A friend, mentor, and professor of mine was a leading voice in southern poetry. He wrote profoundly about many things, most notably about the martyrs of the civil rights movement and white privilege. So it made more than a little sense when the chair of his department asked him to teach a class about multiculturalism in American literature.
He refused. And his reason why will stick with me forever. He told me “I told them that the history of American literature is multicultural. The entire damn American narrative is about our multiple cultures. I can’t see how we can teach any American literature course without it dealing with multiculturalism at its core.”
At the risk of inflating my self importance (let’s be honest: what I do is to his work what r/funny is to the Mark Twain corpus), I hear my friend’s logic ringing loudly when I see the term “Digital Marketing.”
Thinking beyond yourself when you’re a teenager is as difficult as understanding #talklikeyourbestfriend as an adult. Relationships were limited because we weren’t chemically capable of thinking beyond ourselves.
There comes a time, of course, when it becomes clear that relationships are more meaningful over the long haul when we put someone else’s needs on par or ahead of our own. There are more returns and deeper significance. But it requires us to think beyond ourselves and care for the other person in the relationship in ways that we were (or at least I was) incapable of as a teenager. (And yes, for me now. This is something I don’t have to tell most of you—mainly just myself. But it’s a working simile, and I’m going with it.)
Social capital, by it’s very construct, requires a perspective broader than the immediate transactional relationship. I’m beginning to put the word “mature” to it (against my instinctive wishes… that’s a word that made my zit-covered skin crawl as a teenager). Thinking beyond the immediate transactional value takes a mature perspective about building value in an organization. It reminds me of how we grow out of thinking only of ourselves and how we see value in putting others ahead of our own needs. When we do this, the relationships in our lives really hit their stride.
Same with businesses. Here’re two examples that came across my reading world recently.
A bank helps their unemployed mortgage customers with their job searches. I thought this was a simple but solid example of looking beyond the immediate transactional relationship. A shareholder might say that a bank isn’t in the business of job searches, but I can hear the forward-thinking leader within the bank suggesting that it also isn’t in the business of house ownership. What do you want, the house or the revenue? Investing a little in the bank’s social capital will generate more sustainable revenue.
On the other side of the coin is this great opinion piece that contains a reminder about the story of Andrew Auernheimer. Weev, as he’s better known, exploited a security weakness in AT&T’s systems with a simple web crawler script. He didn’t use the private information he gathered for anything other than shedding light on the issue, but was prosecuted anyway. 41 months in prision, $73,000 in fines.
Assuming AT&T cooperated with the prosecution, it could have instead capitalized (literally) on the opportunity to work with Weev. Maybe this could have been a chance for AT&T to engage the public instead of push them away when it comes to the topic of privacy. Hackers on long tail are waiting to be engaged in this way. So lead them. Engage them. They want to help, be attached to something larger than themselves. AT&T probably inspired the ill-intended hackers more than they scared them them away.
AT&T might be a behemoth of a company, but it seems like a child in this instance. The bank? Showing the kind of love with for their customers that only a grown up can.
Don’t you love the surveys like this one that pit congress approval ratings against things like lice and (worse) replacement refs? (Congress looses in a landslide in case you were wondering. You may now thank me for not using the phrase “Spoiler alert.”)
They’re funny because they use the device of surprise. When you say something unexpected or place an element outside its usual context it makes us uncomfortable or jarred, and we laugh.
The other response to an unexpected element is revulsion. Like the way a body works to expel a virus. It’s working against the system. It doesn’t fit. Kick up the heat to try to kill it, ‘cause it’s gotta go.
This is what’s happening to marketing across the social web. So-called social marketing doesn’t work. Marketing consultants like me need to say it louder, and more often. Here’s a recent study where social ranks just barely above the infantile Mobile App and the uncontroversial king of annoyance The Banner Ad. What beats it? That head lice of marketing, The Email.
Close your eyes. (Oh wait. I guess you have to read this paragraph first.) Get a picture in your mind of a brand that you would go to the ends of the earth for. We all have at least one. Something you’d always buy. Someone you’d always vote for. Something you’d travel to go to the concert of. Something you’d tell your friends about without their asking.
OK, open your eyes. (This eye closing business was a bad idea.) What are the characteristics of that brand? Let me give you a list, and let’s see how close it matches what you have in your mind’s eye.
Have you ever worked with someone who considers him or herself an artist first and a working professional second? You know, the ones that refer to the pursuit you consider a career as “my day job” or “my side thing?” They’re easy to spot if you haven’t looked. Bleary eyed from late-night gigs. Paint-stained finger nails. Less time to go out with the work crowd for a happy hour (I have an audition tomorrow). They leave work at work. They have a better music collection than yours.
They’re everywhere actually. And believe it or not, their minds are hard-wired to understand things that the blogosphere and FastCompany literature are falling over themselves to get at. And I’m not just talking about how to think more creatively. (Which is an oddly popular theme these days, don’t you think? Seems simple to me: Ask the artists in your company to get more involved. They’ll charge your creative thinking while actually thinking creatively. I’m confused why this has garnered such attention these days.).
No, I’m talking about concepts and ideas that are fundamental to business in general. Here are three that come to mind.
To the creative process, practice is critical. I’ve long been intrigued by the notion that artists (like athletes) spend 95% percent of their time practicing to execute well in the remaining 5% of their time.
In business, it’s the opposite. There’s very little practice time in business, and we’re expected to execute all the time. There’s the occasional executive business program, leadership retreat, coaching session, or sabbatical. But those are rare, and some working professionals may never have the chance at any of those perks.
There are many ways to practice and many techniques go in to practicing for various outcomes. This post from FastCompany Design got me thinking. Maybe we should talk more concretely about practice. Take a look at more specific examples of how practice helps the artistic creative process to see what can cross pollinate the creative process at work.
I play percussion for a South Asian dance troupe. Many of the dancers are young women with such high energy and expressions of optimism and glee that it’s as if their life is accompanied by abundant exclamation points and OMG’s hanging over their heads wherever they go. Sometimes I’ll walk into a practice studio or a room filled with these dancers and their energy hits me like I’ve splashed down at the end of a water ride into a sparkly-pink, fruity perfume pool. It’s taken some getting used to.
I thought of this when I read Kevin Kelly’s interesting piece about Extraordinary (clipped in this Farnam Street Blog post, where I found it).
The gist: Because we are exposed so regularly and so unexceptionally to the irregular and exceptional, we demand the best and greatest from our TED talks, sales presentations, and home videos of skateboard crashes and precious dog companion videos. That the regularity of irregularity in this “ocean of extraordinariness” skews our view of probability. That all must be great always.
The notion I’m sure is partially true, and Kelly is a terrific thinker. But there’s a clear and significant rise in a segment of our society that moves in the opposite direction. A segment that has reacted to growing up with the deluge of extraordinary in precisely the opposite way.