We as a society of consumers, publishers, advertisers, and owners have failed to understand fully the radical implications of the communications schema we now live under with the presence of the Internet.
When almost everyone in the world has access to a keyboard, a microphone, and camera, almost everyone will become a publisher.
But, someone must fund that publishing in order for it to be seen by an audience willing to be changed by its presence in the world.
And while publishers may fail to understand the relationships between awareness, advertising, persuasion, publishing, and creation, consumers do themselves a disservice when they pretend that what a third party–wedged between them and the publisher–wants doesn’t matter.
There are multiple parties to consider in this transaction that is now going on at scale in the world right now:
Publishers are people (and sometimes organizations) who want to publish. They create, comment, click, like, share, and otherwise either participate, or validate, an opinion, a fact, or an idea through their actions.
What publishers want is a platform upon which to publish and attention from the audience they seek to impact.
Consumers are people who want to consume. They passively watch, applaud, share, click, like, and otherwise take in the opinions, facts, and ideas that publishers create.
What consumers want is to consume. Preferably without much action or engagement on their part and with as little friction as possible.
Owners are brands, organizations, and community builders of all types and stripes who want to own a piece of the communication real estate that the Internet has created. Owners create and own.
What owners want is to get paid for their work, their creativity, their cleverness, and their time spent building something for others. And they want to get paid as quickly as possible, as much as possible, as often as possible.
Advertisers are organizations, buyers, creators, and others who seek to intersect themselves in between owners, publishers, and consumers, ostensibly for the benefit of publishers and owners, but in reality, for the benefit of themselves.
What advertisers want is attention, awareness of the products, services, and processes they are seeking to persuade consumers. And they want it at scale, with as little friction as is possible.
There is little alignment between all of these parties (even though there is often confusing overlap), as the Internet has fractured and atomized the 20th century’s mass media, mass audiences, mass attention, and mass awareness.
With this lack of alignment comes confusion, misunderstanding, miscommunication, and at the end, scandal, corruption, mismanagement, and further erosions of public and private trust.
The best alignment is the type that removes the middleman from the interactions between the publisher and the audience and gets the publisher and the audience aligned.
The worst alignment is reflected in what is happening right now.
We as a society have gotten the Internet we asked for; dare I say, the Internet we wanted.
Now, at the beginning of yet another unraveling, a further atomizing and erosion inflection point in the overall communication culture, it’s time to ask for, and to want, something better.
Employees, managers, leaders, and organizations, don’t really believe the workplace needs to change.
If we really believed the workplace needed to change, we would hire and encourage employees to be candid about problems and issues, in a way that would interrupt the hierarchical power structure, and would encourage creative thinking, innovation, and risk-taking at the lowest level at work, rather than at the highest level.
If we really believed the workplace needed to change, we would have the courage to question issues that we see at work and propose equitable, non-hierarchical solutions to problems, issues, and conflicts, despite the impact of politics, power, or other considerations.
Which is why management training is a worthy investment by an organization into its potential and current managers, but management follow-through and implementation will always be difficult, but not impossible.
Which is also why the organizational view of management must shift and change, from one of day-to-day “keeping the train on the tracks” to one of “investing in pushing employees to be better today than they were yesterday.”
If we really believed the workplace needed to change, we would have the clarity to describe issues, conflicts, ethical and moral lapses, in clear, unambiguous language, rather than covering up with jargon, info-speak, or other forms of hiding.
Which is why organizational communication needs to shift to being more transparent, truthful, and honest. Workplace communication is about promotions, compensation, and all of the ways that we communicate non-verbally about culture to employees at all levels.
Because we don’t really believe the workplace needs to change, we don’t really believe the workplace can change in these three critical areas.
But, in order for the workplaces of the future to be better than workplaces of now–or of the past–we must work actively to change the workplace, whether our belief is solid, or not.
There are three questions to consider the answers to before you begin your next project, start your next job, voice your next complaint, or become frustrated in your next conflict.
What is the price?
This question is about trade-offs in a world of scarce resources, such as time, energy, effort, money, and so on. The price of something allows narrow, transactional negotiation to happen with seeming immediacy. The problem is, if you are in a race to the bottom with yourself on price, you’ll always be losing because the least expensive price is free.
What is it worth?
This question is about values and benefits in a world of abundant resources, such as time, energy, effort, and even money. Worth is personal, subjective, and priceless. Think about how much a glass of water is worth to a thirsty man in the desert who owns a Lamborghini. The problem is, if you have a mindset focused solely on the worth of an item, you may miss the cost of it.
What does it cost?
