Glimpses of Today, Tomorrow from the Past
Did you ever wonder if we would make things better if we didn’t have bad guys? How about keeping bad things from happening to good people? Or good people saying bad/dumb things? Fortunately, none of those things are going to happen! Way back in 1931, Aldous Huxley created a furor over the controlled world in his book “Brave New World.” In 1949, George Orwell saw a similar world controlled by technology with “1984.“ The two authors sent scholars and technologist back to the drawing board to analyze the possibilities and explain:
- Why it couldn’t happen
- What to do to prevent it from happening
- What happens if it happens
They continue to discuss the pros and cons of today’s always plugged in, always on harm/good of today’s instant ability to “hit the button and take down anyone” approach to leaving a company (Goldman Sachs, Google) with a bang. Unless you’re like us and really like the insanely brilliant ads, you probably don’t waste much of your precious time wondering if Steve Jobs and Chiat-Day’s Lee Clow and Steve Hayden could really see the future or were just playing on our insecurities, our fears. Folks like to say that Jobs could see what people wanted even when they didn’t know what they wanted, which made him a rock god in the Mac community.
Setting the Tone
Apple’s famous 1984 ad, which introduced the Mac, set the tone and maybe changed a bunch of companies. Then there was Olympian discus thrower heaving the hammer to break the trance of how censorship was a good thing. She broke the spell and people could … Think Different. The ad was also a subtle jab at IBM’s motto at the time, Think.
Their second bold production didn’t fare as well. ‘Lemmings’ showed a troop of dopey middle managers paying the penalty for ignoring Apple’s new Office software. It was obviously a frontal attack on the safe business buy at the time … IBM/Microsoft. Even today, people say Lemmings was a bad ad because it lacked dynamism and insulted the target market … business buyers. The uproar the ad created actually (according to some) had Apple considering running a public apology for it. Clow didn’t agree that an apology was necessary. Steve probably thought, “Hey does the truth hurt?”
O.K., it’s now nearly 30 years later and our evil controllers have changed:
- IBM morphed itself into one of the leading software, service, support organizations that not only does a lot of good but is a lynchpin in helping organizations tracking and analyzing everything people/companies do to project what people will want in the future
- Microsoft became the company everyone wanted to paint with black paint because they had big, bad control over the enterprise and how individual work/play
- Google took the bad guy leadership from MS by becoming the “no cost” addiction service. They tracked and monetized everything people & businesses did on the Internet
- Facebook earned the evil mantle by being the “free” place where billions of people voluntarily posted anything, everything about themselves so that the world could see how messed up or in need they really were. Along the way, they used the information as trading currency with companies that just had to reach, sell to these folks
- Google took the evil dude leadership back by saying they could manage what was private under their terms
Now that Steve is no longer here, some folks figure it’s time to take Apple on and say it’s their responsibility to tell people in other parts of the world how they should work, live.
Bad Boss, Bad Boss
It used to be that people went to work for a company and bought into the philosophy/approach. If they didn’t like the way things were going, they tried to change them … or they left. Today, they don’t simply resign. Nope; they go online and tell the world – in no uncertain terms – what is wrong with the company, what it should do, how it should do it. A Goldman Sachs middle manager doesn’t simply resign, he writes an op-ed piece for the “New York Times” where he tells all about his discovery that the company is a huge money-grubber that’s only out for itself. The piece goes viral. Folks say what a righteous person he is. Well … duuhhh! A manager at Google said the company had changed to become an organization 100 percent focused on monetizing everything they do by selling information about you to people who want to advertise/sell to you. That’s right up there with Watergate and Antennagate!
About 30 years after Apple promoted the idea that one person could break the chains of servitude for all of us, folks are doing it. And what changed? Well, the Google executive landed at Microsoft, which is now one of the good companies. Our Goldman sleuth got everyone giving advice to the out-for-ourselves company on how to cleanse itself. In our networked world, people expect instant gratification, quick choices, easy answers. The popularity of Twitter is an excellent example of the fact that we are beginning to embrace ADHD as a tool to share any information immediately with anyone who is interested/willing to follow, selectively and rapidly. All of this makes it tougher for publicists because one of the things they like to/want to do is control the message. The immediate, bite-size nature of online exchanges will make it harder for multitaskers or minute-slicers to think deeply about any topic. Of course, if too many people take the instant gratification, instant answer approach it is going to mean folks will be far more susceptible to manipulation. Especially when we all have other important issues – work stress, getting older, constantly changing interests/priorities, you name it. The time might be right for Cook and Clow to serve up a new set of ads … a new set of answers.