Several years ago I was asked by BrandWeek magazine, a trade publication, to be a guest columnist. So, naturally, when Talent Zoo asked me to do the same thing, part of my research was a re-read of my earlier work.
They say, "the more things change, the more they stay the same." Guess what? They're right! It's stunning to me to realize that the observations I made during the mid-90s, are still relevant today. Therefore, with permission to plagiarize myself, I'm revisiting those earlier observations and re-interpreting them for a post-millennium, post-Enron world.
Comfort is not a word you hear much these days in the communications business. Whether you are responsible for advertising, marketing or public relations, the best approaches to our business have been called into question. The toll of corporate downsizing, executive malfeasance, dot-com to dot-bomb economy and shrunken 401 nest-eggs have given those of us still in this business and those who thought they wanted to pursue a career here, reason to think the future might be rather bleak.
Look around. People are beset by feelings of apprehension and loss, a concern that the basic tenets upon which we built our society no longer serve us. This disappointment is crystallized in feelings about work. How can people, as consumers or employees, be expected to have trust in business or believe the sales messages when they read about company management swindling shareholders, bilking pension funds and being fixated on satisfying personal greed?
So, one would expect that as a society we have lost the ability to believe and to dream. In fact, as counter-intuitive as it may seem on the surface, quite the opposite is true. At Della Femina Rothschild Jeary and Partners, at times like these we turn our attention to the culture for needed insight. And what we are seeing is quite remarkable. It's a yearning to believe again; to have faith in possibilities. Examples are everywhere. The Traveler's Gift, by Andy Andrews, the story of a man who loses his job and his money, but finds success after taking a fantastic voyage through history, tops The New York Times bestseller list. Yoga and meditation have blossomed anew into a new national pastime. Movies like The Whale Rider and last year's hit, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, show that faith and belief in oneself are key longings for a broad segment of Americans today. In fashion, hemlines are "up" and no one seems distracted by the existence of crystals and angels in every shopping mall.
We call this renewal "The Tinkerbell Phenomenon" and, quite frankly, it is changing the way we do business, from seeking out new prospects to influencing our creative product.
Tinkerbell was more than a character in Peter Pan. She was the originator of a contract between herself and her audience. You had to do more than just believe in her, you had to act on your belief—and clap loudly—to make her come back to life and perform her magic. It's the same in business today. If we don't believe in our dreams, if we let those who abused our trust debilitate us, if we don't act on our beliefs, nothing new happens, and business won't change.
Here are some workplace rituals to help us make leaps of faith as often as we can:
- Create the future. If it's true that innovation and breakthrough occur in response to unexpected challenges or crises, the next few years should be a period of explosive creativity and produce some of the industry's best work. So, plan for change, embrace it by thinking "what if", and then acting on your expectations.
- Hire missionaries—not managers. These are the folks who provide leadership through example. People on the fence should not be in charge, they only breed mediocrity.
- Make time to read and think. Make this a priority, not just a "filler" for downtime, but for yourself and those with whom you work. The acceleration of our lives and workloads can leave little time for the dreaming necessary to create fresh scenarios and new realities.
- Be in the now. You cannot redo yesterday, nor can you control tomorrow. Be present in the now, it's where everything happens and where the greatest opportunity to make a difference exists. Find and revel in those intermittent moments of happiness as fleeting as they are because they help us experience the joy of now and inspire with new hope for the future.
- Ask your clients, colleagues and friends to leap with you. Who could say this better than a poet.
Come to the edge
We might fall
Come to the edge
It's too high
Come to the edge
And they came
And he pushed
And they flew.
There are many incredible business opportunities in the world today, but they do not happen by taking measured steps and evaluating progress every inch of the way. The real opportunities come to those who take off the shackles of certainty, open themselves to the power of their imagination and encourage others to do the same.