On Monday, I posted the first of three observations from Tom’s “Ten Years After” post. Without further ado, here’s the last three observations on complexity, creation versus communication and the search for meaning.

Drowning in Complexity.

(TA): The marketplace is growing increasingly complex. Rather than understanding the underlying patterns for success and being driven by purpose and passion, leaders are parsing events and information to an unmanageable degree.

Their ever-frustrated effort to gain complete assurance by analyzing data is creating anxious, fearful and dispirited employees. And this insipid attitude is spilling over to their partners, customers, and to the bottom line.

(SD): Big brain syndrome. We know too much, unfortunately, and we seek answers in the data where once there was only judgment. I’m all for fact-based decision making, but I think we can all find our own set of facts too easily. Old Spice, anyone?

We’ve put a great value on short term results, which makes fear a very significant factor here, as well. Can they shoot me if I have good evidence that I should be right? Yes, they still can. It’s too bad, but it is what it is.

(TA): We’re on the same page here as well, except for the Old Spice dig. I find their present advertising to be a brilliant piece of cultural creation that not only makes people smile (a valuable component of any brand), but strategically sets the stage for more meaningful marketing.

Creation-Centric to Communication-Centric.

(TA): The modern marketplace was built by entrepreneurs obsessed with creating breakthrough ideas that transformed people’s lives. Sadly, many of today’s leaders are milking the innovations of their predecessors.

Instead of gaining new insights into how to improve people’s experiences and moving forward with bold innovations, they’re wrapping old offerings in new sales, communication and entertainment packaging. It’s a short-sighted, uninspiring, and future-mortgaging decision.

(SD): I don’t know about that. There are whole industries that couldn’t have existed a minute ago. Zipcar is doing an IPO because their consumers trained themselves how to use web-based services, courtesy of Netflix. You can argue that Netflix was just a rehashed Columbia House Music Club, but still. There’s enough out there to be intrigued.

What I find interesting is the “flip this house” mentality – understandable, by the way – of building a business. In my father’s day, you built a business to hand down to your children. Today, you look for an exit in 3-5 years. Different mind-set. Flipping a house is different than building one for your family. Not saying it’s wrong, just saying it’s there.

(TA): That’s why I said “many leaders.” Zipcar, Netfilx, Apple, Southwest, et al. are exceptions, and exceptional! And as far as “flipping” businesses goes, it’s simply a sign that people believe happiness is found somewhere else (and money will get them there). Instead, they should discover happiness and meaning in the daily connections made and relationships built with their people, their people’s families, their customers, partners, and community.

What is important in business is the business, and not the result of the business.


Where’s the Meaning?

(TA): The marketplace is, was, and always will be about meaning; meaning that communicates to the world —and to ourselves—who we are, what we believe in, and to what groups we belong.

We choose products, services and causes based on a feeling of receiving distinctive value—a unique bundle of social, aesthetic, and functional meanings that feed our hungers to be liked, respected, and discerning. Apple, and a handful of other organizations, understand and embrace this reality and therefore continue to draw meaning-making consumers towards their high margin models.

To my utter confusion, the rest continue to chase the elusive, deal-seeking consumers with large, leaky nets of promotions, discounts and incentives. And that’s no way to grow.

(SD): Amen. You and I are in accord. Any further commentary from me on this point would be a monumental redundancy.

(TA): Thank you Stephen.


What are your conclusions? Mine are mostly written above – except for my sincere thanks to Tom for being such a good sport and putting his ideas up for debate, discussion and display on my blog this week.

I look forward to Opportunity Screams, Tom’s next book.