My husband got a new job recently. Good man.
He’s gone from smallish to biggest in one great career-enhancing leap. I am super proud.
It has amused me greatly to see him get through his first few months and how his outlook on life has changed with it.
His first day, as with any first day was full of angst and trepidation. Will I be up to it? Can I deliver? Will they like me?
When he came home his eyes were wide eyed and full of wonder, the scale, the possibilities, the free coffee! Awe and wonder abound.
Fast forward 3months and this was the conversation at the dinner table.
Me: How was your day?
Him: Well it was ok. *Disgruntled face
Me: Doesn’t sound great?
Him: Well I had this super fucking intense meeting and all I wanted was a flat white and I went down to grab one from the coffee shop and it was closed. They mugged me right off.
I remind you that this is a free coffee shop. I will also add that 3 months ago this was a man who couldn’t have spotted a flat white if one had bitten him on the ass, let alone be able to procure one for free at any time of day.
And Sam is not alone, recently a friend of mine flew to Thailand and was both surprised and delighted to learn he could get wifi on the flight. By the end of the flight he was gesticulating at a flight attendant in an attempt to communicate his profound disappointment at not being able to download more quickly.
He was on a plane. Flying in the sky. 30,000ft in the air.
Did I mention he was in the sky?
The only salient conclusion we can draw here is what a bunch of ungrateful eejits we really are as a species.
But there is also something to be said for the lesson this provides us in simple adaptation.
It is a mark of humanity that we adjust seamlessly to our environments.
Awe and wonder are replaced approximately 4.5 seconds later with acceptance, then expectation and ultimately moderate dissatisfaction when the previously shiny new thing becomes crushingly normal.
Fast broadband. On a flight.
18 months ago I’d never even heard of Uber, now if I have to get public transport home at the end of the night I throw myself to the ground cursing my own wretched fate and proclaiming the night bus worse than the 7th circle of hell.
This is an important lesson.
It is important because it reminds us that the attention span of our species is short but that our expectations once delivered are exceedingly high.
At this point I begin to feel deeply sorry for people responsible for launching stuff. It may take the average innovation manager anywhere around 3 years to get something anywhere near a shelf.
Lets think about what that 3 years looks like.
3 years dragging your organization through endless gates, up country paths and down winding avenues before eventually arriving at a place which in no way reflects the initial idea (cost engineering would hardly allow that).
To get there you’ve on-boarded, water-boarded and variously boarded all key stakeholders. You’ve been ritually humiliated in front of sales teams who have instinctively ridiculed everything and been told ‘it can’t be done’ by the bloke in the corner who’s worked there for 20years.
And finally, imagine the exquisite pain of sending this Frankenstein baby into the world knowing that one of those ungrateful eejits we call ‘human beings’ will pick it up take a bite and discard the rest or worst just walk straight past.
The solution for many big corporate beasts is to stop bothering. Our rapacious desire for new and dumb foundingly short attention spans make it almost impossible for big companies to deliver. Instead we’ve seen bigger firms snap up small independents in an attempt to buy innovation rather than create it.
The bottom line is this. Whatever new shiny thing gets launched the chances are it will be an abject failure.
Many people might see this as a depressing state of affairs. But I don’t.
What freedom! What a brief! Knowing that the failure rate is so high gives you absolute license to set your own agenda. Who cares about failing when it is almost guaranteed?
What looks like the biggest risk in marketing is really no risk at all.