RIP Productivity? Productivity Is Not Working!

ESSENTIALism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Sounds blasphemous in this day and age. The art of separating the trivial many from the vital few. A few years ago, I came across this fascinating book and after a gentle outreach and gracious response from Greg McKeown, the author, had me falling for the content Book, Line and Sinker.

Turn the caption statement around: Working is Not Productivity. The message once(and even now) was loud and clear. Relentless self-optimisation was a way to cope, but is it really? Humans are NOT search engines !

There has been always something obscene about the cult of the hustle, the treadmill of alienated insecurity that tells you that the moment you stop running for even an instant, you will be flung flat on your face.

Productivity is not a synonym for health or safety or sanity. I will go onto add that frantic productivity is actually a fear response. It’s a fear response for 21st-century humans in general and millennial humans in particular.

Productivity, or the lack of it, has become the individual metric of choice for coping with the international econo-pathological clusterfuck of the Corona Crisis. Talk about self optimisation: how do we do that and meet deadlines amidst settling our fighting kids, demanding colleagues and handling our screaming inner critics in the name of introspection? You are fortunate to have a roof over your head and you are also expected to use  ‘ this time ‘ to write blogs, launch your podcast and personal kept in the back burner projects and life-hack our way to some cargo-cult pastiche of normality, and if not, are we somehow letting the side down?

Arbeit Macht Frei. Meaning work sets you free. These words first appeared in an 1873 German novel. And later got adopted by Nazis as a slogan. The mantra of work as freedom or a magical route to happiness has proved incredibly resilient. But,as the corona virus crisis is exposing all over again: for billions of people work is none of these things.The reality is that for billions of people around the world , work is a tightrope walk oscillating between indignity and survival. Happiness as the byproduct of the work you do will come across a masterful con job for many.The task on hand now and onerous at that, is to push for a new narrative for work based not on happiness but humanity.

Questions have an in built audacity to be more interesting than answers. And in the febrile weeks that have followed the advent of the Covid-19 lockdowns, the one question that went unabashedly viral was: how do we stay productive when the entire world is going to hell? The virus has upset the human micro biome in an epochal act of strategic surprise.

A whole generation leaned on the fragile learning that relentless work was the way to cope with a rolling crisis with the mood of imminent collapse and economic insecurity that was the piped elevator music of the youth- the relentless tug of war between trying to save yourself and trying to save the world, between desperate aspiration and actual hope.

There could be multiple reasons that we are panicking about work: about to be furloughed or sidelined; or already lost a job. And you are playing catch up(sounds familiar?). Or if you have managed to retain one, you are apprehensive about the long term. And if everything is hunky dory, you are battling at the coat tails of ‘ survivor’s guilt ‘.

We now have a packed schedule: washing up, cooking, cleaning, being a sounding board, lending a helping hand, community work, countless video conference calls with people you have ever and never met and at the end of it hiding in bed hoping that history can’t hear you breathing.

People are working harder than ever but a lot of the work does not fall under the traditional sense of the term ‘ productive ‘. They just don’t count on the ledger of human worth because the economy refuses to value them in its reckoning of what does, because most of it has been done in private, by women, for ages, for free. Making breakfast, making the beds, making sure your friends and family aren’t losing their absolute minds is work that matters more than ever and will continue to matter in the coming decades as crisis follows crisis. It is not “productive,” in the way that most of us have learned to understand what that word means, but it is work, and it is really really worthwhile.

WFH(Work From Home) has seamlessly and unapologetically moved onto W(Work). Geography has become history!

For all those who flaunt their workaholic badges of honour and condescendingly accept the various neurotic flavours that comes with it, let’s come to terms with the fact that we have been conditioned to think that work in the laissez faire zeitgeist is about hyper vigilance. It’s about what happens to people when they are trapped in abusive circumstances and cannot escape. Psychologist Judith Herman observed that “the ultimate effect of [psychological domination] is to convince the victim that the perpetrator is omnipotent, that resistance is futile, and that her life depends upon winning his indulgence through absolute compliance.” We haven’t been able to shrug of the mega legacy of the Industrial Age: Compliance. Phew!

The idea that hustling can save you from calamity is an article of faith, not fact—and the Covid-19 pandemic is starting to shake the collective faith in individual striving. The doctrine of “workism” places the blame for global catastrophe squarely on the individual: If you can’t get a job because jobs aren’t there, you must be lazy, or not hustling hard enough. That’s the story that young and young-ish people tell themselves, even as they have spent the whole of their brief, broke working lives paying for the mistakes of the old, rich, and stupid. They internalised the collective failures of the ruling class as personal failings that could be fixed by working smarter, or harder, or both—because that, at least, meant that they might be able to fix them themselves. Unfair!

After the quarantine, after we count the lives lost or ruined, recession is coming. A big one. For many, especially millennials, it’s the second devastating economic calamity in their short working lives( the first being the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-9), and they are still carrying the trauma of the first. This time, though, they know it’s not their fault. This time it’s abundantly clear that they don’t deserve it. And this is exactly the sort of crisis that gives people ideas about overturning the social order.

The cult of productivity doesn’t have an answer for this crisis. Self-optimising will not save us this time, although saying so feels surprisingly blasphemous. There is nothing counterrevolutionary about keeping busy. But right now, we have a finite opportunity to rethink how we value ourselves, to re-examine our metric for measuring the worth of human lives.

Time for ESSENTIALism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

ENDS

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The Big Trap for Brands: A Sea of Sameness!

