Archive for May, 2013

Bias 2.0

We’re here now. It’s the new web. The new era. The day of the closed and bureaucratic systems used for fostering new ideas, art, and businesses has passed. Now it’s down to who can organically rise to the top in the wild, wild west of the current marketplace. In so many ways this is a great thing. The curated systems of the past gave rise to an institutionalized bias that was as insipid as it was unfair.

Now the dream that anyone can succeed has been reached, so the pundits say.

Only it’s not true.

Without a doubt our new reality is much more open, more global, and provides a lot more room for good ideas to succeed. In the old paradigm money and power governed and limited. But without these limits it takes a new kind of ingenuity to crack through all of the resulting noise. We need a new set of skills to navigate the market. Say you have a band. Now, more than ever, you have a chance to succeed on your own merits. Are great songs alone enough? No. There are still tons of skilled artists mired in anonymity.

The promise of the new era is that we can take things directly to the market, circumventing the old curation process. The promise that we can now succeed on the merits of our offer alone, as it is often portrayed…is fantasy. No, the ambitious musical artist, in addition to the talent, skill, craftsmanship and luck that was required in the old world, now has to master an additional set of skills such as marketing, sales, merchandising, and many other facets of what it takes to run a concern. If you don’t possess or acquire the wherewithal to take care of those matters then, short of a stroke of luck, you’re fated to toil away in anonymity.

ElectriClerkThese required skills apply a new bias to who can succeed. The argument is that ones with truly exceptional work will organically rise to the top. That may be true, but I would argue that it was always true. In either case odds are dramatically improved by applying some marketing skill. A truly inspired artist or idea can still fail without effective action in this new marketplace.

Without a doubt this new reality creates more possibilities than the old one, but let’s not fool ourselves about it. Many things are still the same. We’ve simply changed the skill set required to break through.

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Fashion?

dwyane-wade-shirt

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Most beholders didn’t think much of Dwyane’s attire for this press conference. The NBA playoffs are in full swing, and as usual so are some outlandish wardrobes.

The thing about art (as well as the rest of life) is…you sometimes miss the mark. You can crash and burn. It’s fashionable to play it safe. To wear what others have proven is okay. To do the things that are accepted.

It’s easier to have confidence when you’re doing what is proven.

In sports you learn that being bold (“aggressive” in sportsmen terms) is a recipe for attaining confidence. This is the harder road, but ultimately the one that elevates. The confidence you attain from these successes is the real thing. It’s what makes others want to follow and listen to you — a key to success.

You submit yourself to the judgement of others. You might lose face. And you have to decide whether that’s okay. Indeed you decide whether the opinions of others make a difference.

Wear an outlandish shirt and dare to be great. When you do it confidently others will be more likely to fall in line.

Discord

Discord is unwanted because it is uncomfortable. Yet it can be a vital part of moving forward. Don’t sweep things under the rug to be comfortable. Get them out in the open and tackle them. Otherwise you undermine your future.

It does, however, require all parties to be willing to engage genuinely. You can’t run away when it proves to be difficult. Sometimes it takes a great deal of time and a Herculean effort to finally resolve deep issues. Everyone has to genuinely be willing to be influenced by the thoughts, beliefs, and arguments of others.

In the video above the seemingly impossible happens: A group of metronomes are set to the same rate, but started out of time with each other. Because the conditions fostered it (the surface they sit on moves in sympathy with their vibrations), in a matter of minutes they are all marching right in step.

The other side of this coin? Consider that your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs are very much a result of you marching in sympathy with those you’ve been around most in your life.

The Dumbing

The Balance of Entertainment and Rigor

Some recent studies suggest that college may not be as valuable as it has been in the past, or at least as valuable as we have perceived it being.

Several times per week I am involved in or witness to training sessions and presentations to groups of people ranging from a handful to a couple hundred. I have seen presentations full of helpful information fall on deaf ears because the presentation style is too boring and dry. I have also seen presentations that appear to be a great successes (if audience enthusiasm and reaction is any measure) that ultimately don’t produce long lasting results because they do little more than amp up enthusiasm, which without skill only helps for a limited time.

It takes discipline to grind through a boring presentation or class in order to get the information and knowledge. Not everyone has that, or perceives the importance of it. It’s all too tempting to be seduced by being entertained. Many of us, when given a choice, will opt for entertainment over substance. We may not believe we do, but I would argue that in many cases what we are getting is entertainment disguised as substance. Sure, there is some substance in a documentary film, but it is often all packaged up in a dramatic presentation for us. Nothing wrong with that. Just don’t fool yourself too much.

excitingpresentationSo, if the presentation is too boring (too rigorous) many don’t listen, and the message is lost. If the presentation is designed to be entertaining enough to keep the interest then it may not convey enough insight to provide much learning. And often, even if the insights are in there, they can get buried in the noise beneath the entertainment value.

Either way we get dumber…

That said, it is important to first consider the goals of the presentation. Is it training, teaching, or for motivation? Each of those requires a different focus and presentation style. Training requires practice — the actual going through of the motions, which is usually pretty effective if the tasks are simple and consistent enough to be trainable. Motivation is pretty easy to accomplish with the right blend of entertainment and clever quips. Real teaching and learning, on the other hand, is where the trouble lies.

The obvious answer is to provide an effective balance of both content and entertainment. The problem is the balance has been gradually shifting toward entertainment for years. We coddle people who don’t know how to listen with fancy presentations and videos, and soon we can’t listen without those aids. We get dumber…

If you present to people you must understand the huge burden on you to bring it, both in terms of content AND presentation. Don’t take the low road just to feel better in the moment.



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