Monday, September 22, 2008

Front Row Vision

Like Bob Uecker "sitting in the front row", I'm at majestic Tuscan Hall about a year-and-a-half ago, watching the Wizard weave his magic with a spellbinding presentation about the "Forty-Year Pendulum".

Roy H. Williams grand slam performance at Wizard Academy in Austin, TX that day illustrated a phenomenon that happens every 40 years where society's attitudes gradually shift over time in a direction that counters that of the previous generation. I can vividly recall Roy's Monday Morning Memo of December 15, 2003 that predicted this shift would happen by 2008. The Wizard of Ads could foresee what was coming our way simply by studying patterns of history and connecting clues left by Elvis and Eminem.

In other words, the Wizard knew back then that a pudgy, well-paid slugger called Overblown Hype was about to go down swinging to a 98 mile-an-hour fastball served up by a skinny left-hander named Gen Y.

There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.

In their book, "Generations" William Strauss and Neil Howe explain that generations come in four cycles, generally lasting between 80 and100 years. The cycles rotate, starting with an idealist generation, to a reactive one, then a civic-minded generation and finally an adaptive generation, that leads back into an idealist one. Currently, the Forty-Year Pendulum is taking us from an idealistic society where it was OK to dream, to a more civic-minded world where getting things done is more important. A no bullshit, zero hype society that mocks big feeling impostors or weak-kneed, vanilla corporate sheep with nothing to say but advertising "white noise".

"Friendly & Knowledgeable Staff", Locally Owned & Operated", "Huge Selection." "Top Quality." "Everyday Low Prices." "Easy Credit."

Even though these statements may be true in the mind of the person who hands over a check to a media rep, we've been listening to this recycled pap for more than 40 years now. But, don't think cliche-ridden adspeak is restricted to the marketing of products and services. Some of the worst offenders these days are the ads trying to sell "dynamic and rewarding career opportunities" with proclamations of offering "a challenging, fast-paced, results-oriented environment, ideal for positive, self-motivated and energetic multi-tasking team players with pro-active problem-solving abilities, strong communication and computer skills, able to work independently while exceeding customer expectations".

And in those ads, the seeds are planted for the posturing between employer and applicant in interviews and on resumes to begin.

Owners, manager and HR people who care about attracting top talent to their brand will be the ones who figure out how to speak to those people in the language they want to be spoken to. Here is an example from a British consulting firm, specializing in social media.

Having been choked by a steady diet of hype, we hunger today for statements we can actually believe in. We crave hearing words and feeling emotions that seamlessly link to a brand promise that actually matters. And then we are positivelt delighted whenever we see a business actually deliver on that promise.

Understanding this societal shift is good news for forward thinking visionaries who make an effort to apply this thinking to their own brand. If you are that type of person, and ready to spend some batting practice time to do a little research on the implications of the Forty-Year Pendulum, I like your chances of making solid contact with your customers - both internal and external. And if you can be in the Moncton, NB area in early October, you'll want to be in the front row when Roy H. Williams appears at "Taking Flight", the first-ever Atlantic HR Conference.

Just don't let the curve ball of the HR label scare you away. Details at

Batter up!

"You can only milk a cow so long, then you're left holding the pail" HANK AARON

1 comment:

Vanessa said...

Love it! I hate those organizations that offer so much to a new employee and deliver nothing - I am sick and tired of reading some of the ads that get posted - it's time for change!