In Defense of the Golden Rule

The Golden Rule, “treat others the way you want to be treated,” has made it from a dusty mountains-side in Galilee to the boardroom downtown. But lately it’s been removed from the boardroom and taken to the woodshed. The Platinum Rule calls for the head of the Golden Rule. “No, no, no! Treat others the way they want to be treated,” it said. “Platinum is better than gold. Neener, neener, boo-boo.” It’s no coincidence that this sentiment is rising in popularity at a time when it’s easier than ever to view people’s likes and dislikes. And I know from experience that it feels pretty good to well-actually someone in a meeting with the Platinum Rule. Smugness has an addicting mouthfeel.

But how do we know how others want to be treated? How can you ask someone if they like or dislike something if they don’t know it exists? Well, you hire a consultant, of course. They’ll tell you to read up on their culture, create a persona. Demographics. Likes and dislikes. Usability testing. Smile sheets. Buzzword. But then what? For all of our well-intended efforts to reach one group or another with a product, we still miss. Like, a lot. Just look at the shear number of conflicting articles purporting to tell you exactly what “millennials” want. “Avocado toast!” “Participation trophies!” “Premature nostalgia about the greatness of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody!”Done. Ship it.” We know that doesn’t work. You’re an adult. Stop it.

People don’t always know how they want to be treated. People can’t always imagine what is possible the way you can. So they need you to share your experiences.

Please indulge a food-related example

You haven’t seen a friend since college, and you decide to take them out to a restaurant to catch up. You take the Platinum Rule from off its pedestal (yes, pedestal, never a mere shelf) and take your friend to the restaurant of their choice. Applebee’s? Crap. Really, people still eat here? Oooor (VHS-glitch rewind) you rummage around under your bed and dust off the Golden Rule, and take them out to your favorite restaurant, the one with the famous chef. You point out the unique features of the space, share your favorite dishes, and your excitement comes through. Now it’s your friend’s favorite restaurant too. And that’s the point. Your experiences are valuable, and when you share them you create an appetite in others for the things you enjoy.

Think about this: how did you get to like sushi? If you didn’t grow up with it (like I didn’t) someone had to show you. And you’re forever grateful, right?

We’re creatures of habit, and we need others to break us out of those habits every once in a while. That goes for everyone, including foodies. Maybe your college friend could show you the financial benefits of getting a whole pitcher of beer at Applebee’s. You see, there are these magical things called pitchers that are like growlers, but you can drink the whole thing right there in the restaurant. And usually for the price of a pint at your favorite brewery.

Obligatory Steve Jobs Example

People have stated ad nauseam that Steve Jobs had an uncanny ability to anticipate what people wanted before they could articulate it themselves. But in my opinion, “anticipate” does not fully encapsulate his work. It was bigger than anticipation. Jobs created an appetite that had not previously existed. He told us how we should want to be treated. Jobs encouraged us to imagine a world where a cell phone, camera, GPS, MP3 player, and PDA were all one device. He asked everyone to think different. And then he offered the iPhone as a solution. Sadly, this kind of clarity is missing in Apple’s current mid-life crisis.

Apple 1997: Think Different

Apple 2007: I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC

Apple 2017: What’s a Computer?

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Scout, I was thinking the same thing when they announced the Touch Bar.

The New Golden Rule: Treat me better than I treat myself

So maybe we need to polish off the Golden Rule and zhuzh it up a bit so it resonates with he/she/theys between the ages of Literally and Can’t Even. How about “treat me better than I treat myself.”

Today, I have so many opportunities to self-serve. I research the new electronics I want to buy before I talk to a salesperson (if I talk to one at all). I scan my own bank deposit when a grandmother mails a birthday check. I check out my own groceries for crying out loud. My first job paid me to do that, and now I do it for free because I’m faster than the hired staff. I’m also my own travel agent, taxi dispatcher, event photographer, and social media coordinator. Your product, your people need to treat me better than I treat myself.

This may sound like arrogance, and I promise you it isn’t. It is the resulting appetite our self-serve, smart-everything environment has created. And it’s only increasing. For better or worse, it’s what we’re all used to now, and it needs to push us all to be better. Plus, I’ve got Jesus AND Steve Jobs on my side.

Art director, illustrator, and senior manager of eLearning Design and Development

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