connected problem is brewing in the background. Like snails that die when there’s a potential of a drought, or frogs that migrate when there’s potential of rain. As the nature of our interconnected world more closely resembles ecosystems than any other sustainable analogy, maybe there’s something there to help us rethink what might actually be next.

Maybe our "indicator species" for the next innovations that advance humankind are more rooted in people’s innate feelings than the technical possibilities. Maybe videophones and location-based services aren’t commonplace because cheating spouses and rebellious teens don’t want to be that connected. Maybe energy inefficiency is good for the suits in power who control the flow of capital in the global marketplace, and just maybe, they have enough of an emotional reason to defend what they consider what’s most dear to them: power!

Does this simplify why stem cell technology moves forward or wireless technologies adopt faster in certain regions? Perhaps. But more importantly, thinking about the root cause may just enable us to make technical and economic progress happen where we live, by understanding our psychology over our technology.

Can Thinkers Be Leaders?

"I’m smarter than that idiot, why is he my boss?"

Many a researcher, writer, engineer, architect, designer, musician, and performers at the tops of their respective professions lament this sentiment on a daily basis, but nothing seems to change. Why? If these are the actual people who deliver the true vision and innovations that drive organizations forward, why don’t they make it to the very top?

It’s easy enough to blame it on politics, nepotism, manipulation and more; but I believe the truth lies somewhere else. Drucker had stated the differences between decision-makers and advisors, and I think the insight is somewhere in observations of that nature.

Before the hyper-linked organizations and open, conversational marketplace of today, a lot of things about the thinker and doer team held true. But now, in the age of connected creativity, great leaders are a bit of both. Previously, those who thought too much never had the balls to act, and those who acted never has the patience for analysis. True as that may still be, the next economy is seemingly blurring the lines between the two.

As innovation and creativity in all forms from business model to design become the true advantage, those at the helm have little choice but to contribute to it. The innovative partner or employee become more powerful and less obedient as their contribution becomes more critical to the ultimate success of the business. The only way leaders get "creative" creds in such a scenario is to either be creative themselves or empower those who are. They have to "think" and not just do, even though it seems that "thinking" might be an impediment to action.

Can thinkers be leaders? In the connection age there’s not much of a choice.

© 2006 GROW |