One of the most important factors influencing our willingness to buy anything is the speed with which we can experience that exhilarating “”hit”” of acquisition or feeling of wellbeing. We are a culture obsessed with the emotional jolts associated with immediate gratification. Thanks to the Web and our
PDA’s, our patience is now measured in nanoseconds.
In the workplace, we are barraged with so many challenges and so much stimuli that we crave anything or anyone who can help us “get it quickly”. We’re experiencing “time compression”. Technology is empowering us to dramatically multiply our output per second. For example, if the telephone allowed us to exchange five calls in an hour, the Internet empowers us to exchange hundreds of e-mails in a 24 hour day.
We are all the victims of the Progress Paradox: the more technology we have to save us time, the less time we have. We’ll do anything to avoid “temporal rip-offs” – these are the people who promise us a valuable return on our time only to waste it. We want results and we want them quickly. Increasingly, we are warming to people who talk straight and eschew jargon.
For at least a third of the population, time is a more precious resource than money. As the velocity of our lives accelerates, convenience, abbreviation and streamlined processes will rise massively in value. Just witness people’s passion for e-mail and all the technology that supports it — from Blackberries to Palmtops to mobile phones. It’s quick, it’s easy and we can send and receive it anywhere, anytime. Conversely, because we’ve become so dependent on technology, a whole new strain of e-sickness has evolved. If technology breaks down, we run a very real risk of doing the same.
Values are thicker than blood. We’re building expanded communities who mean as much to us as our immediate families. Organised social structures are giving way to network cultures. A few friends are being augmented with many acquaintances. We have access to anyone, anywhere in the world who shares our interests, aspirations and perspectives. The cultures of communities override national differences. Increasingly we’re all citizens of a global community, or shoppers in a global mall, or workers in a global marketplace.
Connection gives meaning to our lives. Human beings are gregarious creatures. We communicate for the sheer pleasure of communicating. From the earliest days, we clanned for comfort and security. Now we connect for emotional and spiritual stimulation. The four most feared words in our lives are: “Your e-mail isn’t working”. We’ve become so interdependent that isolation for longer than an hour is cause for panic and disorientation. In a fragmented world, we crave the cohesion and logic of like-minded souls.
The decline of traditional institutions like religion and family has placed a great premium on alternative “rituals” such as Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, Halloween, reunions, social and professional get-togethers. We’re customizing our own connection-points according to what we believe is meaningful, not what has been dictated to us.
Environics’ Social Values research shows that more and more of us are engaging in our own Spiritual Quest. According to Macleans Magazine, increasingly, we are slipping away from our hectic lives, claiming time for inner reflection, in solitude or in small groups of like-minded seekers. “There has been, across North America, a phenomenal flourishing of retreats,” says Steve Hill, a Kingston, Ont., based representative of Retreats International. Peter Emberley, a Carleton University Philosopher, says, “Baby boomers are on a quest for re-exploring what it is now to live at the beginning of the 21st Century, and retreats are the most important part of the spiritual search.” Andrew Grenville, a pollster with the Ipsos Reid Corp, says: “Faith is very important to people, but their feelings towards organized religion are ambivalent. People are chasing their own ways of being religious.”
One of the most cohesive communities of meaning for many people is their country itself. For example, there is increasing quantitative evidence of rising patriotism amongst the majority of Canadians. In fact, according to Jack Bensimon, CEO of the Bensimon Byrne D’arcy advertising agency which created the Molson “I am Canadian” TV commercial, a recent international study revealed that after the USA and Austria, no other nation in the world is more proud of their country than Canadians. We can also look to George W to concentrate strongly on building American patriotism over the next few years.
It’s our communities of meaning that amplify our ability to handle complexity and find new solutions to the extraordinary challenges confronting us. We’re only as good as the company, or the companies, we keep. That’s why, more and more, people will join those companies that offer them a community of meaning, not just a means of employment. These communities of meaning will be inviting and open, not oppressive. Instead of the pressure to conform, they will offer members opportunities for self-expression.
Like attracts like. The best and the boldest will be attracted to the corporate and professional clans that radiate those qualities.
Mike Lipkin is a Toronto-based author, motivator and persuasion coach who has worked with over 500,000 people in 22 countries.