The Big Trap for Brands: A Sea of Sameness
Normal needs a new normalising!
Since there is so much interest, let me start from the bottom line. It is no coincidence that damn near everything that you and me buy or want to buy, seems to have a label ‘ Made in China ‘. Now, that includes airplane wings …as well as caps!
Instant knock offs-with excellence- have become the norm. From shoes to sweaters to computers to restaurants. The quality of damn near everything is terrific. Things that work well are not unusual. Things that don’t work are unusual.
By design or accident, we are afloat, awash, adrift…in a Sea of Sameness. High-quality sameness, but sameness nonethless.
An idea that has legs ..lasts only a few weeks, a few months at best. Then the sequel. And the sequel that follows the sequel. And so on.
Sure heard this before. Herd mentality. We race around. Follow each other’s tails. From Hollywood to Silicon Valley to Madison Avenue to Jamal Abdul Nasar Street.
As Swedish business professors  Kjell Nordstrom and Jonas Ridderstrale brilliantly articulated in their book ‘ Funky Business ‘, ” The surplus society has a surplus of similar companies, employing similar people, with almost similar educational backgrounds..coming up with similar ideas, producing similar things, with similar prices..and similar qualities “. Ouch, that is painful!
The 10X/10X theory on that is that you could be 10 times better. While being ten times less different.
The basic idea that I am echoing here is that ‘ Good Stuff ‘ is commonplace.”



“. It’s no longer exceptional for stuff (anything, everything ) to work. Which means the bar for ” standing out ” has risen dramatically.

In a winner takes all world, Normal = Nothing. So time to stop being goddamn normal.
Dovetailing seamlessly into this line of thought is the Danish marketing phenomenon Jesper Kunde’s articulation ” Companies have defined so much best practice that they are now more or less identical. ” It’s commoditised. Instead, how about ” It’s yet to be practiced “?
In other words, the only way to make a difference is to, well, “ Make a Difference “.
Standing out in a world where most everything works is stupefying difficult. And yet some companies are making a go of it. How I hate the word ‘ normal ‘.
We are in a ” Don’t just sit there economy ” – so, embrace abnormal. Never mind if you are first mover, last mover, first follower or fast follower. Go for it!
ENDS
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www.brandknewmag.com

Marketing the new ‘Terms ‘ of endearment

Marketing the New ‘Terms’ of Endearment

Over the years, tried and oft used terms in the world of business and marketing have transcended convention. We seem to be in a perennial state of having to come to terms with these terms. Here is the term sheet on that.

Brand Owners, Advertisers and Marketers were once cosy with ‘ Mass Market ‘. Try and reach the maximum audience numbers through mass media. A lot of the times it was about Spray and Pray. Mass Market transitioned to ‘ Mass Customisation ‘ which went beyond one size fits all to one size fitting some. With the advent of Artificial IntelligenceMachine Learning and Data Science, we are now in an era of the ‘ Customer Segment of One ‘, where one individual as an audience is targeted with high degree of precision and success.

The disclaimers have been turned on its head as well. What used to be common place was a term going as ‘ Caveat Emptor ‘ which essentially was to say buyers beware. The entire onus and risk on buying a product or service was all on the buyer/end user. Now, in an over commoditised world, where we have moved on from push and control to pull and engage, where top down has given way to bottom up marketing, what is evident is ‘ Caveat Venditor ‘, where the accountability and responsibility rests fully on the seller. The wheel has gone a full circle.

Not until long ago, brands and their marketing plans were etched out keeping demographic groups in mind. A pre decided age group with a certain buyer persona was carved out and communication was created to influence and impact that community. The universe has changed dramatically. Brand marketers have now started addressing mindsets which throws conventional wisdom out of the window. As they have now begun to chant, RIP Demographics!

Consumer aspirations have taken a twist as well. Yesteryears we had all marketing and communication created to induce brand ownership. With so much millennial consumption happening, the entire paradigm has now shifted to owning experiences. The new brand mantra for marketers is CeX(Customer Experience) and the City. Ownership is passe, experience is the new aspiration.

Remember those days when the quintessential manna from heaven was ‘ brand loyalty ‘. Coveted, treasured, revered. Loyalty was royalty. In an era of surplus of goods, information, choices, services and a deficit of trust, attention and resources, ‘ customer infidelity ‘ has replaced loyalty. Cheaper, better, faster? Here we shift loyalties!

We were just coming to terms with the ‘ knowledge economy ‘ as it moved on from the  ‘ Industrial Economy ‘and before we knew it we were bang in the middle of the ‘sharing/collaborative economy‘. The dust had hardly settled on that and now the entire attention is rooted on the ‘ attention economy ‘. In an age of perennial distraction, attention is the new premium.

Since advent of marketing, and the quest for differentiation, the narrative has revolved around a USP(Unique Selling Proposition). That feature or benefit which makes your brand distinct or unique from other competitors in the eco system.Then came the not so holy communion onslaught- the SOS- Sea of Sameness. Nothing unique, nothing distinct, the herd mentality, the also ran, the me too. Which prompted our research at ISD Global to discover what we have come to label as UFP- Unique Feelings Proposition– where state of the heart is what brands are appealing to win trust, loyalty, mind and wallet space.

Am sure we will have more to chew on as the intersection of consumer behaviour, rapid evolution of technology and the ever changing socio economic landscape will throw up more perspectives that we have to come to terms with. Till then, au revoir.

ENDS

www.groupisd.com/story

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