Thursday, August 4, 2011

Surviving the storm requires that you see it when the skies are clear


There are many fascinations I don't understand:

* Gardening

* Sports

* Exercise

* Antiques

* Weather

And others that I sort of do:

* The stock market

* Food

* Obituaries

* Fashion

* Cars

Let me talk a little bit about one fascination that can border on an obsession. This is one I deeply understand: How to survive in the event of war, social collapse, etc.

Have you seen the show "Dual Survival" on cable? It shows "Dave and Cody" traipsing through all sorts of inhospitable territory, eating tortoises and draping themselves in urine-soaked blankets (sorry) to stay hydrated when there isn't any food or water around.

You have not lived until you've seen Dave eating crickets or Cody knocking the hell out of an animal hideout until all the little mammals go flying. 

There's another show, "Deadliest Warrior," that is pretty good. Last night was Joan of Arc vs. William the Conqueror - reenacted complete with swords flying into pig carcasses. 

Obsessions like survival have an actual utility, I think. It's not that you learn about swords and tortoises. But that you develop the capacity to see trouble before everybody else does. On the principle that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," survival in the workplace or as a marketer requires that you sense the trends and leverage them before the crowd.

When I worked for Young & Rubicam it was my entire job to sense those trends. Because companies want to grab them and productize them so that they have first-mover advantage to create and own a market.


The difficulty with correctly identifying the storm is not in seeing the signs. Most people, freed to think clearly, and use the full range of their emotions, can sense it.

The problem is that we get stuck in deep denial. 

There are three reasons why this happens:

* Personal denial: We don't want to believe that we are in jeopardy. Our ego doesn't want to believe that we are failing. Our physical self is used to routine and afraid of change.

* Group denial: It is essential to the stable functioning of the group that its members not panic. Sometimes the coming storm is so big, so bad, so deep and so wide that confronting it means changing everything. The larger the group, the more difficult it is for its members to deal with impending change, especially when it is radical.

* Environmental denial: Even if the individual and the group can see what's coming, the larger social system continues to function as if nothing were awry. And so the impulse to see and to strategize in advance, is mitigated by conformity to what seems like "normal" on the outside.

The most obvious example I can think of is our economy.

All the signs are there that a radical change is coming. I don't think any of us knows exactly what this storm is going to look like. But it is clear that all the early signs are here. Our gums our bleeding - they are starting to break loose - and if we don't do something quickly, our teeth are going to fall out.

How can the ordinary person cope with this kind of situation? 

One word: Feedback. 

Go around and start asking questions. Listen to the answers. Open your mind. Join the conversation. Become literate in the key issues and read and absorb what others are saying. Then start to develop a plan for coping with the impending change. See if you can join with others to develop the skills you will need to survive it. 

In a world where the future is always uncertain and change is but a moment away, it is important that we get over the impulse to deny and admit it when a storm is headed down our path. Then work constructively to help one another survive it.

Think about it...we can't bury our heads in the marketing sands anymore. At least not all the time!

Have a good day, and good luck!


Image source here