This question is about the work that a person puts into the development, maintenance, and growth of a product, process, or service. The work has a cost, from emotional labor to technical competency. The work is the cost. The problem is, we both undervalue and overvalue work for a variety of reasons that stem back to the root of worth and cost.
Before you launch your next project, start your next job, voice your next complaint, or become frustrated in your next conflict, please consider the answers to the questions above carefully, so that you know exactly where to put your focus.
The times that you wait to take a risk.
The times that you wait to apply an innovation.
The times when you wait for reassurance.
The times you wait for enough external motivation.
The times you are looking for permission to act.
The times you are waiting for “everything” to be “just right.”
The times you take the risk, despite not knowing how it will turn out in the end.
The times that you apply the insight from the innovation.
The times that you don’t wait for reassurance.
The times you don’t need any more motivation.
The times when you don’t need permission. You just act.
The times when “everything” is not “just right;” in fact, “everything” is “mostly wrong.”
Those are the times that are always here.
They surround you all the time.
If you’re waiting for stability, safety, surety, and certainty, those times are rare. And they don’t come unless you act—actively—to do.
Otherwise, the times that you’re waiting on are assured to never arrive.
Many people who have the historical memory of a different communication world, intuit that the digital world is moving too fast, taking away too much of the “old” world and values that used to be held dear, and is corroding what has remained.
There is also the unstated worry, that the world of digital is moving so fast that it has passed by the wise, in favor of the ignorant, ever seeking knowledge, but failing to ever find the Truth.
The list of problems and issues these people have with modern digital communication are endless:
Lack of relevant empathy.
Increases in narcissism.
Lack of ability to listen.
Loss of critical thinking skills.
Loss of interpersonal communication skills.
Valuing speed to being first over the patience to determine whether you could be wrong.
And so on. And so on. And so on.
I have immense empathy for those who believe that the world is passing them by.
There is an incalculable need for human wisdom from all areas and perspectives to add value by leveraging new digital tools, that it would be a shame to let people other than the wise, to have all the fun in our new digital paradises.
Don’t you agree?
Thinking you know the answer to the question before its even asked, is a sign of a mind that is at the bottom, impatient, arrogant, and prideful.
When you think you know the answer before the question is asked, you have to wonder if curiosity and empathy, or impatience and self-interest are the motives that are driving you.
Thinking you know the punchline, before the joke is even finished, demonstrates that your ability to be open to the new—is really closed.
Now, there are some answers to some rudimentary questions that are obvious.
But there are so many places to add value to the human experience—through effective conflict engagement, the application of radical self-awareness, and the use of connective storytelling—that we need more people to be impatient for the joke to continue.
And for the punchline to remain non-obvious.
However, if individuals continue jumping to conclusions about the answers to hard problems with non-obvious solutions, in a race to the bottom to “just be done” already, well…
…we all have seen how that has worked out in the past to solve the hardest human problems.
The steps to building an effective, online content pirate ship that will surprise your competitors, aren’t flashy or interesting.
But they are effective.
Step 1: Know which content ship to build before you build it.
There are three modern forms of shipbuilding in the value creation space online: writing (i.e. blogs, books, etc.); audio (i.e. voice search, podcast, etc.); and video (i.e. performing, editing, etc.).
You’ve got to know which one of the three is at the edges, which one of the three is the most valuable to you, and which one of the three will get you the furthest.
You’ve also got to just pick one. Better to pick the one you’re good at, rather than the one that’s most popular right now.
Step #2: Pick the right content slip, the right building tools, and the right materials to build.
Knowing your own intuition is key to the first part (pick the right slip) because, as the person building the pirate ship, no one can tell you what the “right” slip is. And, if you try to build a pirate ship in another slip, too far away from the water (i.e. other opportunities) you fail.
Knowing yourself is the key to the second part (pick the right tools) because, even there are many low to no cost solutions to building a pirate ship of valuable, online content, every tool is not for you. And there are a lot of dead ends.
Knowing what you want to accomplish with the ship you’re building is the key to the third part (pick the right materials) because if you pick the wrong shipbuilding materials, your pirate ship of content could sink before it even leaves the slip. Or, much like the Spruce Goose of old, it could only fly once. And then crash.
Step #3: Execute the building with patience, perseverance, and prayer.
Step #4: Launch the ship with a crew (or by yourself) and raid the edges of the empire.
Having an attitude of shipping (launching the ship) and an attitude of raiding (staying on the edges) allows the pirate to explore first with their content, survive second, and to thrive third.
The real tragedy is that many people (now as in the past) will instead choose to eat off the raiding of other pirates, rather than taking the opportunity to build a ship of their own.