Have you noticed what’s going on? Everything might seem pretty normal but without noticing, the world of media and marketing continues to change at lightning speed. Without warning, the newly crowned Holy Trinity of social media marketing — Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn — have been joined by an upstart that is now that fastest growing social media site ever. Pinterest has become a true player and is quickly changing the rules of the game. In the 1920s adman Fred Barnard reintroduced the old Chinese proverb, “one look is worth a thousand words” which he subsequently evolved to “one picture is worth ten thousand words.” The saying we use today is an amalgam of the two but the meaning has never been truer than when used to describe Pinterest – a graphic-oriented site that lets people upload images to tell their stories.
You might have seen that Instagram, the iPhone-based photo-sharing site sold to Facebook for one billion dollars. Yes, that’s billion with a “B,” a figure made even more astounding when you learn that Instagram managed their entire business with only 15 employees.
Brazil just surpassed the UK as the sixth biggest economy in the world at almost the same time that Brazilian tourists eclipsed Canadian visitors to become the largest international group visiting Miami. All of a sudden, the South Florida community that has built an enviable economy and infrastructure on a bilingual workforce speaking English and Spanish has woken up to the realization that it’s time to learn Portuguese and depressa!
Perhaps it’s true that the more things change the more they stay the same but at the same time, what the world — and the economy — are going through is often unprecedented. George Friedman, the founder of the geo-political consulting firm StratFor, wrote a fascinating book titled The Next Hundred Years. In it, he chronicles he predictions about what’s going to happen around the world over the next century based on his company’s insight about what’s happening today. But as knowledgeable as Friedman is, even he admits that it’s likely that only five percent of his prognostications will actually come to pass. And this is a guy who’s paid millions of dollars for his viewpoint by oil companies, financial institutions, and governments around the world for decisions that need to be right.
There is, however, another way to look at the unfolding situation for a more nuanced and accurate understanding of what’s going to happen.
When you buy a piece of software for your computer, or an app for your smartphone, you also receive an unending stream of updates and improvements. Software continues to be developed, sometimes doubling or tripling the abilities of its already lightning quick actions. But as quickly as the software improves, the user (that’s me and you!) hasn’t really evolved in a million years. Despite our designer wardrobes, powerful computerized devices, and Ivy-league educations, we’re still hunter-gathers trekking across the great savannah looking for food and shelter. And because the last 100 years that have been responsible for so much of our incredible technological advancements are merely a blip on the greater evolutionary calendar, we have not evolved to take the best use of everything we’ve been blessed with.
For example, what’s to blame for today’s obesity crises? It’s nothing more than the reaction times of our bodies which were developed over hundreds of thousands of years of not enough food, no grain, and infrequent access to meat being suddenly awash in an embarrassment of nutritional riches and never-before processed foods. Just like our minds not being able to keep up with computer technology, our bodies can’t keep up with the rapid changes of food technology, either.
Quite simply put, The Tools Change. The Rules Don’t. So while we continue to be faced with more and more technological advancements and changes (the tools) our reactions to them (the rules), both physiological and psychological, lag millenniums behind. And regardless of how advanced our tools become, we will still deal with them in human — and predictable — ways.