Mind & Culture Shifts: Moving from Productive Consumerism to Creative Values
So, I was talking (ok, emailing) with a friend of mine the other day (Hi Robert!) about a project he’s been building, Engage. The core concept (assuming I have it right) is about the importance of building (and engaging) personal values, and how those values relate to success on both a business and personal level.
I’ve been following his progress for a while now, but given the current world economic "situation" the timing of his project struck me as right on the mark, timing wise.
Here’s My Thinking…
For the past decade or so, success in Western cultures (at least in the US) has been defined almost exclusively by profit margins, productivity, and cost/benefit analysis. Those same trends have been evident online, with the number of blogs stressing productivity, efficiency, quick tips lists, and a race for sheer numbers of subscribers/followers. It’s been all about shallow and broad, rather than narrow and deep.
But with the money drying up, consumers are fewer and further between, and those who are still spending are pickier with where they spend their money - that means each customer starts having more value to the company.
To be a successful business in a poor economy requires customer satisfaction, better service, more attention paid to what the consumer actually wants/needs, and creativity – because it means making real effort not just to get new customers, but keeping the old ones. It means building loyalty and trust. It means that companies who appear to care will do better, companies that promise change for the better will do better, and business people with visible ethics will do better… because when there’s not much to go around, neither companies nor consumers can afford the unethical behaviors that were written off as a cost of business over the past few years.
Shallow relationships are no longer enough.. they’re too fleeting. What business is going to need is depth.
And on a more individual level, when discretionary dries up, we can no longer evaluate success by who has the most expensive car or house or latest gadget (when the old one worked just fine.) The concept of success shifts, towards being a success as a person rather than as net worth.
The emphasis on net worth and bottom line had gotten out of hand, in anycase… is Steve Jobs any less of a success because (I assume) his net worth fell with the stock market and real estate values? Success is about more than the bottom line, and we’re moving into a cycle where ethics and values and non-financial success will be factored back into the picture.
The change was primed to happen, anyway – with the dissatisfaction of the values and ethics of the Bush administration, and the consumer shift towards "green" products, perceived as more responsible, and having value beyond the financial ends.
If you look around the blogosphere, evidence of the shift is happening here, too… "Copyblogger" founder Brian Clark’s recent blog effort isn’t about marketing or online profits, it’s about success in creativity: check out his new direction with Lateral Action. Merlin Mann, the productivity guru behind 43 folders, has repurposed his site towards creativity, as well, and there’s some really good stuff going up there. (Check out Photography, and the Tolerance for Courageous Sucking. I aspire to that sort of courage)
No Preaching. Promise.
This trend isn’t about corporations being good or bad. It’s not about how we shouldn’t be materialistic, it’s about how much materialism the culture can sustain in a poor economy, and how far the pendulum can swing without a backlash. A love and lust for shiny new things is part of our natures, as surely as birds collecting bright things for their bowers – and it’s not necessary to fight that part of who we are. The culture will find its balance.
So I’m not talking about preachy moral lessons here — just a shift in what mainstream Western cultures (At least American culture) defines as success, and the recognition that yes, values and ethics do have a place in business and blogging and… well… life. Success can be innovation, inventiveness, creativity, usefulness, thriftiness, knowing where the value is, happy and loyal customers, happy and loyal connections, friends and family.
What does this have to do with MindTweaks?
Because in order to play this new game, and be successful at it, you need to build some new neural networks around these changes. Shift your thinking to allow for the shift in the culture. Stop scrambling to succeed in the business models that are passing away, stop trying to follow the advice of those who succeeded in the old models, and follow the lead of those who have already shifted to new models (Like Merlin and Brian)
Redefine success and productivity in your own head. Be creative.
And feel free to use the comment section as your scratch pad. ( It likes that. Especially behind the ears)