Thursday, October 02, 2014


Being the third, and final, part in this series, what follows will make infinitely more sense if you have read the previous Tales From the Opening Act: A View of the Future - Part 1  and  A View of the Future - Part 2

By now, what to expect from the future is either somewhat clearer to you, or even more clouded in impenetrable fog.

You may feel emboldened by your future prospects, or distraught at the fact that you can't comprehend where you fit.

Either is a natural reaction, to be truthful. Epochs of dramatic transition spawn many a mood swing. Navels worn from gazing.

Apparently, we are in an unprecedented, unheralded era of change and disruption. The old rules are either dead or dying. Even for the macro thinkers, there can be some anxiety at the idea of a complete paradigm shift.

But before you grab for the brown paper bag, there is a simple idea, worth considering, that should give you some peace of mind.

'Same as it ever was'.

Quality rises to the surface. People want something that is good and cheap, but will accept one or the other. A hit is a hit. Supply and demand.

Fundamental principles that are immovable, because the paradigm is, ultimately, built to service the whims and desires of people.

And, while the changes we face appear unprecedented, at their core they are simply a repeated variation of these fundamental principles.

Seem like a gross oversimplification?

Take the worldwide lament about the diminishing value of white collar jobs. It's a borderline wail from the suit and tie crowd.

"We can't get accounting jobs anymore!" 

There are many reasons thrown into the mix: an oversupply of people wanting white collar jobs; huge numbers of highly educated new workers constantly flooding the labour market; a growing number of white collar jobs being outsourced to cheap labour in developing countries; wail, wail, wail.
Meanwhile, as the ground turns to quicksand for white collar professions, the trades are having a renaissance. Booming wages, coupled with an undersupply of new tradespeople, has made blue collars desirable again.

Seems like a concerning fundamental shift in the orientation of our work force, right?

Except it has happened before. To the blue-collar professions. Squeezed by technological change and the volume of people entering the trades, the blue collars were once the jobs with diminishing returns. Until supply and demand kicked in, and people started moving towards white collar jobs.

And now, overbalanced to the white collar side, the pendulum is swinging the other way. Recalibrating the system.

'Same as it ever was'.

The filmmakers out there, in particular, might decry this simple idea.

"We filmmakers are facing a disruption to our industry, from technology and piracy, the likes of which has never been seen!" 

Well, someone should tell that to 20th Century Fox CEO, Jim Gianopulos, who, when recently interviewed, described another great technological disruption forty years ago:

'One of Fox’s long-ago studio chiefs, Spyros Skouras looms large in his mind. Though Skouras led Fox more than 40 years before Gianopulos took the reins, some of the challenges he faced were similar to the ones that threaten today’s movie business.

“This was a time when all the theaters were closing,” Gianopulos says, “when television had decimated the theatergoing audience numbers. There was a retrenchment across the entire industry. Before that, people had been going to the movies two or three times a week.”

The answer for Skouras was to go bigger. He invested in CinemaScope, an ultra-widescreen format that helped differentiate the theatrical experience from the home entertainment one. He introduced it to the masses in the 1950s.'

The movie business, faced with new technology that made it easier for people to watch content at home, had to innovate to survive.

'Same as it ever was'.

"What about social media?", you say.

"Social media has connected niche groups and fragmented the larger pool of audiences into many smaller ones. This fragmentation makes it harder to reach audiences with broad messages about our (insert thing here), a challenge we have NEVER seen before!"

Audience fragmentation is indeed true. We are all enamored with our weird little worlds. I can't argue with that.

But to understand how very little has actually changed, you simply need to read about how Facebook HQ is planning and launching advertising campaigns, for big companies, through Facebook:

'For a day and a half, brand managers, ad agency creative types and Facebook strategists had gathered in airy conference rooms and around cafeteria tables in Facebook’s Madison Avenue offices, filling up whiteboards and scratch pads with one heartfelt or clever tagline after another.

The idea was to come up with a big, sweeping campaign to market MegaRed, a premium alternative to fish oil pills, to users of the social network.'

Whiteboards. Notepads. Pitch meetings. Marketing campaigns.

This kind of approach is absolutely no different to how a campaign would be made for the traditional platform of television. The only difference is that Facebook can more specifically target niche audiences, based on their dossiers of 'likes' of every single user.
Yes, Facebook is now a marketing channel just like any other.

Does that shock you?

It shouldn't.

In the broad scheme of things, no matter how complicated the system, you should never forget that the constructs around you are part of a system built by people, for people. 
When you look to the past, you see that infrastructure, commerce, art and society existed for people.

When you look to the present, while startlingly different in tone, complexity and character, you see the same.

So, when you look to the future, whether it be the technology, or the economics, or the social construct, as long as there are people running it, you will be able to comprehend it on this fundamental level.

And it will be precisely your ability to let go of the minutia when you are forced to change, to see the bigger picture, that will determine whether you succeed or fail with the new opportunities that arise.

Your success, your ability to learn and evolve with the new system as you need to, will be in your hands.

'Same as it ever was'.

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